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Local Adventure: Oakland Chinatown

December 13, 2007

Last Friday (before Comcast went out, grr…) I decided I would like a little mini-adventure. Also, I was craving Chinese food. I’m lucky enough to live just across the estuary from one of the best food resources in the East Bay: Oakland’s Chinatown. This Chinatown, unlike a lot of the SF Chinatown, is a real neighborhood. Everyone is shopping for their dinners and looking for bargains. I’ve wandered around a few times, but I’m never quite brave enough to stop in and get dim sum to go, and I usually just poke around the grocery stores long enough to say, “Gross!” when I see bottles of shrimp eyes and then I get outta there… so I thought this time, I would actually go order something, and I’d do a little shopping at one of the many groceries.

My first stop was for dim sum. I went to this little place (at left) and just pointed at the things I wanted. I had no idea what was in them. Luckily for me, everything was sort of sweet — no meat, no mysteries. Everything was yummy and the ladies who worked there were nice to me. I got three fairly large items, and my bill? Was $1.35.

I stuck those in my bag and went next door to ogle the ubiquitous roast goose display. I bet these are good, if you like goose. I have no idea. There were all sorts of roasted meat items, all looking very much like their original selves. No tidy cut-and-packaged animal parts here. Nope — you know what you are getting.

I like that. I don’t buy meat anymore, but there is part of me that thinks, if you’re going to eat meat, you should know where it comes from. Like, really KNOW. Part of why I don’t eat meat any more is because I don’t want to think about it and weigh the moral choice in my head. But I do know where it comes from, and when I do eat it, I’m okay with it.

Then I went next door to Sam Yick Market. I love that name. Sam Yick.

This man was very seriously slapping each melon to find the right one. He was so methodical. I appreciated the care he was taking to find the best melon. I also liked his McDonald’s hat.

I love foreign-foods grocery stores. I have no idea what was in these little jars, but they were so jaunty and pretty sitting there on the dusty shelf.

You can get everything you need at Sam Yick. For instance, on this set of shelves you have tea (top shelf), sauce packets (middle shelf) and soup mixes (lower). It’s a whole meal.

I bought some mochi candy (one with sesame, one with taro root), some sesame-honey candy, some noodles and some ginger-jasmine tea. My bill at the grocery store was equally outrageous: $6.50.

I felt much more like a native once I had my little pink plastic bag swinging off my wrist like everyone else.

Friday my little department is having our holiday lunch. We are going to Restaurant Peony for dim sum. It’s right downtown in one of the modern buildings. I can’t wait. I love dim sum, I just love the idea of a cart being brought around with all kinds of lovely choices, and you just take what you want and it’s only a few bites of each thing, so you can get lots and lots of different tastes in one meal.

Adventures are always fun, and food adventures are particularly fun, especially here in the Bay Area. Yet another reason to love it here, which I sometimes forget. But Friday, I was (and still am) grateful for all the resources and bounty here.

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