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nam yuen

  • m

what's the deal with nam yuen? i was in chinatown last week and i wanted to show my 2 friends where the dead pool shootout scene was, because i am so fascinated at the fact that that they shot that scene at nam yuen. I looked in the window and noticed the same fish tank from the dead pool and the same bar. anysways why is it just sitting there?

  1. I think Nam Yuen went out of business years ago. Maybe one of the other chowhounds could give us the scoop. How about it Melanie?

    6 Replies
    1. re: 0riginaljoe

      I don't recall any dead pool, but Nam Yuen closed about 20 years ago. It was a great spot for both lunch and dinner. Every Friday for years, we would have a long lunch staff meeting from about 1 to 4 PM. The owner, Al Chin, decided to expand to a gourmet club upstairs with a (as I recall) free membership for regulars...after that, Al died and the place went downhill. Violated the old Chinese saying...don't improve on a good thing, leave it alone. After it closed, Sun Hung Hueng (sp) got most of the business in that area. Then it closed.

      1. re: Jim H.

        My recollection is that it closed 20 years ago, sat empty for about 10 years, reopened as a Chinese-Thai restaurant for a short while, then shut down again.

        1. re: Jim H.

          Jim, thanks for all of the kind comments you made about Al Chan's (my father's) restaurant. He actually is alive and well at 81 years old, and currently traveling in Hong Kong enjoying their great food! The gourmet club or, as it was called, "The Room at the Top" actually turned out to be a nice spot. It was actually my mother who died in 1980. My father sold his share of Nam Yuen in 1979 so that he could take care of her full-time. I agree with you; the place did go downhill quite rapidly afterwards.

          Thanks again for all of the kind comments. I cannot tell you how much that kind of unsolicited praise will mean to my father. That restaurant was our life, and all of us kids still miss it. All these years later it is very cool to hear that people like you enjoyed Nam Yuen as much as we did!

          1. re: Jim H.

            I believe that "Dead Pool" is a reference to the Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry film. We used to have extended family dinners at Nam Yuen, but I don't think it's been open for many years.

            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Yes it is. BTW, that watched that movie last night, it was made in 1988, one year before the quake. Had to be as the Embarcadaro bridges were still standing which is what prompted me to check the date.

              He killed about 4 in that scene.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                Thank you chocolatetart.guy! I had no idea what all these guys were talking about.

                Really neat to hear from the son of the owner of Nam Yuen, too.

          2. I remember Nam Yuen across Portsmouth Squarewith fond memories growing up in Chinatown. My first venture going out to eat at a restaurant way back when the only thing my brother and I could afford was a bowl of char sieu noodles at 35 cents. Sun Hung Heung was another old favorite in the old days, but Nam Yuen was extra special and superb! Still remember the specials like dried scallop chowder soup and the stuffed chicken wings that only Nam Yuen could make!

            1 Reply
            1. re: CYL

              I too have fond momery of Nam Yang, but it has been over twenty years since I have been there. Once a Uncle took us up to the "private" dining room and the food was great. But I fear I can not remebfer much about the food. In those days I did not get to put my two cent. I came from a family of eaters and cooks.

              My aging mind remind the stuffed chicken wings were they not a dish at Sun Hung Heung? Something I would love to have again.

            2. I know Sun Hung Heung also had a stuffed chicken wing which drew many my fiends' raves. However, Nam Yuen's version was unforgettably superb! My brother had a business account and he treated me to Nam Yuen for dinner regularly. It got to that he would simply asked the mai-tre d'/head waiter whom he knew so well for what was special that night without even bothering to scan the menu. Many of the dishes which we so much enjoyed there for so long, including the stuffed chicken wings, often did not even appeared on the menu.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CYL

                Didn't they used to make a really good steak cubes and gai lan? dish?

              2. Yes!! I still think about those Nam Yuen steak cubes to this day; I think our whole family does. We should really try to get the recipe out of our father's memory banks. I have yet to find a place that serves similar steak cubes. Do you know of any?

