San Tung Chinese Restaurant

Wow, this is my second Chinese food post within a short amount of time, I didn’t plan this.

I swear.

It’s just that I recently stumbled upon this article on 7×7’s website discussing the top 10 places to get a good meal under $10 in my neighborhood, the Inner Sunset.

I am pleased to say that in the 8 or so months that I have lived in the neighborhood, I have tried half of the restaurants mentioned. Not too bad for someone who usually cooks at home.

Just putting it out there, I love good Chinese food. Trouble is, I have had very little good Chinese food in my day – despite the fact that I live in San Francisco for Christ’s sake! I believe excellent Chinese cuisine exists, the problem is if I am ordering Chinese its because I don’t want to cook and I am hungry. So it needs to be close – by way of delivery or within a few blocks of my house.

A few months ago, I was suffering from a bad case of the stomach flu, so my dear friend Scott drove me home. Scott has been working in the kitchen for the better part of 10 years and knows the best places to eat in the city so when he says a place is tasty I take his word for it. No questions asked (except for what I should order).

While he was driving me through my neighborhood he was pointing out various places where delectable morsels could be found, but since I was on the verge of barfing I wasn’t retaining much of the tidbits he was throwing out. I vaguely recall him mentioning a Chinese place where you could order any, and he meant ANY, part of a chicken dry fried.

A week later, when I was up for eating real food again I wracked my brain for the name of the place he had mentioned. Because of my decrepit condition at the time, I couldn’t for the life of me remember which Chinese place he had pointed out amidst the dozens that dot the streets of my neighborhood.

So bless the foodie gods who dropped the 7×7 article in my lap, for it talks about the very same restaurant!

Which brings me, finally, to the afternoon lunch Matt and I spent at San Tung.

When we walked in I noticed that we were the only non-Asian patrons in there, I took this as a good sign. If the food is authentic enough for those from the same culture, its good enough for me.

We were seated at a table with some other people sitting there. Sort of family style, we just didn’t share food. While I was scoping out what they ordered I noticed the illustrious dry fried chicken and I drooled a little bit.

(For a look at the complete menu, click here).

San Tung has an extensive lunch menu so we couldn’t help but take advantage of the cheaper prices. As we scanned our options we sipped on some beautiful Hot and Sour Soup.

This is one of my favorite soups, I have been know to eat it by the quart. Tofu, peas, willow tree fungus, bamboo shoots, and delicate whipped egg swam happily in a tangy yet slightly spicy broth.

In between sips of soup we nibbled on some complementary kimchi. Both of us LOVE this stuff so much, I think we asked for 3 plates throughout the course of the meal.

Neither of us were starving, but next thing we knew we had ordered 4 dishes, plus rice!

I pray my waistline will forgive me.

Our order went a little like this:

The lunch menu special of Curry Shrimp – complete with crunchy onions, green bell pepper, and thinly sliced carrots. Unlike a lot of places offering shrimp, San Tung did an upstanding job of not overcooking the succulent meat. The sweetness of the shrimp and the slight kick of the curry were quite the pair atop a small mound of rice.

We got brave and ordered cold Pig’s Ear with a five spice rub and soy garlic sauce. The flavor was nice, but preparation was not my cup of tea. The fat on the ear was slightly congealed giving each bite an overly gelatinous mouth feel. I’d try it again, but I think I would prefer them fried.

The star of the meal was hands down the dry fried chicken Scott recommended. By far the most wonderful fried chicken my mouth has ever had the pleasure of meeting. The golden brown, perfectly crisped skin burst open to reveal tender and juicy meat. We ordered the sauce on the side, which is definitely the way to go. Doing so allowed us to appreciate the heavenly taste of the meat on its own. The sauce though. The sauce. Whole chilies, diced green onion, and minced garlic basked in a sweet yet spicy sauce that clung to every crevice of the chicken each time we let the two meet. This is the dish that will keep me running back to San Tung again, and again.

