Last Saturday I spent 2 1/2 hours in Chinatown selecting the best of the best Chinese food stuffs to take home to my parents. A few seasonal produce items are worth mentioning before they're gone.
Beautiful loquats (various grades) from the produce market on the corner of Stockton and Pacific (next to Dol Ho, sorry the awning seems to only display product names and not the name of the store). I bought the top grade which were $4.50/lb. These were the largest size. Don't be afraid of bruises on the skin as long as the flesh is only yielding to the touch and not soft, as these are the most ready to eat. On Saturday there are also loquat vendors selling from truck beds on the streets, but I didn't see any that were as large and plump these. To eat, cut off the blossom end, peel the skin off and remove the seeds. These were sweet and juicy.
At Seasoning (unmarked green awning, 772 Jackson St., SF, 415.989.3028), the premium is carefully selected and well-trimmed, and you'll pay a premium for this quality. I found beautiful fresh lychee. These were $6.50/lb., about a dollar more than the other stores, but these were cleaner with no mold and the color of spiny skin was a deeper red with no green indicating greater ripeness. They were sweet and delicious, and my sister actually preferred that they were not as perfumey as the ones from Asia. I also bought a bag of itty-bitty choi sum (bok choy hearts) @ $1.49/lb. These were premium grade and very sweet, nonfibrous and tender. If you're shopping early in the morning, don't take the bags that have condensation as this means they were yesterday's stock and spent the night in the refrigerator. The fresh stock comes out around 9:30/10am. "Champagne" mangoes and "Whatamango" were 99¢/lb., and available in different stages of ripeness so that I could get an assortment that would last my parents for a couple weeks. I also bought asparagus tips - medium diameter, tightly packed at the tip and less than 4" long - which is the only kind I buy after Memorial Day @ 99¢/lb.
At Lien Hing (1112 Stockton St., SF, in ChowNews #13), the Rainier cherries were incredible - huge, glossy, and very rosy-red in color - @ $1.49/lb. My mom was most impressed with these. Firm and small taro roots and lotus roots also came from here.
At Orangeland, I found a very nice bunch of small bananas with varying stages of ripeness that were candy sweet. I also bought hairy melons here of the longer, more cylindrical variety which I prefer to the squat shape.
In between dropping off shopping bags at the car, dashing to other markets, and periodically checking the progressive dissection of roast pigs at three different stores, I took a brief breakfast break at the counter of Capital Restaurant (839 Clay St., SF, 415.397.6269). I've bought the chicken jook to go for breakfast which is a super deal at $2.75, and each time, I've noticed several people having waffles at the counter. I miss the waffles which were discontinued at Eastern Bakery, so this time I wanted to try one. I asked the counter man for "wa flu and ga feh" (waffle and coffee). Good decision - the waffles are made behind the counter in the old fashion, smaller grid type of iron. Evenly golden brown with a nicely crisped crust that had a multitude of tiny air bubbles breaking the surface, the waffle was light and airy and you could taste the butter in the rich batter. Served with two pats of softened food service butter and a packet of syrup (no maple here), this hit the spot. A refillable cup of Farmer Bros. coffee (smooth and inoffensive) or tea accompanied by real half and half is included for a whopping tab of $2.45 including tax. The man seated next to me had a big bowl of rough cut oatmeal cooked in cream that looked really good - I think I'll get that next time.
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