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Sep 27, 2005 01:16 AM

Cheapo SF Rice Plates

  • m

One of the things that makes my mother really happy when she visits the City is "ging jai" (cheap) food that's filling and tastes good. These days take-out rice plates seem to fill the bill, providing a meal for two people for $3.50 or less.

On Clement, we've had good luck at Wing Lee, which offers rice and two items from the steam table or barbecue for $3.25 plus tax, making it $3.50. A couple blocks down the street, it's offshoot, Wei Lee, offers the same deal and the same selection. Our favorite item is the braised tofu skin rolls. We also like the green beans sauteed with chicken.

On Noriega, the newish Happy Bakery undercuts the price to $3.25, including tax. It has a larger selection but no barbecue, and also seems to be operated by the Wing Lee folks though the taste is slightly different (and the same quality). The braised tofu skin rolls are here too, along with a few other choices in tofu form and flavors that are worth trying. The black pepper short ribs are a bit chewy/tough, but the flavor is very good. We've also liked the hairy melon sauteed with shrimp or chicken when it's available. The price is lower here, but the serving size is perceptibly smaller than at Wing Lee or Wei Lee.

Mom's favorite, however, is Mon Kiang on Broadway in Chinatown. Here you get THREE items plus rice for $3.25 including tax. The serving size is more generous here too, and my mother has figured out that if she goes near the end of the business day when things have slowed down, they give her an even bigger helping or sometimes an extra item. We send her in by herself too, as she's so tiny, we're sure the kind ladies behind the counter want to fatten her up. Sometimes we've stretched a Mon Kiang rice plate among three of us, and top it off with something sweet for dessert. My mother's top pick here is the braised beef tongue. She also likes the steamed pork ribs with black beans and most of the vegetable options have been good too.

Any other places you'd recommend for cheapo rice plates?


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  1. Hang Fook Bakery/Restaurant (1325 Ocean, by Plymouth) serves up 2 items w/ rice for $2.75. They also have reasonably priced dim sum. But my favorite there is the claypot rice. They're a little more, starting at about $4.25 for a small order, but they are made to order and definitely have nice crusts on the bottom.

    3 Replies
    1. re: anna

      I'm a little afraid to tell her about these rice plates because once she hears the price, she won't be satisfied with the others anymore. (g)

      The claypot rice sounds good. About how long do you need to wait for those to come out? Probably best as an eat-in dish. What's your favorite flavor/combo?

      Hang Fook Bakery & Restaurant
      (415) 333-5896
      1325 Ocean Ave
      San Francisco, CA 94112

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        The claypot rice takes about 20-30 minutes. It's best to call and order in advance, for either pick up or dine in. And be patient. Once I wanted it ASAP and the cook did try to accommodate. However, the rice on the bottom wasn't as cooked as I liked. I don't really have a favorite. I like the sparerib, the chicken, and the mixed Chinese sausage/cured meat.

        1. re: anna

          I didn't know that place had clay pot rice! I'm very excited! Is it on the english menu?


    2. i really wish i'd known this a day earlier.
      i just had some very mediocre deli style dimsum at the behest of colleagues enamored with you's on b'way. yuck's, perhaps it should be. had to motor over to golden gate bakery to repurify my palate. you know, lightly exfoliate with pastry flakes, then immerse in egg custard.

      thanks for the tips though. the story is even more adorable if you know that the venerable lady has absolutely no need to pinch a single penny. just an ageless thrifty soul striding along her path with gusto.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ed

        Aw, poor baby! My mother has done extensive taste comparisons between You's and Mon Kiang and for the most part, Mon Kiang wins. She especially likes MK's baked pork buns. I can't remember what it is she recommends at You's but there is something she likes.

        Mom is also rotating in the $2 specials at Yee's for some variety. More info at the link below.


      2. Nine years later . . . the price for a rice plate + 2 items at Happy Bakery on Irving Street is more than $4 these days, plus tax. The reason for bumping this thread is to say that the sticky rice option (instead of steamed white rice) is well worth the extra buck. I got take out this week with soy sauce chicken wings (4 pieces of the wing joint) and red-cooked tofu. The sticky rice had a nice chew and wasn't oversteamed. It's studded with plenty of lop cheong, bbq pork, scallions, AND dried shrimp.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          How about the You's vs Mon Kiang comparison? MK still better? I like the big chicken buns at You's but they often run out...

          1. re: otis

            The final owners of Mon Kiang ran it way downhill foodwise. It has been replaced by Yummy BBQ Kitchen. More here,

            This is an older discussion of big chicken buns. Up on Stockton St, the one at Wing Sing gets recommended.

            I'm partial to the one made by Wing Lee on Clement, and also available at Happy Bakery on Irving. I get the whole wheat option.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              New Wing Sing is still my favorite in Chinatown but Wing Lee is also good. A complete meal using only your hand. There is one more on Clement which is where New Wing Sing other store was is in the ball park. I will need to see what the name is

        2. Anyone remember Economy Cafe in Oakland Chinatown?

          Rice plates were $1.25 -2.65

          The $ 2.65 was with lobster.

          All cooked up right in front of you by the Wok Master with the hot oil "tattooed" arms from 30 years of perfecting his culinary genius.

          This was back in the early 80's...a great time to be a chowhound when you had little money.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Mission

            Oh yes...
            Economy Cafe on the corner of Franklin and 8th Street.
            Shrimp with "Lobster Sauce" was my late afternoon lunch, prepared on the spot. About forty years ago. Brings back great memories.
            It is now "China Star Express" but I've never been in.
            There are many "steam table" places, Chinese or Vietnam style.

            1. re: Joel

              My dad used to work at the the Naval Supply Center and would go there for lunch. He took me there often for a cheap dinner - Shrimp and Lobster sauce over rice was also my favorite - I remember him always ordering gravy beef over rice. I think the kids of the couple who owned Economy Cafe all went to Cal.

            2. re: Mission

              Indeed, I remember Econo the 80s. Haven't been in the new rendition. My Dad remembers it from back in the day...the 40s.

              1. re: Mission

                Yes I also remember but as also remember the bill in my pocket was mostly ones with maybe one five no 20 and if the food was not cheap I was not eating.

                1. re: Mission

                  Is there any such place nowadays, where you can sit at the counter and observe the wok-meister cooking behind the counter? When he was done cooking he just turned around and gave you the plate.
                  I recall this happening at Little Joe's on Columbus and also when they moved to Broadway.

                  1. re: Joel

                    Star Lunch, but it closed ~5 years ago.

                2. Not quite in the Chinatown super deal realm but the last time I had lunch at Hakka I saw that these contractors came in and all order rice plates ...... the size of them was jaw dropping! I will make it back to try one someday ... they looked very good as well as copius.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gordon wing

                    Haha, cruise down Taraval, Noriega or Irving and look for the contractor trucks is a very reliable method of finding rice plates, quality and volume.