From savory dumplings dipped in soy sauce and chili paste to sweet deep-fried sesame balls, here are my top eight picks for my favorite dim sum plates. What’s on your list?
1. Har Gow — shrimp dumpling
2. Spinach shrimp dumpling
3. Chicken feet with black bean sauce
4. Bee’s nest taro puff — fried taro dumpling
5. Shiu mai — pork dumplings with diced mushroom
6. Char siu bao — steamed barbecue pork buns (click here to learn how to make baos from scratch)
7. Custard tart
8. Deep-fried sesame seed ball with sweet red bean paste
Where can you enjoy fresh and great-tasting dim sum in the Bay Area?
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
101 Spear Street between Howard Street and Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
662 Commercial Street between Kearny Street and Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Shopping in Chinatown is always an adventure.
The oldest in North America and one of the largest outside China, Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in the city.
The adventure starts once you get on the 30 en route to Stockton where you’ll be greeted by an energetic mob of Chinese ladies eager to get the best seat on the bus. It starts to feel distinctively Chinese once the bus maneuvers its way through Union Square and goes through the Broadway tunnel. And once you step off the bus at Stockton, you’ll definitely feel you have entered an entirely different world.
I had two things I wanted to buy last Wednesday: some char siu and a bamboo steamer. I was going to make my very first char siu bao, buns filled with barbecue flavored char siu pork. The buns can be either steamed or baked but I was going to steam them so I was also on the lookout for a bamboo steamer. Crate & Barrel downtown carries bamboo steamers but I wanted to get one from an Asian store and, besides, I was certain I could get a cheaper one in Chinatown.
I intentionally did not have a solid plan on where to get the two items in my shopping list. I guess that was part of the fun. I had just one thing in mind, I was going to rely on people I meet on the street to give me the leads. So where did I start? I was a bit hungry for a snack and went straight to Golden Gate Bakery.
They have the tastiest Chinese sweet treats this side of town, from yummy deep fried sesame balls to creamy custard tarts. I grabbed my flaky melon cake wrapped in a brown paper bag and a tip to go to Yee’s Restaurant a block away along Grant Avenue for some char siu pork.
A true Chinese hole-in-the-wall with take out, Yee’s has everything from roasted duck, chicken, and goose to barbecued pork. A half a pound of char siu for less than 4 bucks was the deal of the day. The friendly butchers at Yee’s then referred me to Ginn Wall Hardware Company down the street for my bamboo steamers. The plan was working out.
I got so excited when I saw the bamboo steamers all lined up in the store’s window display but got so disappointed when I found out that the hardware is closed on Wednesdays! After checking out five other Chinese bazaars along Grant Avenue that carried steamers that were either too big or too small, I started to get a little frustrated. I’m in Chinatown! They should have steamers in every corner, I thought. But I finally stumbled upon The Wok Shop where I got myself a sturdy 8-inch bamboo steamer. It was exactly what I wanted.
With char siu pork in one hand and bamboo steamer in the other, I was ready to go home and make some yummy char siu bao. I looked up, admired the beautiful red Chinese lanterns and noticed that it was laundry Wednesday.
Here is more information about the restaurants and shops mentioned in this blog.
Golden Gate Bakery
1029 Grant Ave between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
1131 Grant Ave between Pacific Avenue and Jack Kerouac Alley
San Francisco, CA 94133
Ginn Wall Hardware Company
1016 Grant Avenue between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
The Wok Shop
718 Grant Avenue between Commercial Street and Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Across the street from the old warehouses in Pier 70, Kitchenette serves tasty lunches out of a garage door along Illinois Street. Run by chefs who have worked with the likes of Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, the food is organic, local and delicious.
I’ve had memorable lunches at Kitchenette since we moved to the Dogpatch. Their house smoked pastrami sandwich (Marin Sun Farms beef smoked over fig wood with apple-caraway mustard and braised cabbage) and their beef and pork polpette sandwich (meatballs in amatriciana sauce with parmesan cheese) are really yummy.
But the most memorable by far is their bacon snickerdoodle. I think it’s genius. It’s an excellent example of how bacon can make anything, like a simple snickerdoodle, extra special.
Where do you get Dungeness crabs in the city?
