Kai-Kai Coffee Shop’s Barbecued Pork Chow Fun

On hot, humid evenings in Chicago, when my mother was too tired to cook, she would send me out to one of our local Chinese restaurants for a take-away meal. Our favourite place was the Kai-Kai, a small diner that specialized in Chinese-American standards but also prepared quick and popular Chinese dishes for those who knew what to order. The Kai-Kai’s range of authentic Chinese foods was limited, but what they did they did well. We loved their barbecue. Actually, it was in my uncle’s kitchen that the barbecue meats were roasted for the take-away service. The Kai-Kai Coffee Shop would then stir-fry the meat with soft, billowy fresh rice noodles. The outside of the meat was slightly crusty and crunchy, the inside tender and succulent. The combination of fresh Chinese bok choy, slices of barbecued pork and rice noodles was delicious – comfort food at its best. Fresh rice noodles are available from Chinese grocers or supermarkets.

Read more


  • 450 g (1 lb) pork shoulder
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 450 g (1 lb) bok choy or spinach
  • tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 450 g (1 lb) fresh rice noodles
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce

For the Marinade

  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon bean sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


Cut the pork shoulder into 3 strips. With a cleaver or sharp knife, make diagonal incisions in the meat about 3 mm ( in) deep and 2.5 cm (1 in) apart, without cutting all the way through. This will allow the marinade to penetrate. Rub the meat evenly with the salt, pepper and five-spice powder, then toss in the rest of the marinade ingredients and mix well. Let it marinate in a cool place for several hours, or refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6).

Lay the pork on a wire rack in a shallow roasting tin filled with 120 ml (4 fl oz) of water. Baste the pork with the marinade and roast for 30 minutes. Then baste the pork with honey and any leftover marinade, turn the temperature down to 170°C (325°F gas mark 3) and continue to roast for 25 minutes, or until the pork is cooked. Allow the pork to cool thoroughly. Cut into thin slices and set aside.

Trim the bok choy. Remove the stalks and cut them into 5 cm (2 in) segments. Peel the stems and diagonally slice them. Wash well in several rinses of cold water. Blanch the bok choy in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 minute, until it is slightly wilted. Remove and drain well.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and salt and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Then add the rice noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until they begin to brown slightly. Add the pork and bok choy and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes. Finally, add the stock and oyster sauce and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a large platter and serve at once.