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Chowdown Report: Ming Kee in San Francisco

Today, ten chowhounds (including 3-year-old Ivo) gathered for lunch at Ming Kee to get our fill before it shuts down and decamps from Irving Street. We had a mix of items from the barbecue side of the menu and the wok station.

From the barbecue station:
Boon fei so char siu
Half a roast goose

Wok dishes:
Salt and pepper pork jowl with green beans
Sauteed filet of rock cod with mixed fresh mushrooms
Shrimp stuffed tofu with black bean sauce and broccoli
Chinese style beef steak with longan fruit
Hong Kong style fried spareribs
Sauteed prawns with high mountain tea leaf
Peking spareribs
Pea shoots with garlic sauce

We lucked out in getting the roast goose today. I’d asked yesterday when I stopped by to reserve the table if it might be available and only got a shrug.

The first three dishes listed from the wok were from the whiteboard. This was my third time ordering the pork jowl (shoulder) dish and it was again my favorite of the line-up.

“sfpizzalover” treated us to her homemade chocolate truffle cookies and the fabulously butter-laden Momofuku corn cookies. I brought the 2005 von Hövel Scharzhofberger Kabinett Riesling and the last of my stash of Dewar’s chews from Bakersfield to share.

With steamed rice, tax and a generous tip, our tab came to $14 each for the nine adults.

My dining companions --- what say you?

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

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  1. last day April 14

    2191 Irving St
    San Francisco, CA 94122
    (415) 731-9948

    1. agreed; my fave on the table was the pork shoulder/jowl with green beans - thank you, Melanie, for organizing; thanks to the 'hounds for another chowtastic afternoon.

      Take home the roast goose and the Boon fei so char siu (half lean/half fat) before April 14, it will be late June or early July before the build-out on Ocean Avenue will be home again to the original Happy Bakery and Deli
      1548 Ocean Ave
      San Francisco, CA 94112

      random pix here
      (Hong Kong Spareribs in bottom row)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cynsa

        That char siu looks amazing, and I envy you the goose! Just looking at the pictures I can see the care in the preparation. The pea shoots, for example, haven't been left in pieces too long to eat gracefully!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          We gobbled up everything but left a portion or so of the pea shoots behind. This seemed to freak out one of the lady servers who kept muttering to herself that we had not finished them. She seemed to be alarmed and I thought she was going to have a melt down.

          They were handled well, but I picked up a flavor that tasted like chicken base powder that I didn't care for.

      2. One more vote for the succulent pork shoulder with green beans and sliced jalapenos. This dish alone is worth a trip to Ming Kee (before it closes). It was well seasoned, appropriately fatty, salty, and delicious.
        The mixed mushrooms with rock cod and baby shrimp was subtle. It was best appreciated on the plate by itself, without allowing any of the flavors from the other dishes at the table to interfere.
        As expected, barbecue rules at this restaurant. The char siu and roast goose did not disappoint
        Many thanks and a happy birthday to Melanie. It was a great sampling of food from Ming Kee.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sfpizzalover

          Your cookies were fabulous, thanks again.

          The interesting thing about this meal is that each dish, including some that I felt were weaker, had somebody stick up for it. So, I guess that speaks to the overall strength of the offering at Ming Kee. I liked the rock cod dish. A little too much cornstarch, but on the other hand, lovely slippery texture to the fish filets. I couldn't think of the name of the large white mushroom in the dish at the time . . . it's bai ling.

        2. Thanks for a great report. That pork jowl (from pics in your other thread) looks ridiculously good, I may have to grab some next weekend.

          3 Replies
          1. re: stravaigint

            That it is! The textures, aromas, flavors, all so good. When you have the chance, take a close look at the pork slices. They're sort of crescent shape.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Great success, pig cheeks consumed!

              I showed up at opening time yesterday morning and had to wait a little because the chef doesn't usually start cooking until 10am (only BBQ is available at 9:30). The auntie and grandma that work there were both highly amused at my order. The jowl was truly delicious, just the right spiciness. Thanks for the recommendation.

              1. re: stravaigint

                Glad you got to try it! I was there a little after 11am yesterday myself, so I guess we just missed each other.

          2. Thanks to Melanie for organizing, and to Cynsa for posting the beautiful photos!

            I too thought the pork jowl with green beans was the best dish, and it would be the thing I return for. The meat was thin and tender, and almost reminded me of shwarema meat. The green beans were still crisp, and not at all greasy. This was some very successful stir-frying.

            I thought the sweeter dishes were well-prepared, but I probably wouldn't rush back for any of them. I thought the fish and mushroom dish was a little *too* subtle and bland, though I suppose this could be because I had other flavors lingering in my mouth and on my plate.

            The roast goose was excellent, with moist meat and a nice 5-spice flavor. Char siu was good too, and this was some of the best Chinese BBQ meat I've ever tried.

