or zha dan (exploding egg)is a deep-fried, hollow in the middle, spherical crunchy fritter about the size of a softball. Dipped in granulated sugar and made of ultra-eggy batter, these are everything that pâte à choux, beignets, or french cruller do-nuts could only hope to be.
The ultimate zha dan came from the dearly-departed Jackson Cafe which was a Chinese-American restaurant in SF's Chinatown. This was a favorite spot for the tasty and very cheap wo choy menu. Sharing one of these eggy pastries for dessert was a much anticipated treat as a child. When all the leftovers had been boxed up, I knew it was time to ask my mom for a shiny quarter to buy one from the cashier.
They seem to have gone out of fashion, none to be found in recent years. But last week I spotted a trayful on top of the counter at New Ping Yuen Bakery & Restaurant on Stockton Street. Turned out they were still warm - even better! Taking that first crackly bite and tasting the rich moist double yolk goodness brought back a flood of memories from childhood. Not quite as good as I remember Jackson's (too oily) but very satisfying indeed. And, the price has only gone up to 40 cents.