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Chinatown cheap eats

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  • Melanie Wong Aug 2, 2000 01:23 AM
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Here's my list of favorites for a quick and inexpensive meal in San Francisco Chinatown.

"Downhill" and close to the Financial District for a fast lunch:

Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant - My favorite pho place. Each of the beef components for beef noodle soup is cooked perfectly with its own special taste shining through, $4.25.

Hon's Wun Tun House, 648 Kearny/Clay - Most flavorable broth outside of Hong Kong. Shrimp sui gow, anise beef stew over wun tun soup noodles, beef tendons over rice, braised iceberg lettuce with oyster sauce - $3.50 to $5.

New Hong Kong Menu, 667 Commercial/Kearny - Lots of tapioca desserts. Braised noodles with spicy meat sauce, $5.25.

Washington Bakery & Restaurant, 733 Washington St./Grant - Modern coffee shop with western cream cakes and pastries, espresso, American standards and Cantonese dishes, fresh juices, and tapioca/tropical jellies. Roast duck rice porridge, $3.50, add a deep-fried cruller, $1.25.

Young's Cafe, 601 Kearny/Sacramento - Really nice, helpful waiters, kitchen will make any Cantonese dish if they have fresh ingredients on hand. Always several German tourists in the house, highly recommended in the _Kalifornien_ guide. Singapore-style mai fun, dry-fried beef chow fun, rock cod and long beans on Hong Kong-style noodle pillow, and samsee chow mein - all under $6. Easy take-out if you're willing to park in front of the fire hydrant while you dash in.

Further "Uphill":

Gold Mountain, 644 Broadway - Soulful dim sum. Shrimp in rice noodle wrappers, braised tofu rolls. A hungry 24 y.o. 6'7" male friend and I stuffed ourselves and got change back from a twenty.

Hing Lung, 674 Broadway/Stockton - Open late (2am?), BBQ in the window. Best deep-fried devil crullers, $1 to go. Abalone/chicken rice porridge, $6.

Junmae Guey Market, Stockton near Broadway - Friendly counter staff. Best roast duck and roast pig in SF, also fish-stuffed fried tofu, sea cucumber, pig feet, and lo han ji at the counter. A handful of small tables in the back (early closing), waitress doesn't speak English, and patrons spit out the bones on the table. Terrific soup noodles with a quarter roast duck carefully placed on a raft of sauteed choy sum to keep the skin crisp, $3.50.

Mon Kiang, 638 Broadway/Stockton - Hakka cuisine, friendly waiters, recently cleaned up and the prices went up 50¢. Oyster pancake (not on the menu). Salt-baked chicken over rice, $3.50.

Yuet Lee Seafood, 1300 Stockton/Broadway - Unique lime green interior. Light and deft hand with the freshest of ingredients. Shrimp with scrambled eggs, salt and pepper calamari, green-lipped NZ mussels w/black bean sauce. Some dishes were a tad overcooked when last there with Jim Leff.

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  1. Thanks for the info. Whenever I come to SF its usually on business downtown but I stay in Chinatown for the food. I've found food to be extremely reasonable in most Chinatowns, since prices need to be affordable for the local residents. This is even true in New York Chinatown, even though once you get out of Chinatown there, Chinese food becomes very expensive compared to what we in SF and LA are used to.

    My favorite restaurant in SF Chinatown is Louie Dynasty on Powell, but I haven't been there is a couple years. Is it still good?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl
      m
      Melanie Wong

      Hmmmm, don't know Louie Dynasty, will have to check it out some time. When I was typing up my list, I was thinking that I haven't tried anything new for a while and needed to experiment more.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        Hey, who is this LOUIE anyways? I don't remember a *DYNASTY* by that name! Is this just a ridiculous romazination for "Liu", or did we Chinese slip onto the French throne while noone was looking?

        The reason I ask is that the first restaurant you see in L.A. Chinatown is Hop Louie's. Not all that clear on what a "Hop" is (Melanie...?)*, but this Louie guy sure does seem to get around.

        ----------
        * The coolie cook on BONANZA was called Hop Sing, by the way.

        1. re: Jim Wong

          Name aside, Louie Dynasty is not tourist oriented and attracts few if any lo fahn. It's at 1326 Powell. My recommendation would be the scallops with spicy salt.

        2. re: Chandavkl

          Wandered by Louie Dynasty on Saturday and took a look at the menu and peeked inside. Started to go in for an early dinner (5:30) but staff were in the middle of a card game and gave me the evil eye.

