Wednesday, February 22, 2023


She had a pack of dried bamboo leaves, which could only mean one thing. Aside from the question 'faa sang waak je lok dau' (花生或者綠豆)? "Peanuts or yellow peas? Because there is only one reason to have them: making joong (粽 / 糉 'jung'). Which are conical packets of glutinous rice, with soy-pork, dried scallop, salted egg yolk, a slice of lap cheung (臘腸), maybe some black mushroom, and either peanuts or yellow peas. Once everything is assembled, the package is wound with twine and steamed for a few hours. Because of a naturally occuring substance in the bamboo leaves they can keep quite bit longer than you would expect, even at room temperature. Especially in this weather.
It's labour-intensive, and considered "rustic".
Perfect travel food.

The question never left my lips. I'll probably ask it tomorrow or next week when I buy some along Stockton Street. They're good stuff, and an excellent reason to make sure you live near a Chinatown. Or you have a Cantonese grandma.
As I'm led to believe many people do.

I prefer peanuts, but either type is fine.
Glutinous rice and fatty pork.
What's not to like?
If you're Taiwanese or overseas Fujianese you are probably disagreeing about the filling, and humming "sio ba tsang e, sio ba tsang" to your self now. And that's fine too.

Bus trundling up Pacific Avenue. Plent of time to observe other passengers. The Chinese all wore masks, as you would expect. And it was still too early for a throng of irresponsible Caucasians not doing so.

Teatime had found me at a familiar place, where I melahap-lahapped a hot cuppa and a pastry, and warmed my blue finger tips. The usual gang of boisterous Cantonese gentlemen were having a riotous good time at their accustomed table, including the mostly silent fellow. The retired busdriver had dropped by and waxed loudly eloquent in his opinions. Someone remarked that Germans were phenomenal beer drinkers (that's true) and African Americans in Oakland all swilled Remy (probably not quite accurate). The goobus man and his elderly mom one table over were finishing their shared plate of fried noodles (they are regulars), an old man and his cheerful middle aged daughter were doing ditto behind them.

Half way through, an elderly couple came in, followed a little later by their adult daughter with a happy smile and intelligent eyes, fresh from a job interview. As the generic white customer, I happily listened in as much as I could and observed people. As I have deep-set shifty eyes, usually you cannot tell from a distance that I am watching, and in any case no one expects me to understand anything. Well, the regulars do. But they seldom hear me speak Cantonese, and I'm a familiar face, so I'm probably okay.
I had filled my pipe once my fingers warmed up. One must be able to feel things in order to do that. Emptied my cup, paid, left. Lit up at the curb and waited for the bus.

Finished my pipe walking home along Larkin. Auntie with the bamboo leaves had gotten off at the same stop. She lives two blocks away from me.
One block from Mrs. Wong.

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