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Dec 4, 2008 04:40 PM

Chinatown Roast Duck/Pork in Window

Who's got the best roast duck and pork hanging in their window in Chinatown? It all looks relatively the same to me, but I'm sure someone's is better than others.

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  1. On a walking tour of Chinatown last spring, we went to Gourmet BBQ Delight. Here's a link:

    I really liked the fried chicken there, but they had good BBQ duck and pork as well. There were many good looking places along Stockton St, near Jackson and Washington Streets.

    Gourmet Delight
    1045 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108

    1. Its been a while but I think I use to get great duck at the market on the corner of Pacific and Grant. Dupont, I think.

      9 Replies
      1. re: wolfe

        Long gone, Shel. A great fish market, too. Yee's across the street is good, though.

        1. re: Xiao Yang

          I'll vouch for the roast goose at Yee's which look nearly identical to their ducks but about fifty percent bigger--have yet to try the duck.

        2. re: wolfe

          Dupont Market has been gone for at least 15 years. On that block were at least three BBQ shops years ago. On Sang (which still send chicken and may fish) and Hung Sang which sold the same. But now there are fewer and fewer of these market left.

          1. re: yimster

            On Sang is gone. According to a posted legal noticed, they've been evicted. They have a smaller space on Stockton at Pacific. By "Hung Sang" do you mean "Man Sung?" It's still there. There was also a long-gone market at Grant and Washington that had BBQ in the window, oddly, it was called something like "Italian Market".

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              No there was a Hung Sung in addition to Man Sung which by the way is my choice for the fresh "Chinese" chicken.

              Yes, I remember Italian market on the but two block down Grant Ave. On the corner of Jackson.

              1. re: yimster

                You are right , it was Grant and Jackson. There was another Chinese market at Grant and Washington that sold mostly non-perishables.

                1. re: yimster

                  I bought a raw Loong Kong chicken from Man Sung, packed and processed by New Stockton Poultry. Interestingly, the label on the plastic bag said

                  "For Buddhist Religion
                  Eviscerated Poultry Processed under USDA Inspection Exemption"

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Someimes there is a tag on the foot that says "for religious purposes only." "This document (pdf) on poultry slaughtering exemptions may shed some light on this:

                    "poultry processed in accordance with Buddhist religious beliefs that require that the head and feet remain on eviscerated poultry."


              2. re: yimster

                I knew that yimster. I was just trying to kick-start XY's long term memory. As you can see it's working.

            2. So while we're on the subject ....

              I've never figured out the hanging duck thing in the window. What's the deal?
              Do I go in and buy a whole duck? And leave with it? Or eat it there? Will the
              guy cut it up for me? Am I just going in to get some duck or will it be a part of
              some more-complex dish? What's a good east bay place to go lose my
              duck-in-window virginity?

              Ducks hanging in chinatown windows are a complete mystery to this roundeye;
              clues and advice are enthusiastically solicited. Thanks!

              26 Replies
              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                Those are good questions. My question on the pork and duck hanging in the window is: How can I avoid 5-spice? Are there some that are just roasted without 5-spice powder?

                1. re: Atomica

                  Can i ask why the 5 spice Fear? Do you dislike the taste or are somehow allergic? Usually this is the main Seasoning for Chinese style duck & pork. Usually the duck is seasoned with 5 spice, sugar & soy sauce. while Chasu is prepared around the same. Roast pork is seasoned with salt, however i believe this too is seasoned with 5 spice.

                  1. re: Skunk2Racer

                    It's not fear, it's utter dislike. There is one spice in it that I absolutely hate. Chasu has to be different, because I eat chasu/char-siu all the time.

                    1. re: Atomica

                      It was definitely an acquired taste for me. And the way I acquired it was, when eating chinese food, to say over and over to myself, "I am not eating moldy cardboard from the attic, I am eating chinese food. I am not eating moldy cardboard from the attic, I am eating chinese food..." That plus eating it when I was really, really hungry seemed to break down the resistance.

                      Thanks for all the advice! About three links away from Melanie's link below I got to this ancient thread which is just packed with good stuff:
                      I think I'll go on a duck hunt for lunch today.

                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                        CTC and Melanie, thanks for the memory. All in all, the duck is still pretty reasonable since the high end was $7.20 in 2001.

