Saturday, March 31, 2012


When I left the store with my bag of groceries there was a small raccoon sitting underneath the acacia tree at the bus stop.
It gazed up at me as I passed.

At that moment I really wished that I had bought some ice cream.
Raccoons love ice cream. We know that from YouTube.
And this was a nice looking raccoon.
Very personable.

I strongly feel that charming individuals deserve ice cream.
Especially if they have friendly eyes.

It wasn't till twenty minutes later at home that I remembered that there were three tubs of Häagen-Dazs in the refrigerator.  Mango, blueberry crumble, and rum raisin.
I could've gone outside with a bowl for the raccoon.
But it was without doubt already long gone.
Wish I had thought of it sooner.

There are no ice cream stores in the neighborhood, and the local market closes at nine thirty.
So the little thing probably didn't hang around.
If she (I'm assuming it was a female) seriously wanted ice cream, she probably took the next bus across the hill.  Surely a bus driver would let a small well-behaved creature on without paying?
It's dangerous in this city at night, young persons of any species should not be outside so late.
Even if they are furry, nocturnal, and can climb trees.
You just don't know what might happen.

Somewhere there's a raccoon standing up with its paws against the bus window staring out into the night, hoping that they will soon go past a creamery.
Sparkly black eyes and a positive attitude.

There is no ice cream anywhere in that direction.
Darn it, I should have bought some.

The next time I go to the store I'll get some bars.
Or maybe single serving cups.
Just in case.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Sometimes all you want to do is spend a few hours reading, in the same room as someone else doing exactly the same thing. Each person content in the presence of the other.
And then both of you decide to go out and get some soup.
There are a few places I’ve mentioned already that have good soup.  Fun soup.
Two Vietnamese-Chinese places in C’town.
If it’s a nice day, why not?

On the other hand maybe you just want to stay indoors, relaxing in companionable privacy, not observing or being observed by the world.
Perfect time for jook.
Rice porridge.

Chicken and Abalone Rice Porridge.

One cup of rice.
One carrot, cut into three or four pieces.
One can of abalone.
Six chicken drumsticks.
Six dried scallops (conpoy).
Eight to ten cups water.
Pinches of ground white pepper.

Plus chopped cilantro, shredded ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Set the dried scallops to soak in a little water with a pinch of sugar added.
After rinsing the rice cook it in half the water, simmer the chicken pieces and carrot in another pot in the remaining water.  Once the rice is fully cooked, remove from heat. Same with the chicken.  Drain the chicken liquid into the rice and while this cools, pull the chicken flesh from the bones and set aside.
Dump the carrot chunks into the pot with the rice.

Traditionally the rice would be simmered for several hours with frequent stirring (to prevent scorching) till the grains start falling apart. But it saves a lot of time to simply put the rice and cooking liquids into the blender - which is why you should let it all cool down a bit first.
When the rice has been osterized, return it to the soup pot, and bring it back to boil.

Carefully pull the re-moistened scallops apart, and add them and their soaking liquid to the pot.
Mix a little soy sauce and sesame oil with the chicken. Do not add too much, just enough to aromatize.
Slice the abalone, and add some of the abalone liquid into the rice porridge if you wish.
Add the sliced abalone only a minute or two before serving, while the soup pot is still on the burner. Abalone toughens up if cooked too long, so remove the pot from the heat shortly thereafter. Adjust taste with white pepper.
Divvy up into bowls, add the chicken meat, shredded ginger, and cilantro on top.

[Dried scallops (gon bui 乾貝, gon yiu ju 乾瑤柱) are available in Chinatown. They look like amber-hued or honey-coloured disks.  Conpoy is not optional, as the dish will lack a certain distinction if it is left out.  You should buy high quality large conpoy which have a vibrant look and smell, and clean sharp edges. Abalone (bau yu 鮑魚) is seldom used fresh in Chinese cuisine, mostly dried or canned.  It likewise can be bought in C'town.  Abalone is considered healthy and easy to digest. Which it is, if not rubberized by prolonged cooking.]

The quantity above is enough for four servings, or two large bowls. It is fun to share this before returning to your books and again enjoying each other's quiet reassuring company.
Jook is superlative comfort food.
Always do enough for two.

It's been in a while since I made any.

Mostly I read by myself now.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


A scrap of literature, that I ran across while doing research, stuck in my head.
I think it was meant to be frankly erotic, but as I glanced only fleetingly at it while cruising the internet, I am not entirely sure.

"She stepped through the door carrying a wombat..."

That immediately sets the tale in Australia.
I wonder what type of wombat - there are three kinds:

The common wombat - Vombatus ursinus
The Northern hairy-nosed wombat - Lasiorhinus krefftii
The Southern hairy-nosed wombat - Lasiorhinus latifrons

But it doesn't really matter.  All three are foul-tempered and unpleasant creatures, which when fully grown can be dangerous, besides smelling bad. So it must have been a juvenile wombat. Additionally, the wombat is a fairly useless thing - they aren't edible, and attempts to raise them for dairy, if attempted, have almost certainly come to naught - and even the fur is unpleasant, shaggy, and coarse. Juveniles, of course, have softer fur.
So the only reasonable supposition is that she was carrying a baby wombat for the sheer sensual experience of doing so.
Small, cuddly, and fuzzy.
I'll assume also that she was nude.
What does a warm animal feel like against the skin?

There are good reasons NOT to be unclothed around cats and dogs.  Yes, cat pelt feels wonderful, but they have claws.  Dogs tend to be forward.
Both can bite when disconcerted.
Smaller animals are better.  A pet squirrel, for instance, or a rabbit.
Better yet, a bear skin rug.  No behavioural problems at all, completely clean, and guaranteed soft.

Fur, nakedness, and a selection of delicious pastries.

See, that's the main reason why I didn't bother reading the Australian erotic fiction referenced above.
A grumpy beast, a sun-freckled leathery outback woman, and very likely vegemite.
Nothing I want to ever be a part of involves vegemite.

Vegemite also doesn't keep wombats away, so it's pretty much useless.

I will tolerate erotic writing that includes fur, lovely silky skin, cleanliness, and warmth.
But not wombats, Australians, or quasi-vegetable byproducts of very dubious edibility.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


In the past I've described some of the snacks which may be found in Chinatown tea houses.  It seems worthwhile to present a fuller list, especially as some people might not realize the variety that can be had.
And now that someone I know is going to be in Hong Kong in another week or two, it is particularly appropriate to provide an overview.
I encourage him to gain several pounds in a city which more than any other counts as 'dim sum central'.

If any other readers also find it useful, so much the better.
Feel free to copy and print it out.

This list is organized more or less in the order that it would occur on a printed menu.  Which is usually not how you would run across these items; they're either wheeled around in carts by waitresses exploding out of the kitchen, OR presented in steam trays at small eateries.
And please note that some dishes are listed with several variant names.


