At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
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Thursday, July 12, 2018


Several months ago one of my favourite eateries was sold. The English name is still the same, but instead of dimsum and a few pastries, plus boba tea for teenagers, they now do food cooked to order. No more service counter and steamers but much more seating and tables. It's an altogether newer and cleaner restaurant, with a modernized cooking area.
Naturally I was displeased.

This upset the natural order of things, and threw the universe out of whack. No, I did not decide to boycott them till the end of time, angry that the best pork siumai and cheungfan in C'town had disappeared. The old lady that ran the place, whose arthritic fingers had made these treats, had retired, and the new people offered a different menu.

So a few weeks after they opened I tried them.
I've been back several times since.

Just ONE complaint: their customer base consists almost entirely of home town folks (meaning Toishanese), boring-ass white people, and Filipinos. Which means that they do not have a bottle of San Francisco's preferred condiment anywhere on the premises.
There is no Sriracha there.

Yesterday afternoon when I wandered in there were more tourists inside than Cantonese folks. Which at this time of year is not entirely surprising, and the new owners speak somewhat better English than auntie, auntie, and auntie did, so they're much more capable of satisfying white folks and sending them off happy. They speak to me in Cantonese, but I also leave happy.
Good food. Attention to detail. Enjoyable ambiance.
It cost altogether less than ten dollars.
That included the tip.

Yeah, they really should acquire several bottles of Sriracha, because standard old-fashioned chili pepper fry oil (辣椒油 'laat jiu yau', or simply 辣油 'laat yau') just doesn't cut it. But who's complaining? The white folks are happy, because they got good food at a good price. And the Toishanese customers are happy, because they got good food. At a good price.
The odd Filipino is happy too.

Garlic sauce eggplant, for which the Chinese name 魚香茄子 ('yü heung ke ji') really means 'fish fragrance eggplant', though there is no seafood in it, in its native terrain (Sichuan) would be somewhat spicy, and contains as major flavouring ingredients garlic, ginger, chilies, doubanjiang (豆瓣酱 'dau baan jeung'), vinegar, sugar, and lots of scallion. The chilies, abundantly present, would be dried peppers fried for their enticing toasty taste, and the sauce made by adding everything else would by spicy-hot, tangy, and slightly sweet. But always with that underlying pepperiness.

Hometown Cantonese just don't do that.

Their version veers towards savoury, has no hint of heat, and incorporates mushrooms and small pork pieces, but no doubanjiang at all that I can tell.
I knew what to expect -- Cantonese standardly "reinterpret" Sichuanese or American cuisine to match their ideas of what food should be -- and it was precisely what I needed.


I shan't mention its name or divulge the location unless I meet you in real life, because I do not want strangers to flock in and ruin their reputation by sneering on Yelp about perceived (id est: imagined) flaws. While I was enjoying my meal several Toishanese picked up food to go.
They know the place, and they're quite happy.

A young white woman also came in for take-out food.
She knows the place and is happy.

I am happy.

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