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Apr 4, 2013 11:28 AM

Masterful Stir Fries at Ming Kee – Hurry, Closing April 15 (San Francisco)

Y’all know that Ming Kee (fka Happy Bakery) is my favorite spot for Cantonese barbecued meats, per this thread.

The early reports for anything else ordered from the menu at the new Irving Street location were basically “avoid”. However, a new chef took over the non-barbecue side of the menu and has introduced some high touch “Chef’s Selections” stir-fry dishes listed on the printed menu in English/Chinese
and on a whiteboard in Chinese.
Thanks to tips from “KK”, I’ve tried a few of them now and am pretty impressed for what you can get here for $8 to $10.

My favorite so far is 椒鹽豬頸肉 shown on the whiteboard for $9.95 at the far right side. This is salt and pepper pork jowl (shoulder) with impeccably seared green beans. Ordered spicy, the seasonings include fresh jalapeño and Thai bird chiles, a blizzard of crispy fried garlic bits and scallions. I’ve had this twice now with consistent results.

Also excellent is the sautéed prawns with High Mountain tea, presented in a woven bamboo cornucopia and spilled out tableside. About a dozen fat, crisp-juicy prawns deveined and cooked in the shell are seasoned with a lip-smacking sweet and savory soy-based glaze. Toss-cooked with colorful squares of sweet red and green bell peppers, seared onion, and fragrant fresh basil, the crispy bits of tea leaf fade into the background visually but make their presence known in a pleasant tannic-bitter counterpoint.

While not my style, the beef steak with longan deserves a special mention. Precisely cut batons of beautifully seared and tender-chewy steak and whole longan fruit are bathed in a sweet and sour prep that leans more to the savory side. In the same genre and R & G Lounge’s Chinese-style beef, I prefer this one.

In the not so hot category, fish maw with egg whites was much too oily and the egg component overcooked.

And the dry style beef chow fun was average and nothing special, leading me to suspect that another cook in the kitchen executed this one.

This has been a terrific discovery. BUT, the kicker is that Ming Kee will close on Irving Street on April 15, when the new, permanent tenant takes over occupancy. It has the permits to start construction of its burned-out space on Ocean Avenue and expects to re-open there in June or July. However, the stir-fry chef is not in the plans at this point though when I approached the owner, he said he would think about it. So, before it’s too late, head over there to learn more about the art of stir-frying. And, PLEASE, eat them on site, not for take-out, to enjoy them at their peak glory.

I'd love to hear about other dishes anyone has tried. And some help translating the whiteboard specials would be much appreciated.

Ming Kee Inc.
Hong Kong Style B-B-Q
2191 Irving St (between 22 & 23 Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Open 7 days a week
9:30am to 8pm
Cash Only

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  1. I stopped in this afternoon for that pork jowl dish. The chef really got a lot of flavor out of that meat, and I really liked the pairing of the meat's texture with the green beans. Do take Melanie's advice about eating it there--- it was delicious in the restaurant, but the portion of meat that I finished at home later tonight lost its luster.

    I grabbed a take out menu from the counter, and the guy at the register told me it wouldn't be useful for their new location--- he said that the new place's kitchen might not be big enough to sustain a kitchen for making the wok dishes. I don't know whether that explains what Melanie said above about why they might not retain the wok chef.

    Was anyone able to help translating the whiteboard specials? I noticed that there's a lot of overlap between the English specials and those on the whiteboard. From the left to right:

    1 ? baby shrimp ?
    2 Sauteed prawns with High Mountain Tea Leaf
    3 Mixed mushroom and grouper
    4 Egg White with fish maw
    5 ?
    6 Chinese style longan beef tenderloin
    7 ??? pork jowl
    8 roast duck w/ ?
    9 ?
    10 Shrimp stuffed tofu with black bean sauce and broccoli
    11 salt and pepper pork jowl

    3 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler

      My best guess with my poor chinese:

      1. Honey pepper scallops and shrimp
      5. Pineapple sweet and sour pork ribs (HK style)
      7. Malay [something] pork jowl? can't read the third character
      8. Roast duck and taro fried rice
      9. Pan fried fuzzy melon and oyster

      1. re: hyperbowler

        At the chowdown lunch, I asked the owner again if he would consider offering the stir-fry menu once he's back at his original venue. He said essentially the same, that the kitchen is smaller. But he said he'll try in the remodel to make some room. When the restaurant reopens, he said that they'll have just barbecue initially. Then when the volume of business returns, he'll consider whether there's enough space and demand for the stir-fry menu.

        Also, when I was there yesterday, I asked him which name he'd use. Ming Kee will be the name on the marquee on Ocean Ave.

      2. I went back yesterday. Yes, even after eating there at Friday's chowdown.

        The salt and pepper-fried pig jowl with beans was a must order, and this fourth time I've had the dish was the best. Made this time with Chinese long beans instead of French green beans, the crisper texture and earthier flavor made this dish even more complex.

        From the white board specials, I also tried the Malay pork jowl. A non-breaded version of the meat, the slices of pork were juicier and paler in color. Stir-fried with "gold and silver", referring to the trimmed bean sprouts and yellow leeks in a mild yellow curry saucing, the deft hand of a master chef showed in the perfect texture of these delicate vegetables coated but not dripping in sauce. A few slices of fresh red chile added a color and heat punch.