A little background – I adore nuts. Nut butters, nut sauces, nut flours, candied or spiced nuts, nuts in my yogurt, nuts baked into sweet treats – you name it, I’m nuts for nuts. The 7×7 article praised the Noodles with Peanut Sauce so of course we just had to order it. I was giddy with excitement for these house made noodles topped with shrimp, baby scallops, water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions and peas smothered in a spiced peanut sauce to arrive at our table.

By the time our other dishes arrived the lunch rush hit, and hit hard, so every employee was running around in a frenzy, giving us no opportunity to inquire about our noodles. It was only when we were finished with our meal that a waiter dropped them at the table topped with a handful of julienned cucumber, but without an explanation as to why they were so late.

The dish certainly looked good, but the sauce did not live up to my nutty expectations. The sauce was lackluster – overly spiced and watered down and the noodles held no texture, turning to mush before I even had a chance to chew. Perhaps a result of the overwhelming rush, but I was disappointed.

Working as a waitress in a restaurant, I understand that things get chaotic and mistakes happen on occasion. Having been on both sides of the dining experience though, I believe that an apology goes a long way and I would have left a much happier customer if one had been provided.

We packed up our leftovers (all 5 boxes of it) and nibbled on fortune cookies after we paid and headed out. As a firm believer in second chances, I have no trouble saying that San Tung hasn’t seen the last of me. I fully intend on returning soon to reunite my taste buds and with that dry fried chicken and give those noodles another try. Maybe I will just try ordering earlier in the day.

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Yamo Restaurant Does Burmese Food Right, and Cheap

Nestled in between a corner liquor store and Lily’s Beauty Salon rests a tiny hole in the wall with metal grates on the windows and a small doorway, exposing a diner style kitchen and just a row of bar stools to sit on. Most people walking by don’t expect much, or even see it at all, like me. But on a rare sunny day in the city, my friends Sugi, Julio, Melissa and her daughter, Sol, met up to have a lunch date.

This tiny restaurant is where we met. This tiny place called Yamo.

Melissa and Sugi swear by it, and confessed to me that they eat here about twice a week. When I peered inside, I saw every bar stool occupied and a line of customers against the wall.

Why?

Because folks, I gotta tell you, Yamo is a gem. A hidden treasure in a city of great eats. Its greasy, its casual, and its cheap. It’s what I imagine real Burmese street food to taste like.

The five of us, we got down.

Two orders of Pot Stickers; filled with pork, cabbage, and carrots

An order of Vegetarian Egg Rolls (not pictured because we ate them too quickly)

An order of Mango Chicken on a bed of Steamed Rice

Yamo House Noodles topped with fried garlic and chicken

And Curry Prawns and Mushroom, Onions, and Green Peppers (again, sadly not photographed due to rapid consumption).

All for $30. What a deal.

The women cooking could’ve smoked any competitor on The Food Networks Chopped, that’s how fast they were. Seriously, I think we only had to wait a matter of minutes. The joint was too packed to eat inside, plus it was gorgeous out, so we grabbed a pile of napkins and chopsticks and we walked a few blocks to a children’s park so Sol, whose 2 1/2, could play.

We found a couple of benches, situated ourselves, popped the lids off the to-go containers and feasted.

The food was SO good.

The Pot Stickers had a nice outer crisp but still had chewy dough in some places, and the sauce for them. HOLY CRAP. It wasn’t just your typical sweet chili sauce. It was a thinner spicier version with chopped up fresh ginger. It was to die for.

The Egg Rolls, were pretty amazing, nice crisp and flakey with tons of vegetables. In case you were wondering, yeah, we used the pot sticker sauce on them too. Duh!

Julio tried to commandeer the mango chicken, but after a few dirty looks from 3 ladies and a baby, he shared. The first bite explained why he was hesitant to share. It was fantastic! The chicken was moist, the mango sweet, and the vegetables (sugar snap peas and water crescents among the lot) were still super crunchy, which is vital!