1. 鹹蒸點 (haahm tsing dim)
Steamed savoury dishes

上海小龍飽 (seung hoi siu lung bau): Shanghai-style pork-soup dumplings.
五香糯米卷 (ng heung no mai kuen) five spice meat filled glutinous rice rolls.
四寶滑鷄紮 (sei bou gwat kai ja) four treasure chicken bundle - chicken and vegetables wrapped in beancurd skin.
小籠包 (siu lung bau): Shanghai-style pork-soup dumplings.
柱侯金錢肚 (chyu hou kam chin tou) tripe cooked with chu hou paste (soy, garlic, ginger).
柱候炆牛雜 (chyu hau man ngau jap): stewed beef tripe with turnip and chu hou paste.
棉花雞 (min fa kai): steamed chicken with fish maw.
椒絲牛柏葉 (jiu si ngau bak yip): steamed tripe with ginger and spring onion.
淮山滑雞札 (wai san gwat kai jaat): steamed chicken bundles.
滑雞絲粉卷 (gwat kai si fan kuen): chicken rice roll.
潮州粉果 (chiu chau fan gwo): Chiu Chow steamed dumplings.
潮州蒸粉果 (chiu chau tsing fan gwo): Chiu Chow steamed dumplings.
灌湯餃 (gun tong gau): soup dumplings.
煎鴨絲卷 (tsin ngaap si kuen): fried shredded duck roll.
燒賣 (siu mai): steamed shrimp and pork dumplings.
爽滑捲粉 (song gwat kuen fan) fresh moist folded rice-sheet noodle.
爽滑鮮蝦腸 (sou gwat sin haa cheung) steamed shrimp rice-sheet noodle.
珍寶糯米雞 (tsan pou no mai kai): lotus leaf wrapped glutinous rice and chicken.
珍珠雞 (tsan jyu kai): mini glutinous rice chicken in lotus leaf.
筍尖鮮蝦餃 (sun tsim sin haa gau): shrimp and bamboo tips dumplings.
糯米雞 (no mai kai): lotus leaf wrapped glutinous rice and chicken.
糯米飽 (nuo mai baau): steamed glutinous rice ball with chopped Chinese sausage and mushrooms inside.
腐皮捲 (fu pei kuen): stuffed tofu skin roll.
腐皮海鮮捲 (fu pei hoi sin kuen) beancurd skin seafood roll
腿蓉魚翅餃 (tui yong yu chi gau) minced ham "sharkfin" (ridged) dumpling.
蒜茸蒸魷魚 (suen yong tsing yau yu): steamed squid with garlic.
蒸素粉果 (tsing sou fan gwo): steamed vegetarian dumplings.
蒸蘿蔔糕 (tsing lo bok gou): steamed turnip cake.
薑蔥牛柏葉 (keung tsong ngau bak yip): beef tripe with ginger and scallion.
蘆尖鮮蝦餃 (lou tsim sin haa gau): shrimp and bamboo tips dumplings.
蝦餃 (haa gau): shrimp bonnets.
螢黄燒賣 (ying wong siu mai) pork and crab siu mai
蟹王干蒸燒賣 (hai wong gon tsing siu mai): pork and crab sui mai.
蟹皇鳳眼餃 (hai wong fung ngaan gau) crab roe "phoenix eye" dumpling (top has four vents).
蟹粉小籠包 (hai fan siu lung baau): Shanghai steamed pork and crab meat dumplings
蟹黃蒸燒賣 (hai wong tsing siu mai) pork and crab fat sui mai.
蠔油叉燒飽 (ho yau cha siu bau): steamed charsiu bun flavoured with oyster sauce.
蠔油鮮竹捲 (ho yau sin chuk kuen) oyster sauce meat-stuffed beancurd skin rolls.
豉椒蒸肉排 (si jiu tsing pai gwat): steamed spareribs with black bean sauce.
豉椒蒸鳳爪 (si jiu tsing fung jau): steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce.
豉椒金錢肚 (si chiu kam chin tou) chili and blackbean sauce honeycomb tripe.
豉汁蒸排骨 (si jap tsing pai gwat): steamed spareribs with black bean sauce.
豉汁蒸魚雲 (si jap tsing yu wun): steamed fish head with black bean sauce.
豉汁蒸鳳爪 (si jap tsing fung jau): steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce.
金錢肚  (kam chin tou) honeycomb tripe, usually marinated and steamed.
雞扎 (kai chat): steamed beancurd sheet roll with chicken meat.
雞粒魚翅餃 (kai lahp yu chi gau): chicken shark fin dumplings.
雞絲粉卷 (kai si fan kuen): steamed rice flour roll with shredded chicken.
雞飽仔 (kai bau chai): smaller steamed chicken bun.
香茜牛肉丸 (heung sai ngau yiuk yuen): steamed beef meat balls with coriander.
香茜牛肉球 (heung sai ngau yiuk kau): steamed beef meat balls with coriander.
韭菜餃 (gau choi gaau): chive pockets.
鬆化叉燒酥 (song fa cha siu sou): flaky charsiu roll.
魚卵燒賣 (yu lun siu mai) fish roe siu mai.
魚翅餃 (yu chi gau) the so-called sharkfin dumpling: a large steamed dumpling with a ruffled seam on top that looks like a shark fin rippling through the water.
鮮竹卷 (sin chuk kuen): meat-filled steamed beancurd skin roll.
鮮竹捲 (sin chuk kuen) meat-filled steamed beancurd skin roll.
鮮竹蒸石斑魚球 (sin chuk tsing sek pan yu kau): steamed fish balls.
鮮蝦帶子餃 (sin haa tai ji gau): scallop and shrimp dumplings.
鮮蝦蒸粉粿 (sin haa tsing fan gwo) fresh shrimp steamed translucent skin dumpling.
鮮蝦韮菜餃 (sin haa gau choi gau): steamed chive dumplings.
鮮蝦魚翅餃 (sin haa yu chi gau) minced shrimp "sharkfin" (ridged) dumpling.
鮮蝦鳳眼餃 (sin haa fung ngaan gau) fresh shrimp "phoenix eye" dumpling (top has four vents).
鳳爪 (fung jau): Chicken feet deep fried for texture, boiled for tenderness, sauced, and steamed.
鴨腳扎 (ngaap keuk kuen): steamed beancurd sheet roll with duck feet.
黑椒金錢肚 (hak chiu kam chin tou) black pepper marinated honeycomb tripe
鼓汁蒸肉排 (si jap tsing yiuk paai): steamed spareribs.
鼓汁蒸鳳爪 (si jap tsing fung jau): steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce.

2. 腸粉 (cheung fan)
Steamed rice-sheet noodle roll

叉燒腸粉 (cha siu cheung fan): steamed rice-sheet noodle with charsiu.
海米腸粉 (hoi mei cheung fan): dry shrimp rice sheet noodle.
滑牛腸粉 (gwat ngau cheung fan): beef rice-sheet noodle.
滑鷄絲粉捲 (gwat kai si fan kuen) shredded chicken folded rice-sheet noodle.
潮州糯米卷 (chiu chau no mai kuen) Teochow style glutinous rice rolls.
牛肉腸粉 (ngau yiuk cheung fan): beef rice-sheet noodle.
蒸帶子腸粉 (tsing daai ji cheung fan): steamed rice-sheet noodle with scallops.
蒸羅漢齋腸粉 (tsing lou hon chai cheung fan): vegetarian rice-sheet noodle
豬腸粉捲 (chu cheung fan kuen) fresh moist folded rice-sheet noodle.
香茜腸粉 (heung sai cheung fan): cilantro steamed rice-sheet noodle.
鮮蝦腸粉 (sin haa cheung fan): fresh shrimps rice-sheet noodle.

3. 飽點 (bau dim)
Steamed buns

北菇雞飽仔 (baak gu kai bau chai): chicken bun with dried mushrooms mixed into the filling.
叉燒飽 (cha siu bau): charsiu bun.
大飽 (taai bau): big steamed bun with varied filling.
奶皇飽 (nai wong bau): steamed custard bun.
糯米卷 (no mai kuen): steamed glutinous rice roll.
菜肉飽 (choi yiuk bau): steamed vegetable and meat bun.
蛋黃蓮蓉飽 (dan wong linyong bau) salted egg yolk lotus seed paste steamed bun
豆蓉飽 (dou yong bau) sweetened bean paste bun.

4. 煎點心 (tsin dim sam)
Panfried dim sum

煎腐皮卷 (tsin fu pei kuen): pan fried bean curd sheet roll.
煎腸粉 (tsin cheung fan): pan fried rice-sheet noodle roll.
煎芋頭糕 (tsin wu tau gou): pan fried taro cake.
煎韮菜餅 (tsin gau choi beng): pan fried chive, pork, and shrimp dumplings.
煎馬蹄糕 (tsin ma tai gou): pan fried water chestnut cake.
煎蘿蔔糕 (tsin lo bok gou): pan fried turnip cake.
生炒糯米飯 (sang chau no mai fan): pan fried sticky rice cake.
生煎菜肉飽 (sang tsin choi yiuk bau): pan fried vegetable and meat bun.
生煎鍋貼 (sang tsin gwo tip): pot stickers (see 'Other items, etcetera 其他').
窩貼 (gwo tip): pot stickers (see 'Other items, etcetera 其他').
腊味蘿蔔糕 (laahp mei lo bok gou): pan fried turnip cake with chopped Chinese sausage.
芙蓉荔竽角 (fu yong lai wo gok): velvety fried taro cake.
香煎菜肉鍋貼 (heung tsin choi yiuk gwo tip): pot stickers (see 'Other items, etcetera 其他').
魚肉釀青椒 (yu yiuk yong tsing jiu): fish mince stuffed bell pepper.
鮮蝦韭菜餅 (sin haa gau choi beng): pan fried chive cake.