                12 Replies
                1. re: dhgchan

                  My memories of the restaurant's food are too hazy at this point, and I'd have trouble keeping them apart from its neighbord, SHH. But both were certainly beloved by our family with many celebrations, Christmases, grandpa's birthdays, and other happy events there. I would be forever grateful for whatever recipes your dad would share with us. I think one of the problems with restaurant versions today is that with the price of beef so high, the better cuts aren't used any more. And, maybe we can get Peter Yee to interview his uncle, who used to cook there, before it's too late.

                  Also, if you know of any of Nam Yuen's cooking staff that are still working and not in a well-deserved retirement, please let us know which restaurant kitchens. I believe a couple chowhounders have mentioned Nam Yuen alumni from time to time, but it would be good to get an update.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie, I don't know if any are still working as cooks but will check with my father when he returns from HK. The best of them, Jerry Quan, died about 10(?)years ago. I will post alumni updates if and when I get the info. Thanks!

                    1. re: dhgchan

                      Bro, Jerry's brother Tong is still alive, but just retired. Dad hadn't seen him in many years but spent last July Fourth with him. He unfortunately has bad knees now and can no longer work a restaurant kitchen.

                      1. re: dhgchan

                        Dear Mr. Chan,

                        This is what makes the web wonderful. As children Mom and Dad would drive the family into SF from Pleasanton to eat at Nam Yuen. We got to play in Portsmouth Square while Mom and Dad had a cocktail - can't do that anymore! My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE dish was the Pressed Duck. Oh to have that dish once again. Thank you again for being such a wonderful part of my childhood and being the source of my love of Chinese cuisine. Charles Holzer

                    2. re: dhgchan

                      I remember the steak cube and also an absolutely delicious Mongolian lamb too! I do not remember who did the selection, but Nam Yuen was one of the highly rated gourmet restaurants in Chinatown in its day.

                      1. re: CYL

                        Loved the Mongolian Lamb as well, one of the signature dishes, but the steak cubes...

                      2. re: dhgchan

                        Are the steak cubes coated with a peppery sauce (not sauce that runs onto the plate - but a flavoring for the meat) and served with steamed red onions? If so, they are our favorite dish at Legendary Palace in Oakland.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          The Black Pepper Sauce Beef is a update verison of steak cubes (not a good but the orgianl dish was just steak and maybe some vegetable without a heavy sauce to cover the taste of steak). I remember when I first had the Steak Cube dish in the early fifty, my Dad told me it created by a Chef in New York and making the trip out here. As I remember it there were large chucks or cubes of fillet marinated and stir fried in really high heat. The cubes were seared in a crust and juicy inside. I do remember I had this dish at both SHH and Nam Yuen. I fear that is all I remember. Just a marinaded and qucikly cook in a high out put Wok.

                          1. re: yimster

                            The one thing I'm sure about is that Nam Yuen used hanger steak for the dish. I tried to replicate the Steak Cubes for my Home Ec final and I know I got the cut of meat right, but the rest of the "recipe" supplied by my dad did not seem to translate into what he served at the restaurant.

                            1. re: echanberg

                              I'm pretty sure the steak cubes at R&G Lounge in Chinatown is made with hanger steak.

                          2. re: oakjoan

                            Thanks oakjoan, next time I'm in Oakland I'm going to Legendary Palace to checkout your cubes. Nam Yuen's was not a peppery sauce, you would remember it for it's more garlic-based marinade with probably a hint a some kind of liquor (My palate and maturity level was too young for me to accurately describe it.). We would have thme served with greens and sometimes asparagus tips! No red onions. But I still want to try the ones you like at Legendary--could you leave me the address. I have not lived in the Bay Area for many years now. Thanks!

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              I recall the sauce as being a light gravy. Did it have a dash of Ho Yo oyster sauce in it. The cubes were often medium rare with some red juices.

