Off the Eaten Path: Ho Mei BBQ 

Inexpensive, authentic Cantonese flavors on State Street

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During a lunch at Ho Mei BBQ on State Street, a server, Mike, was surprised that I was able to identify Ho Mei's cuisine as Cantonese. But, the Peking-style ducks, spiced cuttlefish, barbecued pork and such hanging in the window are dead giveaways. Sure, there are standard Hunan/Sichuan-style dishes on the very extensive menu - kung po chicken, Mongolian beef and the like - but Cantonese flavors dominate at Ho Mei BBQ and are much more subtle than most of what passes for "authentic" Chinese fare in these parts.

Options best describe the menu. There are 200+ menu items, not counting the soups and appetizers at Ho Mei BBQ. There are sixteen variations of porridge, alone (try the abalone/pork/seafood combo) and fourteen clay pot offerings, including spare ribs with bitter melon. I could eat at Ho Mei three times a week for the next year and still not wrap my head around the entire menu.

Hong Kong-style barbecue is a specialty, so try the "three delicacy combination" with roasted pork, BBQ pork and roasted duck.

The rice rolls are a must. There are a sort of Chinese cannelloni: soft, steamed, delicate rice flour sheets, wrapped around fillings like beef, pork, black mushrooms and chicken. I like the shrimp version best.

The free-range "soy sauce chicken" was stupendous; oh-so tender, but with a lovely brown soy sauce BBQ "bark." Ma po tofu with silky, homemade bean curd is also excellent. And, cumin-spiced beef, which I've never seen on a Chinese menu in Utah before, was equally terrific.

Welcome to SLC's Chinatown.

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