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Wonton Noodle Soup - SF Dish of the Month (April 2013)

Voting this month was close, and the winner by a nose was Cantonese Wonton Noodle Soup.

The goal of Dish of the Month is to collectively try as many versions of wonton noodle soup as possible during the month of April! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.

For those who regularly eat wonton noodle soup in the Bay Area, hopefully this project can lead to a new favorite version, and for those who don't usually seek it out, hopefully this will be an excuse to go out and try some!

Here's a link to the vote: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/896278

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  1. There are two restaurants who make Won Ton Soup that I enjoy:

    1. Yuet Lee - 1300 Stockton St San Francisco
    2. Gum Wah - 345 8th St Oakland

    Both have a good flavorful broth and have shrimp-bases wontons. Each costs about $6-$7 with a meat included. I like the BBQ pork Soup at Yuet Lee and the Roasted Duck at Gum Wah.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bob Copeland

      Curious to know if your Gum Wah outings have been recent. My last outing there (October) was not good, and I didn't see familiar faces in the shop which made me wonder if an ownership change had happened. Broth tasted one dimensional and the wonton innards tasted old. It used to be my go to spot for WTS. FWIW I have yet to eat a bowl of WTS in the BA that tastes like the HK bowls, which really lean toward the tilefish/shrimp for savoriness.

      1. re: rubadubgdub

        I had takeout from there about a month ago. I've never dined in and don't know the staff. Perhaps others can comment on that.

        1. re: rubadubgdub

          I really like the Wonton Noodle Soup at Rang Dong in Oakland Chinatown (best I've had in the Bay), but it's a vietnamese place.

          Here's a pic:


          1. re: hungree

            I sampled my first wonton noodle soup of the month nearby, at Thanh Ky at 659 E 12th St, Oakland. Rather than Hong Kong style it is a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant. The "house special wonton noodle soup" comes with fishballs, beefballs, fishcake, shrimp, ground pork, and pieces of chicken and pork, in addition to noodles, wontons, and scallions.
            The broth looked paler than I was expecting, with the usual amount of fat on the top. It was more flavorful than I was expecting from the color, though definitely chicken-forward rather than complex, but good. The noodles were the best part about the dish--thin, yet firm and easily separated. The wontons were decent--mostly shrimp, but not in large pieces.
            I'll definitely go back based on the quality of the broth and noodles, but will likely order something else, as I felt the additions detracted from my ideal wonton soup. It was relatively busy mid-afternoon, and other tables seemed split between noodle soups and rice plates with fried/roasted chicken/duck.

          2. re: rubadubgdub

            Yeah, someone mentioned to me that Gum Wah may have switched ppl.

            I thought the won ton noodle soup at Gum Kuo was pretty good (over a yr ago) plus a side of ja leurng (sp?). But one of my relatives also said nothing close to HK

          3. re: Bob Copeland

            I remembered the first time I had wonton noodles at Gum Wah - they served me the "normal" (i.e. American) portion which was humongous compared to those I'm used to back in Singapore or Hong Kong.

            I could only finish half of it, and mentioned about the serving size to the proprietress when I was paying my bill. She said, "Oh, you should have mentioned you wanted the *Chinese* version, we can do that for you." :-D

          4. From Charles Vu's post on the Hong Kong board:
            'The evaluation criteria was provided to me by a real local Chinese food connoisseur. He told me the ultimate won-ton noodle should comprise of perfection in the following four components. The broth, the noodle, the won-ton and finally the condiments.

            The broth should be made from prawn shells, chicken and pork bones, dried tile fish, shrimp eggs and dried buddha fruit.

            The noodle strand should be as thin as a thread and cooked just below 'al-dente'.

            The won-ton should comprised of crunchy fresh prawns wrapped in paper thin wrapping skin. The cooked noodle, before being placed in the bowl, should be dressed and drizzled with a few drops of lard.

            Finally, the end product should be sprinkled with finely chopped yellow chives and shrimp eggs.'


            For the wonton, K K's post on the Hong Kong board:
            '....the most traditional way where the wrapping (and cooking) make the wontons look like goldfish, where the excess skin spreads like goldfish tails...There are those who take this smooth goldfish tail eating experience into account and prefer it to the golf ball sized won tons that don't have the tails.'


            For the garnish- its traditionally chives, but some prefer green onions to chives.

            11 Replies
            1. re: ckshen

              Thanks for posting the descriptions of the platonic ideal for Hong Kong-style/Cantonese won ton noodle soup. Since you nominated the winning entry for dish of the month, then this is what we should be trying to find.

              Over the last 10+ years, from time to time, we have taken up the hunt for this dish. I think the hardest part to duplicate is the see-through broth, tinted orange from the dried tilefish and shrimp shells. To give folks an idea of what we're looking for in stock color, here's a photo of the version at the (now closed) W and M Cafe in Fremont. The wontons were wrapped in the golf ball style and green onions on top rather than yellow chives. This briny broth perhaps came the closest in the Bay Area at the time.

              Then to show the swallow tails or goldfish tails, this example from SF's King Won Ton is a little tattered, but gives an idea and is topped with the yellow chives. King Won Ton achieves the best noodle texture when the bamboo pole-made noodles are available and cooked properly, but can be quite inconsistent. But if you hit it right, this would be the place to learn about the noodle component even if the other parts fall short.

              So, we're not talking the giant Shanghainese wontons, spicy Sichuan wontons, hearty war wontons topped with everything but the kitchen sink, nor the ubiquitous pork-filled type readily found at nearly every Chinese-American place. It's going to take some good chowhound sleuthing to find the HK-style, let alone a good example. I expect that we'll be kissing a lot of "frogs" along the hunt, but let's please post about those poseurs too along the way as sign posts of what to avoid.