                          3. Nam Yuen was a go-to place for a late night date and we loved their "Hun Toe Yee Won Ton" and their greens. Nobody makes that version of wonton with care now and Nam Yuen's green were so very fresh!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: margret

                              Fresh vegetables were a great part of Chinese food in the day. Accorss the street at the Washington Cafe (not sure of the name) was a wholesage vegetable market. I am remember the chefs walking accross the street to pick up the freshest and best vegetable.

                              There are still places serving Hon Toe Yee Foo Won Ton, but my favorite is still Shredded Duck Yee Foo Won Ton. I fear is now a home made dish now.

                              1. re: yimster

                                That vegetable store, I think, was Mow Fung. Vegetable farmers all around the area used to come to the city, sit at Mow Fung and shop talk. They sell Chinese vegetable seeds there for the farmers and retail public alike. They were also one of the few places that used to sell nice small winter melons perfect for Doong Gwa Joong where you put all the goodies inside the melon and put the entire filled melon in a huge stockpot for steaming using the melon itself as the soup tureen.
                                Mow Fung was a couple of places below the old Chinatown telephone exchange.

                            2. Was Nam Yuen the restaurant that also served the bacon wrapped prawns, or was that Sun Hun Heung?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BillSF

                                Nam Yuen definitely served the bacon wrapped prawns. I didn't eat shrimp back then, but peeled the bacon off the prawns. CYL is right, the Mongolian Lamb was a famous dish for the restaurant. dhgchan is my brother, and we literally grew up eating at Nam Yuen.

                              2. Sun Hung Heung next door was famous for the Hung Tao Yee Fu Won Ton, a favorite after late Saturday night movies. Came in one of those large circular tureens - brim filled with fried shrimp-won ton immersed in a thickened delicious hot chicken broth whipped with egg white and topped with lots of diced chicken, cilantro, and chopped peanuts!

                                1. All this talk about the two side-by-side restaurants brings up good memories. Wouldn't it be great if someone could put together a recipe book w/all the old favorites, not updated or "modernized?" Including, of course, the old fire soups (still trying here)...

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Sarah

                                    Sarah, Al Chan is great at cooking and terrible about sharing recipes or teaching how to make dishes. When he cooks, it looks like he makes it up as he goes along. And unfortunately, he rarely cooks these days. If I can get info in the way of recipes, I will pass them on. This information really does need to get back out there and preserved.

                                    1. re: dhgchan

                                      I've really enjoyed reading everyone's memories and especially the participation of the younger Chans in this discussion. Have you considered videotaping Al Chan cooking? Then you could try to recreate the recipes from the video. At the very least, you'd have a permanent audio-visual history for your family and community.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        I agree with you and dhgchan, about taping people cooking. My family have remark how do you Uncles cook, you never look at recipes and it really looks like you are making up the recipe as you go. So we are taping cutting, boning and stir frying for our next generation. The Uncles I learn from never liked to write down recipe or even share unless you were part of the family. If Al is willing to share that would be great but it would not be surpising if he does not have written recipes.

                                        Best lines "about this much, when it get to this color and if it taste right". Or my all time favorite, "you have to screw it up first before you understand how to do it rigtt"

                                        Many of our favorite dishes have no recipes my family does not believe me. They keep telling me write it down. The process was watch and shut up.

                                        1. re: yimster

                                          Ruth & yimster, you're both absolutely correct--no written recipes. I don't think my father would have any problem sharing,especially after we show him this wonderful discussion that got started. the question is what he will remember. I don't know the last time he has cooked, and when one does not practice their art, it may take a while to reach prior levels of ability. Let's see what we can get out of him when he gets back from his travels. Yimster, it sounmds like you have watched my father cook; the quotes you put up are classic!

                                          1. re: dhgchan

                                            I sure I met your father but not sure if I watch him cook. I did however watch the owner/chef of SHH cook many times. My Dad play MJ with him and on many a Saturday night would pick him up at SHH for a late night dinner before diving them home. I loved those days.
                                            As for a hanger steak the verison I had at SHH was a fillet and I have done it at home. The only thing that is missing is the 110,000 BTU Bob Yick wok.
                                            A cooking buddy has just installed a 35,000 BTU wok and we are going to test drive it soon.
                                            My neices are alway on my back to teach them how to cook. With Thanksgiving coming up I have a really cute grandneice that will sit in my lap and in the cutest way ask again for cooking lessons. When she is older her Father will move her into the house for the summer so she can come home to cook for them.

