Sunday, November 13, 2011


There are some things that you cannot eat in public. Unless the person dining with you is a forgiving sort, who puts pleasure above a clean face. Crab is one of those things - we've all at some point in our lives looked up after stuffing ourselves with black bean garlic ginger crab to discover that a mob of stunned Midwestern tourists are surrounding our table, staring at our juicy glistening fingers, faces, forearms.......
Somewhat self-consciously we remove a greasy shred of scallion from our hair, while resolving never to eat at a place so near the tourist route again.
Mmmm, tasty!
Oh hey, there's still some meat in this leg!

A nice big bowl of noodle soup is another one of those things. Given how close it is to taking a bath, you shouldn't enjoy that in public either. At least not without a karmic barrier keeping the folks from Kahoka or Knob Lick far far away.
Part of the problem is that there are times when you wish you had four hands. And I can say with extreme confidence that I am not alone in this, as I remember times when I saw businessmen holding chopsticks and a lit cigarette in one hand, cell-phone and a snifter of Remy Martin in the other hand, while simultaneously continuing two or three conversations and passing a plate of oysters to someone next to them.
Thousand-armed Hindu Godess? Got nothing on multitasking mister Lee. Who probably wishes he had at least three more hands.
I won't deny that I have at times wondered if I could reach out with one of my feet to snag a condiment, as my hands were just too busy.
But they'd probably frown on that in most noodle joints.
There's a line you just don't cross, and just guessing here I'd say that eating with your feet is it.
An extra set of fingers would've been useful.
I need to practice growing ectoplasmic limbs.

Saam-yeung kafei tsan-ok
848 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.

Between Stockton Street and Grant Avenue.

Sometimes it's a jolly good thing I have no female companion with whom to eat. She would have been horrified at my rapid shifting of digital gears to control the chopsticks, spoon, knife, fork, long ice-drink spoon, condiment saucers, teacup, coffee glass and dripper. Splash, tinkle.
I would never have been able to maintain that studied air of romantic mystery under those circumstances, she'd realize that I am just a greedy food-scarfing normal person, not the loveable super-intelligent gentlemanly badger of her dreams.
Where's the maturity that the omnivorous brock is known for?
The ectoplasmic limbs would likely terrify her too.
I really hate to disappoint young ladies.
They always look so crestfallen.
Oh well. Reality bites.

At least I can use chopsticks with either hand.
Bring on the delicious noodles!
I'm ready for this.

Sui chü yiuk ho fan tong
Roast Pork with River Noodles and Soup.

The river noodles come in a huge bowl of broth with beansprouts (芽菜 nga-choi) and chopped chives (韭菜 gau-choi), scalding hot.
The fire-grilled meat is on a separate plate, garnished with knife, fork, and chopped scallion (青葱).

Thinly sliced charred pork, dipped in soup and then dabbed with condiments, is sheer heaven. The juiciness of the broth-dunked fatty meat with the unctuous deliciousness of red red hot sauce, the occasional crunch of pickled chilies, that marvelous hint of soot complimenting the sweetness of the marinated pig........

That, plus trying to raise a spoonfull of hot broth and a skein of noodles to the mouth at the same time, led to the dance of many hands. Ho-fan (river noodles) are beautiful white soft broad rice stick noodles, slippery slithery smooth, against which the specks of intense green provided by the chives and scallions stand out beautifully, all delightfully contrasting with the sweet fresh crispness of the beansprouts.

The table service at San Sun is a bit casual. But they expect you to have a pretty good idea about what you want, and when your food is ready they'll deliver it with no fuss. If you want to read the newspaper while eating, or play with your cell-phone, that is up to you. Friendly people, but unobtrusive.
There will be no artsy drama student oozing up to your table to aver that their name is Gottfroid they'll be your waiter today, and then reciting the long list of specials with dramatic cadence. If that was what you wanted, you could've gone to a place serving California Cuisine and paid a hell of a lot more for food a hell of a lot less yummy.

And you wouldn't have gotten the 凍咖啡奶 (tung kafei nai - ice coffee with condensed milk) either.

San Sun has the full selection of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes that feature souped or fried noodles: broad rice stick, narrow rice stick, bean thread, egg noodle, or wheat flour, dressed deliciously and appropriately. There's also a good selection of appetizer type thingies, as well as funkadelic cold drinks of the tapioca ball, jelly sliver, and chilled squiggly in syrup variety.
It's all affordable, and the place is comfortable, roomy, and clean.
You could even take your mid-western cousins there.

Judging by the little girls at a far table gleefully tackling something steaming, and the Chinese business man with an electronic device at a nearer table, as well as the passel of chicas happily slurping huge mouthfuls in the corner, this place really has it going on.
There's a bunch of Shanghainese somewhere, I can hear their hissy language.
Seems like everybody was happy with what they ate.
And that's a very good thing.


Kearny Street is quite beautiful at twilight on an Autumn Sunday, dark velvet greys and glowing yellow pools of light, with pink streaks in the sky. Hardly any cars, and only a few pedestrians heading back to their hotels or towards Bart. It's peaceful.
Amble slowly, so that you finish smoking before you return to the office. Good tobacco needs time.
The Occidental is now open on Sundays; no brilliance figuring out where you're going later.

If I hadn't been smoking a pipe, I probably would've dropped by the Yummy Bakery on Jackson for a pei-dan-sou.
Maybe next weekend. There's always time.

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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Felix said...

Dear BackOfTheHill,

I am taking a class in Judaism at my college, and we have to write a paper about a historical figure. I was assigned Rabbi Solomon Boyarski of Jerusalem. I don't know much about him. I found a Wikipedia article, but I don't understand much of the Jewish/Hebrew references. I know that you sometimes do RaBaM posts explaining Judaic articles from the internet, i.e., explaining the difficult Jewish or Hebraic references. Do you think you could please write one to help me with this?

The back of the hill said...

When do you need it by?

Felix said...

A week from Thursday. Does that work for you?

The back of the hill said...

Yes. Rough draft within days, end product Sunday.

Felix said...

Great, thanks! Looking forward to seeing it as a post here on the blog.

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