One day, while walking around at a farmers’ market with a friend, I was feeling particularly down in the dumps when I spied a familiar, pennant-festooned vendor. I ran over to Ici Ice Cream‘s booth, peeked into the frozen case, and saw exactly what I needed: an earl gray ice cream sandwich made with chocolate wafers. After a long string of misfortunes, the appearance of the adorably packaged treat triggered something in me; it made me feel as though life was going to be okay after all. Tears of joy sprang to my eyes, thoroughly freaking out my friend. I had a moment.
This story, beyond demonstrating my melodramatic ways, illustrates the emotional sway that food can have. While I’m most often moved by my sweet tooth, my sister N and her partner D are similarly obsessed with other dishes… or, more accurately, one dish.
Whenever N and D visit the Bay Area, the first sentence out of their lips is usually, “When are we eating San Tung?” The city might as well be renamed San Tung-isco (sorry.). In all seriousness, N and D are reverent, uncompromising, obsessed; a trip to this Chinese restaurant is a non-negotiable. Should you pass by its Inner Sunset storefront, the place might not look like anything special, save for the insane queue. The wait, however, makes sense once you see what’s on everyone’s table: fried chicken.
Fried chicken might seem an unexpected dish at a Chinese restaurant, but it makes sense once you look at its preparation. The chicken is tossed in a garlicky, ginger-y batter and deep-fried to crackly perfection before being served “wet,” or doused in addictive sauce, and garnished with hot peppers. The resulting dish is a marvel: impossibly crispy, golden-brown chicken, coated in a sticky, salty syrup that strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory. You don’t have to take our word for it; Food and Wine agrees, as do thousands of satisfied Yelpers.
To be clear, however, San Tung is not a one trick pony. Their kitchen kicks out amazing Korean-influenced Chinese cooking, starting with complimentary, fiery and flavorful kimchi. After clearing our sinuses with some spicy bites, we attempted to counterbalance the upcoming fried goodness with sizzling rice soup. This refreshing dish involves a show at the table: crispy rice is poured into a bowl of mushrooms and greens, emitting a namesake sigh as the grains sink into the broth. We followed this starter with the dry fried green beans, fragrant with soy, ginger, garlic and onion. Don’t be fooled by the green on the plate — these veggies are prepared in much the same way as the chicken (and its tastiness proves it!). We’ve been here before, and so can also highly recommended: dry black bean sauce noodles, hot braised bean curd, and Jay’s favorite, the spicy seafood noodles. You can’t go wrong.
When ordering, D cleared his throat and asked whether we’d be having two orders of the chicken. Mind you, despite our sizeable appetites, N and I are still pretty petite. I was highly skeptical that we could finish all that food between the three of us… but my doubts were proven unfounded. When the chicken hit the table, D’s eyes said it all: wide as saucers with anticipation; narrowed with focus; and rolled back with bliss, at which point the plates were practically licked clean. I daresay he had a moment.
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122