        3. Melanie--

          you forgot Eastern Bakery and Restaurant (720 grant avenue @ commercial street, 982-5157). great egg custard (with lard) and black bean filled sesame balls. Haven't tried the food, but the desserts and stuff were absolutely top-notch (at least four years ago, when we last tried)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jim Leff
            m
            Melanie Wong

            Thanks, Jim. I used to like to eat at Eastern Bakery when they still had the counter - crispy waffles for breakfast. Besides those desserts, Eastern Bakery is most famous for the almond cookies and moon cakes. Also has a subsidiary that makes panettone! I also buy the Joong (wrapped sweet rice).

          2. On your rec, I walked a little further for a workday lunch and went to Janmae Guey Market (1222 Stockton, open 8:30 - 6:30). Thanks for the post!! Excellent duck/noodle soup with succulent crispy skin, not fatty. Price was $3.80 with tax, everyone was very friendly and helpful, plus they've got waitresses who speak English now. I haven't tried their pork or counter takeout yet, but plan to next week. Yum!

            Best,
            Deb H.

            17 Replies
            1. re: Deb H.
              m
              Melanie Wong

              Their roast duck is the best in the City, imo. Afterall, at $7.20 they charge 20¢ more than anyone else. (g) And, the soup noodles is my favorite bargain lunch. The duck is especially good when you eat it there, the skin tends to get a little soft after they wrap it for you to take home.

              If you buy a duck to take home, you'll show yourself as an expert if you eye the row of hanging birds and point to the biggest one. Then make a spinning motion with your index finger, letting the counter man know that he should turn it around so that you can see that it is evenly browned all over. Be sure to ask for a cup of the duck jus (little styrofoam). The counterman will tell you that there's juice inside, but be insistent. Even better, bring a glass jar with you and they'll fill it up. I've been bringing increasingly large jars and am now up to about a 12 oz. size. Put the jar in the fridge when you get home to congeal the duck fat. Save the fat for braising Chinese okra or other veggies, very tasty. To serve, reheat the duck in the oven, microwave the juice and let each person add a little at the table. Season lo mein and lots of things with the juice. Whatever you do, don't forget the juice, it's like liquid gold.

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                j
                Jennifer Wilson

                Melanie: I loved your detailed instx on buying duck. I never thought to ask them to turn the hanging duck around. Would you consider leading a tour of SF or Oakland Chinatown? I shop Oakland's but am never confident. We could add it on to our Friday Oakland Farmer's Market trip and I'll spring for dim sum after.

                1. re: Jennifer Wilson
                  m
                  Melanie Wong

                  Last weekend my father's seven surviving sisters were gathered to celebrate his birthday. I swear that we talked about roast duck juice for at least 20 minutes! I had thought that it was only my own mother who gets upset when I don't bring home enough, but it's everyone's thing. I should post some of the tips gathered around the dinner table from them.

                  For a tour of SF Chinatown, you should contact my Auntie Ruby Tom, Glorious Foods, in SF. She's the expert, not me. I posted contact info earlier on this board which you should be able to find by searching.

                  Sorry for the sporadic responses...I'm on the east coast. Feels positively decadent to have all the lights in my room on and A/C running. Wish I had a few more computer batteries to charge before going home to rolling brown-outs...

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie didn't repost (or relink to) the information on Aunt Ruby because she's trying to keep the tone of discussion hype-free and non-commercial, and I appreciate that.

                    But I'll direct you to the link below for info on her Aunt Ruby. I've met her, and while I've never taken her tours, she's a smart, gracious lady with a great insider perspective. I'll bet her tours are terrific.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  2. re: Jennifer Wilson

                    Jennifer, my parents are visiting this week. My mom has walked up to Stockton St. to check out the duck action at JG three times already. I think she can hardly wait until it's time to go home and she can snag two for herself. I suggested that she just sit down and eat it there, but she likes to cut all the meat off the bone and trim the fat.

                    Maybe you can check out one of the auntie's recommendations for the best roast duck in Oakland Chinatown. I can only give you the name phonetically, Yuet Soong, on 8th near Harrison.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      j
                      Jennifer Wilson

                      Will check out your auntie's duck recommendation next week--thanks! And I'm a patient person--I'm ready whenever you are for the downtown Oakland Chowhound walking tour.

                      1. re: Jennifer Wilson

                        Auntie brings a large platter with her (in addition to the jar). They'll cut up the duck and reassemble it nicely on the platter. However, she was a little miffed that the last time she was there, they didn't wrap it with aluminum foil and only handed her a plastic bag.