                                            1. re: yimster

                                              Correct, he rarely cooked in his restaurant as far as I know; he mostly cooked at home and for guests.

                                              As for the steak cubes, check out this info about hanger steak: "The hanger steak is very tender, but has an intense flavor, and is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat (grilled or broiled) and served rare or medium-rare, to avoid toughness. Chefs with experience preparing beef kidneys report that the hanger steak's aroma preserves a trace of kidney.

                                              There is only one hanger steak per animal, and the entire cut typically weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs (450 to 675g). It is prized for its tenderness and flavor, and was sometimes known as "butcher's steak" because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale."

                                              With your know-how and your new turbo powered 35,000 BTU wok, I think you should give the hanger steak cubes a try on 1 of your test drives. The info above from Wikpedia agrees with you that hanger steak should be marinated and cooked quickly over high heat.

                                              Awesome that your nieces and even grandnieces have such an active interest in learning your art. I hope you pass it down to them.

                                  2. My introduction to Hung Tao Yee Fu Won Ton was at Sun Hung Heung. I do not remember where I first came across Opp Gung Yee Foo Won Ton, but it was later and it fast became my favorite too. The Duck Broth Yee Foo Won Ton is a little more difficult to come by in order to fashion the duck broth. The fried shrimp won ton in immersed in broth made from saved juices from roast duck. Chop cubes of bamboo shoot, add some peas to the broth, thicken it a bit, immerse won ton. Top with chopped cubes of roast duck fillet and sprinkle with sprigs of cilantro. Occasionally, I add in a bit of gai lan in the broth also.
                                    Lee Hou on Clement Street still have both Hung Tao and Opp Gung Yee Fu won tons. Eight Immortals has the Hung Tao version only. Golden Wok in San Mateo has a "crab meat" Yee Fu Won Ton with a duckish broth, plenty of whipped egg white (looks like crab) but invisible crab meat (it's still good).
                                    To do it up fine, both won tons are not difficut to prepare at home with a little work and time, but you need a source of good roast duck juice for the Opp Gung. I still keep a hoarded supply of hard-saved duck juice in my freezer when such occasion demands. It used to be when one cuts up a whole duck, a lot of juice comes out of the cavity. A lot of roast ducks nowadays are rather dry and the stores save what little juice there is for themselves.
                                    As is with the case in Nam Yuen, nothing is as good as it was in the good old days!

                                    1. This thread is so wonderful - it is bringing back so many happy memories... Back in the mid-60's when we were in college, we had a class mate by the name of Homer Quan. He had a part-time waiter job at Tao Lee Yon (that's as close as I can get phonetically to it) which I think was either on Washington or Jackson about half a block up from Grant. We'd go down there when Homer was working and he'd just take care of things for us menu-wise. The dish that I remember most from those days was the almond pressed duck. We'd never tasted anything like it and had to have it every time... A couple of doors down from the resto there was an open-front shop that specialized in dried fruits, nuts, and the like. We always made a stop for candied lotus seeds, coconut, melon seeds, etc. and it was fun to buy them in bulk.... Add me also to the list of those who yearn for roast duck yee fu wonton - I remember the peas and I think water chestnut cubes too.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                                        In my younger days I worked as a delivery boy and made deliveries to both Tao Lee Yuen (directly across Washington Street from Sam Wo’s) and to Mee On , the open-front shop with fresh and preserved fruit. Tao Lee Yuen later became the infamous Golden Dragon Restaurant, scene of a notorious tong war gang killing. People thereupon avoided the Golden Dragon like the plague concerned about the lingering bad spirits and it closed.
                                        Almond press duck requires even more work than yee fu won ton. Duck has to be deboned, steamed, pressed flat, floured and deep fried till crispy. A sweet and sour sauce coating is prepared and layered over the duck and then sprinkled with crushed almonds. The duck is then chopped into square, bite-sized pieces. Popular as it was, restaurants do not seem to want to make it anymore ala yee fu won ton.

