Rice 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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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
San Francisco, CA 94133-4406