              More wonton background discussions

              1. re: ckshen

                Is the attached picture dried tilefish? I wasn't able to find much insight via google.

                1. re: ...tm...

                  Quick answer, no.

                  Something to note

                  柴魚片 where 片 means slices or flakes, 柴魚片 is Taiwanese Chinese reference to shaved bonito flakes (aka katsuoboshi in Japan and TW). This is consufing, because 柴魚 in this case, is stock fish, which is type of dried unsalted cod.

                  Actually now that I've done a little research, I am not sure if "dried tilefish" is the correct translation. In Hong Kong the wonton noodle broths use a dried version of a fish known as 大地魚 as written in Cantonese Chinese (big land fish)...at least 大地魚 is the right term . It is actually synonymous with 比目魚 which is a flatfish (of this category, halbut, turbot, sole, plaice, and flounders are themed as such), and is also known as 撻沙魚 (Taat Sa Yue) in some local markets that sell dried seafood.

                  So I'm inclined to believe that now the "dried tilefish" is a misnomer. If you look at a receipe like this: http://magazine.fourseasons.com/trave...

                  which calls for a flatfish (instead of tilefish)....the good thing is that the fish can be grilled then grinded to a powder to be used into the broth (versus a sun dried specimen).

                  As far as exactly what type of flatfish is typically used in won ton noodle broth, it is looking more to be either halibut or flounder.


                  Small square pieces of the dried fish is also used to stir fry with Chinese broccoli (gai lan) at Chiu Chow restaurants in Hong Kong and is quite the flavor enhancer. But there they call it 方魚 (Fong Yue) instead. More confusion, but perhaps the "Fong" is in reference to the squarish cuts?

                  Of course Charles is more than welcome to correct me on this if there's more updated information.

                  1. re: K K

                    Yes, stock fish is an unsalted white fish, often cod.

                    I've been confused by the term tilefish as well. I wonder if it refers to a style of flattening and drying. At Lotus of Siam early on, I was served a soup by the owner that has now made its way onto the menu. The taste was vaguely familiar and I was told that it was smoked sheet fish, that's pounded flat, dried and smoked, and used in Cambodian and southern Chinese cooking.

                    Long ago, in this thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4072..., Wai Bong posted: "...I especially like the broth which has a stronger hint of the "jaw hou yu" flavor(translated literally as "left mouth fish" aka dried flounder)than the soups at other wonton places that I've tried. Jaw Hou Yu is typically added to the chicken stock to give the wonton soup its distintive taste."

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Yes jaw hou yu 左口魚 is halibut, just more fancy names to confuse people...it's also what some Hong Kong bloggers use to casually name the fish instead of "hirame" at their local sushi bar.

                      Now right mouth fish 右口魚 is a little confusing. Some say it's "right eyed flounders", but if used in a sushi bar setting in Hong Kong, it's referring to karei (which is a flounder), and really high end quality karei is normally "mako-garei" in enunciation, particularly at the Michelin star'd sushi restaurant in Japan...but that's another topic.

                      I suppose "flat as a tile" to mean tilefish, versus the non flat tilefish (other definition) could be a possibility...

                    2. re: K K

                      Thanks, this is very helpful. I have seen that dried flatfish in markets before, and now I have the characters to look for if it is ground.

                      1. re: ...tm...

                        My mom makes her wonton broth with 大地魚. It doesn't come in a package, or pre ground. She buys the dry fish whole from chinese dry seafood store, it's about the size of a small plate. She toasts it over the stove (she has an electric range) ...but be careful because fat drips from the fish. She puts it in the soup whole (but don't serve it).
                        I have a picture of it somewhere (probably on my tablet at home) that I will upload. I took a picture of one when a friend of mine ask for info on my mom's wonton soup secret ingredient. My friend was able to find it by asking for it at one of the Chinese dry seafood stores in Chinatown.

                          1. re: gnomatic

                            Here is the picture of the 大地魚 .. untoasted. Not a pretty looking fish...

                            1. re: gnomatic

                              Joy Luck Bistro also uses 大地魚 flatfish in their broth. i went there to get a bowl, and its the best among all the other places I tried so far this month in the south bay (not been to Cooking Papa yet this month).

                              The broth had a distinct fishiness to it and likely had a pork base as well. it was quite nice. the wontons (6) had good size fresh shrimps mixed with just the right amount of pork to provide a great texture. size was medium, not tiny, not huge. the noodle was al dente. also some 'yu choy' as garnish.

                              the bowl had some misses, however. i was eating and staring at the bowl and wondering what was missing. it then dawned on me that it had neither chives nor scallions. no wonder it just looked off.

                              the amount of noodle was also on the smallish side. i finished the noodle and still had 3 wontons left.

                              while i was paying i asked the chefs whether they added fish to the broth and one of them asked me whether i was allergic to 大地魚 (flatfish). so i guess that's what went into their broth.

                              $6 a bowl. I don't even know how the 99 in the same plaza can justify selling theirs at $5.3 a bowl at much lower quality.

                              1. re: ckshen

                                I had a chance to eat the same dish at Joy Luck Bistro both this week and last. Last week's version was at the same level of quality as the version posted above, though with the addition of yellow chives.

                                This week's version was a major disappointment- wonton was mostly pork with some super tiny fragments of shrimp stirred in, and the pork texture was so hard that i wonder what they put in there. the broth was *very* salty. its the same two person manning the congee/ noodle station so i really don't know what happened to the quality control this week.

                    3. The link to Charles Yu's post is a great lengthy informative discussion about won ton noodles and how they should be.

                      The evaluation criteria (for HK) is actually missing one component but I'll rephrase it according to another source to make it more complete.