The curry shrimp was Sol’s favorite, little darling was stuffing whole shrimps in her mouth only after realizing they were too big, thus forcing me to fish it out and hold it while she took modest nibbles. The curry was more like a light glaze as opposed to the typical thicker version, but on a hot day, it was perfect in not weighing us down.

Now, on to those Yamo House Noodles. Wow. Just wow. The fried garlic. The Fried Garlic. THE FRIED GARLIC.

Lord.

It was so crunchy, but still so pungent and fresh. It was just phenomenal. The noodles were thick, albeit a little greasy, and the chicken plentiful, there was also a generous sprinkling of green onion on top, which, if you didn’t know, is one of my favorite onions and methods of adding some extra freshness to a dish.

When we were all finished we all acted like children, playing house on the jungle gym, running around and screaming, and making friends with other little kids. Sol was THRILLED. Especially when I let her try on my lipstick, so we could play grown ups.

We finished our outing with a cold treat from the ice cream man

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Thank God Sol let me get in on this Neapolitan ice cream sandwich, which was also delicious.

Basically, if you’re in the Mission, go to Yamo for a great meal. Or, if you’re not in the Mission, head over to the Mission, for a cheap, amazing meal at Yamo.

Wing Wings – The Only Way I Like Chicken On The Bone

Since I was a little girl I have been spoiled. My mother has always bought boneless chicken. I grew up thinking that was the norm and turning my nose up at anything that required me to eat around something that was slimy, hard, and inedible. When I moved up to San Francisco, I too bought boneless chicken breasts and nobody challenged me on it. Until Matt.

With his love of hot wings and getting messy with food in general I did my best to resist, but I knew that in the end I would eventually succumb to the bone.

His argument? The bone adds flavor. The bone gives you something to hold on to. And chicken wings are fun to deep fry.

How could I say no?

I couldn’t. But I did say yes with a fight. I am particular about sauce and with how the meat is fundamentally cooked. I prefer deep fried then doused in sauce and then baked to make ’em crispy again. This method has taken months to perfect.

Which brings me to the main star of the subject.

Wing Wings the new restaurant in Lower Haight opened today, June 15th.

I went, I saw, I sort of conquered.

Upon entering Matt and I were greeted by the girl at the cashier and the cool breeze from the open windows and ceiling fan. There was music playing loud, a wall full of Old Bay, and an employee giving a full blown description of every sauce to the man next to me.

Based on first impressions, Wing Wings got it right. By nature chicken wings are not sophisticated or formal and they are not clean. Wing Wings gets that. There were no tables or cloth napkins or waiters. Just some bar stools along counters on both walls, homemade looking sauce in containers, and lots of napkin dispensers. Simple and uncomplicated.

Now, don’t confuse uncomplicated with uninteresting. With 8 different sauces and 6 options for sides (not including the biscuits) Matt and I couldn’t try everything but let me tell you, I wanted to.

They offer the classic flavors like Buffalo (reg or hot), BBQ, and Wing Wing (their house special) but I was most interested in a few of their unique options – namely Angry Korean, Jerk, and Orange Miso.

After contemplating a little while Matt and I decided on the first two, leaving Orange Miso to be tried another day. We noticed the Ad-Ons underneath featured fresh chilies and OMG bacon, but we refrained for today since we wanted to focus on the flavor profiles of the wings themselves.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the chicken comes from Pitman Family Farms meaning that its all free range, air chilled and not frozen. And believe it or not endorsed by PETA. Seriously, how the hell do you get PETA to endorse the way an animal is killed? Kudos for sure on that one.

Even with using above average chicken, Wing Wings prices are still cheaper than most restaurants that feature wings. $6 for 5, $10 for 10, and $23 for 25.

I looked at the board listing the sides featuring the usual: Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Coleslaw and Fried Plantains. Then I looked at Matt and came to the agreement that while the fried plantains intrigued me the most I had just made us some a few days ago. Macaroni and Coleslaw made the cut. So with two orders of hot wings, two sides and a can of soda for each of us in hand we headed out to Alamo Square Park to enjoy our meal –  cause it was just too nice outside not to.

