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Aug 30, 2009 10:22 AM

Craving chow fun

I'll be in SF next week and am hoping to satisfy a serious chow fun craving..i remember eating great chow fun at a small corner restaurant at Hyde and Jackson..and also a very good chow fun on Calif somewhere west of

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  1. At Jackson and Hyde, I think you're thinking of U-Lee.

    U-Lee Restaurant
    1468 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      I have never found a parking place near there -- even the fire hydrant "spot" across the street is taken usually. I hear the potstickers are good.

      1. re: ML8000

        Thats it,.. U Lee...I'll check out the suggestions in Chinatown..grazie

      2. Just a general comment, but I'd be surprised if the chow fun at the locations you mentioned would rate with what you can get in Chinatown at any number of places, such as Hon's Wun Tun House. Granted, the Chinese food in SF Chinatown isn't nearly as good as what you can find in the suburbs, but for something as simple as chow fun, most places in Chinatown do it quite well.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Chandavkl

          Actually as simple as it may be, this is not an easy dish to get right. As Stephen Chow's HK film "God of Cookery", the character, once said, the simpler the dish, the harder it is to cook. Something as common as dried fried beef chow fun, requires good knife skill, sourcing a good cut of beef, and most importantly having really good stir fry skills and knowing the ways of the wok (sounds star wars-ish I know but it is so true).

          The end result should be noodles not clumped together, tender beef (cut right), and an even highly skilled chef should be able to make it non greasy (ie when you finish eating, all you get is the condensation on the plate and not excess oil drippings). Even though most places in Chinatown offer this dish, they will taste different from one another.

          With that said, most of the better quality preps of chow fun will be find at dim sum and/or high end seafood restaurants. You're paying a markup for a dish that should cost $6 to $8, but generally you get better quality and skills. Other places that I've found do it simiarly good would be the mish mash Hong Kong style cafe that offers HK style western and Cantonese stir fry. This is just a general observation.

          1. re: K K

            I'm curious why a dim sum restaurant would be apt to make better chow fun.

            1. re: c oliver

              That has been my observation at least in the lower Peninsula and upper South Bay after having tried different plates at various locations. Chances of finding better and cheaper quality beef chow fun in SF proper is likely higher than that of southward of San Mateo and north of Cupertino or Milpitas (with very few exceptions). Dim sum seafood restaurants tend to have more qualified/better skilled chefs adept at stir fry because they have to do those things right or at least half decent before they can contribute to the regular menu of things.

              I read a book published in Hong Kong that there are a some restaurants that use either beef chow fun, or something even simpler, like shrimp with runny scrambled eggs, as a trial test of stir fry skills for job applicants (future chefs).

              1. re: K K

                Total guess but chow fun (and chow mein) to dim sum is like creamed spinach at a steak house...often found together. I like chow mein with dim sum, breaks up the all dumpling thing. Any way, if the dim sum is good, my guess is the chow fun has to/should be on par.

                1. re: ML8000

                  I just really never thought of that. I guess I never want to break up the "dumpling thing" :) I guess it means that I can go to one of my favorite dim sum places when I just want chow fun. Good perspective from both of you, KK and ML.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    ML8000, chow fun and chow mein (and fried rice) type starch plates, are not really considered "side dishes" like creamed spinach to a steak house although they can be viewed as such. Sure, dim sum is meant to be the main course for lunch, but the idea of having the starch plates available is for those who either are done with dim sum and want something different, or more importantly, dim sum selection has dwindled by the time you finally get a table (or in some cases in the old days, sold out) and there's nothing left to eat but those starch stuffer dishes.

                    In the case of ABC Foster City restaurant, they've even started offering Cantonese shui gow (basically fatter won tons with prawns, pork, and woodear funghi) in superior broth.....this is normally a won ton noodle house kind of staple in HK, but the quality of course is going to be a lot higher as they put more effort into making the broth the proper way. Back in HK during the 80s, there were two kinds of won ton noodles, the kind you get at the places that specialize in them, and the seafood restaurants (where the prices are higher, but the broth quality is better, and of course you're paying also for service, tablecloth etc experience).

