Yening ‘Lupe’ Liang, owner of L.A.’s Hop Woo, dies at 61

Yening “Lupe” Liang, chef and co-owner of Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood, who wants Cantonese cuisine to be accessible to all and who is said to be the first restaurant owner in Chinatown to offer provided menus in Spanish, passed away Sunday at age 61, his family announced.

For nearly three decades, diners of all backgrounds have sat around platters of lobster, noodles, spicy salted shrimp and sizzling beef late into the night, cooked by Liang, and greeted and served by his wife and co-founder Judy guest. Years of cooking and conversing in Mexico inspired Liang to add Spanish to Hop Woo’s now trilingual menu, signaling to LA’s Latino community that they are welcome.

Born into a family of farmers and cooks, including a mother who feeds hundreds of people daily at a cafe, Liang started cooking at the age of 7 or 8 in Yan Ping, a village in Quang Ninh province. Dong, China, according to an autobiographical recipe book published in 2020. By age 11, he was regularly cooking and taking care of his younger siblings, and by age 15, he was. Apprenticeship in a Cantonese kitchen in Hong Kong. There, he began learning the art of preserving and cooking meats the siu laap style, which he would do in his own Los Angeles restaurant decades later.

In 1978, Liang moved to Mexico to cook and manage an uncle’s restaurant in Rosarito Beach, inspiring him to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant of his own. Rosarito has had a lasting impact on his business, his learning of Spanish and the recipes that turn into some of the more unusual dishes and are dotted with Hop Woo’s jalapeño. Rosarito was also where he met Judy, his future wife and business partner, who had also emigrated from China.

A pedestrian walks past the Hop Woo restaurant on Broadway in Chinatown on May 3.

A pedestrian walks past Hop Woo restaurant on Broadway in Chinatown on May 3. Co-founder Yening “Lupe” Liang, a community figure, passed away Sunday, family members he said.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In the early 1980s, Liangs moved to Los Angeles, where the young chef worked in restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. The couple opened with a location of their own in 1993. When Hop Woo opened, operations were modest — a 1,000 square foot restaurant with just eight tables — and located near its current location. on Broadway. The restaurant serving traditional Cantonese dishes such as roast pork, roast duck, noodle soup and stir-fries became so popular that it was expanded, eventually moving to its present larger location and opening several outposts. throughout Los Angeles (currently, the only location operated by Liangs is in Chinatown).

Over the years, Liang and his wife have welcomed two daughters, Mary and Kelly, who continue to help run the restaurant and have worked to modernize Hop Woo’s offerings with vegan dishes; They also monitor goods, post on social media and apply for pandemic-related relief.

A service is scheduled for May 10 from 3 to 6 p.m. and a memorial service for May 11 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., both at Universal Chung Wah Funeral Home in the Alhambra.

This story will be updated with additional information. Yening ‘Lupe’ Liang, owner of L.A.’s Hop Woo, dies at 61

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