Unlike New York, the city that never sleeps, Richmond has a pretty strict bedtime. If you’re looking for good food past midnight, your options are limited and there are only a handful of non-fast food places open past 1AM.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

Lucky for us, one of the places that is open is Hou Lok Restaurant (8231 Cambie Road), which stays open until 4AM because their dinner service doesn’t start until 5PM.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

Hou Lok is a Chinese restaurant located in a narrow building next the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport on Cambie Road, best known for their da laang menu that’s available at all hours. Most restaurants only offer da laang after 9PM.

For those who are wondering what da laang is, the origins of of it are with Chiuchow cuisine, a regional style of Chinese cooking, and refers to a sort of tapa-style dining with many different dishes of meat and/or seafood as well as marinated and pickled items. People migrating from the Chaozhou region popularized the late night, social meal in Hong Kong in the 1950s, which explains why you can see lots of Cantonese influence in Richmond’s da laang restaurants.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

The space says old school Chinese restaurant, right down to the fact that there’s as much menu on the walls as on the actual menu. Most of it has English translations, but make sure you know whether the price is “each” or “per pound”, etc. The price for the Dungeness crab up there, for example, is by the pound.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

There are dozens of options when it comes to da laang but no matter what you choose, it comes with a big bowl of congee or Chinese rice porridge. You can get it plain or, like we did, lightly flavored with bits of beef, herbs and pickled vegetables. The idea behind the congee is to balance all the richly flavored small plates with the relatively neutral congee.

Everything on the da laang menu is $5 per dish and the congee is free when you spend $20. The dishes are a bit smaller than usual but this is still an amazing value in a city full of amazing values.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

Perhaps the most ubiquitous da laang dish is the Deep Fried Silver Fish with salt and peppers. These tiny fish are battered and fried whole then tossed with a magical blend of hot peppers and salt referred to as jiew yeem in Cantonese. If you see the words “fried,” “peppers” and “salt” on a da laang menu, that’s just code for delicious. I like to toss these in my congee for flavor, but they’re just as good on their own.

Just about everything with jiew yeem is amazing so we also got deep fried squid, deep fried tofu, deep fried pork spare ribs and deep fried chicken knees.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

The squid was served in big, meaty pieces of the body rather than the tentacles. Crispy on the outside but still tender and not chewy.

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People who don’t like tofu have probably never had tofu like this. The crisp coating is a fantastic contrast with the soft, velvety tofu on the inside.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

The spareribs are chopped into bite-sized pieces before frying and dousing in that peppery salt. These were probably the least memorable of the jiew yeem dishes we had that night, but it’s a testament to this combination of hot peppers and salt that you can put it on basically anything deep fried and it’s automatically going to be delicious.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

Chicken “knees” are crunchy bits of joint cartilage that are fried to perfection and dusted with that addictive blend of hot peppers and salt. That might sound odd, but if there’s one thing I can guarantee you’ll enjoy, it’s deep fried chicken knees. This is what popcorn chicken should be and it is the absolute perfect companion dish for light beers.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

One other incredibly popular da laang dish is the “hand shredded” chicken, which is usually small strips of chicken breast tossed with a blend of things like marinated jellyfish and pickled carrots. At Hou Lok, however, this is just a dish of shredded chicken on a bed of crispy noodles… almost like they missed a few steps before bringing it to the table. It tasted fine but it wasn’t the dish I expected.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

We had to balance out all this deep fried everything with some vegetables. These green beans are pan-fried in a syrupy glaze of ground beef and soy.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

I’m usually not a big fan of watercress but lightly wilted and tossed with some garlic? Delicious.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

The gai lan was a little plain, steamed and served with a dollop of oyster sauce but it’s a nice contrast to all the other rich, salty things.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

This marinated duck’s soy mixture is tasty but it’s rather small and plain so I’m not sure I’d order it again.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

This last thing we ordered isn’t on the da lang menu so don’t expect to get this rice wrapped in lotus leaves with Dungeness crab with garlic for $5.

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Photo Credit: Ed Lau

They wrap an entire crab with a layer of rice and cover the entire thing with a few dozen cloves of garlic before steaming it all. It might not be a good idea to talk to anyone before you brush your teeth and gargle with a strong mouthwash because you’ll smell like garlic for hours afterwards, but it’ll all be worth it. The rice soaks up all the garlic and crab liquids so it’s extra flavorful…and we haven’t even gotten to the big, meaty pieces of Dungeness crab.

It’s a pretty huge portion that will serve 2-4 people nicely (or, in our case, 5 that had already eaten all the other dishes above) depending on how big of eaters you are. It’s quite expensive right now because of the high price for Dungeness crab but I’d recommend it nonetheless.

As I mentioned earlier, they’re only open for dinner and late night, from 5PM to 4AM and despite my assumptions that they were cash only, they actually take Visa/MC and debit. Da laang is usually an extraordinarily good value no matter where you go, and Hou Lok was no exception. We had ten dishes at $5 a pop, which also included a couple rounds of congee. The crab rice, on the other hand, was $16.99 per pound and while it was yummy, the da laang menu will be your best bet, especially if you want to try a lot of different things. Get two or so dishes per person in your party and share!