Modern Traditions with Yank Sing

This September, LUCKYRICE was able to catch up with Nathan Waller and Vera Chan-Waller at Yank Sing, San Francisco’s most famous dim sum destination. Tying in with our year’s theme of Intergenerational Asian Cuisine, we wanted to include the perfect example of when old meets new, and traditions are made for modern day. Founded in 1958, this slice of Hong Kong is the continuation of the tradition and the original techniques of Vera’s grandparents, founders Alice & George Chan.

Founders Alice & George Chan and opening day at the first location on Broadway, 1958. Photo courtesy of Yank Sing

The restaurant name is derived from “Yang Sing” which translates as City of the Rams, the ancient name of Canton where dim sum flourished. Honoring tradition, these lunchtime-only Financial District hotspots Rincon Center and at Stevenson focus on the quality of the food with the importance of  “seen mei” (sweetness in the meat) and “sun seen” (freshness of taste).

Yank Sing has over 100 varieties of dim sum, including vegetarian dumplings. Whether it’s goldenly deep-fried, delicately steamed or barbecued to perfection, their menu offers something for everyone. Traditional items such as har gau and siu mai are served, but what really makes Yank Sing a renowned culinary institution are their signature dishes. The Shanghai Dumpling is one of the beloved favorites of loyal patrons that consists of minced kurobata pork, scallion and ginger all wrapped and steamed in its aromatic broth. Contemporary dim sum items include Curried Chicken Turnover, another house favorite, which gives a Western twist on delicious Chinese flavors such as shiitake mushroom and shredded chicken beautifully marinated in coriander, ginger, soy sauce and shao hsing wine.

If you want to avoid the hassle of dining out (and wearing pants), you have the option to chow down in the comfort of your own home, because takeout and delivery options are readily available through Yank Sing 2 Go. Chinese classics such as steamed pork buns, spring rolls and chow mein can be made to order for a delicious convenience. Nothing says old-meets-new like ordering 100-year old recipes through your smartphone.

Yank Sing’s house-made Chili Pepper Sauce was once on sale nationwide, but is sadly on hiatus with hopes to hit the shelves again sometime next year. It’s truly missed by customers who deem it the best chili sauce when compared with more commonly recognized brands. The sauce is available at each table in the restaurant, with a spicy, garlicky, flavor that packs an umami punch and complements everything. 

Opening day at Stevenson, 1974 Photo courtesy of Yank SIng

“Parents know best”, is truly exemplified at Yank Sing. Having been around for over three generations, there’s something that can be learned from past traditions. For many of us, food is a means of understanding cultures, and knowing where your food comes from is just as important as what you’re eating. Be sure to keep that in mind the next time you’re enjoying those dumplings.

Portrait of Alice Chan at the Spear Street location. Photo courtesy of Yank Sing