5. 炸點心 (ja dim sam)
Deep fried dimsum

春卷 (chun kuen): Spring roll.
春捲 (chun kuen): Spring roll.
椒鹽炸雞翼 (jiu yim ja kai yik): salt and pepper fried chicken wings.
炸芋角 (ja wu gok): deep-fried taro puff.
炸蝦多士 (ja haa to si) shrimp toasts.
炸雲吞 (ja wan tan): deep fried wonton.
炸饅頭 (ja man tou): deep fried plain bread bun.
甜酸炸雲吞 (tim suen ja wan tan): deep fried wonton with sweet and sour sauce.
紙包蝦 (ji bau haa): deep fried paper-wrapped shrimp.
素菜春卷 (so choi chun kuen): vegetarian spring roll.
脆皮炸春卷 (chui pei ja chun kuen): flaky crust spring roll.
芋角 (wu gok): deep fried taro dumplings.
蝦膠釀青椒 (haa gau yeung tsing chiu): green bell pepper pieces stuffed with fresh shrimp mince.
酥炸明蝦丸 (sou ja meng haa yuen): deep fried shrimp ball.
酥炸魷魚鬚 (sou ja yau yu sui): deep fried squid tentacles.
酥炸鯪魚球 (sou ja ling yu kau): deep fried minced carp ball.
釀矮瓜 (yeung ngai gwa): stuffed eggplant.
釀茄子(yeung ke ji): stuffed eggplant.
金錢蝦餅 (kam chin haa beng) gold coin shrimp croquettes.
魷魚鬚 (yau yu sou): battered fried squid tentacles.
鮮蝦炸粉果 (sin haa ja fan gwo): deep fried shrimp dumplings.
鹹水角 (haahm sui gok): deep fried sticky dumplings.

6. 甜點心 (tim dim sam)
Sweet dishes

伊士曼凍糕 (yi si man tung gou): sweet jelly cake
喳咋 (ja ja): mixed sweet bean pudding.
奶黃馬拉卷 (nai wong maa laai kuen): steamed custard roll.
小蛋撻 (siu dan taat): egg tart.
時果凍布甸 (si gwo tung pou deng): mango young coconut pudding.
杏仁豆腐 (hang yan dau fu) almond pudding with fruit salad.
椰汁糕 (yeh jap gou) coconut milk gelatin.
椰汁西米露 (yeh jap sai mai lou) coconut sago milk.
椰汁馬豆糕 (ye jap maa dau gou): coconut milk yellow bean pudding.
涼粉 (leung fan) agar-agar, sweetgelatin.
煎堆 (jin dui): sticky dough balls filled with sweet paste, rolled in sesame seeds, then deep fried.
爽滑涼粉 (song gwat leung fan) grass Jelly.
畔塘馬蹄糕 (pun tong maa tai gou): water chestnut cake.
白糖糕 (pak tong gau) white sugar glutinous rice wedge.
紅豆沙 (hong dau sa): sweet red bean dessert soup.
芒果布甸 (mong gwo pou deng): mango pudding.
芝麻卷 (ji ma kuen) black sesame seed paste gelatin roll.
芝麻糊 (ji ma wu) sweet black sesame seed paste soup.
菠蘿奶王飽 (po lo nai wong bau): custard po-lo bun.
蓮蓉飽 (lin yong bau): steamed bun filled with lotus seed paste.
蕃薯糖水 (faan syu tong sui): sweet potato dessert soup.
蜜瓜西米露 (mat gwa sai mai lou) honeydew melon sago milk.
西米布甸 (sai mai pou deng) sago pudding.
豆沙水晶飽 (dau sa sui tsing bau): steamed sago dumplings with red bean paste.
豆腐花 (dau fu fa): silken tofu dessert.
雪酥雞蛋塔 (suut sou kai dan taat): egg custard tart.
香滑芝麻卷 (heung gwat ji ma kuen) black sesame seed paste roll
馬拉糕 (maa laai gou): Malay cake (sponge cake).
鮮奶杏仁捲 (sin nai hang jan) almond milk gelatine roll.
黄糖糕 (wong tong gou) golden sugar glutinous rice wedge.
綠豆沙 (lok dau sa): sweet mung bean dessert soup.
蓮蓉水晶飽 (fu yong sui tsing bau): steamed sago dumplings with lotus seed paste.

7. 其他 (kei ta)
Other items, etcetera

叉燒酥 (cha siu sou): flaky char siu turnover.
咖喱角 (ka lei gok): baked curry beef turnover.
朱古力瑞士卷 (chyu gu lik sui si kuen): Chocolate Swiss roll made with chocolate in the dough and a whipped cream filling.
潮州粉果 (chiu-chau fan guo): A dumpling containing peanuts, garlic, chives, pork, black mushrooms  and dried shrimp, in a thick tang flour skin.
焗叉燒飽 (guk cha siu bau): baked charsiu bun.
牛肉飽 (ngau yiuk bau): beef bun; a popular snack bun made with ground spiced beef filling.
瑞士卷 (sui si kuen): Swiss roll; sheet cake spread with cream and jam, rolled up, and cut in circular slices.
粥 (juk): rice porridge, which is easy on the stomach.
腐皮(fu pei ): tofu skin dried, used to wrap various fillings, then fried and steamed.
腸仔飽 (lahp chai bau): sausage bun; soft dough roll baked with a hot dog inside.
芝麻雞沙律 (ji ma kai sa lut): sesame chicken salad.
菠蘿飽 (po lo bau): so-called pineapple bun. Not flavoured with pineapple, the name refers to the appearance.
豉汁排骨飯 (si jap pai gwat fan): steamed rice with spareribs and black bean sauce.
豉汁鳳爪排骨飯 (si jap fung jau pai gwat fan): steamed rice with spareribs, chicken feet, and black bean sauce.
鍋貼, (gwo tip): Northern Chinese dumpling (jiaozi), first steamed then pan fried. Not really dim sum, but often available at dimsummeries out in the American hinterland.
雞尾飽 (kai mei bau): cocktail bun; sweet dough surrounding a filling of sweetened coconut shreds.
香麻海蜇皮 (heung ma hoi jit pei): marinated jelly fish.
鹹肉粽 (haahm yiuk jung): savoury meat glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaf and steamed.
鹼水粽 (gaan sui jung): gam-sui rice dumplings; lye-water treated glutinous rice confection.
麻香拌海蜇 (ma heung pun hoi jit): marinated jelly fish.
蘿蔔絲酥餅 (lo bok si sou beng): turnip shred flaky pastry.


The student of Cantonese will, after reading this, no doubt be somewhat frustrated.
Why did I represent the sounds with my own idiosyncratic phoneticization, and why are there no tones?
If you tried pronouncing each character correctly and with the right tone, you would sound ridiculously sing-song, and the chances are that no one would understand you anyhow. Thanks to 'tone sandhi' you can run words together somewhat, and more or less ignore the correct tonalism.

Just speak as if you're reciting regulated verse (律詩), alternating oblique and level tones (or level and oblique, as may seem appropriate).
Also, bracket key terms with context, as that will often make perfectly clear what you are saying.
And above all learn how to point - the waitress wheeling around a selection will comprehend that in a flash. She's a trained professional.

Anyway, no one expects a foreigner to speak properly, but they'll be pleased as punch that you enjoy eating the same things.

Oh, and try stuff you've never tasted before.
Always discover something new.

NOTE: updated at 6:45 PM on April 1st, 2012. More stuff, minor edits.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Yesterday's post about a stuffed animal in my apartment gloating about having snagged my favourite sweater prompted one reader to suggest that I am not dealing well with reality.
If that's true, I am in good company.

