Monthly Archives: May 2016

San Tung, San Francisco

San Tung
1031 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122

For decades San Tung has drawn crowds from the Bay Area and beyond almost entirely due to the reputation of its Dry Fried Chicken Wings. Over the course of my life I’ve eaten at San Tung a few times, though curiously never once now that I actually live in the area. That’s mostly due to two things: 1) its distance from my home in Oakland makes such a trip rather long and potentially arduous, and 2) newer and generally better Chinese restaurants have popped up since in the Richmond district.

However, a good friend of mine recently moved to the Inner Sunset, just a few blocks away from San Tung. That gave me a perfect opportunity to go try San Tung again and to see if the current food matched the fond food memories of my youth.

We came there around 1PM on a Sunday afternoon. As usual, there was a pretty decent line with a number of names already written on the white board. However, it didn’t take too long to get a table, about 25 minutes max. We sat down and browsed through the menu, settling on these few items to eat:

  • Pork Dumplings – As it’s implied by the restaurant’s name, the dumplings are more toward the thicker skin dumplings of Shandong province. As a person who generally likes the thinner skinned dumplings from southern China, I loved that the skins here weren’t too doughy. The filling was pretty tasty and moist too that matched well with dipping sauce mix of soy sauce, chili oil, and vinegar.
Walnut Shrimp at San Tung

Walnut Shrimp at San Tung

  • Walnut Shrimp – My friend wanted a shrimp dish and zero’d into this Chinese American favorite. The shrimp was cooked just perfectly and I’m glad they put just the right amount of mayo based sauce. It’s probably one of the better versions of the dish I’ve had, and this is a dish I’m generally not that fond of.
  • Mushrooms, Bamboo Shoots, and Snow Peas – This simple stir fried dish was a nice balance to the large amounts of meat we had. It was perfectly tasty but not something I’d say is an absolute must order.
Dry Fried Chicken Wings at San Tung

Dry Fried Chicken Wings at San Tung

  • Dry Fried Chicken Wings – At the end came the glistening glow of the dry fried chicken wings. Lightly sauced with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce, they were just as good as I remembered it. Perfectly fried, the meat was juicy inside while having a slight crunch outside.

So after all this food, I would say that San Tung is just as good as I remembered. Now, there are better Chinese restaurants in the area, especially in the Shandong cuisine that the restaurant name implies they specialize in. However, they are still a reliable favorite and there’s no shame in going back just for the chicken wings from time to time.

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Great China, Berkeley

Great China
2190 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Great China is well known and well regarded for its Peking Duck. Given that my cousin loves Peking Duck, it was a no brainer to celebrate his graduation from UC Berkeley at Great China.

We reserved a table of 9 well ahead of time so we didn’t have to wait the arduous hours long waits that usually befall walk in diners. Once seated we promptly looked at the various options at the menu as well as searching favorites of other diners. In the end we ordered 3 Peking ducks and these other dishes:

  • Double Skin (兩張皮) – This dish of mung bean noodles mixed with shrimp, sea cucumbers, pork, assorted vegetables, hoisin sauce, and Chinese mustard was pretty good. The saltiness of the sauce matched well with the heat of the mustard creating a very nice appetizer to start off the meal.
Peking Duck at Great China

Peking Duck at Great China

  • Peking Duck (北京片皮鴨) – Without a doubt, this was the best Peking Duck I have ever had. Unlike most Cantonese seafood palaces who seem to just cook crispier versions of roast duck, Great China roasts their duck more in like with how they do it in Beijing. This process leaves super crispy skin and moist meat after the fat has rendered in the cooking process. The thin pancakes were great as well and goes much better with this dish than the mantou buns founds in Cantonese restaurants . We finished at least 2.5 dishes of the duck (which doesn’t come cheap at $37.95 per order).
  • Mongolian Beef (蒙古牛肉) – The Mongolian Beef was solid, if not too memorable. I loved that this version wasn’t overly sauced and sweet, unlike other restaurants, but it was also a fairly simple, if decently well made, dish of beef, sauce, and onions.
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Mei Cai Ko Ro at Great China

  • Mei Cai Ko Ro (梅菜扣肉) – I loved Great China’s version of this classic pork belly dish. While other restaurants use meat that is too heavy on the fat, I feel like Great China had the meat cut with a perfect fat to meat ratio. The meat was tender as well and the dish was balanced by the decent amount of preserved vegetables in the dish.
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Walnut Prawns at Great China – to be avoided

  • Walnut Prawns (核桃蝦) – On the other hand, the Walnut Prawns leave much to be desired. There is way too much batter on the shrimp and the sauce is a neon yellow gloopy mess that is too sweet for its own good. It was the only dish that was barely touched by the whole table.
  • Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves (炒大豆苗) – The snow pea leaves, however, were beautifully stir fried with garlic. I’m a big fan of snow pea leaves and I loved how the kitchen made sure that the leaves were cooked just right with the perfect amount of garlic.

In the end I was certainly not disappointed by the much hyped Peking Duck. In fact, my grandfather’s wife from Mainland China even said it was very good and very authentic. I can see how this one dish creates hours long waits every evening. In fact, the duck was so good I took a few duck carcasses back home with me to create some delicious broth.

 

China Bee, San Mateo

China Bee
31 S. B Street
San Mateo, CA 94401

After my aunt and I paid our mother’s day respects to my maternal grandmother and great grandmother, we headed down to San Mateo for an early dinner. Since I was in charge of which restaurant to go to, I decided to pick China Bee based on its fairly good reputation and my mom’s love of Taiwanese food. We got to downtown San Mateo at about 5:15PM but I had to circle another 20 minutes to find parking as it seems everyone was out for dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day.

We sat down and looked at its one page menu to see what we wanted to eat. Even with a one page menu, though, it was hard to pare down the choices. Should I choose three cup chicken? What about the stir fried glutinous rice cakes my mom liked to eat? It was a little hard to decide, but we ended up getting the following:

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at China Bee

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at China Bee

  • Spicy Beef Noodle Soup – The broth was nice, packing a very dark beef broth with a good amount of chili oil to give it some kick. I loved the chewy wheat noodles as well. The one downside, however, was that the beef itself was not as tender and moist as most other places I have had.
  • Shanghai Style Chow Mein – This dish was okay, though the noodles were thinner Cantonese style white noodles than the thicker, doughier noodles that I was used to. I wished that the flavor of the sweet soy sauce could come out a little more and that they added more vegetables.
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Stinky Tofu at China Bee

  • Stinky Tofu – While the fermenting smell was fragrant, there was a lack of fermented flavor when we bit into the tofu pieces. Perhaps it was lost when the tofu was deep fried? The vinegar soy sauce at the bottom of the bowl was a nice compliment, however.
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Green Onion Pancakes at China Bee

  • Green Onion Pancakes – While the layers on the inside had some flakiness and the outside was fried well, on the whole these were pretty doughy causing more chewiness than better green onion pancake.

All in all, the food was perfectly decent but nothing to write home about (but it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a blog post). It was a nice place to eat with my aunt, though it only intensified cravings for Taiwanese food in Southern California. On the Taiwanese food front, it seems that nothing in the Bay Area can compare to Southern California, just like any Cantonese dish I cook now pails in comparison to my mom’s more exquisite cooking.