        If I had to choose between these dishes, I'd go with the green beans version. But I did enjoy the Malay spin very much as well. My waitress checked with the kitchen before taking my order to make sure there was enough of the right cut. Apparently they've been having a run on the salt and pepper pork-n-beans and had just enough of the jowl meat left to make my two dishes.

        Then the mixed fresh mushrooms with sauteed chicken, $7.95, ostensibly the same as the fish filet dish we had at the chowdown but not. Besides the switch in proteins, this had more mushrooms, especially the thick white bai-ling mushrooms, and too much soy sauce in the brown glaze. The small pieces of chicken were almost an after thought vs. the fish featured more prominently in the earlier dish. Like the other, this had just a little too much cornstarch thickening.

        The last dish, honey and black pepper sauteed beef cubes, $7.95, also suffered from execution problems. Globules of congealed cornstarch goo separated from the greasy, broken sauce. The excessive amounts of oil puddled on the bottom of the plate. That said, the beef steak was high quality and cooked to a tee.

        On a previous visit, the first two dishes to come out were perfect, and the latter two suffered as they did again yesterday. This makes me think that the lead chef either has consistency problems when he gets backed up or the stir-frying was delegated to another cook in the kitchen. Or perhaps the lead chef makes the dishes on the whiteboard, and someone else cooks the others.

        1. Thanks for taking the ball and running with it Melanie!

          Yeah this place rocks, such a shame that it isn't getting due recognition by the masses/locals to the point where they outgun the Vietnamese Chinese roasties shop down the street (which for some reason gets a lot more traffic) and can continue operating on Irving.

          The reason why the stir fry kicks ass here is because of the chef....he's Yum's Bistro's former sous/assistant chef. He learned from the master. And that is also why a number of the white board specials are identical to the white board/menu at Yum's.

          So now you all know :-)

          The pineapple spareribs (aka sweet and sour spareribs) is my 2nd favorite to the salt and pepper pork neck/pork jowl. It's done the correct way, retains crispyness and crunch.

          6 Replies
          1. re: K K

            I too should add my thanks to Melanie for sharing this with us.

            I was able to try the food also.

            The dishes that were outstanding to my taste was the
            High Mountain Tea shrimp and the Mixed Mushroom Steak Filet.

            Liked the Roast Goose and "Sweet and Sour Ribs" which was very good but did not knock off my socks.

            They ran out of the pork jowl meat but there is still a couple more days left for me to try.

            1. re: yimster

              You're welcome, but all the thanks go to KK. I'm glad that he finally decided to speak up.

              Is this the mushroom and steak filet dish? Cynsa took this photo on Monday but labeled it beef tendon.

              I've become quite an expert on packing up the leftovers. I over order, eat what I want at the restaurant, then I carefully spread the food over the surface of the serving dish to cool it down completely. Letting everything cool to room temperature before packing them up is important so they don't steam and overcook. I bring my own reusable containers from home. My mother's been getting the bounty --- even as leftovers, better than anything in Salinas.

              I might go back tomorrow morning if I can get enough errands done. Counting down to the final days!

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                When queried about the same 'mushroom/steak' dish, our server proclaimed it 'beef tendon' so we complied at his mercy to his translation of the white board.

                I am hoping for one last soy chicken take out before Sunday's last hurrah.

                1. re: Cynsa

                  Ngau lau is beef filet or tenderloin, which is also used in the Chinese style longan beef stir fry dish, and the picture of the one with mushrooms uses the exact same cut of beef. There are tendons/sinews in the cut, which after stir frying feels very soft and somewhat slippery. At least it's not a rough cheap cut of meat that has to be softened with tenderizer or baking soda. I would say it's "meat connected to the tendon". As to the exact cut, that's anyone's guess, but certainly not "filet mignon".

                  1. re: K K

                    The grain and texture of the beef seems like hanger steak, also known as hanging tender or butcher's tenderloin. I use it quite a bit for stir-fries. It has a line of gristle down the center.

                    I'm going to try cutting it in the rectangular batons like Ming Kee does. I like how the chef can sear up nicely on the outside and still be medium-rare and tender enough inside.

            2. re: K K

              Thanks for the ID. The owner was a bit cagey when I asked him, saying that the chef had worked at many big restaurants and even knew how to make sushi. He did say that he'd worked at Mayflower before.

            3. No pork jowl available as of 1pm on 4/13. Really enjoyed everything both the roast duck and the soy sauce yellow feather chicken.

              1 Reply
              1. re: drinkmoretang

                Now I feel guilty for recommending the pork-n-beans dish to a couple seated next to me yesterday who had a hard time deciding.

                I revisited the dish one last time yesterday, as well as ordering the Chinese-style beef with longan again. New to me was the taro and roast duck fried rice. Loved those little cubes of deep-fried taro that had a decided crunch like a crouton. Also flecked with discs of choy sum stems and scrambled egg, this dish also showed the hands of a master. Not too wet, not too dry, great breath of the wok, and not greasy either. Fried rice is a ubiquitous dish, but few are done as well as this one.

                I also got half a soy sauce yellow chicken to go for my dinner tonight.