                        Would love to know the actual name of the business for future reference.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          j
                          Jennifer Fish Wilson

                          I found it! I think. Wandered down 8th looking for Yuet Soong--couldn't believe how many places had ducks hanging in the window! Bot my duck at Yet Sun (sounded close to Yuet Soong) @ 397 8th (almost at corner of 8th and Franklin). Very crowded--woman in front of me could have been your Auntie. Lots of tanks w/ swimming fish and frogs and geoduck. Chickened out--was not picky enough about choosing duck and only got small container of duck jus but it was heaven! Please thank your Auntie for me.

                          1. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson

                            Success! That's gotta be it. Next thing we know you'll be keeping a spare jar for extra jus in your desk drawer for duck-buying excursions. How much is a roast duck there?

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              j
                              Jennifer Fish Wilson

                              I think they were $9.00.

                              1. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson

                                Jennifer, food is my family's favorite topic of conversation. This morning I rec'd an urgent e-mail alert from my sister: "Do NOT buy a duck from Lion on Mission Blvd. in Fremont. Tasty but $10; no juice in cavity; I asked for extra jup & was given sweet soy in little cup; and the thigh skin wasn't singed to burn off the down."

                                ["jup" is juice]

                        2. re: Jennifer Wilson

                          Jennifer, I'm a little concerned that I may have sent you on a wild goose chase, er, duck hunt. I was in Oakland Saturday night and drove by that block around 11pm and didn't spot any names that looked like matches. Of course, this was after hours and there were no ducks hanging in the windows to clue me in.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            j
                            Jennifer Fish Wilson

                            Melanie: Didn't have time to check out your auntie's ducks this week; will try next week and let you know name (if you didn't lead me on wild duck chase :-)

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      Melanie,

                      Here in Chicago, and In Atlanta when I lived there. The standard operating procedure was to include one of those one ounce plastic containers (that you often see containing hot sauce for example) filled with duck jus. Is the practice of filling your own vessels full of this incredible liquid specific to Bay Area custom?

                      How do I make this transition?

                      By the way, I nominate this dish as the one most likely to turn your child into a chowhound. Both mine (age 8 and 3) love the stuff.

                      1. re: zim

                        At a recent gathering of the seven Wong-side aunties, discussion of duck jus took up much of our table talk. They talked about who has the tastiest, which places have the most juice in the cavity, and the most important thing, to get as much as you can. The auntie in Southern California had never heard of bringing your own jar in. Whereas her sisters in Northern Californa all do. I try to but sometimes forget. After this conversation, I wrapped up a couple clean jars with lids in bubble wrap and put them in the trunk of the car for spur of the moment purchases. I'd never hear the end of it to show up at a family party with a duck but no container of juice.

                        If you caught the caution statement at the end of this thread, you can sense what import we place on duck jus that my sister would e-mail a general alert!

                        Here's what I suggest to train your local duck purveyor to your new needs - find a small jar of say 4 oz. or so (e.g., baby food). Next time you buy a duck, hand it to the counter man. Tell him that the small plastic cups leak/break on the long ride home, that you always lose the juice, and this is more secure. Hand him the little jar and maybe he'll fill it for you. Do this a couple times and then work up to a bigger size jar.

                        When I use a big jar, sometimes they don't fill it quite to the top leaving some head space. But most times they do.

                        You could also try the two duck multiplier trick. Buy two ducks and then hand-over a 16-oz. jar. I bet you get more than twice the portion for a one-duck purchase.

                        Be sure to save all the bones, wing tips, neck, etc. to make stock. You'll love the jook you can make the next day, and all it needs is some chopped scallions, cilantro and a drizzle of duck juice for a taste of heaven.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Melanie,

                          thanks for the tip. You are as crafty as you are knowledgable. I will try it out on my next duck purchase.

                          I think what first turned me on to how potently good this juice could be was the scene in eat drink man woman where the daughter cooks up a dish of snow pea leaves with duck bones

                          anyone had this?

                          1. re: zim
                            m
                            Melanie Wong

                            Duck bones seem too rich a flavor accent for pea shoots to me. Cantonese chefs will often add a little stock to veggies but usually chicken/pork white stock.

                  3. San Francisco chowhounds and this thread (depicted in the old format) can share in a bit of the reflected glory from this nice piece in LA Weekly about our comrade in chow, Chandavkl.
                    http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      thanks for the link to the article. from reading David's posts through the years, my guess was that he didn't speak Chinese (or perhaps he's mentioned it), which makes his knowledge and experience all the more extra-ordinary. 'tis a pity he hasn't enjoyed the food with chopsticks, though.