My Mission: Authentic Chinese in Salem, Oregon

~Post by Asia Guy
There are many Chinese restaurants in Salem. My quest is to find authentic Chinese food in Salem that I don’t have to cook myself, or drive to Portland to eat. In this case, my definition of authentic is food that a person from China might eat or at least recognize, and definitely not the Americanized version of Chinese food that is found in most restaurants. However, finding the real thing in Salem is not easy, but I accept this mission and am on the case.

I started my job by hitting the streets. My first stop was at Chan’s at 2290 Fairgrounds Road. I have never been in this place, but have often driven by. It is intriguing to me because it has a “hole in the wall” look to it that sometimes, at least in my experience, yields great, traditional, food.

Not the case as the menu was much of the same standard stuff geared toward Americans that you see at many Chinese eateries. They do have a Special House Dinner for $11.95 per person that leaves the food selection to the host for an “authentic multi-course Chinese gourmet meal”. Maybe I will give this a go sometime. .

My next stop was at Blooming Cuisine in Keizer. The very nice waitress of the very empty restaurant told me that the authentic food I was looking for was not at her restaurant, and that she only served Chinese food that Americans like. The food I wanted, she said, was what Chinese people eat, and that I would be best to look for it in Portland. But I don’t want to drive to Portland!

Up the road is John’s Chinese restaurant, and I have read good things about this place. It was lunchtime and they were busy, but the waitress told me that they did not serve authentic dishes. However, she did give me a recommendation of a place that might just be what I was looking for. At last, a break in the case!

I head South on Commercial and drive past Great Wall Chinese Buffet. I do encourage driving past Great Wall Buffet without stopping. I acknowledge this place has plenty of fans, but hordes of people milling around unlimited quantities of average food is just too much.

My destination was Hong Kong House Chinese Restaurant and Lounge at 3583 Commercial St SE. The building is not attractive on the outside, and is dimly lit on the inside, but this place does serve some authentic Chinese food. Of course, there are plenty of standard, gloppy Americanized and American dishes on the menu, but you can’t fault the management for wanting to make a buck.

Start with Dim Sum which are Chinese tea house specialties. Shrimp Har Gow is a delicate dumpling that pops with flavor once in the mouth. Other choices include Normy Gai which is sweet rice, Chinese sausage, BBQ pork, and mushrooms all stuffed in a lotus leaf and steamed. More obscure items include beef tripe and stewed chicken feet. Many other choices abound in the vast world of Dim Sum, so take your time and explore them all. This is the real deal!

Seaweed with Chicken soup sounds good, and so do Fish Maw and Crab Meat Soup. I opt for Wor Won Ton Soup with super sized wonton, heavenly broth, BBQ pork, and baby bok choy.

Seafood and Bean Curd Ceramic Pot takes some time to prepare, but is well worth the wait. The casserole is packed with shrimp, scallops, squid, and a very soft, round tofu in a light sauce. Beef Chow Fun cooked Hong Kong Style is fantastic tasting and gorgeous to look at with wide rice noodles cooked to smoky perfection beneath stir fried beef and crispy vegetables,

There are many excellent dishes at this restaurant, and if you require assistance choosing, the owner will be gladly point you in the right direction. Trust me, if it is authentic Chinese food you want, don’t waste the gas driving to Portland, stay in Salem. Hong Kong House Restaurant has what you need and it is good.

Case closed and mission accomplished!

Hong Kong House Chinese Restaurant and Lounge
3583 Commercial St SE
Salem, Oregon 97302
Hrs. 11am-10pm- 7 days a week.


Anonymous said...

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Sam I Am said...

Thanks for the tip, Asia Guy!

I can't speak to its authenticity, but Grand China was my favorite chinese restaurant. It used to be at the Bigfoot's location on Commercial St. SE. So delicious! I've been unable to find any other Chinese food that I like since they closed.

I'll give Hong Kong House a try!

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam,

Sounds cool to me, and let me know how you like your trip to Hong Kong!