                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                          So, do you actively *like* 5-spice now? I like your mantra. :)

                          1. re: Atomica

                            Yes, though the 5-spice ice cream experiment from last summer will probably not be repeated next year...

                  2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    I get mine at the convenient Ranch 99 in Richmond. They will cut into bite size pieces just as you get in a restaurant. I frequently ask for if uncut and split it down the middle at home. At feeding time I blast it with high heat to rewarm it, recrisp the skin a little and render a little more fat. I like mine with hot mango chutney. One half is for freezing until the next duck urge.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      I don't buy them at Ranch 99, but I will ask the counter man to cut the duck in half for me. I prefer to cut it off the bone and into serving size pieces at home, and having them make that first split is very convenient for handling it. Don't forget to save the carcass for duck soup.

                    2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      You can usually buy a half-duck if you like for a small premium. Note that cutting it into bite size pieces is hacked on the bone and some folks don't do well with bone shards. Some places have a few seats if you want to order a duck rice plate or duck noodles and eat it there. Here's more about choosing a duck,

                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                        You can buy a whole if your hungry. but you can order a 1/2 cut up. It's like burger King..... have it your way. Feel like eating there? Ask for the peking duck with rice, they will cut up place on top of steamed rice and have sauce poured on top or on the side. Duck is kind of boney & Fatty some pieces will have good pieces of meat other will be skin, a thin layer of meat and bones. What part of the east bay are you at? when i'm in NOR CAL i usually eat at the chinese Deli at Lyons plaza in newark. If Duck is a mystery, i say try the roast Pork. The Whole pig is roasted hung and is cut up to order. it is usually boneless, as Excellent the meat is i enjoy best the cracklin' Well Good luck & Enjoy!

                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                          You can buy whatever you like in the amount you like. They will cut as much or as little as you like.

                          I still remember a little Grandmother asking for a quarter of a duck. The price is higher the smaller the portion you want. If I remember right the charge more for dark meat on the quarter size.

                          I too never want them to cut up the duck or whatever. I think the item is juicier if you cut it yourself just before serving.

                          Melanie and my favorite is long gone Jae Men Kee (SP). They retired. Wish I had his recipes.

                          1. re: yimster

                            A duck is all dark meat. That's why I like it so much!

                            Yes, and the ex-partner's location of Junmae Guey on Balboa has closed too.
                            Shanghai House is in that storefront now.

                          2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                            OK, so yesterday I went and got one. Wow. These are really good. Why have you been keeping this information from me? Well your little secret is out. Hey everybody! Chinatown ducks: yum! I also learned something important about 5-spice. Listen up, Atomica.

                            Reading that old thread, there was some guidance towards a place called Yet Sun on 8th near Franklin in Oakland. Which, though not confirmed absolutely, may have been Melanie's Aunt's favorite place.

                            Unfortunately, while Yet Sun sells some very nice looking fish, produce out front, and uncooked poultry in the back, there's was no sign of cooked anything.

                            No matter, there are at least a half dozen alternatives within quacking distance. I crossed the street to a dinky looking little place called Sun Hing, nestled under the awnings on the east side of 8th. As I looked in the window, the big man was hanging up ten or so freshly roasted, glistening, dripping ducks. I went inside.

                            Big man didn't speak much english, but little man in the back was born here. I opted to just get it cut in half. I figured that was the splattery part I'd rather not mess up my kitchen with, and I've got a bit of a predisposition against the seemingly arbitrary pieces chinese restaurants always section their birds into when fully chopped. It came with a tiny plastic cup of juice, maybe 2-3 oz. Cost was $12.95 which, for you bargain hunters, is five cents cheaper than everyplace else. Total weight of the package was about 3 1/2 lbs when I got it home. Price for half a duck is $6.95.

                            So here's where the 5-spice comes into the picture. I get the bag into my car. Driving home the car is absolutely -reeking- of 5-spice. If this is something that bothers you, you're going to need to hang your head out the window even on the freeway. Fortunately, I've learned to like it but I was still wondering a bit what I'd gotten myself into.

                            At home, I stashed half the bird in the fridge and stuck the other half into the oven for a couple of minutes to warm up. Then I dismembered it american style, keeping parts as parts.

                            First bite: oh my goodness! Second bite, thinking back to the drive in the car, where the heck is all the 5-spice? I tasted duck, good duck, really good duck. I tasted a crispy honey sweetness from the skin almost campfire marshmallowy were it had been close to the fire. Very little salt. But almost none of that mustiness. Hmmm? Maybe it just evaporated?