The first place that comes to mind is, obviously, Fisherman’s Wharf teeming with seafood street vendors and restaurants. But the Wharf gets extremely crowded most of the time unless you go on a rainy weekday. A great alternative is the city’s Asian supermarkets. There’s certainly Chinatown, but there are two new cool neighborhood discoveries I recently made: Clement Street in Inner Richmond and Manila Oriental Market in Excelsior. Start at Clement and Arguello, walk westward down Clement and you’ll hit a goldmine of all things Asian. And there’s Manila Oriental Market along Mission Street in Excelsior, a place that definitely reminds me of home with aisle after aisle of Asian goodies like oyster sauce, tapioca starch, bibingka mix, dumpling wrappers, saba bananas, fresh whole fish and, of course, live crabs.
And if you feel like indulging in Dungeness crab cakes but don’t have the luxury of time to make them, where do you go for crab cakes in the city?
Here’s another surprising discovery: the Castro. Instead of taking the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, hop on the Muni and head over to the Castro and enjoy delicious crab cakes either at Woodhouse Fish Company along Market Street or Anchor Oyster Bar along Castro Street. Their cakes are fresh and tasty.
Here are more information about the supermarkets and restaurants mentioned in this blog.
Where to buy Dungeness crabs
Wing Hing Seafood Market
633 Clement St between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Richmond New May Wah Superemarket
707-719 Clement Street and 8th Aveue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Manila Oriental Market
4175 Mission St between Ney and Trumbull Streets
San Francisco, CA 94112
Where to enjoy Crab Cakes
Woodhouse Fish Company
2073 Market St between 14th and Reservoir Streets
San Francisco, CA 94114
Anchor Oyster Bar
579 Castro St between 18th and 19th Streets
San Francisco, CA 94114
Lelenita’s makes delightful tres leches cakes and other Nicaraguan baked treats like the Pio Quinto, a Nicaraguan rum cake with walnuts and dark rum.
Many people believe that tres leches, a popular Latin American cake, originated from Nicaragua. There are actually two types of tres leches. One is the deliciously moist traditional sponge cake soaked in a glaze made of three types of milk, and the other is a sponge cake with a fruit filling, usually strawberry, which is not soaked in a milk glaze and is less sweet. Both are topped lavishly with meringue instead of the more common whipped topping. Meringue actually makes their cakes truly Nicaraguan. But if meringue is not your thing, Lelenita’s can bake you a cake with either a vanilla or chocolate flavored whipped topping. They also make delicious and detailed decorated cakes for weddings and all occasions.
Two old cranes loom large over the Dogpatch. You simply can’t miss them.
I actually think these old cranes are very cool. Well, I think the Dogpatch is very cool. It is a bit rough but, definitely, in a good way. Old Victorians and old industrial and commercial buildings that survived the 1906 fire and earthquake mixed with new and modern loft apartments and cool cafes and restaurants give this tiny nine-block neighborhood a really interesting character.
The Dogpatch is an enclave of industrial worker’s housing in the once-booming San Francisco Central Waterfront district. The city recognized it as a Historic District in 2003. It still feels industrial but it also feels neighborly. It was recently hailed as one of America’s best neighborhoods by Men’s Journal and recently featured in the New York Times.
I love its dog-friendly Esprit Park surrounded by quiet streets where dogs can run and play. I love its 260 sunny days in a year, on average. And I love its burgeoning dining scene. Fried eggs and cornbread with strawberry jam for breakfast at Just for You. House-smoked pastrami sandwich with bacon snickerdoodle for lunch at Kitchenette. A cup of Blue Bottle Coffee at Piccino Coffee Bar. A bottle of Malbec with cheese and olives at Yield Wine Bar. And a plateful of fried chicken with red beans and rice and yams for dinner at Hard Knox Cafe.
And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the equally cool 18th Street in Potrero Hill is just a quick brisk walk away. Hop on the T to get to downtown or on the 22 to get to the Mission. The choices are endless.
Here is a link to read more about the story behind the city’s working class historic district. It is a great resource about the history and architecture of the Dogpatch. And here are more information about the restaurants mentioned in this blog.
Just For You Cafe
Piccino Coffee Bar
Yield Wine Bar
Hard Knox Cafe
If round things are a symbol of good luck and prosperity then I think there will be lots of it in the New Year. We may just need to work doubly hard to find it.
Here’s hoping for the best for everyone. Happy New Year!