Asia Guy

Amecameca said...

Thanks Asia Guy for the recommendations. I gave up on Hong Kong House years ago. The ambiance is creepy and run down. There is never anyone in there. There may be cars in the lot, but I think everyone is next door in the lounge playing video poker and drinking Bud Light and sampling the Pu Pu Platter. Maybe your post will increase their restaurant business and perk things up. If you can recommend more on their menu that is worth ordering, that would be appreciated.

Salem Man said...

I think I would drive to San Francisco to get authentic Chinese food before I would go to Hong Kong House. Sorry Asia Guy. Ambiance sometimes overrules authenticity. Any chance you could keep looking?

I agree with you Sam I Am, Grand China was the best in town. I wonder why nobody was ever in there.

KandN said...

There are 2 people from work who have tried to convince me to try Hong Kong House. I struggle with the same atmosphere issues, but they swear it's the most authentic in town. Guess I should have been listening.

Anonymous said...

Scored an 82 in the latest Marion County inspections, frequently in the 70's mostly due to cleanliness in the kitchen (70 and below is not passing). I pass by this place all the time and just keep driving because of it's cleanliness factor on the outside. I'm glad to hear it has great food, I'd love to try the Dim Sum, but they need to step it up before I step in. I bet they'd get a ton more business if they did. Asia Guy, please keep your search up?

sheepdog said...

We eat lunch at Hong Kong every week. The decor is nothing to brag about but the food is consistently good and plentiful! Lunch entrees come with rice (steamed or fried), soup (egg flower or hot & sour), egg roll or fried wonton and of course, hot tea. All for $5. There is always a daily special for $3.95. Our only complaint is that many of the dishes are made with brown sauce instead of white sauce which wife prefers. Our favorites, Kung Po Chicken, Chicken with assorted vegetables (white sauce), Mongolian chicken, Chicken lo mein, Curry chicken - yum! The hot and sour soup is very good; don't care for the egg flower.
The vegetables in the dishes are crisp and tender; never overcooked. We've seen lunch business picking up; often the place is packed.

Jia said...

I've gotten delivery from there in the past and it was mediocre at best. I am also put off by the cleanliness issues. I think at this point in time, the best place to get authentic Chinese food in Salem is to make a Chinese friend and convince them to cook something for you.

Asia said...

Hi and lots of great comments about my post. No question- that Hong Kong is a bit dim and cavern-like. I really think going from 60 to 100 watt light bulbs would help! My post was on finding authentic food, and they have a few dishes that qualify. I would get any dish under the ceramic casserole section. I love these types of dishes and cook them at home, as well.

I totally understand the concern with the health scores from Marion county. There is no reason for low scores. I have eaten in some not so great looking places that had great food, so for the most part, what a place looks like doesnt really matter to me. I will let you know what I think about a place, and that will mostly be from a food/service standpoint. Oh, and the night I was there they were busy.

If you have any other Asian restaurants you would like me to check out, let me know.


Asia Guy

Rebekah said...

Jia, that's an awesome recommendation! :) I love it. Suddenly anyone in Salem with Chinese Heritage is overrun with people wanting to be their new friends. Sounds like an episode for Salemia. If you don't know what that is see:


Anonymous said...

I was introduced to Hong Kong House by my in-laws and eat there occasionally still. We usually get take out just because of the ambiance. I clearly never knew what to order or that they had any authentic dishes -- I just always get my standard Chinese-American favorites, and I always think they are very good. Although, how can you go wrong when wontons are filled with crab and cream cheese and then deep-fried?! Right?!

Anyway, I don't worry about the food here because of the building, but I dont love eating inside because of the building. It's worth going in for the dishes mentioned in the review, in my opinion. Don't be scared.


Dave said...

You didn't visit Kwans??

gstatty said...

