Anuj invited me to join him and his friends for a Dim Sum lunch. In SFO, or anywhere else, I never turn down an opportunity for Dim sum. And you shouldn’t either. I am a strong adherent of the Food Yoga path to eternal salvation. Enjoy delicious foods, spread its gospel, and you are certain to attain the kingdom of heaven.
Anuj and Andreas, both from our program, Mary Beth – currently at Yale, Ivan from U Basel, Suisse, and I headed off to Chinatown as soon as the morning session ended. We crossed Market St and passed the new Apple Store (need to stop by later and ogle at the iPOD) and walked up Grant Ave.
You enter Chinatown passing under the two-storey high green tiled gateway with two dragons resting on top.
Chinatown Gateway on Grant Avenue
During business hours, Chinatown is a bustling, screeching, hub of humanity. You can find anything and everything here from Chinese antiques, souvenirs, jewellery shops with expensive jade bracelets, to open air meat shops with carcasses of meat hanging on hooks. The large varieties of fish at various stages of dissection are best not viewed on the way to lunch. Reminds me of the Colaba fish market. We dodge the vendors and dripping fish entrails and arrive at our destination, Four Seas Restaurant.
The gaudy red carpet and b/w photos of 60’s Hollywood stars lining the stairs triggered pleasant memories from our last trip here a couple of years ago. Simultaneously, Anuj and I echoed, “this is going to be good,” and we strode up the stairs and were led to a big table by the window watching Chinatown drift by on the street outside.
Dim sum is the traditional Cantonese style snacks and served starting from breakfast through lunch. Most are dumplings, with an assortment of shrimp, lobster, chicken, mushrooms and other vegetable fillings. Waitresses roll carts stacked with bamboo steamers and plates of various delicacies from table to table. At this restaurant the waitress carried trays stacked with the delicacies. You pick whatever looks appetizing and the waitress stamps a hieroglyphic with the price code on your bill. The large assortment of savory snacks is a big draw at the restaurants. Each snack comes with two or three pieces and costs about $2-4 each. It is more fun as a large group so you can order many dishes and share.
The group lets me do the picking. Given that most of the staff doesn’t speak English, I don’t even try. They open each basket, I point and with a limited vocabulary, I choose: “this yes – 2; this no; shrimp, vegetable yes – 3; mushroom vegetable – yes; beef no.” I passed on the shark fin soup (too ‘crunchy’) and the chicken feet (just steamed chicken hocks). Very quickly the rotating ‘susan’ at the center of our table is full and we hold off on the ordering.
Our table is quickly loaded with jasmine tea and a variety of dumplings.
With our chopsticks we pick whatever catches our fancy and bring to our plates. I like to mix a little soy sauce with the hot sauce and lightly dab the dumplings before eating. The waiters constantly refill our little cups of jasmine tea.
As more trays appear, I keep ordering; “yes – 2; yes 3; no – thank you.” Some of my favorites include steamed or pan fried potstickers – these translucent half moon shaped delicacies with ruffled borders and stuffed with seafood and vegetables, resemble karanji or naevri served in Mumbai homes during the ganapati festivals.
Har Gow are the round shrimp dumpling.
Slices of bell pepper, layered with minced shrimp cutlets, steamed and lightly browned
Tender shrimp rolled in rice rolls. These long and slippery rolls are challenging to tease apart and eat with chopsticks- but delicious nonetheless.
Stuffed eggplant with minced shrimp in garlic sauce,
Steamed dumplings with combinations of scallops, scallions, spinach and shrimp;
Crispy deep-fried dumplings with shrimp, mushrooms, vegetables and chopped peanuts.
Vegetable rolls wrapped in fried bean curd.
To bring closure to this fine meal, we pick Sesame seed puffs – round light dough balls covered with sesame seeds with the delectable red bean paste filling.
Yummmm! What did I say about the easiest path to heaven? It starts right here on Grant Ave in SFO!
All of us are satiated and after clearing the tab, we slowly journey back to the conference, each of us engrossed in our own version of heaven.
One of my Chinese friends had explained that Dim sum means ‘ a little touch of heart.’ This delicious ‘breaking of the bread’ in the company of good friends surely pulled the right heartstrings. Another blessed day, which can only be topped by a short nap 🙂 What more could you ask for in life!
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