San Tung (San Francisco, CA)

San Tung
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12

san tung exterior

San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.

What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.

We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.

san tung interior

Hot and Sour Soup shrimp, tofu, peas, willow tree fungus and bamboo shoots in a peppery and tangy broth with whipped eggs

hot sour soup

We began with soup, a typical and satisfying variation on the popular classic.

Shrimp and Leek Dumplings dumplings filled with a savory mixture of ginger and garlic infused ground shrimp and chives

shrimp leek dumplings

Pork Dumplings dumplings filled with ground pork, napa cabbage, and seasoned with fresh ginger and garlic

pork dumplings

We orderd a duo of the steamed dumplings. The first order was packed with shrimp and balanced well with the leeks, while the skin held up a nice chew. The pork dumplings had a heartier flavor, with moist pork and cabbage bringing the bulk of the flavor.

Dried Sauteed String Beans fresh green beans flash fried and tossed in a garlic sauce

string beans

Our “healthy vegetable” dish came in the form of string beans, though doused with oil. I didn’t think there was a whole lot of other flavor from the garlic sauce.

Noodles with Peanut Sauce shrimp, scallops, water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions, peas in a spicy peanut sauce

peanut sauce noodles

peanut sauce noodles

Black Bean Sauce Noodles sliced beef, shrimp and calamari in a dark soybean sauce

black bean sauce noodles

black bean sauce noodles

In the first bowl of noodles, a rich, creamy peanut sauce brought a lot of flavor and a little bit of heat. I liked the texture of the noodles, while a medley of seafood provided some meatiness. Crunchy slivers of cucumber helped to add a crunchy fresh bite. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the black bean sauce noodles as interesting, thinking it a bit one-note.

Dry Fried Chicken Wings chicken deep fried in batter and sauteed in a spicy garlic sauce enhanced with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots

dry fried chicken

Our last dish was the pièce de résistance – fried chicken wings bathed in a sweet/savory sauce. They’re excellent chicken wings, with moist meat and a very crispy exterior. The sauce added a lot of depth, slightly sweet and very savory making for some pretty delicious bites. These are definitely messy but totally worthwhile.

San Tung provided some comforting noodles and dumplings, as well as expectantly good fried chicken. Living in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t say the dumplings and noodles here were anything outstanding compared to what can be found in the San Gabriel Valley, but I think they compare respectably. The dried fried chicken was much more unique, with its dynamic balance of flavors and textures not something you can find too often.

On a clear day, a trip up to Twin Peaks was an ideal way to work off a meal.

twin peaks

twin peaks


    1. There’s place called “Crisp” in Chicago that was featured on Cooking Channel that is supposed to have some really good korean chicken wings.

  1. I’ve been following your blog for a while..I’ve tried those chicken wings and they are one of the top dishes I’ve ever had.

  2. Darin

    If you want to try replicating these chicken wings at home, I tried the recipe below from the Ravenous Couple last night. It tasted close to San Tung Wings – Sweet and Spicy. Easy to make. They key is using Wondra Flour to get the crispy skin and double frying (5 minutes each time) at 350.

    korean chicken wings

    2-3 lbs chicken wings (tips discarded, and wings cut at the joints-washed and pat dry)
    1 cup of Wondra flour
    1 ts salt
    1 ts pepper
    Soy Ginger Glaze
    1 cup water
    1 cup thinly sliced ginger
    3 tbs soy sauce
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup vinegar
    2 tbs honey or corn syrup
    optional: red pepper flakes, Thai chili
    First prep the chicken wings, wash, and pat dry with paper towel. In a mixing bowl, combine about 1 cup of Wondra flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the chicken wings in the flour mixture to get a fine light coat.

    Heat some cooking oil in a deep fryer or a deep frying pan to about 350 degrees. Fry chicken wings, in batches if necessary, about 5 min. Remove, and shake any excess flour/grit off and allow to cool.

    Now in a small saucepan, add the water, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and bring to boil. Then add the honey/corn syrup and reduce by half and it will be a thick maple syrup like consistency and set aside.

    Re-fry the wings until crispy golden brown, about another 5-8 minutes. Drain on frying rack or paper towels. Dredge or brush on the soy ginger glaze.

    Cooks note: Sprinkle pepper flakes for sweet and spicy flavor–we love spicy so we also infused a very small piece of Thai chili in the glaze while reducing. For milder taste, try sprinkling roasted sesame

  3. I tried these chicken wings at the dessert shop next to San Tung (which is actually part of the family and serves the wings, and some of the other foods, too). Perhaps it was the overkill of the sauce — we got a couple of things that were the same sauce — but I honestly wasn’t as big of a fan as I hoped to be. Yes, they were tasty, but after awhile the sauce was overpowering. I guess I was longing for Kyochon a little too much and these are definitely different.

    1. Yikes – too bad to hear the wings were a bit of a letdown! I haven’t done it yet, but have heard about the dessert shop and being able to shortcut the line to get some of the grub there too..

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