While living in Korea in the late 90s, I came to dread being taken to "Western" restaurants. This was a fairly frequent occurrence, since well-meaning new Korean friends imagined that I wouldn't be able to cope with the fiery local fare. Unfortunately, the food at such restaurants was uniformly dreadful. I particularly remember being served a pork chop with a maraschino cherry on top, accompanied by mashed potato from a packet, plus a sad little mound of vegetables that I'm sure came out of a can. Kimchi was served on the side. Needless to say, no Western person was involved with the ownership or management of the place, never mind the cooking.
With such memories in mind, I trepidatiously recommend a Chinese eatery in my hometown of London, ON: Hong Ping Restaurant. I don't know what a Chinese diner would make of it, but I think it's the best Chinese food I've had in this part of the world.
I hasten to assure you that the place is under Chinese ownership and management. Owner David is a longtime resident of London, but hails from Guangzhou. He's pictured below with my dining companion and the spread we ordered.
Ordering could be a bit of a challenge since there are well over a hundred items on the menu. Helpfully, however, the most popular dishes in each section are starred. Deciding to keep things simple, my friend and I ordered the starred dishes in the rice, beef, and fish sections, plus an eggplant dish from the vegetarian section -- which you can see in the foreground of the picture above.
Let's take these selections one by one.
First came the Young Chow Fried Rice.
As you see in the photo above, it featured perfectly cooked shrimp, as well as pork and veggies.
The next dish to arrive was the Mongolian Beef.
The beef was tender and (for me) mildly spiced. Having been trained on Korean chili paste for a number of years, my palate can accommodate a good deal of heat!
The last 2 dishes arrived at the same time. I particularly enjoy eggplant, so my chopsticks were extracting a large piece of that purple marvel almost as soon as the plate touched the table top. I was not disappointed.
The full name of the dish is Stir Fried Eggplant in Black Bean Sauce. Eggplant is very fleshy and almost sweet, but it can be insipid if it isn't balanced with a strong counter-flavour -- a role the black bean sauce fills very satisfactorily. I was very pleased with this dish.
The Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet, however, turned out to be my favourite.
Now, sweet and sour sauces I can take or leave. I'm pleased to report that this one was not overly gooey, as they so often are. The fish fillets, though, were a home run. Hong Ping uses basa for these fillets and they were superbly fried in a delightfully light and fluffy batter. After the first bite, I knew I'd be back for more.
The fried rice and eggplant dishes were $10.95 each, the beef was $11.95, and the fish was $12.95. The portions of all the dishes were enormous, so no one was surprised when we asked to take the sizeable leftovers home. The efficient waitstaff promptly produced styrofoam containers. The leftovers were enough for dinner the next day.
I wholeheartedly recommend Hong Ping Restaurant, which you can find at 339 Horton Street. They also deliver. Call 519-858-3074 to order.
These are the details of the opening hours, etc.:
Have you eaten at Hong Ping? If so, please share your impressions below, on our Facebook page, or under a relevant image in our Instagram gallery (@lotusandpersimmon).