Hing Wang Serves Up Authentic Cantonese Comfort Food

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Hing Wang Bakery keeps it real. 

Just three blocks from our ultra-modern biomedical campus, it still sells zongzi wrapped and served in pungent tropical banana leaves and cooked in big bamboo steamers. 

While other Chinese restaurants might be famous for their way-too-sweet chicken wings, Hing Wang has regulars lining up out the front door to buy chicken feet by the pound.  Between Eighth and Ninth avenues on Judah Street, Hing Wang is the easiest way to travel to 1960s Guangdong for less than $5, and less than a five-minute walk from UCSF.

Dim sum is sold at three pieces for $1.90, making it possible to heap your plate high with steaming dumplings without worrying about the bill. 

In addition to all the classics — shark fin dumplings, pork buns, three kinds of shaomai, turnip squares, shrimp dumpling, shrimp and leek dumpling, sesame balls, egg custard, etc. — they also have a few surprises, like the whole-wheat chicken buns, a very Californian hybrid. 

Hing Wang’s steamed buns of all varieties, priced at just one dollar, are a popular to-go item among local residents and workers, just as if they were back on the streets of Guangzhou.

If you are looking for more than dumplings, Hing Wang also has a wide selection of other Chinese mainstays.  They have “combo plates” with choices of entrees in a hot buffet behind glass — this makes it easy to try new things, just look and point, no Cantonese language skills required.  Here they again offer less common dishes, like piles of tiny fried fish or scrambled egg and tomato. 

Of course, fried noodles of either the thin or wide variety are also hot and ready to go.  And, a little harder to order (because it’s not on display) but certainly worth it, is a hot bowl of juk (rice porridge), Hing Wang being one of the few places in the Inner Sunset where you can find this classic Cantonese comfort food.

But it’s not just delicious and economical food that keeps me coming back to Hing Wang.  After just a few visits, I found that it was the smiling aunties and down-to-earth atmosphere that really charmed me. 

In glitzy San Francisco, such unpretentious places are becoming harder to find.  This is a place where waitresses take their time chatting with customers, where faded, hand-written signs advertise 85-cent tea and coffee, and where you’ll hear more Cantonese than English. 

First-year dental student Ryan Chiu has become a Hing Wang regular, usually getting the BBQ chicken combo plate.

“The ladies are friendly. The food here is good, cheap and they give you a lot,” he says. 

Doors open at 7 a.m. for fresh dim sum breakfast and stay open until everything sells out, sometime around 8 p.m.

Hing Wang Bakery

339 Judah St.  

San Francisco, CA 94122

(415) 681-3928