All that glory in one little bag. How do they do it?

After settling on the grass we opened up that little brown bag to dig in. (Granted I sneaked a peak while in the shop to get a few pics…I just was so excited).

Here’s why:

For $2 each, I definitely wasn’t offended by the portions.

I wanted these Angry Korean wings all over me. That’s the only way to eat hot wings, don’t you know?

When Matt first opened the box I was a little confused…aren’t Jerk wings supposed to be like red or brown. We started thinking we had gotten the wrong order, that perhaps this was the Herb wings instead. I called them the next day and the woman on the phone explained that the Herb and Jerk were one in the same.

“The sauce is Jerk inspired but is really more like an Aioile ” she explained.

O.K. then it all made sense. She also let me in on a little secret, the Jerk wings with bacon bits on top was pure heaven. Seriously, I’m down.

I started on an Angry Korean wing and oh my sweet Jesus, it was so good. It was spicy, no doubt, but there was a rich component to the sauce like peanut oil that gave the flavor a full body of heat and then a mellow finish and in a way reminded me of Kimchi.  Sesame seeds and thin slices of chopped green onion were the perfect touch. I was giddy and smiling like a lunatic and holding fast to the wing in my hands. Oh and my order was only supposed to have 5 wings in it, but their were 6 in there. Best gift ever? Duh.

We switched boxes and I started on the Jerk wings. The flavors of scallons, herbs, garlic, and Habanero pepper all came cascading into my mouth on a river of smooth creamy sauce.

I liked the Korean sauce more and Matt had really looked reluctant handing me the Jerk chicken after he tried it, so we decided to switch back.

Next up where the side dishes. The macaroni was your usual mac salad with a mayo based sauce with no real kick, a nice compliment to the wings but nothing that I haven’t seen before. I did enjoy the addition of hard boiled egg pieces and slivers of carrot, they were an unexpected surprise. When we had finished the Jerk wings we scooped some of the mac into the leftover sauce and WOW, that was a bomb side dish.

Same goes for the coleslaw, the ingredients were diced rather than chopped and it had a vinegar based sauce which I gotta tell ya, I’m not the biggest fan of. But that’s just me, I like my slaw sliced thin and dressed in creamy sauce. We decided to do another little experiment and added some slaw to the left over Angry Korean sauce – same reaction as for the Jerk Mac. Hot damn, it was wonderful. Cool and crunchy with a heat from the wing sauce that followed through with the vinegar. It seriously was spicier on the slaw than the wings and I was into it. But it did cause me to chug down the rest of my root beer to quell the small fire in my mouth.

Not complaining. I would buy that on the daily.

After eatin’ everything I was stuffed and content and a little messy. But hey, isn’t that how you are supposed to feel after wings?

Overall, I think Wing Wings has some of the best wings I have ever tried with sauces that you just don’t find on store shelves. Their sides leave a little to the imagination but hey that’s not what are gonna be known for.

I’m just looking forward to the next sunny day I have off from work so I can go smother myself in sauce once again.

Coachella – The Food

Well hello,

It’s been a while. Why? Because I was at Coachella. The modern day version of Woodstock. Only its held in Indio, California. Three glorious days of music surrounded by a horrendous 9 hour drive – there and back. This is my second year going and I loved just about every second of it. The moments I didn’t love were the ones when I was in the 102 degree heat with no shade and water that was hotter than I was. These moments were frequent, but I’m a champ and got through it.

I did however discover a trick last year that helped quench my thirst if my water supply was low – lollipops. Not only are the delicious but sucking on them wets your whistle AND gives you a little sugar boost. Like other music festivals, outside food and beverage wasn’t allowed but I was able to sweet talk security into letting me take a few suckers in. I asked really nicely and smiled a lot.

Now, as a food lover it pained me to limit myself to one full meal a day, but by the time we woke up at 9 a.m. it was already too hot to eat. Yes, I grew up in SoCal, but I have acclimated to S.F. weather therefore 80 degrees is already a little too hot for a full meal. I usually waited until about 8 p.m. before chowing down at the festival. This year, I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of good. And fantastic looking food at that.

