Mr. K bringing authentic Chinese food to Fayetteville

Helena V Berbie

Jeff Kong knows the sweet-and-sour pork he cooks at his restaurant looks different. 

For starters, there’s no fluorescent red sauce synonymous with the Chinese-American takeout classic. Instead, Kong builds the sauce from scratch for each order. The sauce is simple — water, sugar, white vinegar, a bit of soy sauce for color. Cooked until slightly thickened and tossed with thin slices of fried pork and garnished with wispy curls of scallion, the dish is visually much more subdued than the bright red version, with a piquant flavor unburdened by the dish’s usual saccharine sauce.

At Mr. K Authentic Chinese, which Kong opened on Yadkin Road in Fayetteville in mid-February, Americanized favorites like General Tso’s chicken and beef and broccoli take up only around 20% of the menu. The rest is reserved for dishes from Kong’s upbringing in China, from the seafood restaurant his parents ran in China and later, Oregon, and from his own time managing restaurants in North Carolina since 2014.

The fried pork with sweet and sour sauce. Mr. K Authentic Chinese, 5048 Yadkin Road, Fayetteville.

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Dishes like braised pork belly, west lake beef soup and dry pot Chinese cauliflower aren’t commonplace at Chinese restaurants most places, let alone Fayetteville. In addition to owner, Kong has had to play the role of coach, guiding diners into trying an unfamiliar dish, with the promise that if they don’t like it, it’s free and he’ll cook them something else. 

Kong said there needed to be authentic Chinese food in Fayetteville, and it’s his goal to make it happen.

From China to Fayetteville

Fried scallion pancakes are ready to roll around beef, scallion and cucumber for the Peking spiced beef wraps. Mr. K Authentic Chinese, 5048 Yadkin Road, Fayetteville.

Kong was born and raised in Dalian, a port city in northeastern China. He moved to the U.S. at 17 to join his parents, who had moved to Eugene, Oregon, a year or so before. He landed in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2004, with just enough English to tell immigration officials where he was going. Initially reluctant to leave his life in China behind, Kong made his way up to Oregon and then Iowa, where he studied nursing at the University of Iowa. 

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