Yening ‘Lupe’ Liang, owner of Hop Woo in Los Angeles, dies at 61
Yening “Lupe” Liang, the chef and co-owner of Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood who wanted Cantonese cuisine to be accessible to everyone, and who is credited with being the first restaurateur in Chinatown to offer his menus in Spanish, died Sunday at 61, his family announced.
For nearly three decades, diners from all walks of life have sat down to platters of lobster, noodles, spicy salted shrimp and sizzling beef late into the night, with Liang’s kitchen and wife and co-founder Judy welcoming and serving guests. His years of cooking and conversation in Mexico inspired Liang to add Spanish to Hop Woo’s now trilingual menu, signaling to the Latin community in Los Angeles that they were welcome.
Born into a family of farmers and cooks, including a mother who fed hundreds of people daily in a cafeteria, Liang started cooking at the age of 7 or 8 in Yan Ping, a village in the Chinese province of Guangdong, according to an autobiographical cookbook published in 2020. By age 11 he was regularly cooking and caring for his younger siblings, and by age 15 he was apprenticed in a Cantonese kitchen in Hong Kong . It was there that he began to learn the art of preserving and cooking meats in the siu laap style, which he would use 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 own dream of opening a restaurant. Rosarito had a lasting impact on his entrepreneurial journey, his acquisition of Spanish, and the recipes that would become some of Hop Woo’s most unusual, jalapeño-studded dishes. Rosarito is also where he met Judy, his future wife and business partner, who had also emigrated from China.
In the early 1980s, the Liangs moved to Los Angeles, where the young chef worked in restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. The couple branched out with a place of their own in 1993. When Hop Woo opened, the operation was modest — a 1,000 square foot restaurant with just eight tables — and was located near its current Broadway location. . The restaurant serving traditional Cantonese cuisine like grilled pork, roast duck, noodle soups and stir-fries became so popular that it expanded, eventually moving to its current larger location and opening several outposts in through Los Angeles (currently, the only location operated by the Liangs is in Chinatown).
Over the years, Liang and his wife have taken in two daughters, Mary and Kelly, who continue to help run the restaurant and have worked to modernize Hop Woo’s offerings with vegan items. they also oversee merchandise, post on social media, and apply for pandemic-related relief grants.
A wake is scheduled for May 10 from 3 to 6 p.m. and a memorial service for May 11 from 12:30 to 2 p.m., both at Universal Chung Wah Funeral in Alhambra.
This story will be updated with additional information.