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Cheapo SF Rice Plates

Melanie Wong | | Sep 27, 2005 01:16 AM

One of the things that makes my mother really happy when she visits the City is "ging jai" (cheap) food that's filling and tastes good. These days take-out rice plates seem to fill the bill, providing a meal for two people for $3.50 or less.

On Clement, we've had good luck at Wing Lee, which offers rice and two items from the steam table or barbecue for $3.25 plus tax, making it $3.50. A couple blocks down the street, it's offshoot, Wei Lee, offers the same deal and the same selection. Our favorite item is the braised tofu skin rolls. We also like the green beans sauteed with chicken.

On Noriega, the newish Happy Bakery undercuts the price to $3.25, including tax. It has a larger selection but no barbecue, and also seems to be operated by the Wing Lee folks though the taste is slightly different (and the same quality). The braised tofu skin rolls are here too, along with a few other choices in tofu form and flavors that are worth trying. The black pepper short ribs are a bit chewy/tough, but the flavor is very good. We've also liked the hairy melon sauteed with shrimp or chicken when it's available. The price is lower here, but the serving size is perceptibly smaller than at Wing Lee or Wei Lee.

Mom's favorite, however, is Mon Kiang on Broadway in Chinatown. Here you get THREE items plus rice for $3.25 including tax. The serving size is more generous here too, and my mother has figured out that if she goes near the end of the business day when things have slowed down, they give her an even bigger helping or sometimes an extra item. We send her in by herself too, as she's so tiny, we're sure the kind ladies behind the counter want to fatten her up. Sometimes we've stretched a Mon Kiang rice plate among three of us, and top it off with something sweet for dessert. My mother's top pick here is the braised beef tongue. She also likes the steamed pork ribs with black beans and most of the vegetable options have been good too.

Any other places you'd recommend for cheapo rice plates?