How Calvin Eng Came Up With His McRib - Exclusive

Emulating McDonald's was never Calvin Eng's number one goal. But his Cantonese American take on the McRib — which has remained his number-one seller since opening day, December 2021 — was meant to be. There's no other explanation for it. The chef and founder of Brooklyn's culinary phenomenon, Bonnie's, always knew a sandwich needed to be on the menu, but he wasn't about to join the chicken sandwich wars. "I felt [there were] a lot of really good chicken sandwiches already," Eng explained to Mashed in an exclusive interview.

Fish wasn't going to cut it, either. "I didn't want to do a fish sandwich because I knew I was going to have this whole fish [on the menu already]," Eng said. Eng's referencing his yeung yu sang choi bao, a deboned stuffed rainbow trout, which is probably Eng's culinary Mona Lisa. It's the kind of dish that makes you homesick, even if you don't have any Cantonese heritage in you. 

"They compare my stuffed fish to Gefilte fish when Jewish people eat it," Eng explained. "When people come in, that's one of the dishes that people say they haven't had it since their grandparents made it. Some people tell me, who grew up in Chinatown, that this lady gives to sell it out of her shopping cart in Chinatown. They haven't had it since then."

A fish sandwich could never compete with that level of food nostalgia. At first, Eng wasn't enthusiastic about pork, either.

Eng's McRib was a 'random' idea

If Calvin Eng's McRib and Mickey D's McRib are relatives, they're cousins twice removed. Eng's take on the iconic sandwich comes in a sesame milk bun, and its cha siu-glazed, deboned steamed ribs are brought to life by bread and butter pickles, raw onions, and Chinese hot mustard. At $27.00, it'll cost you a penny or so more than the Golden Arches' version, too.

It's worth it. Ask The New York Post, or the Bonnie's customers who can't stop buying it. "It has been the number one seller since we opened, which is crazy," Eng told Mashed. "The idea came randomly one night." Despite concerns about dietary restrictions, Eng came back around to pork because of its popularity in Cantonese cuisine. "It made sense to [use pork]," Eng explained. "I wasn't really trying to focus on Char Siu either, like most Cantonese roast meats because there's so many good roast meat shops."

So how did the sandwich finally land on the Bonnie's menu? It was, we'll reiterate, meant to be. "This dish came about one day when I was R&Ding steamed ribs, like a dim sum dish," Eng explained. "[I tried] utilizing that technique and then ended up making a Char Siu glaze and marinade for it all, and then that evolved into a sandwich."

Eng's latest venture is a partnership with Vita Coco for the launch of its new juice line. This is the brand's first juice offering, conveniently canned for a quick on-the-go boost with tropical flavors that will transport your taste buds to the tropics. Coconut Juice is available in two flavors — Original with Pulp and Mango — at your favorite 7-Eleven store across the East Coast and Southeast.