                      The classical traditional and old style authentic won ton noodle soup is actually a very small snack sized serving as it was originally intended. The size of the bowl would almost be the equivalent of that of a Cantonese Chinese banquet soup bowl (e.g. shark fin soup).

                      wontons - obviously fresh shrimp and some quality pork is important. A good ratio is maybe 70% shrimp, and 30% pork. Visually these would be wrapped with excess skin tightly, so that any slack once boiled would look like silky smooth long goldfish tails fluttering about and scattering in the water. A large number of won ton noodle restaurants in HK don't do much slack anymore, unfortunately becoming the norm, and even a little slack is better than nothing.

                      noodles - it is not a crucial requirement anymore that the noodles are kneaded via bamboo pole since it is a dying art in Hong Kong and nobody wants to take up this old time craft...but it does provide a delightful bite and slight crunch (a really wonderful texture). Many restaurants use machine made noodles...but so long as the noodle has bite, ideally made with duck eggs, thin strands like golden threads, and fresh, it can really enhance the experience.

                      broth - a very critical component...Charles pretty much described what goes in it, but I am not 100% sure about Buddha fruit...but dried tilefish, shrimp shells, and shrimp roe (typically added for individual bowls) are important components, either added to a stock of chicken or pork bones. Just a bit of a background, there are two schools of won ton noodles in HK...the old school way as I just described it, and the new school way are larger golf ball sized wontons to satisfy those who prefer quantity and value (since a small tiny bowl, even if quality, is deemed expensive at $4 to $5 a bowl). The new school way was popularized by the likes of Tsim Chai Kee (and maybe Chee Kee), where instead of either dried tilefish or shrimp shells/shrimp roe, Buddha fruit is used instead for creating the sweetness. Obviously the new school way has its fans, but is not the traditional/classic version.

                      As far as the plating (or bowl-ing) goes, a chef in HK at a specialist restaurant would basically take a portion of noodles, and immerse it in boiling water for about 20 seconds, rinse it in cold water and drain. The wontons are cooked first then drained of excess water, and placed first onto a bowl (where a Chinese soup spoon is first placed in the empty bowl). Followed by a few drops or drizzling of a little bit of lard. The cooked noodles then are placed on top covering the wontons, and finally broth is added last, and the whole thing delivered to the table. This is to minimize the time the noodles are soaking in the broth (thus losing its texture and bite).

                      With that said, after Charles recently visited Hong Kong and left disappointed with a large numer of won ton noodle shops (even one or two that tried to adhere to the above standards but just happened to execute horribly), the takeaway is that

                      1) traditional style HK won ton noodles is even a rare commodity in HK, especially in consistent quality.

                      2) You are lucky if you get 1.5 out of 3 components nailed down or close to it. And this is not taking into account excess skin slack or whether the spoon is pre-positioned at the bottom of the bowl. 2 out of 3 right is already exceeding expectations in some parts.

                      3) Anything over there even in some level of mediocrity, is better than what we have here.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: K K

                        interesting background about the noodle bowl size. i remember from 8, 9 years ago at Hon's (across the street from R&G) where they served tiny bowl of won ton noodle at a lower price point. i did not know why the bowl was so small at the time. but i went there often for snacks when i worked a block away.

                        for the broth, i think many noodle houses use the same broth for all noodle types. so they don't necessarily use the ingredients that are supposed to be more specific to the wonton soup itself.

                        for SF area wonton, I'd settle for good shrimp/pork wonton with nice skin, al dente noodle, a good broth that doesn't taste like salt. I don't think I ever ate an ideal bowl of wonton noodle even while in Hong Kong. but wonton noodle being the comfort food that it is, I'd settle for a good bowl, or even a decent bowl when I am really craving it.

                        1. re: K K

                          Just out of curiousity, why would the soup spoon be at the bottom of the bowl? Isn't it kinda messy to get to spoon to eat?

                          1. re: Cindy

                            Another source I found on the net, describes it like this and is perhaps more accurate with regards to the explanation.

                            The wontons go in the bowl first. Then the spoon goes on top of them. then the cooked noodles on top of that, drizzle of lard, then the broth, followed by the additional of young yellow chives. The wontons can soak in broth as long as needed, but the noodles should not as it loses its texture and bite, and the spoon between the noodles and wontons acts as a separator and minimizes full contact of noodles with broth.

                            As far as the 70% shrimp and 30% pork (mix of fatty and lean) that is an optimal ratio that gives the best balance in overall taste and flavor (and also time tested). et broth where the shrimp shells are crucial to the receipe.

                          2. re: K K

                            KK, thank you for doing so much research. Wondering if I could pick your brain (and more experienced palate) for places where you might already have tried the wonton mein. And let's hear from others too about any that we can count out of the running. We'll set the bar at decent/good for Northern California.

                            I know you like Cooking Papa, how about any of these?

                            Broadway Bistro, Millbrae
                            Chu Kong, Millbrae
                            Fat Wong's, San Bruno
                            Tai Wu, Daly City
                            Joy Luck Palace, Cupertino
                            Win's, San Francisco
                            Hong Kong Saigon Seafood Harbor, Sunnyvale or Richmond
                            Great Eastern, San Francisco
                            Lychee Cafe, San Francisco
                            Utopia Cafe, San Francisco
                            Lai Hong Lounge, San Francisco

                            Should we be seeking out cha chaan teng's such as ABC Bakery that caryjones recco'd? Coming up with the list above off the top of my head, I was struck by the fact that we don't really have that many noodle/jook places. The dim sum houses and seafood specialists seem like overkill.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I remember the broth from Saigon from years back. It was consistently over salty. The other components would be ok but the salt from the broth overpowered the other flavors.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I'll post some more recent experiences at different places in a bit but I'll comment on the following:

                                Cooking Papa - the best part of the bowl is the broth, where you can actually taste the dried flatfish flavor and might just be the best broth I've had so far. Inconsistent batch but basically the darker the broth, the better. Noodles I dislike (not much of a bite and no egg flavor) which are better for stir fry purposes, and wontons are inconsistent (some pieces have shrimp, others seem to have more pork).