The reception desk at the office is occupied by a turtle.
A large plush turtle, with a happy grin.
Wearing a sombrero.

I can assure you that the turtle is certainly not dealing well with reality.  His choice of headgear is pure wishful thinking, and is a style statement which leaves a lot to be desired.
It is very objectionable.
For one thing, the San Francisco climate requires hats for warmth, not shade.  So a gay sun-blocker, such as a sombrero, is rather less than useless.  We haven't seen the sun in days, and it seldom ever gets warm enough to justify a straw hat.

If it got warm enough, he's already naked anyway - you cannot buy clothes that would suit a turtle, probably because they (turtles) come in many more sizes as humans, but there are so few of them they do not form a profitable demographic - and therefore he would be already suited to the temperature.  One of us might have to borrow his sombrero.
Although, if I had a choice between nudity and a tacky Chevys birthday sombrero, I would choose to be naked.

The presence of a sombrero on the premises suggests that undress might come to pass.
Nobody wants to see that.
Whether or not I wore the sombrero.

The sombrero is the problem, it has got to go.

I own a lovely dark blue gangster fedora with a broad brim, which is perfect for incidental nakedness.
But hell will freeze over ere I bring it in to the office, no matter the occasion.
That turtle would probably be jealous.  He looks the type.

We do NOT need a hat fight between a naked middle aged man and a turtle.
It may even be against company policy.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Dinner yesterday evening consisted of a pei dan sou, eight thyme biscuits, plus salami and cheese in an appropriate quantity. And a garlic pickle.

Consequently I'm feeling a little, erm, restricted.

But I've realized something marvelous about Asperger-type people.
They voice all their social frustrations by proxy.

Stuffed creatures.

The several teddy bears. The amphibs. The variegated hamster things, and strange sheep.
The 'froad', who is currently wearing MY favourite sweater.

Yeah, my room mate is depressed about her relationship with her boyfriend.
But because the froad ( 'Tyrone Thibbit', equidistant between a frog and a toad) has discovered MY nicest sweater and is happily poncing about in it, all is well with the world.

My sweater!

Darn greenish dude won't give it up.

He ribbits gloatfully as I mouth my dinner.

I chew the crumbs of the pei dan sou pensively.

As I eat, I hear a giggle.

As if from the other room.

But he's right next to me.

How can this be?

My sweater!


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Monday, March 26, 2012


Shan’t say where it is other than to state that it is in Chinatown, nor will I name it in this post.
Reason being that what I describe might predispose you against going there.
Suffice to say that it is much good.  Much much good.


The business has been around for years.  I hadn't eaten there in long time, so on a whim I went inside.
Except for a squalling foreign brat and his parents, and a very pretty girl eating lunch with her grand dad, I was the youngest person there.
Which is unusual.
Everyone else was retirement age, and some of them approached the hoary antiquity of the fossil record.
Geezers contentedly chowing down on some excellent dimsum.  In between bouts of coughing.
Some of them were absolute masters of the tussive arts.  Hack, haaack, hewk!
It was that characteristic joy at esophageal expulsis which many Cantonese oldsters evince that set their symphony apart.
Heart and soul went into their throat sounds.  Possibly also bits of lung.  Or is that pork mince?
A few, undoubtedly, had been chainsmokers for years.  Others were merely reacting to a coating of grease inside their throats after having eaten too many juicy tidbits.
Evidence, one might say, of great pleasure.

The food is that good. Yes.
The tables are wiped regularly, and far enough apart that startling eruptions from other diners should be no cause for alarm.  They are, in any case, alive. There's audible proof.
The walls have that old-timey somewhat barebones institutional look, but there's a warmth to the place, and it is comfortable.
The people who run it are decent home-town folks who are proud of what they do.
Their food is pretty darn good.

While I was sitting at my table digesting, swilling down buckets of pu-erh tea, and filling my pipe, one of the local eccentrics came in. At first I thought he was barking (as in 'barking mad'), then I realized that he was actually roaring out a conversation in Cantonese with the owner.
What made it remarkable was that he was quite clearly a big hairy white man.
That makes two Caucasians in the same place who speak Cantonese. What are the chances of that?
Some of the old age pensioners at this point had delighted looks on their faces.
It isn't often that one gets a freak show with lunch.
Time for more happy coughing!

I'll definitely put this eatery in my ambit.

According to the oh so knowledgeable experts on YELP, the restaurant is "a crappy, dirty, smelly Chinese hole", "small, cramped", and "hard to talk to the wait-staff, unless you know Cantonese".
Service is minimal, they say, but I had no cause to complain.
The stuffed eggplant, ha gau, siu mai, and spare ribs are justifiably well regarded.
Likewise the meatballs, homemade hot sauce, and ham sui gok.
Plus the phoenix claws are beautiful.

What I had to accompany my pot of po-nay tsa was mashed shrimp in green bell pepper wedges and a plate of tofu skin rolls filled with meat and waterchestnuts.
Both were exceptionally flavourful and juicy.
The ambiance suits me just fine.
Hrack, cough, hurk.


點心 (dim sam) small dishes enjoyed morning to early afternoon at a tea house.  釀茄子, 釀矮瓜 (yeung ke ji, yeung ngai gwa) stuffed eggplant.  蝦餃 (haa gau) shrimp bonnets.  燒賣 (siu maai) steamed pork and shrimp dumplings.  排骨 (pai gwat) spareribs.  牛肉球 (ngau yiuk kau) meat ball.  辣醬 (laat jeung) hot sauce.  鹹水角 (haahm sui gok) fried sticky dumplings.  鳳爪 (fung jau) phoenix claws.  普洱茶 (po-nay tsa) pu-erh tea; a darkened tea fermented after full drying and compressing, excellent for the digestion when indulging in rich greasy foods, and considered mildly tonic.  蝦膠釀青椒 (haa gau yeung tsing chiu) green bell pepper pieces stuffed with fresh shrimp mince.  馬蹄 (ma tai) water chestnuts.  腐皮捲 (fu pei kuen) stuffed tofu skin roll.  氣氛 (hei fan) ambiance.  (kat) cough.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012


No matter how much I try, I just cannot look avuncular.  This was brought home to me several weeks ago when a woman at a bar was telling me about her favourite uncle, who in some ways resembled me.  Same build, same flat stomach (holding it in, yes), same (and I quote) "pointy features".
As well as a pipe.

But unlike me, she took pains to add, he was an old man, being already forty seven.
At his advanced age, smoking a pipe looked suitable and proper.
Whereas on me it looked like an affectation.

[Of course, in broad daylight the silver in my beard is visible, as well as the salt and pepper in my hair.  This is different from bars, where the lighting is usually that bad that all of us look much younger.]

Ma'am, you're much too kind. Let me be the first to NOT inform anyone that I'm fifty two.
In fact, we shan't even mention anyone's age at all anymore.
It's immaterial, as I'm full of piss and vinegar.
And you are extremely young.
High school, is it?

Part of the problem is that I look like a bright-eyed forest creature.
Part of it is that I resemble Charlie Sheen.
Or so I've been told.

Admittedly the couple who thought so knew me many years ago, and may have been addled by alcohol or 'substances', but at that time it was sufficient reason for them to stalk me at the places where I had coffee in the evening for several months.
They were rather charming in their obsession.
Nuts, but charming.

Personally I've never understood the resemblance, or what either of them saw in Charlie Sheen.
Instead, I think that I look half-way between Chow Yunfat and Andy Lau.
If both men were Caucasian, instead of Chinese.
And had little beards.


Recently I was smoking my pipe underneath an overhang on Stockton Street, near a transit stop.  Several lively little girls were there too, with their mothers, waiting for the bus.  Normally I pay other people of whatever size little mind unless they speak to me, but these children came darn close to demanding my attention.
Without any of them realizing it in the slightest.
For one thing, they all wore riotously colourful rain slickers and brightly hued gumboots.  For another, they were happily splashing around and gesticulating with their Hello Kitty umbrellas.  Well, except for one little tyke with a Spiderman umbrella.
Totally energetic.  And veering perilously close with their spiky things.
An eye-catching girlish cuteness overload.
Rambunctious and armed.

