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Restaurants & Bars 7

Bok Tong Go at Louie's Dim Sum, San Francisco Chinatown

Melanie Wong | Sep 3, 201311:50 AM

In San Francisco we often debate the merits of different bakeries sourdough and levain starters. I wanted to give a shout-out to a starter of a different kind, the naturally fermented base for bok tong go (white sugar steamed rice cakes) at Louie's Dim Sum. Some years ago, the English-speaking son of the owner's was subbing at the shop and I asked him whether yeast was used to make this dessert. He laughed and said that everyone in Chinatown wants to know the secret. But he said there's no commercial yeast involved, the rise comes from what's in San Francisco's air. Whatever the source of the yeast population, the gentle wine-y tang and barely sweet flavors produced in Louie's bok tong go make it a standout among the many versions I've tried. Some days the starter seems to be a bit tired, not yielding much of a rise, and other days, the cakes pouf up much higher with a more alcoholic aftertaste.

They're $1.50 for three pieces. The pieces will vary in dimension depending on how tall they rise, that is, on flatter days the pieces will be wider and longer and when the sheets rise more, the cuts are more compact. The sizes are far from uniform on a given day, but I've noticed that the counter ladies try to even out the orders by putting a small, medium and large piece in the plastic bag. In San Francisco's temperate climate, I'll leave what I don't eat immediately on the counter for a day. For longer than that, the cakes should be refrigerated. They'll stiffen in the cold and can be revived by steaming.

Louie's Dim Sum
1242 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 989-8380
(Take-out, cash only)

From my 10-year old posting,
"At Louie's on Stockton St., I like the white sugar steamed rice cakes (bok tong go, cut in diamond shapes, 3/$1). Much bubblier, lighter and yeastier than any other I've tried to date in Chinatown, including Golden Gate, Dol Ho, Eastern Bakery, Dick Lee, Feng Huang, and Yung Kee."

If you want to try making your own, here's a recipe.

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