If you live anywhere near the northwest corner of Ray and Rural Roads in Tempe and haven't tried Hong Kong Asian Diner by now, you've been doing yourself a huge disservice. This family-run, strip mall spot has been in business for more than a decade and offers remarkably good Cantonese cuisine.
The restaurant is owned by husband and wife, Bai and Choi Kuang, who hail from the Guangdong Province in southeast China. And no matter when you come in, you're likely to be served by a member of their immediate family. There's not a lot of charm about the place, though the large round tables of mutli-generational Chinese families sharing a meal can be a heartwarming sight.
When you take your seat at Hong Kong Asian Diner, you're probably going to be given the American menu -- you know, the one with orange chicken and fried rice and no hot pots. If so, just ask for the "other menu."
That's the one with dishes like the Deep Fried Duck with Taro. The Cantonese dish features steamed boneless duck that's wrapped in a layer of mashed taro root and then deep-fried. It may not sound like the most interesting or appealing thing on the menu, but is a perfect example of a dish that's much more than the sum of its parts.
The hot, crispy shell gives way to a soft interior of duck and taro. If you've never tasted the purple tuber root before, the flavor can be difficult to describe but it falls somewhere between the starchiness of a potato and the sweetness of sweet potato -- except that it tends to take on other flavors better than a sweet potato. As a result you almost can't tell the difference between the moist duck and mashed taro except for in the textures of the two ingredients and the distinctive nuttiness lent by the taro root.
When you add a dash of the accompanying sweet and sour sauce, it take the whole dish to another level.
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Don't be surprised if one of the friendly family members recommends a few other dishes to go along with your duck. We went with an order of very good pan fried noodles with seafood and vegetables, per our server's suggestions, as well as a plate of baby bok choy with garlic. We only wish we had been hungry enough to try more.
The restaurant offers a lunch buffet Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Hong Kong Asian Diner 9880 S. Rural Road Tempe, AZ 85284 480-705-7486