This one goes back to a lunch that Mom and I had on July 24, 2009. Happy Chinese Restaurant on Powell near the Broadway tunnel is a place that I’d eyed for years but somehow never tried. On this morning we were parked on that block and in need of a quick bite so we decided to try our luck with some dim sum for an early lunch.
The few trays of rather tired-looking dumplings circulating had little eye appeal, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake by stepping in here. So I started to pay attention to what other diners had on their tables to get a clue. Two common items: a plate of some kind of starchy cake and a bowl of hor fun (rice noodles) in soup.
The next trayload of said starchy cake was quickly emptied before it got to us. I asked the server to please bring the next batch to us directly, and soon this plate of black eyed peas was staring back at me.
I think this was called mei dou goh or black eyed peas cake. Studded with scallions, lop cheong, black eyed peas in a soft steamed rice flour base, our waiter said is the house specialty here and comes from Toishan. I’d had this once before among some Clement St. take-out provided by cousins and hadn’t cared for it much. But this was much better tender and fresh from the steamer with more savory notes. Mom commented that she wasn’t familiar with this dish either but added that black eyed peas were the only legume that her own mother from Zhongshan ever cooked for the family. I’m not sure I would order this again, but wanted to report on it in case someone is looking for this Toishanese soul food.
We liked the rice noodles in soup much better. I’d asked for mustard green hearts with char siu, but you can request any combination of ingredients that might be on hand. The greens were cooked just right, tender but still a little bit of snap to them. The char siu was tired and I don’t like it julienned like this (a way to use leftovers), so I’d order another meat next time. Soup stock was fine, and what made this shine was the very fine quality of the thin and chewy rice noodles. I asked and found out that these silky wonders are steamed in-house and another specialty here.
I’d definitely return for the hor fun in other iterations.
Happy Chinese Restaurant
1326 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133
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