                    It is pretty interesting to see old style small bites/snacks and dishes that might not be classical dim sum lineup be offered in a dim sum restaurant along with the lineup.

                  2. re: K K

                    Missed this before -- so chow fun or runny scrambled eggs is the equivalent of the roasted chicken chef job test. Very interesting.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Well there are many taste tester dishes. The scrambled egg and shrimp happens to be a more old school one and used in HK, how prevalent I don't know. Fried rice can be another good one, basically something simple.

                    2. re: K K

                      If you ask me you should kill two birds with one stone at Yuet Lee and get dry-fried chow fun with yellow chives and scrambled eggs and shrimp, one of my all time favorite combos.

                      1. re: K K

                        Yep, I agree with rec. It's hard to get my mother to pay $12 for a plate of beef chow fun at a dim sum place, but we're nearly always happy with it and the price is soon forgotten. Not as high a probability at $6.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          $12 plate of chow fun or fried rice is the norm at the higher end dim sum restaurants, with it creeping $14 to $16 at some places. Then again that's also the price range for the Singaporean chow fun at Straits restaurant Atlanta or maybe SF but not necessarily tasting better than at a dim sum restaurant.

                          Although in Hong Kong there are places that go upwards of almost $20 to $25 for a plate of dried fried beef chow fun, but you are getting superior cuts of (non Japanese) beef, skills, perhaps a special marinade of soy sauce (one place in particular in HK makes their fusion beef chow fun soy sauce from stock containing beef flank, pork bones, chicken bones, old soy, rock sugar, Chinese wine, dried scallops, herbs, ginger, black pepper) and definitely good stir fry skills (much like how in Taiwan there are places that sell beef noodle soups for $20 to upwards of $300....)

                          If I'm not too picky, I'll just go to a HK cafe/cha chaan teng for the dish, although the HK cafes in the Peninsula are a bit expensive :-/.

                  3. re: Chandavkl

                    U-Lee use to do a very good job on basic Cantonese dish. I use to go fairly regularly 15 or so years ago since my grandmother lived across the street and I lived in SF. I haven't been in at least 5-6 years.

                    The legend is the wok at U-Lee is very well seasoned (same wok for at least 40 years) and the chef has it cranked to super hot. My experience verifies this but I haven't been in a long time and I've never had the chow fun there that I remember...might have as a kid.

                    I usually got some kind of chicken dish at U-Lee since they did a very good job of trimming it and you could see sear marks on it.

                    My go to place for chow fun in SF was Hing Lung on Broadway. Now since I live in the East Bay it's New Gold Medal (formerly Sun Hong Kong). I'm sure there's better but to me CF isn't a picky dish...also I order it dry, without gravy. I think gravy (a HK preference?) adds an element that has to be done just right or the mistake is literally all over it.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      The English entry of dry fried beef chow fun


                      is missing all the good bits of history behind it that is in the Chinese version


                      Just to add to the discussion of the dish's history...

                      it is said that the dried fried version of beef chow fun originated during WWII era, Canton province around 1938. A man named Mr Hui, who originally was from Canton/Guangzhou, went northward to Hunan and became a chef. During the war, he was forced to retreat south back home as the Japanese slowly invaded southward, and ended up working at a vendor stall (open by his brother) to sell food. Canton province was eventually taken over by the Japanese in 1938.

                      One night, Mr Hui's food stall ran out of the powder (like a cornstarch thickening agent) for sauces. A military patrolling unit division commander was hungry and wanted to have his wet chow fun. Due to a curfew and ban on late night business activity, the brother was unable to go purchase the powder. They had to tell the commander they couldn't make it. It is also said the commander was so mad he was about to take out his gun and kill someone. Mr Hui's mom and brother immediately went to make some tong yuen (sticky rice dessert dumplings) and Mr Hui himself tended to the kitchen. It was there that he thought about doing it dry stir fried style, and thus the stall (and his family) were sparred from the bullet. Apparently Hui's stall became Guangzhou's first ever location to offer dry fried beef chow fun and became famous for it.

                      1. re: K K

                        Great story on dry chow fun. Who would have known. Thanks.