I like the food at Hong Kong House. I haven't been there in awhile, but I do like their "Americanized" Chinese food. My favorite in town for Americanized Chinese food is still Marco Polo though. I noticed that Hong Kong House has dim sum, which is pretty awesome since it can be hard to find, although I've never tried it there. My go-to restaurant for authentic Chinese dim sum is Wong King's Seafood Restaurant on Division and 82nd up in Portland. However, that is up in Portland which is a long drive just for food (this hasn't stopped me before). I also wish more Chinese restaurants would feature authentic cuisine like Hong Kong House does.

Jane said...

I haven't been to Hong Kong House in five years, but as I recall they make all the dim sum at lunch and keep it available throughout the day. If that's still the case, do not order the dim sum for dinner - the leftovers get tepid and slimy, and if they're out of leftovers you may end up with stuff that's been microwaved in haste. The memories of skunky fish balls and frozen-in-the-middle cha siu bao from my last trip to HKH still have the power to raise my gorge all these years later.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried Chen's Dynasty in Keizer? I can't speak to authenticity but I've had several great meals there. Tonight I was really amazed on how tender the BBQ pork was, as well as the schezwan beef. The fried stuff was also done quite well. The service is always great every time I've been in.

Also, has anyone tried the Kim Huong restaurant on Silverton road? Its been a few years since I've been in, but my memory of it was that we were about the only non-asians there and the food was pretty good. I really don't remember anything about it though.

Anonymous said...

Kim houng on silverton is outstanding but I think it is Korean cuisine.

Grand china was the best and we miss it.

Kwans makes great food but I don't care for the service, even take out. Plus I am not sure it is really authentic.

We really liked the place on 12th maybe tong king is the name? We were a little nervous at first because it was quiet at 530, but the phone was ringing constantly and they seemed to do a big take out business.

DeeDeeDiner said...

Kim Huong is actually Vietnamese. Kwan's is vastly overrated.Grand China was good initially, but the food went seriously downhill over time. Tong King is great.

My own two cents worth is that many of the Chinese-restaurants owned by Chinese COULD cook authentic Chinese food just fine if there were a demand for it (probably even a request made in consultation with the staff would work). I'm sure what they cook for their families is vastly different from the menu offerings :-)

Asia Guy said...

Hey DeeDee, 100% agreed on all you say. I am planning a review of Kim Huong. I have eaten a lot at Kwans, and while I appreciate them making speacial dishes for those that need, they serve Chinese/American food, and their portions have gotten small lately while the prices go up. I think I will let them go for a while and keep looking for the real stuff (BTW, I am sure Mr Kwan knows how to cook the real stuff!).

Anonymous said...

Good point on whether there is demand for authentic Chinese. I thought I knew authentic Chinese until I visited several very authentic restaurants in San Francisco (we were the only non Chinese in both). Well that was a shock to my system. I didn't find a thing I liked. Both places were jam packed so you could tl they were good.

Maybe a primer on authentic vs American-Chinese would be useful?

Asia Guy said...

Hey Anon, Hmmm, how to tell the real thing, right. Well, first of all, there is nothing wrong with Chinese/American food- if that is what you are going for. No problem.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to get into authentic food of any sort is to go with a native guide. If you can tag along with Chinese friends to eat at a restaurant, great for you! Better yet if they cook at home. You are really in for a treat.

Depends upon what you want, but I have some suggestions, if you want.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kwan can cook the real thing. But he cooks less and less as he ages and has knee/hip issues. When my Chinese best friend's parents come to town they and Kwan talk in a shared dialect and suddenly platter after platter of authentic off-the-menu stuff arrives. It does not come cheap, but Mr. Kwan always seems soooo delighted when people ask for special dishes-he has such pride in his homeland's cuisine. But remember that he is from Hong Kong and dishes vary immensely from region to region.

We used to be regulars, but as Kwan cooks less and less himself, the quality and consistency has suffered. At last check he had still not successfully trained up his assistant cooks to our satisfaction. But if you go there and ask to speak to him, I think might be happy to cook your native favorites. Just be prepared to compensate him handsomely for the effort.