I stopped by Golden Gate bakery on Grant St, SF Chinatown today for mooncakes today in the afternoon. Originally I had intended on going on Saturday. I did get there then, but the line was crazy and I didn't feel like waiting in line. So today I went there again and this time braved the wait in line (which turned out about to be the same!).
The line started from the outside of the entrance, and went up about 10 people deep to the adjacent store outside booth (some dude was selling sunglasses). Then the line broke (to allow pedestrians to pass) and right across where you see the first parking meter from that spot is the continuation of the line which was another 20 people or so deep if you got to the end of the line....
I got in line around 3:30 pm. There were maybe 25? (lost count) people ahead of me that I could see (not counting the people who were already past the entrance). I didn't walk out the shop until 4:40 to 4:50!
It was chaotic by the time I got to place my order. The problem was that people were buying items by the box load ahead of me (egg tarts/moon cakes/etc). The bakery handles 3 full trays of egg tarts at a time. Once they sell out the batch, you have to wait until the ovens downstairs are done with baking the 2nd batch. It could be a 10 to 15 min wait if you are lucky. Apparently they don't limit the #s people can buy...I guess they bake and make until they sell out.
In addition the poor sales ladies behind the counter had to deal with impatient customers and people who had called in their orders ahead of time and kind of barged their way in once they got through the entrance. Yes you CAN call ahead and reserve your mooncakes! The key is to be able to speak Chinese (Cantonese, toy shan dialect, or Mandarin).
OK now on with the goodies. The variety of mooncakes they had on offering was nothing short of amazing. Of the ones I remember:
1) Standard white lotus filling. I believe red lotus is also available.
2) Red date "mud" filling (which is what it translates to sorta) Not sure what else is in it
3) Something that has "rose" and "hong yun" bean in it. I'm just providing the phoentic translation and it could mean something else. I have no idea what it is.
4) Some sort of dau sa (red bean?) filling
5) Coconut flavored filling
6) Pineapple flavored filling (?)
And here are two really interesting mooncake fillings. One has chinese style preserved parma-ham (think chinese style proscuitto) and the other is ROAST GOOSE! Unfortunately the goose version was unavailable, but one of the sales ladies (maybe one of the owners perhaps) recommended the roast chicken which I happily obliged.
Prices vary but expect to pay anywhere between $4 to $7-8 ish per moon cake depending on filling and # of egg yolks inside. I think the max is 4 (one in each quarter) but to me that's overkill and overpriced.
I *just* had a small quarter slice of what I believe is the chinese ham (no egg yolk) mooncake. WOW! I tasted not only the small ham chunks, but there were also macadamia nuts, a slight hint of ginger, and some flavoring that resembled the old style steamed chicken bun! There must have been a lot more ingredients than meets the eyem but the flavor of this is just brilliant. Although this is the first time I've had something like this, it turns out that this is not a new receipe...but has been around for a long time even back in the old days in Hong Kong/Canton Province/China.
OK so there have been other reports of how great Dick Lee is. I'm wondering if they carry the same variety and if they taste as good? Can anyone report?
Next weekend in SF Chinatown there will be some big street fair to celebrate the upcoming moon festival. Needless to say it will be crowded (and so will GG bakery...) Get those mooncakes before the wait goes beyond 1.5 hrs!