At one point one of them careened into me, and was promptly told by her mom to stop horsing around and say 'sorry' to that Ah Sook.
That Ah Sook being me.  Ah Sook being what you call someone male of respectable age.
The girl looked up and whispered 'sorry', then quickly looked away.
I guess I just don't look avuncular enough even to her.
The correct phrasing should have been "sorry, uncle".
But I'm hoping she was still too young to know how to say "Ah Sook" in English.
Or whatever she assumed that pipe-smoking forest-critters speak.

If anyone is going to crash into me, it might as well be charming little girls.
They're far too small to do any damage.

Unfortunately, they're also too young to know who Chow Yunfat and Andy Lau are, so they can't see the likeness.
And I do not think I look like Charlie Sheen, who is addled by alcohol or 'substances'.
Instead, more like a kindly forest creature.
With pointy features.

Remember, that's Chow Yunfat and Andy Lau, not Charlie Sheen.
Who has a lantern jaw and far too many "bad hair" days.
No one in their right mind should call him 'uncle'.

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Eating by myself, as being a bachelor I often do, I get to listen in on other diners.  Yesterday, for instance.
Some of the people around me were not enjoying their food, and largely in consequence I thoroughly enjoyed mine.
No, not because I'm a sadist. It was because of the contrast.
I have no clue how most Americans ever dine with their nearest and dearest.

Why do people decide to start trouble at the table?  What is it that drives them to make a shared meal a miserable experience for the other folks sitting down with them?
And why on earth do it in a restaurant?

Example ONE
A couple next to me, who appeared to be in a relationship of at least several months standing.
He didn't like the food (she had ordered), and in consequence he talked.
Rehashing matters that should have been dropped long ago.
Eventually the woman asked the waitress for four boxes, so that the uneaten food could be taken home.
Adding insult to injury, the clod she was with let her pay.

Example TWO
Parents and their three children.  Two of the children were crying, the third child spent most of the time gloating.  My sympathy is with the two younger ones, and with no one else at that table.  The only attention the parents gave the two unhappy children was to order them to eat more in a tone of voice that said "we paid for this and you little brats had better appreciate it".
Flavoured with a hint of "just WAIT until we get home".
The oldest had cleaned his plate, and was probably looking forward to the prospect of seeing his siblings verbally abused back at the ranch.  He'll probably grow up to excel in sports.
Some people should not dine out.  Not if they're going to order too much, and force children to eat stuff they don't like.

Example THREE
An elderly couple talking about their kinfolk.  Not WITH each other, but AT each other.  They took delight in recounting tales of relative horror, except that they were so good at it that they were both grim and sour by the time they finished their meal.
All in a spirit of rivalry and complaint-competitiveness.
They left most of their food untouched.
It was probably jealousy that ruined their appetite.

You can understand, I hope, why all this made my own meal so much better.  Not only was it amusing to be surrounded by so much theatre, but as there was no one at my table whining, wailing, grumbling, or yentaing about everything wrong with the world or with me, I felt like I was enfolded within a halo of warm sunshine.
This bitter melon is positively sweet!
And the fish! Very very fresh! More hot sauce!
Even when I wasn't single, stuff like that never happened.
Whether you're eating alone or with someone else, dinner should be nice.

I really feel sorry for the young lady at the next table with her young man.  They had quite an array of dishes in front of them, and it was very clear that she had been looking forward to eating at the restaurant with her friend so that they could try out all the fascinating items on the menu.  And it really should have been a wonderful meal.  Except that her companion was, it turns out, a dickwad.
Clay pot dishes!  and beautiful soups!  Sweet little appetizers!
Meaty things on a bed of crispy greens. And tea!  Yummy!
How sad that he wasn't capable of getting past his hang-ups.

And how unutterably ungentlemanly of him to let his distaste shine through, and then as a conversational gambit bring up matters which should not be mentioned when someone has a just bit into something scrumptious.
It is such a passive aggressive way to be vengeful and selfish.
More so as it must have turned that marvelous morsel into ashes in her mouth.
She grew quieter as time progressed, chewing slower and slower, and saying less and less.

What should have been a lovely meal clearly became something else.
Had I been her, I would've clopped him a good one upside his head.
Afterwards, of course.  One must always act like a lady in public.


I ate very well indeed. Soup, fish & bittermelon with rice, strong hot milk tea.
Followed by a bowlfull of McLelland's no. 24 Matured Virginia Tobacco in a prewar Peterson.
Halfway through my pipe I decided to drop by Yummy Bakery afterwards, so I dawdled on Grant Avenue for a while to finish smoking.
Salted egg puffs, preserved egg turnovers, wife cakes, polobau with a cream custard filling, and a yiuksongbau. Plus one or two other things.  No, not all for me.
I just had a salted egg puff and a wife cake before heading to the Occidental last night.
Everything else was for my roommate's breakfast.
I like to treat her on occasion.
It's fun to share food.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012


This may be the last rain of the season. And, given that it isn't a summer rain - which we never have in San Francisco, indeed, we shall not skip through the fragrant grass in our pretty summer frocks while warm droplets bejewel our dewy visage - the best course of action early in the morning seemed to roll over and go back to sleep. Half an hour later I went into the kitchen to fix myself a hot cup tea with milk and sugar, then went back to bed.

An hour later I woke up refreshed, ready for the day. Which meant another cup of tea, and back to bed with a book chosen at semi-random from the shelves.
The 'Complete Yes Minister', detailing the events of a fictitious government minister heading the Department of Administrative Affairs in England, the Permanent Secretary, and the minister's Principal Private Secretary.

The television series was very witty. My father and his wife introduced it to me when I visited them in the last year of my father's life. They had taped the episodes for re-watching.
The book is, if anything, a darker more intense experience.
It is the perfect handbook for anyone trying to deal with modern life. Everything bureaucratese is made plain and cynically thrown into perspective. In a word, it is a vademecum for the office worker and the junior technocrat alike.
It is also very witty.


Feeling somewhat esurient by mid-afternoon, I got dressed and headed out into the damp. On the bus over the hill towards snackipoos, I was seated behind two young women.
My ears perked up when one of them said "sex is a pain in the ass!"
Nope, no idea what lead into that remark. Hadn't been paying attention till then.
Lost in my own 'Sir Humphrey Appleby-like' thoughts.

First thing that came to mind was 'my dear, if it's a pain in the ass, you're doing it all wrong!'


Seriously. Sex should NOT be a pain in the ass. It should be a warm comfy smiling experience, perhaps messy, sweaty even, followed by a happy glow, a nap, and several cups of tea. It should be fun. Go out together for something to eat later. Maybe some nice Thai food, or an Indonesian ryst tafel.
Or have plenty tea and hot buttery scones while still en deshabille.
With or without sex preceding or following.
Just cuddling is okay.

If sex is a 'pain' in any part of your anatomy, there may be more going on than meets the eye, and far less to your relationship than you would wish.

Perhaps not enough tea?

Either learn to communicate better, or consider an alternative mode of physical pleasure.
Try gourmandise, or touch football.
Both of those work for certain people, of either gender.
Or simply collect expensive designer handbags, and watch the ball game on teevee.
Both of those also work for certain people, of either gender.

Sex is roughly five percent technique, and ninety plus percent inspiration. Without the latter, you are spinning your wheels.
Well, something. But there has to be a motivated personal involvement.

When I got off the bus I was still deep in thought. Ended up not having snackipoos, but a full meal instead.
Plus several cups of milk tea.

In a short while I shall be going to the Occidental to smoke my pipe and daydream.
There are no cups of tea there. And consequently I will not think of sex.


Literally 'rice table', and considered the quintessential Indonesian meal.  Which it isn't.
The term names a long late lunch or early dinner in the Dutch East Indies among the planter class, when many people would get together to socialize and eat. A multitude of dishes, with appropriate condiments, and rice. Yes, it was based on the local food - primarily the village feasts - but as the attendees came from different regional backgrounds, and the host no matter his or her origin held to the concept that there should be enough for everybody, and a variety sufficient to satisfy everyone, these meals became gigantic affairs with dishes from all over the archipelago, with sides and condiments that also reflected that diversity.

