Delicious food in SF Chinatown: places to try in the Year of the Dragon

San Francisco's Chinatown is a treasure trove of great food from its vast restaurants and bakeries.

With Chinese New Year festivities on Saturday, it's an ideal opportunity to explore these small local businesses.

Tucked in an alley, Hang Ah Tea Room holds a special place in the history of Chinatown, having opened its doors in 1920, over a century ago.

"We took over with the same name and same recipe," said co-owner Frank Chui. He and a friend bought the restaurant a decade ago, with Chui transitioning from a corporate sales career to following his passion.

The restaurant specializes in what Chui calls, "old-school San Francisco-style dim sum."

"What we're known for and famous for, is the Cha siu bao," he said,

Cha siu boa is a BBQ pork bun with a smooth top, an example of a local take on traditional dim sum.

Another house specialty is foil-wrapped chicken, believed to have originated in Chinatown. Employee Amy Lee said this popular dish is made with boneless chicken marinated in flavorful ingredients like cilantro and oyster sauce.


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The food at Hang Ah Tea Room reflects Chui's life experience, having emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States when he was 13 years old.

"We kind of embody everything we see in San Francisco in one little place. Hey, it's America. It's San Francisco, and it's also Chinese-American," said Chui, the fifth owner of this historic establishment.

Chui maintains the restaurant's decades-old decor, including vintage photographs of Miss Chinatown from the 1940s.

"How cool is it for a first-generation immigrant to save Chinese American history or save U.S. history," said Chui.

While honoring tradition, Chui also introduces innovative items like the "Curry 3-pointer," a savory turnover with curry beef and onions inspired by his favorite Golden State Warriors player, Stephen Curry.

"It's something fun. Something we can have the Bay Area be proud of," Chui said.

In a nearby alley stands icafe Bakery, which opened in 2015 by owner Hanna Zhang. The bakery's signature baked buns feature BBQ pork prepared onsite.

For Chinese New Year, Zhang introduced a new treat: a cookie resembling an ancient Chinese gold coin, crafted using a mold from China.

Zhang's customers come from across the Bay Area and beyond.

"I tried a lot of things. I really enjoyed myself. It was very good. The experience I got was something we couldn't get at home," said Kywaun Taylor from North Carolina, visiting San Francisco with his girlfriend's family.

icafe Bakery's Chinese tamales, or jong, filled with mung beans or purple rice, are popular. The filling consists of salty egg yolk, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, and fatty pork.

Just steps away from Portsmouth Square sits Hon's Wun-Tun House, and the name says it all. The variety of fresh handmade dumplings is the house specialty and is served hot or cold for takeout.

The restaurant's second location on Washington Street opened in 2022 and has more space compared to its original Kearny Street spot.

Owner Amanda Yan described the menu items as street-style food that's offered in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, a city in the southern part of China.

"Handmade food always tastes better than machine-made. It's the passion," she said, adding that her food is made from the heart.

Customers like Steven Lee from Santa Rosa and his children appreciate the freshness and authenticity of the food.

"The onion pancakes are kind of like what I remembered when I went to Hong Kong. Salt and pepper fish is one of my favorites," said Lee.

"It's hard work, but I enjoy it. I love it. I need to serve customers," said Yan.

Chinatown's culinary landscape offers an abundance of hidden gems, there is something for every taste bud.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU. 


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