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Gum Kuo Restaurant, Oakland Congee

Michael Babcock, February 1st, 2012

Gum Kuo restaurant, in Oakland, California’s Chinatown, is a great place to go for congee (rice porridge) – johk (or jook or, sometimes, juk). It’s the restaurant where we go for breakfast whenever we make a visit to the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. We’ll visit there on other occasions as well.

Gum Kuo Restaurant

Gum Kuo Restaurant

Gum Kuo is found at 388 9th St. (between Webster St. & Franklin St.) in Oakland, California. Their phone number is (510) 268-1288. It’s located in the Asian Cultural center and is found in the entryway to the center’s courtyard right off of Franklin Street. There’s a parking garage directly adjacent to the center, which is good, given how difficult it can be to find street parking in Chinatown.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Gum Kuo Window

Gum Kuo front window

Front Counter

Gum Kuo counter

When you walk pas the restaurant, you’ll see familiar Chinatown sight – browned, succulent-looking roast ducks and a half-torso of crispy, roasted pork hanging in the window; there’s also Chinese barbecue pork (cha siu), stewed chickens and stewed ducks. The trays below the hanging food contain various other dishes such as grilled octopus and various innards, for instance intestines and stomach.

Bowl of Congee

Bowl of Congee

More Congee

More Congee

Although there is a quite extensive menu of Chinese food, we tend to come mainly for the congee (and the roast duck – see below). Congee is simply rice porridge to which a food of your choice has been added. It typically includes fresh ginger slivers and green onions. You can add soy sauce and chilli oil as desired. Gum Kuo offers a wide variety of options, listed under the menu category “Porridge.” Kasma nearly always gets the same thing: congee with pork liver, preserved egg and fish. She’ll occasionally get the pork kidney instead of the liver. The congee is served in a rather large bowl; for the two of us, we ask for two smaller bowls into which we serve the congee. Rest easy, you don’t need to have innards in your congee: you can get plain chicken, or pork, or beef or fish, if you prefer.

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

The other item that we almost always order is the roast duck. It’s on the menu under “Barbecue.”The roast duck here is excellent: crispy, tasty skin over moist and delicious meat. You can order just a plate of duck, but for a little extra you get an entire half-duck; if there’s any left, take it home for a snack or meal later.

I’ll sometimes substitute a plate of roast pork for the duck. Chinese roast pork as served here has a crispy outer skin. There’s usually three layers to a piece: the crispy outer skin, a layer of fat and a layer of muscle meat. It is very tasty.

Gum Kuo Menu

Gum Kuo (partial) menu

In addition to the restaurant, Gum Kuo offers many items which can be taken home. Click on the picture to the right to read the sign more easily. Roasted and steamed duck, steamed and salted chicken (they even offer a free-range option), and various spiced pig parts such as Spiced Pig Ears, Spiced Pig Tongue, Spiced Pic Stomach and Spiced Pig Intestines. Of course, these items can be ordered as a restaurant dish as well.

They also offer a more standard American breakfast – omelet or eggs with toast, that sort of thing. I’ve never been tempted though: the congee and the roast duck or pork are the reason why I come here.

Next time you are in Oakland’s Chinatown, give Gum Kuo a try.


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2 Responses to “Gum Kuo Restaurant, Oakland Congee”

  1. Joyce Bringhurst says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you so much for the recommendation! I walked past the store every time I went to the Farmer’s Market but didn’t know how good it was so never gave it a try. I had bought roast pork and duck from other restaurants in Oakland Chinatown and was quite disappointed because they weren’t as good as what I can get at the Dublin 99 Ranch Market (not all 99 Ranch Markets have the same quality BBQ items, either. I have bought roast duck and pork at other 99 Ranch market close by and they weren’t as good.)
    I will definitely get some Congee and roast duck at Gum Kuo when I go to Oakland China Town next time.

  2. Felice says:

    I enjoyed the post Michael! This is now my go-to place for congee and chinese cooked meats. I tried to introduce a friend to Gum Kuo, and when we arrived at “the congee place” she said, “Oh, we’re here at the noodle place.” Apparently she had been eating at Gum Kuo for years because of their excellent noodle soups and had not tried their other specialties. Speaking of other specialties, their rice rolls are freshly made and delicious – I like the shrimp ones.

Leave a Reply to Felice