                                Fat Wong's - wontons are very big (golf ball sized). Portion wise this is fulfilling, almost like Cooking Papa's but the broth is not close. Noodles maybe a tiny notch better than CP but I'd rather have CP's for the broth.

                                Tai Wu - the rice plate/roasties shop? Not a place where I would want to try it

                                JLP Cupertino (bistro) - I will try it possibly next week but will keep expectations in check. Cha siu and roast duck are pretty decent here.

                                Win's (never been). Saigon Seafood Harbor (Sunnyvale) might be a good place to try it. HK Bistro (Mountain View) uses primarily pork in their wontons and the broth, while not as good as CP's, is ok (and could be cubed powder essence enhanced) but don't expect much otherwise. Don't know anything about the dim sum restaurants.

                                Getting Cantonese shui gow is probably a bit more pleasurable overall.

                                I've seen Tak Kee Lee on Noriega wrap fresh wontons at one point, but it was probably for the quota for the rest of the day. The key is probably getting them fresh right when they are done wrapping (as with any other place).

                                Champagne Bistro (now gone) had some decent visually correct wontons (with some light scattering tails), but noodles and broth not to my liking.

                                Hon's Won Ton House (SF) - perfect snack sized bowl and only place in town that does so. Noodles are made in house but unfortunately has this rubberband like color and virtually eggless flavor that doesn't come out right (maybe receipe changed?). On a morning visit a woman was wrapping wontons, and I have to say they are so far the best I've had, perfect bite sized and decent shrimp flavor, and for that an extra point for being able to eat this past 9 am. Broth nothing interesting sadly.

                                Best pork wonton I've had so far, not Cantonese, is Tai Kee in San Jose (a branch of the one in Hualien, Eastern Taiwan). The skin receipe is second to none...lots of excess slack, and slippery smooth too. Too bad their skin is whiter (less or no eggs), and no shrimp.

                                Best noodles....hate to say this but maybe King of Won Ton...but the problem is that the kitchen tends to mess it up. Either overcooked when immersing in boiling water, maybe not cooled with cold water and draining, or soaked for too long. Or if you order lo mein, it's too wet from any sauces (e.g. beef brisket or beef tendon) that it becomes limp. Even then it lacks the eggy-ness, but the thinness is there and the bite they could bring out a bit if they treated it right in the kitchen... The wontons I had recently with lo mein, and the ratio was not 70/30. The side of broth was ok, at least more concentrated than a noodle soup bowl. Might get better mileage with a more eggy Vietnamese Chinese style noodle...

                                1. re: K K

                                  Went to Top Cafe in Cupertino today and had the 'afternoon snack' size wonton dish. Came with a smaller bowl, and a drink at about $5.

                                  Bowl had 4 wonton in it. About 60% pork. Shrimp was on the smallish side but had a bouncy texture. could use a bit more shrimp for a better texture.

                                  Broth was on the salty side, no msg, tasted fine. Noodle was undercooked a bit, but I would take that vs overlooked noodle.

                                  A few pieces of lettuces which I thought was a bit odd as a combo. Also some green onion.

                                  Took about 15 minutes for noodle to come out, which was longer than expected. Maybe they had to make the wonton?

                                  Overall, not the best but ok for the bay area. If I am hungry and passing by on my commute I'd go there again, especially since this is a nice snack size and is quite reasonably priced.

                                  Next up, either one of venus cafe, cooking papa, or jlp bistro.

                            2. I'd add a place that is not necessarily the best place to get wonton. Its the 99 ranch in cupertino. i went there recently because its along the commute route.

                              noodle had a nice bounce. wonton had shrimp and some filler thing that tasted like flour. not very certain what made up the broth. Might have some pork bones and salt. on top, bok choy was added along with some green onion.

                              overall, they can do better.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ckshen

                                Have you tried wonton min 雲吞麺 at Kirin in Mountain View? Page 6 of this old menu,

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Yes indeed! And I added the noodle dish from Kirin's onto my not again list. I had it last March. It was not a Cantonese type of won ton. Set that aside, nothing in the bowl was good.

                              2. Maybe someone on this board can compile a collage of wonton noodle pics as well (besides providing a critique of each), like Charles Yu did for the ones in HK recently:

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Not from this month, but here's a photo of the version at Cooking Papa in Foster City (December 2012).

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Looks nice. No noodles?

                                    This SF Dish of the Month is spurring me to try out wonton noodle options in London (am off there again this weekend). Catching up with my fellow Singaporean CH, limster - we did a London "dim sum" face-off (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/878337) , and a Cantonese roast duck chowdown (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828315) during my last visit late last year. Sounds like a wonton noodle crawl thru London is in order this time :-D

                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                      Hey, limster's mine!


                                      Found my receipt for Cooking Papa . . . that was shrimp wonton noodle soup (as I'd typically order). They're hiding. The tall-sided bowl in attractive, but not that easy to eat from.

                                      Please feel free to ping Charles and ask him to join our discussion on this board.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        I just did - Charles Yu's just back in Toronto after his HK sojourn and organizing a whole host of events for us Chowhounds located around the region, some of us actually flew into HK just for the occasion :-)


                                2. I would like to recommend the Shui Kau wonton noodle soup at ABC Bakery Cafe (650 Jackson). The extra large wontons also contain a crunchy black fungus and the noodles are nice and chewy.

