Just like there are different versions of a sandwich in countries around the world, the same can be said for fried chicken, pork and rice, tomatoes and eggs.
But here, you’re privy to the Taiwanese version from husband and wife Kenny Hu and May Lin. Their son works the host stand, and Hu’s brother is manager. His side is Taiwanese, she is Chinese, and the menu reflects both of their heritages, though Tony Hwu, the brother, says about two-thirds of the guests stick to the Taiwanese side, just like me. (Their last names are different, Hwu wrote in a text, “because when I come in to USA immigration custom they write my name wrong lol.”)
The fried chicken is stunning. Salty, crispy, juicy with a memory of sweetness. A street food in Taiwan, these are organic birds from Costco because, as Hwu says, “caged chicken [is] no good.” The husband and wife spend two hours every morning finding vegetables at local Asian markets, which is where those monster king oyster mushrooms, thick and sturdy, play with cubes of roasted pork belly, a dish the Hu/Hwu brothers grew up with, their mom turning 5 pounds of pork belly and white rice into a meal for the week.
A dish of tomato and eggs is also homey, soft scrambles swirling into a sweet tomato-ketchup sauce. “It’s the kind of dish,” wrote Francis Lam in The New York Times Magazine about a similar homecooked Chinese version, “that people say is the first thing they learned to cook, that fed them when they left home, that inspires sudden and irresistible cravings.”
What keeps me still thinking about this tiny restaurant in Manassas, which plays infomercials during slow afternoons, is a pile of chopped green beans, minced pork and fermented black beans all mixed together and served with pillowy steamed buns. You have to scoop the funky, salty mixture into the buns yourself, just like mom taught you. • 8041 Centreville Road, Manassas