Porridge @ Hing Lung (San Francisco)

Hing Lung in SFRice porridge, congee, jook, zhou, whatever its name, there’s no denying that it holds a comforting place in my heart.  When I was a kid and sick with the flu, mom would make the tasteless, bland version with just rice and water to soothe my ailing stomach.  When we were feeling lazy on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we would make a delicious fusion version with the turkey carcass for broth.  The simple mixture of rice and water is just a happy way to start the day and what makes it even better is freshly fried you tiao (Chinese donut/cruellers) to dip in it.

Hing Lung is located near the heart of San Francisco’s historic Chinatown.  I had delegated that area as too old-school Chinese and had low expectations of Chinese food there because it was so touristy. How wrong I was.  Walking into Hing Lung is like walking into a busy Chinese cafeteria.  It’s loud, the tables are greasy, there are people hustling about, the air smelled like fried foods, and the waitress was brisk and efficient.

Hing Lung in SF

The menu has almost a full page of different types of porridge as well as other breakfast dishes, but I ordered my old stand-by: pidan sourou zhou (porridge with thousand year old egg and salted pork).  The pidan had a rich, flavorful yolk that went well with the saltiness of the pork.  Most of the salt and flavor of the pork seeped into the porridge, which made it incredibly savory and tasty.  I thought maybe they added some msg to it because damn, that porridge was good.

Hing Lung in SF

The BF ordered a plain porridge which was just rice and water.  I had a taste and indeed, it tasted very plain — it didn’t even have any msg! I asked the waiter to bring some scallions to flavor it with.

Hing Lung in SF

To go with our porridge, we also ordered you tiao which was so fresh from the fryer I burned my mouth on my first bite.  It was worth it.  The fried dough was denser than what I’m used to in a you tiao, but its flavor was perfect with just the right amount of saltiness.  Nothing really beats a fresh from the fryer you tiao that was still crispy on the outside. I could just eat a few of these dipped in some red vinegar.

Hing Lung in SFI was happy to see so many families and elderly people eating at Hing Lung.  It lends the restaurant authenticity.  I knew walking in and seeing so many tables full of Chinese people that I was in good hands, but I’m also glad that the food spoke for itself too.  Now I have a decent place to recommend to people when they ask about a good Chinese restaurant in SF Chinatown.

On the way out, I snapped a picture of the cook frying up you tiao near the front. He ducked out of the frame just in time, but before I left, he yelled something like “Bu yin si fu!” which I took to mean one of two things 1.) don’t take pictures of the chef (yin in this case = shadow = film = taking picture) or 2.) don’t bother the chef (where yin = tease/annoy).  Hearing that made me extremely glad I ate there. It’s always an authentic Chinese restaurant experience to get yelled at by the cranky staff.

Hing Lung Restaurant
674 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133-4406
(415) 398-8838‎
[map]

Nan Yang Burmese Restaurant (Rockridge)

Burmese Food @ Nan Yang (Rockridge)I must be on a Burmese kick because I had Burmese again last week while visiting Oakland.  Nan Yang Burmese is in the trendy-with-yuppies neighborhood of Rockridge.  I was afraid this would mean the restaurant wasn’t legit, but its site claims that it was established in 1981, which is comforting. The restaurant has a little patio outside and tables and a bar inside. The tables are covered with real tablecloths and the decor is pretty nice, a big change from the plastic utensils and rickety tables at the last Burmese place I ate at.

Burmese Food @ Nan Yang (Rockridge)

As an appetizer, we ordered the tea leaf salad.  It came out beautifully plated with dried fava beans, dried lentils, dried coconut, some slices of chili pepper, and a small spoonful of fermented tea leaves.  I was disappointed at how little actual tea leaf the tea leaf salad had.  It’s like ordering a Caesar salad and getting a bowl full of croutons with only three pieces of lettuce.  The crunchy bits of the salad were good, and what little tea leaves it had were tasty, but the whole thing could have used salt or something to give it a good punch.

Burmese Food @ Nan Yang (Rockridge)

Curious to see how Nan Yang’s food holds up to Jasmine Market’s, I ordered a bowl of fish noodle soup.  At $8 a pop, the small bowl it came in was jarring. The broth is the same chowder consistency, but bright yellow and seemingly heavy with cumin.  A slurp of the soup revealed the familiar spices of Burmese fish chowder and a certain lightness which must either come from lemon juice or some sort of acid.  It brightened up the usually rich and heavy stew.

The rice noodles were of the thinner variety and too soft for my liking. In addition to noodles, the dish also had slices of fish ball, and half a hard boiled egg.  While I did enjoy the fish noodle soup and it filled me up moderately, I thought that for $8, it could have been more exciting or at least a bigger portion.

Burmese Food @ Nan Yang (Rockridge)

The BF ordered garlic noodles with rice vermicelli.  It usually comes with egg noodles, but can be made vegan with rice noodles.  One reason we picked this place for dinner was because the menu was so vegetarian and vegan friendly.  I had a piece of tofu from his dish and really liked the smoky, wok qi it had.

Nan Yang Burmese (Rockridge)

For dessert, we ordered the tapioca pudding, which came out chilled and bright orange.  It usually has condensed milk or cream on top, but just ask them to leave it off for a vegan version.  The tapioca pudding was decent and not too sweet.  I couldn’t taste what the orange color added in terms of flavor, so maybe it was just for looks.

Nan Yang Burmese is a safe place to bring people who are unfamiliar with Burmese food.  The menu has something for almost everyone, even if they’re not the most adventurous eater. The interior of the restaurant is nice enough for a business lunch, and the food certainly seems legit.  Maybe I’m just not used to Bay Area prices considering I moved away years ago, but I thought it was a little more expensive than your average Chinese restaurant — but part of that might go towards the cloth tablecloths.

Nan Yang Burmese
6048 College Avenue
at Claremont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 655-3298
[map]