Last year I did the one meal a day thing and got hooked on a vegetarian wrap (meaning I got it all three days). This year, I was not about to do that again – so I tried something different every day. Also, the food court area looked a lot larger this year than last year as well. Maybe I’m wrong, but for arguments sake, let’s say it was bigger this year. I mean check out the list of vendors.

AVOCADO HOUSE (Breakfast place from Encino?)
BELLA LUNA COFFEE
BEN & JERRY’S
BOMBAY STATION (Vegan)
BORDER GRILL FOOD TRUCK (Mexican)
CA POP CULTURE
CLIFFHOUSE
COOLHAUS TRUCK (Ice Cream Sandwiches)
CREATIVE BLEND
DOUGH DOUGH’S (Malasadas aka Hawaiian Sugar Doughnuts)

EARTHLY DELIGHTS
PINKS HOT DOGS
FISHERMANS MARKET
FREEBIRDS (Burritos)
FULL OF LIFE FLATBREAD
GET SHAVED TRUCK (Hawaiian Shaved Ice)
GISELLE’S CATERING TRUCK (Burgers & Mexican Food)
GOURMET FAIRE (Corn dogs, gyros and the famous crab fries!)
GREASY WIENER FOOD TRUCK
GREEN TRUCK (Organic/Vegan Friendly)
HARRY’S SMOKEHOUSE (Oklahoma Style BBQ)
ICE OF PARADISE (Hawaiian Shaved Ice)
COYOTE CORNER / JAVAGOGO
JOHNNY MCGUIRE’S (Deli Sandwiches)
KOGI BBQ FOOD TRUCK
LAMRON BBQ
LAS CASUELAS (Mexican Food)
LEM N MAN (Lemonade)
LENO’S RICO TACO
LONGSHOT COFFEE
MR. CECILS (Ribs)
PENNYS CREATIVE CONCESSIONS
PEPPERS THAI
PIE FOR THE PEOPLE! (Pizza)
RUTH’S CHRIS (Steak)
S&R THAI
SHRIMP PIMP FOOD TRUCK
SPENCER MACKENZIE (Fish N Chips)
SPICY PIE (Pizza)
SWEET LEAF CAFÉ
TANTES (Falafel, Knish, Etc)
TEXIFORNIA TAMALES
THAI BBQ
THE EGGROLL PEOPLE
THE ORIGINAL BERRIE KABOB
TWO GUYS
WAFFLEMAN
WIKI WIKI KAU KAU

Such options!

Coachellians are very hungry people who don’t want to waste time interpreting what type of cuisine is being offered by some ambiguous restaurant name. The event planners of Coachella understand this. Which is why the nice big signs above each vendor looked like this

And this

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Chicken Tacos and Fresh Pico de Gallo

Remember how I love Mexican food? Well, sometimes I like to try to make my own Mexican food – because hey, I am ambitious. I wanted to do something relatively simple and abundantly fresh so chicken tacos with a fresh pico de gallo was just the ticket.

I started with the pico de gallo first to allow the flavors to marry before topping my taco. Although you can use a variety of tomatoes I prefer to use cherry tomatoes because of their tart bite and generally they burst because they are so plump. The perfect way to start my pico. I diced them into fairly small pieces and placed them in a bowl. Next I took red onion. Now again, this is totally up to you. You can use a yellow or white onion as well. I just chose red because its vibrant color contrasts nicely with the bright red tomatoes. I diced it the same size as the tomatoes.

It looks like this

Some pico de gallo recipes stop at this point. I say no, I must forge on. The best way to do this is by adding my favorite herb, cilantro. Chopped up thinly – stems and all and into the bowl.  It goes great in just about anything because of its distinct fragrance and the freshness it brings to every dish it accompanies.  I have loved cilantro since I was a little girl and though there have been others (parsley mostly, sometimes basil), no herb can push cilantro from my its top spot in my heart.

What’s not to love?

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