            I liked the shrimp dish, though the shrimp themselves were a bit overcooked. But the tea leaves added a slight smoky flavor that I liked. Vegetables and stuffed tofu were both ordinary but well-prepared.

            Definitely a good deal for the amount of food we consumed, and I'll definitely be checking out their roast meats once they open back up on Ocean Ave.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Dave MP

              I agree that the prawns were overcooked, such a shame, as the previous time I had it, the dish was perfect and my second favorite overall right behind the pork jowl-n-beans. I was probably the last to help myself from the plate and noticed that there weren't any fresh green basil leaves left. Had there been any at all? That flavor/aroma adds so much to the dish. Oh, the owner (who waited on us) mentioned that the tea leaves are oolong.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Do you know the origin of the shrimp and tea leaves dish? I read about it here and then saw an analogous item on the menu at Fey in Menlo Park.

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  If you're referring to the green tea shrimp mentioned in the Fey thread, that's probably a different dish known as Dragonwell shrimp or 龍井蝦仁 (long jing xia ren). Dragonwell is the green tea from Hangzhou in the same region as Shanghai.

                  When I saw the dish on Ming Kee's menu, I had thought it might be a variant. But no, besides using oolong rather than green tea, it's a completely a different prep. The high mountain tea (kaoshan cha or highlands tea) dish recalls Taiwanese Hakka cooking to me.

                  Lily's House in Lafayette makes (or made) a wonderful version of Dragonwell tea shrimp, if you're interested in trying it.

            2. We arrived embarrassed and late from across town, so missed the ordering phase.

              I was wondering how unusually juicy and flavorful and strangely shaped the duck was that was already on the table. Now I know it was goose and certainly the best Chinese BBQ goose I have ever encountered. Maybe the best goose of any background, but I have to be careful not to forget some long ago Christmas goose prepared by my be-sainted Hungarian grandmother. This one was not overly greasy and not dried out like most.

              The other barbecue item, a special half fat half lean cut of char siu (barbecued pork) was also best in class.

              The quality of the barbecued meats carried through to the stir fry dishes. My strongest impression of the meal was the uniformly highest level of quality of the meats that appeared in all dishes, the selection, trimming and cutting, and the cooking.

              The pork jowl certainly stood out, but not that far above the other dishes. Melanie thought the meat came from the neck region. It had less fat and was more tender than the Italian guanciale, almost was like a tenderloin cut, but less dry and more flavorful.

              The stuffed tofu was as good or better than any we have had. The fish was perfectly prepared and an excellent balance to the heavy meat emphasis. Madeleine remembers the prawn dish as a particularly interesting rustic dish that reminded her of some forest dishes she had (without me) in Taiwan. The tea leaves (I was wondering what they were) were most interesting. The prawns were a bit dry and a tad overcooked.

              There were 3 sweet dishes, perhaps over balanced for the meal, but I liked them all (of course, since I have a born-in-the-USA taste for sugar with meat). The beef was particularly well prepared and the longan fruit (could have been lychee?) were fresh and a marvelous flavor/texture play. The Peking spareribs with lots of tender meat is seen at other Hong Kong/Cantonese places in the area and is generally good. This was as good as any, the skill with the meat particularly shone here. These dishes are the authentic and perfectly prepared Cantonese roots of the sweet and sour glop that appears throughout shopping strip America.

              Hard to pick a favorite, but maybe the goose. Thanks Melanie for putting goose in their minds and for arranging the whole lunch and reminding us to get ourselves over to Irving and 23rd in time. Melanie's Mosel wine reminds that it is possible to reasonably match a western wine with this kind of food, and that the low alcohol, somewhat fruity German rieslings (and gewurzes) are the best bets.

              A final high point were sfpizzalover's chocolate truffle cookie! And some very nice pictures have been posted on this thread of the dishes.

              Nice meeting some nice new people including a fellow traveller with the totally obnoxious Navier-Stokes equation on his shirt.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Thomas Nash

                Yes, I agree that three sweet-and-sour dishes in one meal was over the top! Thanks all for indulging me. I'd ordered the beef with longan cuz I'd liked it so much before. And the sweet and sour HK fried spareribs because KK likes it so much. Then when the food seemed to be disappearing a bit too fast, I thought we needed one more and topped off the table with the Peking spareribs because we'd been talking about the genre in another thread.

                But the most important reason I'd gone with so much sweet-and-sour is that I had a very fine Mosel Riesling on the table that's so complimentary to this style of dish that kills other wines. The sweet-sour balance of kabinett mirrors the flavor profile and the zingy acidity cuts through the oiliness of deep-frying. The 2005 von Hovel Scharzhofberg Kabinett is still very firm and youthful with some broadening and development in the very complex nose but linear and compact on the palate. I'd say it's not even into middle age yet at 7+ years old, still a long life ahead.