                                  1. After reading the posted description of the ideal Hong Kong-style Won Ton Noodle Soup, I hesitate to add to this April thread.
                                    When I had a sore throat, I'd go to Toon Kee on Irving Street for a steaming hot bowl of won ton noodle soup - it was as hot as a steaming facial and it never failed to make me feel better. Now that Toon Kee has closed, my search for the healing bowl continues after swallowing spoonfuls of hot sauce and drinking ginger tea.
                                    The stretch of Noriega between 31st and 33rd Avenue offers early morning soup from 7am at Tak Kee Lee or at Ming Tai Wun Tun Noodle at 8 am. 2455 Noriega @ 32nd Avenue.
                                    Five shrimp won ton garnished with chopped scallions and lettuce in a hot broth that just needed a few shakes of white pepper made a satisfying morning breakfast at 9 am at Ming Tai but it won't qualify for your Hong Kong-style ideal. $5.95

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Cynsa

                                      The photo is wonton soup at Ming Tai without noodles?

                                      Actually Ming Tai's wonton noodle soup is among those locally that come the closest to the ideal. And a good idea to order without noodles there as they've been soggy and soft each time I've tried it.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        yes, just shrimp won ton, broth, scallions, lettuce. no noodles.

                                    2. Huh, I didn't know such a dish existed till it became DOTM. I must have seen this dish on menus before, but somehow my brain edited "wonton noodle" to be "wonton."

                                      I figured Lucky River in SF would be a good place for the DOTM, but apparently they only have wonton soup. They said they'd add noodles for $1 extra. It was pretty lousy. Weak broth dominated by the taste of (probably dried) noodles, overcooked wontons with dense pork filling (no shrimp), and no green onions or chives. All was not lost since they did a great job with some pea sprouts and with a taro and cured duck clay pot.

                                      Last night I head to Tong Kee in Daly City. It's in the back of a shopping center, next to House of Silvanas. They have 12 different types of wonton noodle soup, including regular, beef stew, shrimp, BBQ pork, hot meat sauce (zha jiang), beef stomach, roast duck, seafood, chicken, beef, and minced duck.

                                      I got the regular wonton noodle soup and it's a meal sized serving. Wontons were at the bottom of the bowl, and noodles, greens, and scallions were on the top. Ton Kee's says that they make the thin egg noodles in house and they certainly seemed fresher and stretchier than what I had at Lucky River. Good flavor too. The wontons were delicious, consistent, and I could kind of see a goldfish shape. I can't verify if they're 70/30 shrimp/pork, but the filling tasted more of shrimp than pork and had a few noticeable chunks of flavorful shrimp. Good texture to the wrappers too. The chicken soup base was pleasant, but too light for my taste.

                                      I also had a side of ong choy w/ garlic, which was crisp and satisfying. According to the menu, they can also make it with shrimp paste or bean curd.

                                      I'm curious to see a place that uses a strong broth. I rarely order regular wonton soup of any type in California, partly because the flavor here always seems lacking compared to what I grew up with in NY. Anyone know what the base typically is in NY? Heh, I might just be nostalgic for MSG.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                        Pics! One on the left for Lucky River, two on the right from Tong Kee.

                                        1. re: hyperbowler

                                          Tong Kee! I'd completely forgotten about the revival in Daly City. Cool that they're making the noodles in-house.

                                          Here's the noodle menu:

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Yeah, glad they were open till 10pm, otherwise I'd have stopped somewhere else! Incidentally, there's a new restaurant a few doors down with a pig symbol called "CH Bog." Don't know what that is ...

                                            Tong Kee's wall currently listed some seasonal greens specials, beef with asparagus, and some lobster specials.

                                            Is wikipedia correct is stating that Cantonese "lo mein" ( 撈麵 ) is a variation of wonton noodle soup in which the soup part is served on the side? Their menu mentioned that the egg noodles in the "lo mein" are house made, so I assume it's the same noodles that I had. (Not to be confused with east coast "Lo mein," a Chinese American dish many expats miss dearly)

                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                              Lo mein is a variant of noodle soup with soup served separately on the side, but I couldn't say that it stems from wonton noodle soup specifically.

                                              Example: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8819...

                                            2. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Melanie, maybe you would know what "hot meat sauce" is on the Tong Kee menu. Is it like the stuff on top of tantan mien? (I know that spelling is wrong, but google has entries under all the possible mis-spellings. Sorry)

                                              1. re: srr

                                                Hello srr,
                                                The following are samples of some of Hong Kong's best tasting 'Penny Hot Sauce Shredded Pork' noodles - Mak Man Kee, Tasty and Jor Lun Yau Lay. These 'Cantonese' noodles used the same 'Silver Thread Alkaline Water Egg Noodles' as used in Won-ton noodles but in these cases, toppings are put on top of noodles with soup served on the side.
                                                Last sample was a ' Lo Mien' from the Michelin 2* 'Ming Court' using the same type of noodles but mixing it with shrimp eggs and abalone sauce! A class act!

                                                1. re: srr

                                                  No, not dandan mian. 炸醬 is zha jiang as in zhajiang mian, the pork and bean sauce topped noodles that originated in the north. It's not a spicy dish. I believe that hot might be referring to frying the bean paste to heat it, rather than spicy hot.

                                                  Actually, the dish on that menu that I'd like to try is the roast duck yee wonton. Not many places still make this dish and it seems to be unknown outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.

                                              2. re: hyperbowler

                                                I went to Tong Kee last weekend and really enjoyed it. We got the seafood wonton noodle soup, and the hot meat sauce noodles soup. The noodles had a very nice texture and the wontons were firm and flavorful.

                                                The ong choy with garlic was also very good.

                                                I wonder if they get much business. I'd never been in that shopping mall before but it seems hard to find - set back from the street (& it's one of three noodle shops in the shopping area). The owners are very friendly though - I hope they do well.

