May Mock is 91 years old today! Happy Birthday. This picture was taken in Hong Kong in 1937. What a different world that was.
Cleaning out the garage is like being an archeologist. I come across bits and pieces of my history, but I don't know the details.
I found this pin in a box and showed it my Mother. She said it was hers -- acquired in Hong Kong in the 1930's. It is a carving of a Phoenix. Long hidden in the dark, it is now in the light free to dance again. Legend tells us a phoenix only appears during times of peace, prosperity, and happiness. Surely its appearance is an auspicious sign!
I gave it to my daughter Katie because her Chinese name is fung mo or dancing phoenix. At nineteen she has a striking resemblance to her grandmother at the same age and just like the pin, she is emerging into the light. Now it is a part of her history.
Chinese Steamed eggs or water egg in Chinese is simple comfort food. There are two ingredients - eggs and water. Mixed together and steamed. I haven't mastered the technique. Mine come out a complete mess. Made correctly they have the smooth texture of custard or soft jello. The top is smooth and flawless. Most cooks always use the same bowl to steam the eggs as the shape of the bowl also affects the final result. Chris learned some techniques from my Mom and she now makes this dish occasionally. Spooned over hot rice, it is comfort food.
This last time, she used a deeper bowl. The result was good, but as you can see the top was not flat and has interesting bumps accented by the soy sauce added afterwards. Next time, a more shallow bowl and a shorter cooking time may need to be the adjustment. Life is a process of trying and trying and hopefully moving in the right direction.
Mom went to the dentist Friday to see how her implant was doing -- "just fine" the doctor said.
It was lunch time so we went to lunch down a few blocks to 2nd Avenue and Geary to San Dong House BBQ. I'm not sure why it's called BBQ as I didn't see any sign of barbequed food. Geary is a 6 lane divided street with people rushing to and from the Avenues downtown. I've never noticed this restaurant in this formless section of the street, but I'm glad my cousin introduced us to it. It seems all the restaurants that originate from areas in China close to Korea have their own kim-chi like dish usually made with hot chile oil with perhaps a few whole chile peppers.
This is the newest place we've found that has hand pulled noodles. We passed on the xiao-long bau as we had them the night before and ordered beef tendon soup noodles and sliced beef pancakes. The beef tendon had a wonderful soft texture and Mom loved them so much she couldn't keep her chopsticks out of the soup bowl until all the beef tendon was gone. Then she sort of giggled and said, "I ate it all". In the back of the restaurant is an open prep area and I spied the guy hand-pulling noodles with accordion-like motions. It's a technique hard to believe until you've seen it done. The dough is stretched and doubled over until you have many strands of noodles. The noodles a texture like no other and vary in thickness and width from one end to the other.
Sliced beef pancakes don't sound too special, but everyone orders them. We decided to try them too. Soft wheat tortilla-like crepes are filled with thin slices of beef and cilantro and then rolled up jelly roll fashion and sliced. The slightly chewy texture of the tortilla forms matching layers with the layers and texture of the beef. A wonderful taste and mouth feel --happy thoughts indeed! Mom thought this place was noticeably better than Shanghai House that we ate at the night before. She usually declines the left-over take home packages, but this time she took them without hesitation.
April 24th is Edward Mock's birthday. He was born in 1916 in the small central valley town of Fowler, California. He would have loved the food in this restaurant.
Mom hasn't felt up to going out walking this week so last night we took her to dinner at Shanghai House on Balboa near 38th Avenue in the outer Richmond near the beach in San Francisco. The big storefront windows are an appealing feature to the simple interiors. You can immediately see if there are tables available when you drive by in contrast to the Shanghai Dumpling King restaurant down the street where you have to make the commitment to park and go in before finding out if there is a table. Shanghai House has the slight edge for having Spicy Chicken Wings.
Both Shanghai Dumpling King and Shanghai House are known for their xiao-long bau - little juicy bit-sized morsels dumplings filled with pork, steamed in a bamboo basket and served with a ginger dipping sauce. The dough is beautifully pleated and swirled into a shape like lips puckered for a kiss, appealing in every way. Best if you eat them in a Chinese spoon to catch the juices that squirt out when you bite into them. One order brings ten. Service here is slow, but totally worth it.
Why do I call them Bruce Lee's Buns? Bruce Lee's Chinese name is Li xiao-long or little dragon.
Sunday, time to take Mom grocery shopping. 99 Ranch Market has everything in the way of Chinese groceries and deli foods -- all in one location so I decide to take her to one in Daly City. The heavy fog along Highway 35 near the Pacific coast reminds me of winter tule fog in my central California Valley hometown of Reedley, I switch on my headlights.
99 Ranch Market emerges out of the fog and I turn into a handicap parking space in front of the market. The enticing aroma of crispy fried fish permeates the entire store - like fish and chips take out. The seafood section brims with fresh and live seafood -- and if you want, they will fry the fish for you in their industrial sized deep fryers. Seems popular, but the oil looks dark and suspicious. I'll still steam my fish at home. Mom loves shopping so she spends time making her selections and finding the best buys. Ten pounds of rice or twenty? "Oh Gwok Boh (Koko Rose) rice makes the best jook." The thrill of the kill! We stop for lunch before lugging the treasures home.
Live uni (OOOOH-ni sea urchin), too bad Chris isn't around.
My Dad Edward Hong Mock
Mock Yuke My Grandfather 1863 - 1939
Today is Ching Ming, the day when the Chinese sweep the graves of their ancestors and make offerings of food. The San Francisco Chinese Family Associations still honor this tradition and bring crispy Shew Yuk (roast pork) for distribution to its members at the local Chinese cemetery. We called it Chinese Memorial Day.
In the late forties or early fifties, my father, in memory of his father Mock Yuke, performed this ritual. At the gravesite, he burned incense and made offerings of chicken and poured wine on the ground. My grandfather was then buried at the sad and neglected Chinese cemetery in Fresno, CA.
In the 1950's, the local Fresno Chinese community was a dwindling group. US immigration laws has separated the families of the Chinese American diaspora by time and distance. Forgotten bachelor men whose elusive dream of returning to China rich were buried in a barren cemetery of only dirt and weeds without families to honor them. Some memorial plaques were only shards of wood, the Chinese writing long faded. Later my grandfather was moved to my hometown cemetery in Reedley, CA. My father Edward Mock is now buried next to him in Reedley as well as my Uncle James Mock. Once an abstract occasion honoring unknown ancestors, its much more meaningful now. So long Dad, its been good to know you. From your son, Larry.
April 18, 2011 Update: Last night Mom was in a reminiscing mood. She doesn't talk alot about my Dad, but last night she said it simply, "He was a good man." I couldn't agree more.