                            I'd forgotten about the little cup of juice. Pulled it out of the bag. What do I do with it? Pour some of it over the duck? I took a little taste of it first. Ack! Well -there's- were all the 5-spice went! Sheezuz. Saltier than seawater, fatty, vaguely gelatinous, cloudy liquid absolutely densely infused with spice. You'll take a step back even if you're sitting down. People contrive to get more of this than this? About six drops was enough for me.

                            So for 5-spice haters, that's how to avoid it. At least from Sun Hing. Tell them to keep the juice.

                            Thanks for all the encouragement. I hope this encourages someone else too.

                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                              Thanks for your thorough report! Don't think I've tried anything from Sun Hing. I really enjoy it when non-Chinese speakers share their experiences in Chinatown. It's more relevant to a wider audience than if someone like me tries to explain something.

                              Now, are you implicating all five of the spices in your dislike? I ask because "five spice" powder can actually be made from some eight different ingredient, depending on the recipe. Usually it will have star anise, cassia, and clove; then the others that can be added are cinnamon, fennel seed, sichuan peppercorn, white pepper, black pepper, ground ginger, and others. You don't like any of those?

                              Yes, Yet Sun changed hands and focus a few years ago. Here's the low down from the old timers.

                              Sun Hing Meat Market
                              386 8th St, Oakland, CA

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Cassia and cinnamon are virtually the same thing, aren't they?

                                I imagine it's one of the basic three ingredients that turns off some people. Me, I love the star anise but could do without the cassia/cinnamon.

                                (Jeeze- googled "cassia" and got an x-rated thumbnail above the fold on the first page)

                                1. re: Xiao Yang

                                  Most of what's called cinnamon is actually cassia bark. I should have been more specific and said "cassia buds" as the component in 5 spice, and yes, cassia bark would be used in place of cinnamon.

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  It's a combination of problems. I'm mostly over it by now (see the
                                  reference to 5-spice ice cream experiments, above) but it took a

                                  Do you have any of those things -- like Play-Doh or crayons or
                                  bug spray or cedar shavings -- that take you back to a specific
                                  time or place when you get the tiniest whiff? 5-spice takes me
                                  to the darkest corner of my grandma's hall closet when I was 4
                                  years old. There must have been something back there that was
                                  similar. Really old shoes maybe.

                                  It's primarily the star anise component that does it. It's completely
                                  alien to me, I don't think I knowingly had it until college. Plus the
                                  cinnamon part multiplies the trouble because I've got a built-in genetic
                                  warning system that makes me instinctively pull away from meat + cinnamon.
                                  "AAk! It must be rotten!" something inside says. I don't think it's because
                                  I once ate rotten meat with cinnamon on it because nowhere in my
                                  childhood would that combination ever have happened. It's just there.
                                  On the other side of the globe, Bastilla was a real challenge for a
                                  while too.

                                  Throwing the two flavors together and then adding a bunch of other
                                  components just confuses things more and something there on
                                  my brainstem just says "no!"

                                  Since I don't like having things I don't like, I worked hard to
                                  overcome the aversion. Pretty successfully.

                                  But the important part, and why I brought it up, was what
                                  I learned yesterday: extrapolating with confidence from a
                                  sample size of 1 :), I can say with authority that at least 95% of
                                  the 5-spice flavor is in the inside cavity of the bird and drained
                                  out into the juice container. Even if I were still avoiding it, this
                                  would have been a perfectly palatable duck.

                                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                    The ducks are seasoned by rubbing the inside with a paste of 5-spice and other seasonings, so yes, that's where the flavor would be concentrated. As the duck cooks, the sewed up cavity collects the juices and the seasonings are rinsed off and concentrated in the liquid. So what you've observed tastewise makes sense to me.

                                    Maybe your granny had something made of sandalwood. I describe its scent as sweet asian spices.

                                    I'm wondering whether you have a problem with southern-style pho. They're often heavy on the star anise and the basil garnish can have an anise-y note too. Once I put a bowl of pho in front of someone who thought she didn't like star anise and we figured out that it was actually cloves that she had the problem with.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Sandalwood = campfire. Anise = leather. I love the smell of sandalwood and always have.