In the final years of the colonial period many hotels and fancy restaurants turned the ryst tafel into ponderous spectacular affairs. It was, after all, an opportunity for colonials out in the hinterlands to spend some time in town, put on the dog, and get away from the dreariness of their isolation.

In the Netherlands the ryst tafel has become a sampling of many dishes shared among a group of diners at an Indonesian restaurant. For people who do not know much about the cuisine it is the perfect way to discover new tastes, and the restaurant staff will happily recommend set menus and explain what the foods are.

But always, rice. Plain white rice. It is the basis of a meal.

A wet coconut curry (gulai), a dry curry (kerrie), a thick-sauced meat dish (opor, korma, kalio, or rendang), plus various vegetable dishes with sauces based on coconut milk, or peanut-sauce, or tamarind.
Something from the ocean, blanched vegetables with chilies and shrimp-paste, a green cooked soft in a rich sauce (sayur lodeh), mixed dishes stirfried with chili paste and other things (sambal goreng), plus small condimental sides such as atjar (spicy pickles), asinan (wet dressed chopped salad), petjil (spicy salad with shrimp-paste and crumbled peanuts), patjeri (a sweet spicy dish that resembles a cooked pickle of sorts, often with coconut milk in the sauce), kroepoek (kropek; shrimp chips and similar items), seroendeng (serunding; mild-spiced toasted shredded coconut or other things with often peanuts added).
And, of course, that most typical of Dutch desserts, pisang goreng (fried banana).

For a party of four or five people, three or four dishes plus rice and soup is plenty. Your tastebuds won't get overwhelmed, and with two or three sambals (chili preparations) along with something crisp-spicy-crunchy, it's still a feast.
Avoid the pisang goreng afterwards.
Follow dinner with a shot of espresso or cardamom coffee, and a cigar.

Perfect rainy day food.
In case you were wondering.

If it's still around, Restaurant Poentjak Pas on the Nassau Kade near the Second Helmer Street in Amsterdam is an excellent place for a ryst tafel. There's also a place around the corner on the Overtoom (Restaurant Kartika), which does good Indonesian food. And not too far away, on the Spui, is a business that does the antique ambiance very well - Kantjil en de Tijger.
But the best Indo food is in Den Haag.
Kota Radja.

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Friday, March 23, 2012


In paintings that show the Garden of Eden, the apple represents the fruit that the serpent persuaded Eve to eat.  Round, red, almost evil looking.  Often she is shown offering a bite to Adam, both of them with either bemused or wicked looks upon their faces.

The modern Hebrew word for apple, however, anciently probably meant apricot.
As in “comfort me with apricots, for I am sick with love”.

Neither one was widespread several millennia ago.

It is consequently not at all unlikely that the original fruit of sin was the banana.


Several weeks ago one of the people who works at a café in North Beach discovered a perfect banana in the women’s room.  Once his mind had digested this surprising find he started giggling uncontrollably.
And understandably so – why would anyone bring a banana to the crapper?
Who does that?

Obviously a very paranoid woman. 

Instead of leaving her banana on her table, next to her tasty coffee drink, she hurriedly gulps down the last of the beverage and stuffs the banana under her arm or between her breasts, thinking “if I leave it here, one of these evil people will steal it”.
Or utter curses over it, or even use it for dark magic.
The point is that she knows, she’s convinced, that unspeakable acts will be done with her banana if she does not have it with her at all times.

A banana should never be involved in unspeakable acts.

Which is why it ended up in the bathroom. 

Unpeeled bananas feel quite different than bananas that are naked.  There are ridges and a hard knob at the end, along with a vestigial stem opposite.
The disrobed fruit is smooth, soft and velvety, and has veins that can be removed. The surface texture would feel marvelous to the fingers, except that it is moist and bruises easily.
Not so when you stick it in your mouth, however, it feels fine then.

Bananas are not entirely suitable for fruit salad.  They are best on their own.  Less likely to go gooey.
Some people prefer them greenish – a harder banana – and some like them overripe.
Personally I’ve always thought that softened bananas are truly degenerate.
I'd never commit anything nasty with a banana past its prime.
Anyone doing so is in fact unimaginable.
They’re too squishy.

I must therefore conclude that the woman in question went into the bathroom with a very firm banana, a prize specimen of full fruity bananahood.
A good plump banana, that other women could be mighty jealous of.
But just leaving it there afterwards is inexplicable.
Females baffle me.

The man who found it in the woman’s room is an Indonesian (hence the terms ‘pisang’ and ‘kakus’).
I wouldn’t be surprised if he could imagine unspeakable acts with a banana.
He’s got an active and fevered mind. A rich imagination.
And a knowing familiarity with bananas.

Personally I’ve always preferred peaches, pears, plums, and apricots.
There’s something sensuous about certain fruits.
Plump, firm. Smooth. Juicy.
It’s sinful.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012


Recent research has shown that there is a direct correlation between what people wear and how happy or self-confident they are.
I shan't cite the source, because I can no longer remember where I read it, but it applied mostly to women, and specifically stated that blue-jeans indicated emotional frailty and low self-esteem.
Conversely, wearing a hat showed happiness and contentment.

There is a direct correlation between wearing clothes and happiness.
In public.
Most of us can't feel truly happy outside if we're naked.
Especially in San Francisco.
Not when it's less than fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

Even with a hat.

Other than that, I'm not sure that the author mentioning the research understood the causal relationship.  Wearing clothes indicates primarily that one wishes to pass among strangers without offense or embarrassment. The blue-jeans may be the only pants that fit, and the hat more often than not has something to do with the head.
I'm just guessing here, but it's an educated guess.

If I were the only person naked, I probably wouldn't be too happy.
Unless I was alone.
Or there was another person equally disgarbed, and no one else.

Nudity among the multitude has scant appeal.
In a crowd of people, wearing clothes seems advisable.
A happy hat is a splendid choice, but it cannot stand on its own.

It's different at home.
Being bare can be pleasant alone.
But it's much more fun with another person.

Hats are optional at that point.
But soft fuzzy blankets, OR cups of tea, are not.
Try it; you'll be surprised how much you like bare skin and warmth.

I suggest a strong black tea with milk and sugar.
It is indeed extremely nice. Milk tea: potent pleasure.
Caffeine and company.  That is the true recipe for happiness.
The warm fuzzy blankets boost self-confidence.
Feel free to twiddle your toes.
While wearing a hat.

You really do not need a hat, but it adds a note of gaiety to the event.
I have a dashing fedora for precisely such occasions.
As well as a selection of fine teas.

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A few weeks ago I was at an event which Greg Pease also attended.
He had brought a sample of his latest blend, and several of us dove in happily.
After smoking several bowls in quick succession, I asked for the rest of the tin.
I am greedy and an opportunist at times, as well as a cheapskate Dutchman.
This was too good to pass up.

It's like smoking an orgasm.

Excellent stuff.

I've smoked many more bowls from the liberated stash since then.
And gloated to the Porpoise that it is good.
Really really good.

[The Porpoise is one of the other local pipe smokers.  Not a real cetacean, please understand.  And no one has ever seen him swimming in the bay, although David at the wall claims that he found him making dolphin-like noises.]

A woman I shared some with likened it to filet mignon.
Her eyes closed while she smoked.
Utter bliss.

[She's already happily married (and a cigar smoker to boot), so don't get any ideas.]

Latakia and a number of other tobaccos, including something with a somewhat high nicotine content. Rich and lovely, and very satisfying.


"A classic mixture harmoniously interwoven with a Navy flake. Ripe Virginia tobaccos, Cypriot Latakia, fine Orientals, and a touch of dark-fired Kentucky leaf, infused with a hint of dark rum, then gently pressed, matured, and sliced. Rich, bold and satisfying. "

This presents a marvelous smell when you open the container.  Deep, dark, and riotously vegetal.
The smokiness is complex but by no means overpowering.  This is not a Latakia dump - I have my own ideas about the percentage - but it will make most Latakia smokers happy, along with a very great number of people who veer towards a broader spectrum of tobaccos than just English blends.
It is smooth, but not bland.
The nose-whiff is hard to describe.  Chocolate plum pudding, slightly burnt?  Grilled meat with a dab of sauce?  Chilies drying in the sun?  Old fashioned red-coloured carnauba wood polish?  A peaty single malt?
Something nice in the kitchen?
All of these.
Spring, summer, and autumn all together.

