Sunday, December 17, 2006

Chinatown

How much do I love Chinatown. I go at least once a week, for lunch or just to snoot around the different stores. There's a place that makes Peking duck, and hangs their strangely shiny and rubbery basted bits in the window. Did you know they use a bicycle pump to blow them up? There are towels embroidered with Madame Wu's face (I thought of you, WSS) and strange cartoon animals and custom coats and wedding dress shops. I love that the streets are hung with lanterns and banners, and even the street signs are on green copper poles with red pagodas. I'm like a crow for shiny objects, and go darting into shops to buy purses for $4 and parasols for my nieces and croon over all the delicious boxes.

My favorite store is the Wok Shop, which was just featured in Saveur Magazine, but I happened on it by accident when Amanda was out here for Thanksgiving. It's the tiniest shop imaginable and has more cooking implements than an entire Williams Sonoma warehouse all jammed in. There are things hung from the ceiling and on every beam and pole and shelf. The owner's name is Tane, and a more nervous and abrupt and completely helpful person I've never met. She's apt to tell customers to come back after Christmas when she's not so busy, and because everything is so packed and muddled, none of her salespeople are of any use. Tane's the only one who knows where anything is.

Since I first went, I've been back once a week for kitchen stuff, American and Chinese. I've bought a tea kettle, which Tane demonstrated by blowing through the spout to show me its whistle (I needed a loud one since I keep burning the butt off of mine), a wok, two wedding presents, a claypot and a dumpling press. I can get there by cablecar if I want to, but mostly just walk down the hill to Grant Street. I love, love, love it there.

I've also discovered the most amazing Vietnamese place right nearby, Golden Star, which is perfect for all of these spectacularly crappy San Francisco winter days. Well, Simons found it, but I claim it as mine because I order better than he does. They're known for their soups, which come out absolutely billowing steam and fragrantly exotic smells. I know for a fact you can order goat eyeballs, but not because I ordered it (shudder). I'm usually the only Caucasian in there, which I figure is likely a mark of its authenticity. Plus, it's always packed. Amanda pronounced it better than Slanted Door, although you wouldn't go there for presentation. Everything I've ever ordered has been so good, I've fallen on it like a starving man.

So I'm seasoning my new wok now, which stinks to high heaven. Tane decreed that i needed a traditional cast iron wok, with no wooden handles (hmph). So does anyone know any good wok recipes? I do have some catfish in the fridge now...

5 comments:

Nothing But Bonfires said...

I'm feeling so much better about moving, having read this. Perhaps I can spend the first few weeks adjusting by pretending I haven't even left Asia.

Also, $4 for purses? Girl, you're getting ripped off! Tell me what you want from out here...

Jemima said...

Fisherman pants, lacquer trays, a serving boy, snake wine and a big rock of hashish. K?

barbie2be said...

ok, so... the thing from your list that made me laugh the most was the serving boy... somehow i think there is just something not right in my head.

ltwebber said...

Please tell me you've been to Tu Lan, on 6th near Market St... in the hood! It's the best Vietnamese in town. When I am feeling all nostalgic for SF, I dream of that place. In fact, the last time I was in SF, I bought 2 orders of spring rolls to bring back to SC with me on the plane!

"Vegetable Crispy Fried Noodles" is enough reason to move to SF in the first place...

Jemima said...

I'm so there. God I love Vietnamese food. And Thai. And Chinese. So much coconut and deliciousness.