Sunday, January 29, 2006
Happy New Year: San Francisco's Chinatown
Sitting in my living room, enjoying a cup of Dragonwell Summer (a green tea), it's hard to imagine that it was just a few hours ago that we were sniffing the massive metal jars of tea at the Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco's Chinatown. We walked away with only the Dragonwell, but had our eye on some green ginger and white teas as well.
Today is Chinese New Year, celebrating the beginning of the year of the dog. As we explored the nooks and crannies of Chinatown this morning, the smell of incense wafted through the alleys and occassionally we caught the sound of singing from the monastaries housed above the shops and restaurants. We stopped in many a shop to marvel at the barrels of dried mushrooms, ginseng, scallops, and the occasional seahorse, then we met Jess for dim sum, at Hang Ah Tea Room (recommended on Slashfood by way of LARitz). This 80-year old, basement-level establishment is tucked off the main drag, away from the tourist hordes, yet filled with a mix of Anglo groups and Chinese families. Within the cheerful, bright orange walls we enjoyed shrimp dumplings shaped like rabbits, pork and shrimp dumplings, sesame balls, turnip cakes, flat packets of shrimp wrapped in bean curd, and the best char siu bao (bbq pork buns) I've had. Last but not least, after seeing several plates of crispy fried items travel to other tables, we managed to feebly describe them (I think I used the term bird's nest) to the waitress and get a plate of crispy shrimp balls. These were my favorite--lightly fried and satisfyingly crunchy. As Slashfood noted, there are no carts here, you order from the menu--which was fine by me--the dishes were all very fresh and we could look to other tables for inspiration. Our early afternoon feast kept us full all day, and was a worthy kick-off to the new year.
Hang Ah Tea Room
1 Pagoda Pl, off Sacramento St. between Stockton and Grant Sts.
San Francisco, CA