No, I shan't say what I think the leaf components are, nor in what proportion.  Primarily because with a product like this I'm bound to be wrong.  After making the smoker happy, it renders down to a velvety ash.

I do not know if it will age nicely, but I think it will.
Placing an order for ten tins with Cornell & Diehl.
Then pressuring the local tobacconist to stock up.


No idea whether my roommate will notice if I smoke this in the teevee room late at night.  If she does, she'll probably think I did something wicked in there.  Especially when she catches the grin on my face.
A knowing self-satisfied smirk, nay, a veritable gloat.
I ate the canary.  I also stole the smoked salmon.
And I found out where you hid the catnip.
The cream is gone too. All of it.
This is excellent tobacco.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Usually I get off the bus at Stockton and Clay Streets, along with a massive discorgement of other people. That corner sees more transitees than almost any other. 
What I do at that point is immediately look for something to eat.
Perhaps you do too?
It’s a good central locus from which to spread out hunting for lunch.
Which, of course, is one of the main reasons why we're here.
There are a number of places in the neighborhood where I like to go.
I shall not pretend that they are the very best - you probably have your own favourites and will disagree with my likes - but they appeal to me for a variety of different reasons.
One of which is that I’ve eaten there so often they’re like my living room.
Another is a fondness for the food and the people.

Here’s a short list.


815 Stockton Street, between Clay and Sacramento.
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-399-1511
[Fook Cheung Dim-sam]

Small snack place with three tables, and not a huge variety of items by noon.  Most of their business is early in the morning, but there are locals who drop by for a quick lunch of rice porridge (粥 juk) or soup.
I like the chicken buns (雞包 gai bau) and the fresh shrimp rice sheet-noodle (鮮蝦腸粉 sin haa cheung fan), but their fried glutinous rice dough sesame balls (煎堆 jin dui) are also very good, especially when new and warm. It's a good place to sit observing the foot-traffic on the street out in front and listen in on the conversations between the owners and the customers - it attracts people who do not speak the same languages as the staff, in addition to Toishan speakers.
Nice snacks tend to do that.
Attract people.


930 Stockton Street, between Clay and Washington
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-308-3819, 415-828-0856, 415-986-2783
[Kam Wa Dim-sam Faai Tsan]

Deep and narrow, with a selection of dimsum and bakery items in the counter cases.  Basically a canteen, but one with some excellent stuff.  Good for people-watching, too.
The fresh cilantro rice sheet-noodle (香茜腸粉 heung sai cheung fan) is beautiful and fragrant, and they make some delicious lunch items: glutinous rice with chicken in a lotus leaf (糯米雞 lo mai gai) and black bean spare rib steamed rice (豆豉排骨蒸飯 dau si pai gwat tsing fan).


839 Clay Street between Waverly Place and Hang Ah Alley
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-397-6269
[King To Tsan-kwun]

The salt and pepper chicken wings are well known, but the main reason to go here is because it's one of the very few old-style places left with counter-seating. If you've been around Chinatown a while you recognize the kind of place. Homey, comfortable, decent food and decent service at a decent price. Their rice plates are good.
I frequently have the fish and fresh vegetables over rice (菜遠蘢利魚飯).
During the afternoon it's a nice quiet place to eat.


139 Waverly Place, between Clay and Washington
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-956-2902
[Sam Mun-yi Juk]

Hahm yu yiuk bing pochai fan (鹹魚肉餅煲仔飯), am-tseung pochai fan (鵪春煲仔飯), sang-gwan gaptai jook (生滚及弟粥), siu-ngaap wantan mien (燒鴨雲吞麵), leung-gwa pan kau fan (涼瓜斑球飯).
A brightly lit bustling place with good food and a happy atmosphere. Very Hong Kong.
Normally I simply order the bitter melon and fish rice plate, with some hot milk tea (香港奶茶 heung kong nai cha).
I'm keen to try their other stuff, but as I usually eat alone, it might be a bit much.
Their Fukien Fried Rice is good, but needs another person.


848 Washington Street, between Stockton and Grant, Corner of Ross Alley
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-296-8228
[Saam-Yeung Ka-fei Tsan-ok]

A plethora of noodly stuff, Vietnamese Chinese dishes, and well-known stir-fry choices.  Plus interesting chilled drinks, Vietnamese coffee (越南咖啡 Yuet Naam kafei), and cold milk tea (凍紅茶奶 tung hong-cha nai).
A large enough menu that everyone can be happy.
If you're by yourself, order the rice stick noodles in broth with grilled pork (燒猪肉河粉 siu chü yiuk ho fan) and Vietnamese coffee.
Use half the ice from the glass meant for the coffee in order to cool the soup, so that you don't scald your lips.
Then cut up the grilled pork to chopstickable size, and mix Sriracha hotsauce, hoisin sauce, and chili oil for dipping.
Pour the finished coffee into the now severely reduced glass of ice.
And dig in with soup spoon and chopsticks.


710 Kearny Street, between Clay Street and the Hilton Hotel
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-981-0531
[Tzoi Hing Wong Mo Kai Fan]

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup: phở gà.  A big bowl of superior broth, rice stick noodles, chicken shreds, scallion, cilantro, slivered red onion.  Plus Vietnamese ice-coffee.
They also have a menu filled with other things.  But the chicken stock is outstanding.


640 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-982-0618
[Seung-Hoi Fan-diem]

Garlic chives dumplings (韭菜豬肉水餃 gau tsoi chu yiuk sui gaau).  With hot sauce.
Perfect snack.  Perfect for one person.  Perfect on a cold night.
Oh yeah. Other stuff too.  They're a Shanghainese restaurant, and they make good food.
I think this might be a perfect place to take someone adventurous sometime.


779 Clay Street, just below Grant
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-398-7918
[Wah-Kee Siu-kwun]

A classic quick and satisfying soup dish: salted snow cabbage and pork shreds in broth with noodles (雪菜肉絲湯米粉 suut tsoi yiuk si tong mai fan).  Yes, they also have other things, and it's a nice small cozy restaurant.  Good food.
A lovely destination for a date with a small feminine person.
Not that that has ever happened.


601 Kearny Street, at the corner of Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-397-3455
[Bo Ma Hoi-sin Tsan-teng]

Basically a weekday lunch place, but they're open till nine at night. The food is honest, but not exceptional. These are decent people providing a decent product.
I'm rather fond of this place. It does something for me, and I like the people who run it.
What I usually get is the steamed pork patty with salt fish (鹹魚蒸肉餅 haahm yu tsing yiuk bing) or an order of stir-fried kailan with fish curls (蘭芯斑球 lan sam pan kau), and a bowl of rice.
Simple, and delicious.


732 Jackson Street, between Stockton and Grant
San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-986-3759. ]
[Yong Gei Gou Fan Diem]

I've only had their big chicken buns once or twice.
But I purely love their salt egg in a flaky pastry crust (鹹蛋酥 haahm dan sou).


607 Jackson Street, between Grant and Kearney
San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-989-8388
[Yan Yam Sai-bing Min-bau]

Probably the best wife cake (老婆餅lo poh beng) in San Francisco.  They also do good pineapple buns (菠蘿包 bo lo bau) and absolutely scrumptious preserved egg flakies (蛋黃酥 pei dan sou), plus a variety of interesting and tasty Hong Kong style bakery items.
Clean, bright, comfy, and small.  Pleasant to stay a while, listening to tourists desperately trying to figure out what the various delicious offerings are.


720 Grant Avenue at the corner of Commercial Alley
San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-433-7973
[Tung Ah Bing Ga]

Coffee crunch cake, pies, all the usual Chinatown bakery items, and excellent mooncakes during the season.
This place has been around forever.
I am very fond of their red bean pastries (豆沙餠 dau sa bing) and lotus seed pastries (莲蓉餠 lienyong bing).