                                      I was wired to expect anise/clove/cinnamon to be in sweet things not meat things. Pho I didn't start eating until long after I'd cured myself, but even before it wouldn't have been as much of a problem: No cinnamon.

                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                        You're obviously not a Renaissance Man. According to the Wikipedia article on mincemeat, "The use of spices like clove, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon was common in late medieval and renaissance meat dishes"


                                        If you don't like star anise, you are also cutting yourself off from a substantial (and I mean "substantial") part of Shanghainese cuisine, like red-cooked pork leg or pork belly.

                                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                                          Renaissance, schmenaissance,. Then you don't subscribe to the theory that all those spices were used to cover up the taste of less than fresh meat.

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            I agree with you wolfe, spices and pepper were used to cover less than fresh meats but now they are use to enhance the flavor of meats.

                                            Lucky us.

                                            1. re: wolfe

                                              I do, but with Yimster, I believe it was to our ultimate benefit. For the same reasons, we wouldn't have the Sichuan cuisine we have today.

                                              1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                Y and XY, just to stir the pot, so to speak, I submit this intriguing link I found.

                                  2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                    Since CtC wrote such a compelling description of the roast duck at Sun Hing Meat Market, I'll add my update here. On Monday the small size soy sauce chickens, $3.99, in the front window drew me in. I bought one of those, then the counter guy asked me if I'd be interested in half a roast duck for a good price. How good?, I asked, while looking up at the overhead sign that says a half-duck is $6.50. He sized me up and said, "$5, lean meat". It was already in a styro box, already chopped into pieces on the bone, sitting on the counter. I asked to take a closer look. He obliged and explained that a guy came in, ordered a half-duck asking for it to be chopped, and then expected to pay with a credit card. Sun Hing, like much of Chinatown in cash only. He said that it happens almost every day. So I took the duck and it was much as CtC described, maybe a little drier since it had been cut up earlier. Thought I'd share this in case others happen by the shop at the right time to get another one.

                                    As far as the little chicken, it was fine, not great, and too salty with not as much complexity as better versions. Skin was suitably firm, but the breast meat was too coarse. But I liked the size for the price and the higher skin to meat ratio.

                                    Sun Hing Meat Market
                                    386 8th St, Oakland, CA

                                3. I prefer to buy my duck and pork in the Ingleside or the Sunset district rather than in Chinatown.

                                  I buy my roast duck from Happy Bakery and Deli on Ocean Ave. Their duck is the best I've had in SF. They also sell wonderful soy sauce chickens. You can either buy whole or half ducks or chickens or you can buy duck or chicken (or combo duck/chicken) rice plates for about $5 or $6. These come with a wonderful ginger/green onion "relish" and are a great value. And yes, they will cut the chicken or duck in half or in bone-in bite-size pieces or sell it whole -- your preference.

                                  I like the char siu (bbq pork) that's sold at Cheung Hing on Noriega St. Again, they will sell it to you whole or by the piece or in slices -- you choose.

                                  Cheung Hing Chinese Restaurant
                                  2339 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                  Happy Bakery
                                  1548 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                                    Do you need to call in and reserve a duck in advance at Happy Bakery, or can you usually just drop by and pick one up?

                                    1. re: kcchan

                                      You can just drop by, but there might not be any ducks available for sale. Or you could get lucky. It's not a high volume place (which might have something to do with why the result is higher quality than just about anyone else in town), so sometimes the window looks pretty bare. Also, you should ask for what you want, even if it's not on display, and sometimes something is just about to come out of the roaster in the back.

                                      Happy Bakery has a "reserved" section of ducks. It might be too much for you to bear to see those hanging there and not be able to buy one.

                                  2. i remember reading about new moon in chinatown here, and i've had a couple ducks from there and have always liked them. but i wonder about consistency. about a year and a half ago i bought some char siu (sp?) and when i brought it home, i was amazed at how tender and balanced it was in flavor. then a few months ago i grabbed some more from the same place and when i got home, it was all dense and chewy, a bit dry, and overly sweet. maybe i don't know how to spot the good ones. but the ducks i've always found to be good. never asked for them to fill my own jar with duck juices yet, but they've always given a little plastic container of it, which is just fantastic on everything, especially rice.

                                    New Moon Restaurant
                                    1247 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: augustiner

                                      One of my regular stops in the past but lately they fail to post prices on there goods and the price are higher. So I have been shopping at other places.