              2. That sounds like a terrific event - while I read it, I wondered if I had ever had goose, don't think so. Happy belated birthday! We have the pizzeria open - come visit if you are ever in the Boston area.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tomatoaday

                  Thank you, try putting a goast on to roast in that pizza oven. :)

                2. I admit to being a little distracted by the tenth guest (the three year old in my lap) during the meal, but not so much that I didn't appreciate the great selection of items Melanie ordered for us.

                  This meal was my first encounter with Chinese roasted goose. What took me so long?

                  Boon fei so char siu, being particularly unctuous, was as good as others have noted.

                  Would that all versions of pork-n-beans aspired to be as good as the jowl/shoulder/neck with green beans is. Dry, crispy, slightly charred, and fantastic.

                  The tofu had a lovely, soft texture and was well-fried, and the black bean sauce was tasty. The broccoli was sadly cooked to oblivion, but otherwise the dish was great.

                  Tea-leaf prawns were only slightly disappointing in that they could have been cooked a little less and would have been better for it. That didn't stop me from enjoying what I got (which wasn't much: my kid has a thing for shrimp and shared only reluctantly.)

                  I have the Momofuku corn cookie recipe but have not yet made it. That will be remedied quickly, now that I know what I'm missing.

                  I also took home a pound of roast pork (my wife's favorite) and found it to be among the best I've had.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dml

                    Chabaa down the street has a terrific dish that uses the same jowl/shoulder/neck cut.

                    I've not looked for it at a Chinese butcher but will soon to try my own hand at cooking it. Some of the fancy HK seafood/dim sum palaces around here will also use it to make cha siu and the well-marbled cut is fantastic that way too.

                    I enjoyed the soft tofu dish too, my first time having it here. The frying was quite expert, getting the outside beautifully browned and crisp but not overcooking the interior.

                    Always a pleasure to have your son at one of my b-day celebrations. I loved it when you did his final sticky hand clean up and quipped, "this was a three wet-wipe lunch". Guess that means he liked everything too.

                  2. Six 'hounds rally to Last Call at Ming Kee for lunch today; ordering three familiar items and three new dishes from the white board: half a roast goose, boon fei so char siu, salt & pepper pork jowl with green beans, roast duck and fried taro fried rice, beef tendon with vegetables, and gai choy sum.

                    Lacking language skills, most of us are disadvantaged and experience proves again that it's not the early bird who gets the worm - it's the bird who can sing the right song on key. An attempt to procure the boon fei so char siu failed; yet it appeared on the table to our delight with the right words by another.

                    Simple pleasures were the order of the day. The table's best were the gai choi sum with garlic and the fried rice with roast duck and taro.

                    'hounds are a quick study. We also placed take-home orders before ordering lunch: Halves of roast goose, soy sauce chicken, gai choy sum, fried rice with duck and taro were bagged and distributed post lunch and added to the chaos of separate checks and switching 'to go' containers and the final tally - all in good humor.

                    Thank you to RWCFoodie for organizing lunch and the door-to-door for shopping after lunch for fresh vegetables at Sunset Super, watermelon boba at Wonderful Foods, must-haves at Ichi Ban Kan, pickled pig's ears and other delights at Rice Valley.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      A thoroughly enjoyable meal! So glad we were able to have a lunch before they shut down. I hope that this chef reappears at either their new location or somewhere nearby.

                      Glad to have known about these dishes:
                      The salt & pepper pork jowl/neck with green beans with the crispy edges on the pork and the toasty garlic bits, thin slices of red chili and green onion was a great dish.

                      I totally agree about the gai choy sum (big mustard greens) and the fried rice. Just the best. Even the take out order of these 2 dishes for my DH were great, though the crispy cubes of taro had lost their crispiness - still delicious. So much flavor from the roast duck.

                      And the boon fei so char siu was so much more flavorful with it's streaky bit of pork fat.

                      The roast goose never disappoints.

                      Looking forward to the reopening on Ocean Ave. Hope the goose and soy sauce chicken are as good as always...

                      1. re: Cynsa

                        To my surprise the gai choy was in my top 1 or 2 favorites in a group of uniformly excellent dishes. The flavor was great and the gai choy was very tender— really nice.

                        As in the past the roast goose was outstanding fresh out of the oven. It’s never quite as good reheated, but I got some to go anyway, along with the soy sauce chicken which I find travels better.

                        The char siu and the pork jowl with green beans were both really good. I loved the textures in the beef tendon and mushrooms. I was a little less impressed with the fried rice than everyone else but I’m not a big fried rice fan and even I have to admit it was way above the norm.

                        Thanks to RWCfoodie for getting us together, to Kathy for translating and organizing all our orders, to Cynsa for posting and encouraging the rest of us to add, and to the whole gang for the excellent company.

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            Beautiful... isn't that the loveliest shade of green ever.