                                              3. Today Mom and I had lunch at Joy Luck Palace “bistro”, the cash-only annex to the dim sum house. This was a first time for each of us even though we’ve both been in the main dining room many times.

                                                I was pleased to see that the Weekday Specials are available on this side too. Wednesday’s is a steamed giant clam (gui fei pong aka concubine clam) for $4.88 apiece. Stellar job on this.

                                                To hedge our bets, we got one order of wonton noodles, $6, and one bowl of shui gao noodles, $6.

                                                The wonton noodles came with six golf-ball style dumplings. Okay, maybe there’s a bit of a tailing where the edges of the wrapper were pinched together. Filled with medium-size whole shrimp glued together with pork forcemeat, the wontons were slightly undercooked rendering the wrapper doughy rather than silky. While the shrimp had a snappy crispness, they were translucent and seemed just a little too raw and iodine-tasting. Thin noodles had good texture but little flavor of their own. The stock, as shown in this linked photo, had more of an orange tinge than most around here and the sweetness of long-boiled shrimp shells but not so briny. No slick of pork fat nor shrimp roe, the garnishes were only some choy sum and yellow chives.

                                                The shui gao were much tastier with sweeter shrimp flavor, chunks of fatty pork, and crunchy julienne of wood ear fungi. Cooked properly, the wrapper was thin and silky. The stock, noodles and garnishes were the same.

                                                Joy Luck Palace portions out a ridiculous amount of noodles. To and from the ladies room, I scanned the tables to see what other customers left uneaten in their bowls. Nearly all had a big tangle of noodles left behind.

                                                And speaking of the ladies room, please heed the sign to not steal the air freshner.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  that's a funny sign for air freshener. it reminds me of a similarly amusing sign in the bathroom at the old Rengstorff location of the Shanghai restaurant telling people to 'aim properly and don't hurt the innocent'.

                                                2. So this isn't technically Wonton NOODLE Soup since there are no noodles, but I think the Wonton looks like a goldfish and has the right ratio of Pork to Shrimp. Also, the broth is really nice. All in all, this is my favorite Wonton soup I've had anywhere in the Bay to date.

                                                  It's at Sierra Deli in Jack London Square, they only do it a few times a week. They also make a killer Banh Mi, but that's another story.

                                                  1. I did a search two years ago for my favorite bowl (with roasted duck) and my top was King Won Ton (second was Hing Lung on Broadway, so sad it's closed). Anyone know if King Won Ton is still open? I may need to go back for their gigantic won tons.

                                                    Nice to see Charles Yu posting here! The best won ton noodle soup is of course in Hong Kong and after eating there, I can't imagine finding one that matches here because there's a distinctive shrimp taste to the broth that doesn't seem to be done in the states.


                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: singleguychef

                                                      Yup, King Won Ton is open--- I grabbed a menu from them yesterday. The quantify of items under the won ton noodle soup category certainly lives up to their name!

                                                      1. re: singleguychef

                                                        @ singleguychef
                                                        Bravo! Just as a real sushi aficionado places emphasis on the 'Shari' ( rice) rather than the topping. Takes a real foodie to notice the main criteria that makes a good won-ton noodle, great, is the 'broth'.
                                                        I guess good quality dried shrimp eggs and large size dried flounder are pretty hard to come by and expensive in North America. Hence the lack in authenticity and quality of NA won-ton noodle products!
                                                        If one takes a look of the broth presented on the side in the photos I posted. One would notice the 'deep' colour of the soup. Here in NA, no one can attain this unless they use soya sauce as the colouring agent!!

                                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                                          I think it needs to be said that when we talk about traditional or authentic in regards to Hong Kong wonton noodles, this is a genre that is quite recent. This style only dates back to the period immediately after WW II from what I've read.

                                                          Many of the versions of wonton noodles available locally aren't trying to be this codified HK style. And some of them may date back further to whatever Cantonese style emerged in restaurants operating in San Francisco before the war. True, they're not authentic HK wonton noodles but they never claimed to be and should be evaluated on their own terms.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            True, Melanie - somewhere along the way, it was perhaps Mak An Kee's rendition that became the predominant version:

                                                            It was detailed in Frances Barnett's "Hong Kong on a Plate" (http://www.amazon.com/hong-kong-plate...) how, when Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek's wife, Soong May-Ling , wanted to have Mak's noodles by his street-side stall, her Kuomintang guards would block traffic along the entire stretch of road where she'd be eating.

                                                            On occasions whereby Chiang wanted Mak to cater for his private parties at his residence, a limousine will be sent to fetch the wonton vendor, whilst an army truck would follow behind, conveying Mak's mobile wonton noodle stall - as the old chap won't cook his noodles using any other stoves/implements.

                                                            When the Communists took over China, Mak and his family were naturally among the first to escape to Hong Kong.

                                                        2. re: singleguychef

                                                          The broth at Cooking Papa Foster City is very likely the best we have. No establishment I know of adds shrimp roe to the broth, and shrimp shells are debatable.

                                                          Richer dried flatfish/flounder flavor, and maybe a hint of dried scallops/conpoy. Better than nothing. You get better results if you order lo mein where you get a bowl of a more concentrated broth to drink. With won ton noodles, once the noodles and won tons and choy sum are added into the bowl, even if they drain out the water, there will be some inevitable dilution of the broth...and one cannot help but speculate maybe they add another kind of broth on top for the noodle soup bowls, making it less flavorful than that of a side of lo mein broth.

                                                          1. re: singleguychef

                                                            I had a bowl of shrimp won ton noodle soup yesterday at King Won Ton. There were 5 or 6 rather large wontons which were on the bottom of the soup. The noodles and some slivers of yellow chives were on top.

                                                            The wonton skins were a tad overcooked. 75-100% of each wonton's insides were large pieces of shrimp rather than paste. The remaining space, if any, was filled with chunks of pork too large to cook fully.