Well, that's twelve places.
Please let me know what your favourites are.
And whether you object to the smell of a pipe afterwards.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Under a recent post about travelling to the Netherlands, someone left a comment which the more I think about it, the more it intrigues me.

"Sounds good, when are we going?"

That depends entirely on you.
If you are a personable young lady with taste, discernment, and a fondness for middle-aged pipe smokers, it could be really soon.

Especially if you're small, snarky, and dark-haired.

Amsterdam is a perfect place to get to know each other. And this time of year the flowers are coming into bloom.
It is really is lovely there in March and April.


One of my favourite haunts in Mokum Alef (the nickname for Amsterdam) is the Atheneum Bookstore on the Spui square, as well as nearby places for coffee or food. 
I used to enjoy the Cafe Luxembourg (across the street on the right hand side), but one incident persuaded me that better hale could be sought elsewhere.

I had happily breezed on in, pleased with recent purchases at the bookmarket that is held every Friday, and expecting to spend some time over coffee fondling my livres nouveau. 
But the only member of the staff who appeared to be working at the time was far too busy talking with a companion to be bothered with something so trivial as serving customers.
After patiently waiting for ten minutes, I caught her I eye and nodded, indicating that maybe, possibly, in the fullness of time, a hot liquid might be desired.  After her friend finally left, she came over to my table and snapped: "Zo! Heeft u niet gezien dat ik bezig ben met een andere klant?!?" ('so, did you not observe that I'm busy with someone else?').

The other wait persons in the vicinity were in no way inclined to do any work. They were far too animatedly yacking among themselves to inspire confidence in their ability to serve even an empty cup, let alone one filled with a refreshingly bitter hot beverage. 
They might have flung it at me if pressed.

Without a word I turned around and left.  Went to the Cafe Beiaard around the corner (address: Spui 30), where the staff is friendly, capable, and keenly tends to business.

The Cafe Luxembourg has prestige, and radiates tradition.  But they  hire snott-wads who merely pocket their salary (service included - bediening inklusief) and radiate disdain.

"Heeft u niet gezien dat ik bezig ben met een andere klant?"

Again, if you want a cup of coffee and a cookie in a pleasant hospitable place, do NOT go to the Luxembourg, but head around the corner.
Cafe Beiaard, Spui 30, Amsterdam. 
Their coffee is much better.

Claesje Claes just off the square in the other direction has lovely smoked fresh-water eel from the Ysselmeer ('Zuider Zee'), by the way.  Plus a wonderful seafood chowder built on a fundament of tomatoes.  I sincerely hope that they are still around.


Not too far away from the Atheneum is another bookstore that should be visited, on the Koning's Plein ('King's Square').
Scheltema-Holkema-Vermeuelen.  Corner of the Leidschegracht and the Heerengracht. 
It is only two blocks from the Spui Plein ('Spew Square').

A slight detour will bring you to the flower market along the Singel, between the Koning's Plein and the Heilige Weg ('holy road'). On a rainy day the fragrances and colours are enchanting.

Near the university, you will find a passage through the buildings named the Oudemanhuis Poort ('Old Man House Gate'). Within its sanctuary a number of booksellers have stalled out their wares and you can spend an hour or two browsing, OR you can go out to the Kloveniers Burgwal and turn left, go down a bit to the small bookstore that specializes in poetry - yes, there is Dutch verse, and after more than six centuries of wide-spread literacy there is quite a lot which is stellar - and ponder rhymes.

A decade ago I purchased two volumes of sonnets by Jean-Pierre Rawie, a modern Dutch poet whose work I particularly like.  I've met him, but other than sparkly eyes and a friendly sense of humour I do not recall much about him.  Darkish hair, I think, spectacles, and average height.
But I may be confusing him with a version of myself.

Judging by what's available here in San Francisco at City Lights Bookstore, his writings must be harder to translate into English than the very meaningful stuff by Jules Deelder. 
That is to say, Rawie is not available, Deelder is lauded. 

In addition to Dutch literature, a vast selection of English-language books is available in Amsterdam. All the classics, though you may have quite a search for the Romantic Poets, plus modern English and American literature.  A fair amount has also been put into into Dutch, especially Science-Fiction. 
Some Dutch literature has been translated into English, though one should be wary of the ability of Dutchmen to do justice to the material in a foreign tongue - too often they're still thinking in Dutch.  The results may be less than trumpet-worthy.
Whatever translations from modern Dutch the 'Beat' intellectuals in North Beach do should be utterly distrusted.  Creatively using a dictionary, and interviewing the poet while wearing a beret, does NOT qualify.


Food: Eat Indonesian while you're there.
Kambing dengan ketjap (lamb in a soy sauce liquor), kambing bakar (similar to the previous), sayur lodeh (vegetables cooked soft in coconut milk), gulai buntjis (stringbeans in a mild curry), soto ayam (a luxurious chicken soup with vegetables and textural additions), sate kambing (grilled little lamb skewers), ikan bumbu bali (fish crusted with gingery earthy spices), nasi kuning (festive yellow rice), perkedel (small meat and potato fritters), kepiting bumbu lada (chili sauce crab), semur babi (stewed pork Indonesian-Chinese style), opor ayam (chicken poached in coconut milk), gudeg (jackfruit chunks cooked in coconut cream), daging lembu di guling (beef rolls in a sauce of coconut and tomato), sambal goreng udang (shrimp stirfried with chilipaste), ketoprak........
Lovely small spicy dishes by candlelight, semi private.

Also have the excellent Dutch herring, big buckets of mussels, Surinamese sandwiches from Warung Swietie just off the Albert Kuyp market.  For fried snacky things, eat at FeBo. 
Plus gasak fine dimsum in the area around the Binnen Bantammer Street.
What's a vacation without dimsum?


Amsterdam is a wonderful place for just two people.  There's something about a good walking city with lovely tree-lined streets and canals that stimulates lively impulses, and because this is not a place which is full of itself, it is far more conducive to interludes of carefree romance than other places.  It just feels so comfortable being there. 
Twixt 'gezellig' (cozy) and 'senang' (happy, contented).
Time goes by too fast, and before you know it you must depart. 
But plan on going back again.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


While heading home the other evening I overheard a scrap of conversation that set me smiling. The person making the statement was speaking to two male friends.

"You two make such a cute couple, what do you need a woman for anyway?"

Indeed they did make a cute couple. They accepted the compliment with good graces.
I happen to be acquainted with both of them. They're heterosexual.
But it's a valid question. What do they need a woman for anyway?

Neither one of them would especially benefit from having a woman take over their life and forcefully impose order on what may seem like chaos. They're both fairly happy, and like most men perfectly so when women aren't around.
They eat together regularly, and I've heard them animatedly discussing movies, sports, and politics.
My experience is that you can only mention the first of those subjects with most women.
Yes, there are exceptions. Perhaps even many.
But not enough to make a difference.

"What do you need a woman for anyway?"

I rarely talk about movies. Firstly because I don't go to movies much anymore - there usually isn't anything worth seeing, and the ambient noise in a theatre makes it impossible to hear everything - and secondly because my taste in movies does not accord with the crap that Hollywood churns out.
I miss the Hong Kong cinema of the eighties. The idiosyncratic subtitling, the riotous cross-referencing of other movies, the fast-paced plot lines. And especially the directors, actors, and actresses, who were all too busy slapping together films to take themselves seriously.

I do not discuss sports.

And there are very few women with whom I can talk politics.
Probably pretty much the same number as men.
Maybe more, still only a handfull.

What do you need a woman for?

Well the fact is that some of them are very special people. And if you don't interact with the opposite gender, it makes you a brittle and narrow-minded egocentric, with profound social limitations and very little intellectual flexibility. Someone capable ONLY of discussing matters that absorb them.
Rather like girls yacking about handbags, for instance.
Or men gibbering on and on about sports.
That's why you need women.
To stay human.

Oh, and they're soft, and rather sweet.
They're nice to be around.
Good company.

And really great to cuddle. Far better in that regard than another man.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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