The 2nd night in NYC, after hitting the Guggenheim to check out the James Turrell lights (a must see), we headed down to Chinatown to Hop Kee. I had been there once before with one of my best friends from college, Greg, and we had an excellent time chowing down on Cantonese Snails, Shrimp with Cashews, and Sweet and Pungent Pork, not terribly elaborate but delicious. Recommended to me by Anthony Bourdain (no not personally), I knew it would be a good find. Just the walk down Mott Street through the heart of Chinatown is a trip. So many dried ‘things’ I couldn’t identify, I loved it.
More importantly, the food is worth the trip. The 2nd time around we ordered the Cantonese Snails, because yes they are that good; the sweet and pungent pork, my favorite; a dish of fried shrimp, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and snap peas; and plate of Dungeness crab in an amazing sauce that I think had pork bits in it. Not quite sure since we saw on another party’s table and requested it by gesturing. Everything is big, and hot, and delicious. I am aware that even these are still not exactly traditional, but I could careless, and it is pretty damn close.
The dish I most want to talk about is the Cantonese Snails. It is essentially a huge pile of small black snails in a brown slightly spicy sauce with jalapeño slices. You eat the snails by first sucking on the mostly closed end of the shell to create a vacuum, and then suck sharply on the open end and the little snail flies into your mouth. Unfortunately all the openings have these doors on them, or thin shell membrane to be more exact, that also flies into your mouth; slightly inconvenient, but not enough of a deterrent. The mild spice of the sauce is just the right amount to give it a bit of a kick.
I also want to comment on the Dungeness crab platter that was just amazing. It is a heaping pile of whole but slightly dismembered crabs in this sauce that is absurdly finger-licking good. We were pouring it over our Rice to eat the excess. And what I like best about the crab and Snails dishes is the effort it takes to either. They require a lot of input for a small but tasty return. A no pain no gain sort of meal. We of course had a lot of Tsingtao beer and herbal tea to wash everything down.
Check it out!
21 Mott St
(At Mosco St)
New York, NY 10013
Tel: (212) 964-8365Hours