                                                            The noodles had some kind of a flavorful oil drizzled on them just before the chef poured the broth in. I liked that a lot and would have liked some more. The noodles varied in width, which added to the texture of the dish, and didn't have as much elasticity as the ones I had at Tong Kee. There are pictures on the menu and in the restaurant of someone making noodles with a bamboo pole. I forgot to ask, but Is it fair to assume that's homage rather than how they make them?

                                                            Broth had more flavor than the other places I tried during this DOTM, but still not enough to make me to fully understand the popularity of this dish.

                                                            @ singleguychef , I didn't notice any roast duck won ton noodles on the menu. I think there was only a roast duck with "dumplings" soup, and I didn't know what that was. I'm sure you can get it again by asking the server-- mine was helpful at telling me what was on the whiteboard.

                                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                                              Actually, after posting about this place a few years ago, I was invited to go to the off-site factory, North American, to observe the bamboo pole routine. I'm sorry that I didn't have the time then to do so.

                                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                to me, the appeal of the dish is that its great comfort food and its a great dish to eat especially when its chilly outside, e.g. today. go to a noodle shop, sit down, grab a bowl of steaming hot noodle and eat every single components of the dish, wonton, noodle, broth, garnish, everything, and leave satisfied with that warm and happy feeling in my tummy.

                                                                the dish also comes with a light flavor and a gentle touch. its not like ramen where the flavor is bold and the broth a bit greasy (certainly great in a different way). instead when you feel like the most simple, comfy food, wonton noodle comes to mind.

                                                                its a relatively straight forward dish, but still its easy to mess up the components.

                                                            2. Wonton noodle soup from Fung Lum's SFO International Terminal outlet has been my lunch tradition before flights out for international business trips. I've always enjoyed the great shrimp in the wontons and combination of wonton, noodle, and broth. But with this thread, I also admired the long tails of the wontons, the al dente thin noodles, and noticed the scallion vs. chive garnish. I'm not sure what's in the broth; it's not very red but it's quite tasty.


                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: mdg

                                                                Thought I posted at the time, but can't find a trace of it. I had Fung Lum's when I returned from France last year awaiting my connection in UAL's domestic terminal to Monterey. As my first chopstick-able food in nearly two weeks, I was pretty impressed. I recall a sign on the cash register saying there's a wait for this dish unlike the steam table stuff. It's definitely made to order judging from the texture of the wonton dumplings and the noodles had that wirey bounce. I thought it was much better than it needed to be for the location.

                                                              2. Went to Hong Kong Bistro in Mountain View today and had the 'afternoon snack' wonton noodle dish plus a drink at $6.

                                                                Bowl had 5 wonton in it. they used medium size shrimp chopped up into half or thirds instead of smaller shrimp. shrimp to pork was about half and half. texture was nice with the shrimp part but because shrimp and pork was quite 'distinct' and 'separate', didn't get the same texture when biting into the pork part. wonton was on the small side but had loose nice skin.

                                                                the broth tasted like its a pork based broth. it is not a very meaty or shrimpy stock, but it tastes fine. Noodle- al dente, great texture. some bok choy and green onion as garnish.

                                                                Overall, I like the dish. I like it better than the version at Top Cafe.

                                                                1. I found myself in Foster City today and ordered some wonton noodle soup with char siu to go from Cooking Papa. I ate it at the tables outside.

                                                                  Broth had a distinct flavor that others describe and I really liked it. Noodles, wontons and pork came in a separate container and I added them in gradually to the broth as I ate.

                                                                  Wontons are pork and shrimp and I received three. Pork was sweet and tender, noodles had a nice bite but weren't too hard.

                                                                  It's definitely a wonton soup worth trying out.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Dave MP

                                                                    I too had the Cooking Papa Foster City won ton noodles, on 4/1 (I guess deep in my mind that WTN would win this month before I knew) , except it got it as is without pairing it with another dumpling or BBQ deli meat.

                                                                    It is served in their interesting shaped bowls that they use for all noodle soups and congee, too deep to be able to eat with a regular Chinese soup spoon, so they provide this ladle spoon that seems really odd to eat with it. Six large won tons with hardly any skin slack, a few sticks of pretty thick stemmed choy sum. While these were smaller than dim sum siu mai, they were certainly larger than what they should be traditionally.

                                                                    Each won ton had an uneven ratio of pork to shrimp. For one won ton, I took about 1/3 to half a bite cross section and I probably ate all the shrimp inside, and what was left was almost entirely pork. The pork was soft with sufficient bite, but lacked the balance of pork fat.

                                                                    Noodles are the weakest point otherwise, absolutely do not like this type (very much lacking in flavor). It is better suited for stir fry with soy sauce (and then adding your own chili sauce)

                                                                    The broth, on a good day, if undiluted, is fantastic. The one on 4/1 seem just ok. As I said before the broth is great if you can get it on the side (like they do with lo mein) but the portion is smaller, although more concentrated. In addition to dried flatfish I think they put dried scallops/conpoy in. I am not sure about shrimp shells but I should ask the owner if I see him next time.

                                                                    I do think their shui gow dumplings are way better, and you can taste the crunch of the shrimp more so than the uneven pork to shrimp ratio won tons. The shui gow crunch factor also comes from some bamboo shoots and mushrooms, and a wee bit of pork fat. I just wish they could find a much better quality egg noodle.

                                                                    Other than that, this is probably the "best" WTN around and even then I only eat this once in a while since they are better at congee, stir fry, and clear broth beef brisket. The won tons could be better for sure, but that's how they operate.

