Thursday, July 28, 2011

Momma Wongstar presents the best of SF Chinatown

where to find ingredients for magic Chinese soup

So I'm back in California for several days, originally to race the Full Vineman on Saturday, but accidents happen and plane tickets were already booked, so here I am for a little R&R with the family! I totally just ate way too much, so much that my stomach hurts (damn this excellent Chinese food and fresh California strawberries!!)...and thus I'll postpone my swim and write a blog about this morning's Chinatown adventure with Mom instead.

First she was very proud to demonstrate that she now knows how to use an ATM:

Mom got a debit card! I saw a pig fly too!

Yes, she is one of those ladies that always holds up the line at the supermarket because she still writes checks to pay for groceries. Actually today, we got some groceries that were so cheap, we filled up two huge bags for under $5. No check needed:

Mom taught me how to pick a good lotus
Anyway, we have been coming to Chinatown in San Francisco since I was a wee little girl, but I guess I never really appreciated how awesome it is until I've lived in other countries and other parts of the USA. You always grow up assuming that things like Chinatowns are the same as Chinatowns everywhere. Not so! The one in SF is like the oldest and largest one in North America.

Mom swears they were still alive but
how come they weren't hopping around?
After living and racing all over Asia, I came to realize that when you are in SF Chinatown, it really is like being in Asia. The price tags and street signs are in both Chinese and English, all the store owners speak Chinese, and you can find all sorts of weird Chinese cuisine and magic herbs.

We had a few missions today. Mission #1: I wanted some roast duck (Peking duck!) but Mom said there was now also roast GOOSE...whoa. The best place to go in Chinatown is on Grant Ave. between Broadway and Pacific:

Geese on the left, ducks on the right

below the geese are goose kidneys. We got some to try.
Yeah, I thought they looked like testicles too.

After watching Kung Fu Panda 2 and calling myself an Asian Triathlon Superstar the last 4 years, it was important for me to be more in touch with my Chinese roots. So I requested that Mom teach me to make some magic Chinese soup. She boils a pot every day and always told us when we were little that drinking it would make us faster and stronger! So Mission #2: gather ingredients for magic Chinese soup!

Location: the Great China Herb Co. (the sign is the first photo up top), on Washington, between Grant & Stockton. I remember coming here as a kid...there are jars of dried seahorses, bumblebees, and all kinds of deliciousness.

Our stash includes some dried goji berries, Korean gingseng, dried logan fruits, and other things I don't remember how to pronounce.

But they are all good for your immune system and chi! We also got some special stinky Chinese ointments...all great stuff to help me on my road to recovery from that stupid crash and become better than ever!

Mission #3: stock up on super delicious Chinese (and ok, Vietnamese) food that you just can't get the same of in Delaware!

The best fried chicken is from a place on Stockton, between Jackson & Washington, called "Phoenix" something. All you have to do is look for an autographed photo of Yan Can Cook on the window:

Inside, there is a bunch of dried lard hanging on the wall next to the Buddha shrine.

Then for the best Vietnamese, we went to a place called "Little Paris" on Stockton, between Washington & Clay. Mom got a bunch of those Vietnamese sandwiches that come on French baguettes but I was much more interested in the dessert...

My favorite one is sometimes called the "Tri color dessert" since it has red beans, yellow beans, and green worm looking jelly things mixed with coconut milk.

Guinness was totally jealous. And so are you!

Anyway, all those trips to Chinatown as a kid, and I thought this was all normal. Frogs and dried seahorses for sale, lard hanging on the wall, stinky medicine, wormy desserts...great, isn't it???


  1. And the Chinese soup recipe? Where is the Chinese soup recipe???

  2. My mom STILL writes checks at the grocery store and she has a debit card.... she just likes her check book and even sends me to the store with a check to buy groceries for her... she is silly.

  3. The green wormy dessert is "Cendol" or "Chendol"! It's like my favourite dessert in Malaysia/Singapore - and it's even better with durian on it!! :)

  4. @Vincent: magic Chinese soup recipe to come! Doing research on what the names of the magic herbs are...stay tuned :)

    Grace...oh, durian! My mom loves it! I think it's all right...can't quite get over the texture and smell though :O