                                      2. Ahh.."siu yeah". Driving down from Stanford late at night and making it back again before lockout just for the ABC items such as dry cooked beef wonton or noodles at Nam Yuen. Wonderful.

                                        1. Ah...memories of Nam Yuen. I'm happy to hear that your father is alive, dhgchan. He was a gracious host, and of a breed no longer in modern Chinatown. Fortunately, Jim H. was wrong about his death, as he is kind of a know-it-all anyhow. My most memorable dish was crab in black bean sauce over garlic noodles. We also liked the beef under snow, and of course, the best wo won ton in the world. An earlier poster seems to crave almond duck. It is not hard. Usually made from duck meat left from roast duck, just make a thick paste of water chesnut flour and water, mix in the duck meat, steam, when stiff cut into squares and deep fry. As I recall, Tao Lee Yun had a sweet-sour sauce with a cherry flavor.
                                          When your father returns from HK, be sure and tell him that the old customers miss him.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: OldTimer

                                            You all have no idea how much this will mean to our dad. He'll be surprised and thrilled that this much discussion about our beloved restaurant is happening so many years after it closed. He will also get a kick out of knowing that he was thought to be long gone and I'm sure will be telling that story to as many people as will listen. I have the pleasure of picking him up at the airport, so will get to see his face when I tell him about dhgchan and my recent discoveries on this board. Truly, thank you all so much.

                                            1. re: echanberg

                                              If his kids and friends were to have a banquet in his honor, I am sure there would be a big turnout. Just find a restaurant that is worthy of such an honor.

                                              1. re: OldTimer

                                                OldTimer, my Dad is 81 now; but for his 65th we held a suprise chinese banquet at SHH. One of the most memorable parts of the evening was that 2 of the SHH waiters were men who had worked for my Dad at Nam Yuen for almost 35 years before it closed. Unheard of these days...

                                                I am so touched by all the kind comments and memories you've all shared, my Dad will be so pleased. To this day I have never had food in the US, Hong Kong or China that could match the magic steak cubes (I'm remembering ginger more than a pepper marinade), fried chicken wings, black bean crab and butterfly shrimp that was served up at the restaurant.

                                              2. re: echanberg

                                                Agreed big sister. Do you think people will write about us when we retire? I don't think so! As for me, after I dream about the steak cubes, I long for the nights when dad came home with a box of Nam Yuen's Yang Chow Fried Rice and Chicken Chow Mein. There was no better late night snack! I was always partial to the crab pan fried with ginger and garlic. Thanks to all for bringing back great memories. Nam Yuen served great food. But part of what made it special were the faithful customers and the great people who worked there like Jimmy, Ella, Uncle Jerry, Calvin, Monroe, Larry, Apple...how we miss them all!

                                              3. re: OldTimer

                                                OldTimer, people like you and the others on this thread are what make it all worth the effort for restaurant owners. You can be sure my father misses the daily interactions with his customers and the honor of serving them as much as they miss him.

                                                By the way, I like your choice of dishes--I can just smell that black bean crab blending with the garlic aroma, and what's better than a steaming tureen of war won ton with sliced cha siu piled high over the whole thing!

                                              4. we're locking this thread because we don't encourage "do you rememeber...?" nostalgia threads. Chowhound's mission is to help everybody eat better right now, today. Nostalgia threads are fun, but they usually end up chatty, taking a lot of space and diluting Chowhound's effectiveness.

                                                If there's a special dish you remember and would like to know if anyone's currently making, feel free to go ahead and start a new discussion with that question. Hot, current chow tips are what make the board thrive and make Chowhound the great resource we all know and love.

                                                Thanks for understanding. All for the greater Chow good!