                                                                  2. Recently tried the $3 wonton noodle soup at Jook Time in SF. About 3 cups worth in total, topped with poached iceberg lettuce and green onions. Didn't count the wonton dumplings, maybe five? The filling had some small shrimp with a pork:shrimp ratio of about 80:20, so not much shrimp. The wontons were sort of water-logged probably indicating that they're precooked and reheated. Thin wiry egg noodles had good crispness initially but wilted in the hot soup. The stock was pork-based and probably enhanced with some chicken powder base and no seafood elements. Here's what it looks like:

                                                                    More about Jook Time:

                                                                    1. I-won ton on irving had only house made won ton and wor won ton on the menu.

                                                                      house made won ton:
                                                                      -tasted bland, doughy, and some tasted semiraw
                                                                      -filling all pork, no shrimp
                                                                      -broth had veggie and msg flavoring.
                                                                      -some green veggies in the mix.

                                                                      1. I love wonton noodle soup. I used to always get it at Lam Hoa Thoan when I lived in the upper Haight. (It's close enough in the Richmond) I love their wide chewy egg noodles. I know they aren't made there, but still delicious. Now we live in the Portola District (not on Portola street, near Silver). The Wonton Noodle soup at Wing Hing on San Bruno Ave. is my go-to now. Nothing fancy, but they make their wonton by hand(I've seen it) Delicious.

                                                                        1. A rather pedestrian bowl of this won ton noodle soup version at Xiao Long Bao at 625 Clement Street, $4.50

                                                                          1. Surprised no one has brought up the wonton noodle soup at Daimo in Richmond. Although on the expensive side, I still think it is one of the better ones out there

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Theta

                                                                              I agree, am surprised too. I eat at Daimo regularly and find their food to be pretty good. I think it's well priced and almost all of their dishes have excellent flavor.

                                                                              About a year ago I felt like their noodles had the alkaline flavor due to reuse of the water they used to boil the noodles, but haven't experienced it for a long time. I ususally get my won ton noodle soup with roast duck, which I think they have the best of in the East Bay.

                                                                            2. Tried the version at Venus (Tam) Cafe in Cupertino. Not good. broth was an overly salty mess that made everything else overly salty. 5 smallish wonton. some was full of pork, some were mostly shrimp. shrimp was of low quality. noodle was al dente, and that's the only plus. garnish was lettuce and green onion.

                                                                              $6.5 a bowl. more expensive than Joy Luck Bistro with minimal quality.

                                                                              1. I closed out the month of wonton mein with a long overdue return to Hon's Wun Ton House in SF.

                                                                                Six wontons filled with nearly all pork, skinny noodles cooked perfectly, broth that tastes more of meat than the sea, and a sprinkling of chopped scallions, $4.79.

                                                                                More about Hon's here,

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                  I went there last Friday. Really good, and a great deal. I thought their broth was particularly well-made.

                                                                                2. Mama Ji's in the Castro offers a version of wonton noodle soup that seems to be free of shellfish and swine. The chicken broth had flavor to it and the chive and chicken wontons were pretty good. The noodles, which sat at the bottom of the bowl, were difficult to eat because they were too clumped together, but they had a decent bite otherwise. Combined with the chives in the wontons, the fresh cabbage that topped the dish gave the dish a nice healthy feeling--- it's comfort food that leaves an open path for plenty of fried and heavy dim sum items.

                                                                                  1. No shrimp in wonton for me, I'm allergic to shellfish.

                                                                                    Tai Chi on Polk near Broadway has a good shrimpless wonton soup. Excellent broth, good quality pork filling (no gristle chunks), good amount of veggies, lots of wonton. No noodles. Be sure to order without soy sauce.

                                                                                    The wontons tend to be tightly wrapped, not the careful origami of my dreams, the wonton noodle a little chewy.

                                                                                    Wonderland on Haight and Fillmore has an okay shrimpless chicken wonton soup. Decent broth, good amount of veggies, few wonton. No noodles. Be sure to order without MSG.

                                                                                    (I miss Hong Kong Cafe on Church, which used to serve just absolutely the best soup with tons of home-made origami-wrapped wontons; and the Pot and Pan on 9th Ave. Their wontons had a little shrimp in the filling, but the soup was outstanding. The chicken was grilled.)

                                                                                    1. There have been a few older reports of the shrimp wontons/dumplings at Ying Kee in Oakland Chinatown, so I checked it out.

                                                                                      The item they list as "wonton noodle soup" is pretty good. The broth tastes like it has a little bit of MSG but it's pleasant, and the pork and shrimp wonton hold together nicely and are very savory.

                                                                                      It turns out that the shrimp dumplings I was hoping for are not listed in English but they can be found as "#29 Xui Cao". Numbers 30 and onward are more complicated versions of the shrimp dumpling soup with noodles, etc. in them. The Chinese 馳名鲜蝦水餃 translates to Famous shrimp water dumplings.

                                                                                      I got the #29 version without the noodles. The shrimp dumplings are 8 large and bouncy, tightly wrapped triangles of chopped up shrimp and bamboo shoots. Very tasty. The soup contains lettuce leaves and wasn't quite as flavorful as the wonton noodle soup but the strength here was those dumplings.

                                                                                      Previous reports describe the dumplings skins as extremely thin. In both dishes, the dumplings skins were thin, but maybe I would need a side-by-side comparison with the wontons at another restaurant to fully appreciate this

                                                                                      (note this is the full service Chaozhou place at 387 9th, not the nearby roast meat place name called Yung Kee).

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                        Ying Kee is good, but I prefer Gum Kuo. Rich chicken-y broth, wontons redolent of sesame oil and shrimp, springy chewy noodles. Best in Chinatown to my mind.

                                                                                      2. Not one of these photos show origami-like wonton wrapping, which I gather is not Hong Kong style.

                                                                                        Or maybe it's a dead art. Sigh.