Crab Rangoon: No It’s Not Authentic Chinese Food


I knew the history growing up around crab rangoon. It wasn’t a very easy to find appetizer, but suddenly I started hearing people talk about it again on YouTube when I suddenly noticed Asian vloggers telling you that it’s not authentic Chinese food. They’re right, it’s authentic San Franciscan food.

I never saw crab rangoon offered at any of the Chinese restaurants in the City and I even started trying to find it on the menus and finally found it at one restaurant in the Outer Sunset. Oddly enough it’s easier to find at the Hawaiian restaurants you’ll find around the Bay Area, but it’s rare at Chinese restaurants.

So here’s the funny thing about all this. While crab rangoon was invented and first served at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville before moving on their locations it’s nearly impossible to find today in San Francisco. Yet when I moved back east to Northampton, Massachusetts every Chinese restaurant sells it. The grocery stores even sell frozen packages of it.

If you have no idea what crab rangoon is [and you’ll quickly see why it’s not authentic Chinese] it’s a fried appetizer that consists of a won-ton skin filled with crab, green onions and…cream cheese. Tastes great in my opinion, but definitely not Chinese. Vic Bergeron took a few liberties when he built his Tiki Bar empire with some of the recipes he introduced.

If you can find it in San Francisco you should try it. I rather like it and you can point out as I do that it’s an authentic San Franciscan dish. 

Rose Pak: If it’s not Chinese it’s crap! Unless you’re talking about Leland Yee

Rose Pak, the power house iron Queen of Chinese politics in San Francisco has had a few things to say about our State Senator and Mayoral candidate Leland Yee today.

Ms. Pak being the head of the Chinese Chamber of Congress has never held a political office, but her voice carries weight even though she herself has a bit of a colorful past. If you are Chinese, she is THE force to be reckoned  with. I mention Chinese because she doesn’t really focus on much else.  She has stated that her goal is to put more Chinese into political power and works on bringing more Chinese to the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the voice of the Chinese, but unfortunately, being a political power she is not the voice of the people. As you well know, I want our next mayor to ignore color and race and speak for all the people of San Francisco, not one group that is fastly  growing to be the largest majority in the San Francisco Bay Area.

That being said…

She voices concerns over Senator Leland Yee who also speaks for the Chinese people of the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the state. This is kind of a who do you cheer for fight in my book. Ms. Pak is behind the Run Ed Run campaign to get Mayor Ed Lee to join in the campaign [I like Mayor Lee by the way and think he’s been doing a pretty good job] and she isn’t a politician so I’m going to have to give a nod to her.

I have spent a lot of time in Chinatown and it does indeed need help. Someone like Rose Pak has done a huge amount to help out the Chinese who live there. Rose, hats off to you. Now what exactly is her problem with Senator Yee?…and I quote:

Leland Yee is one of the most morally corrupt politicians I’ve ever encountered in 40 years. From the first day he stepped in as the school board member, lying to get his children to the preferred assigned school using a phony address, selling his services to Chinese-American parents who would cut an arm or leg to get their kid to the right schools … he did all of that.

So I don’t think he stood for anything decent in our community except to come and take money and then claiming to be the first Asian this and Asian that, but he doesn’t impress me. He doesn’t stand for anything except corruption and bribery.

OUCH! She has been quoted that if politics are a blood sport then she is going to play them as a blood sport. That sounds more like a decapitation than a first blood blow. I do have to agree with her. If I remember correctly a long, long time ago a man named Gordon Lau came and talked to my High School class. He was the first Chinese politician in San Francisco and he got some serious heat.

I have never paid much attention to what Ms. Pak has had to say, but now I think I will turn an ear towards her. I might get my face slapped for what I just wrote, but if it comes from Rose Pak I think it will be an honor. Just as long as any swearing is in Cantonese since I don’t understand swearing in Mandarin.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

Apologies in advance for all of the quotes below, but I had an interesting event happen to me two nights ago that I wanted to wait a bit on before saying anything. I was just sitting at my computer checking twitter every so often and noticed that @JenniferFearing who works for the United States Humane Society sent the following tweet:

JenniferFearing Jennifer Fearing Good news: CA shark fin bill passes Asm cmte – headed 2 floor in coming wks. Call your Assemblymember 2 urge YES – AB 376.#stopsharkfinning

Now those of you who are regular readers of my site know I’m completely against shark finning so I re-tweeted the post with a hash tag of #lelandyee because he was opposed to AB376 because it would take away an ancient Chinese tradition [you know, like foot binding]. While I’m not that into politics I am into doing what I believe is right.
She then replied to my tweet with:
JenniferFearing Jennifer Fearing @baghdadbythebay Well, his office certainly was working hard today to hurt the bill’s chances.
To which I replied:
@JenniferFearing all that’s going to do is hurt his chances for mayor.#stopsharkfinning #lelandyee
And then the fun started to begin. More people started to get involved like Bill Wong:

@akeigwin @jenniferfearing @baghdadbythebay we care enuff not to use “culture” 2 peddle mercury-laden shark fins to elderly Asian Pacifics

and Jennifer Fearing shot back with:
JenniferFearing Jennifer Fearing Both = ban on cruelty RT @BillWongLLC: shark fin ban is no more attack on Chinese culture than Foie Gras ban was attack on French culture
Which lead to Adam Keigwin, who is Leland Yee’s Chief of Staff to jump in with:
AKiegwin Adam Kiegwin @BillWongllc @jenniferfearing @baghdadbythebay no but he does care about the 70 constituents who were present. You lobbyists don’t care?
Gee, I didn’t know I was a lobbyist and tweeted back that I was just a concerned citizen against the barbaric process of shark finning and preceded to get a number of message back from @akiegwin that seemed to be getting more irate as time went on. He knew I wasn’t a lobbyist and after the other’s stopped posting replies and it was only me I got the following from him:

AKiegwin Adam Kiegwin @BillWongllc @jenniferfearing @baghdadbythebay at least w/o u resorting to lies, distortion, and insults

Ouch, I think I hit a bit of a raw nerve there and those of you who have read my articles in the past know that I cited very credible sources for my information on shark finning and how when further analyzed the shark fins being sold in Chinatown where shown to be coming from endangered sharks as well as commercially legit sharks. Then something funny happened around 9pm. All of @akiegwin’s tweets about this to me disappeared from Twitter.
You can delete something you’ve tweeted with twitter, but apparently while the website and apps such as tweetdeck will eliminate them the twitter app for the iPhone doesn’t. So somewhere down the line Mr. Kiegwin received a phone call telling him to pull his tweets immediately. Apparently in checking out Twitter there were quite a few people who joined in on the discussion, but just didn’t include me and I suppose Senator Leland Yee doesn’t want any more bad publicity because in politics the concept of any news is good news doesn’t hold up.
I used to like Leland Yee and the fact that he could usually be found at the Tennesse Grill frequently, but when he came out in outrage over the supposed destruction of ancient Chinese culture by banning the sale of shark fins I realized that our next mayor has to be a mayor that serves the people, not just Chinese people. Granted, the largest race of people in San Francisco are Chinese, but everyone must be served equally.
I also learned something that can be more important. Smartphones have GPS tracking built in and unless you turn it off then the location from where you send a tweet from will be given out to the world. So if you’re going to piss someone off you might not want post your location if you’re doing it from home. Now I’ve got to go. My doorbell just rang.

Chinatown West

This post is meant for people in San Francisco or who used to live in San Francisco because they’re going to understand it better. The Sunset District has blossomed recently with a huge influx of Asians, mostly Chinese. While that’s more disturbing to many of the few old guard left who originally bought their homes when the companies who built them would only sell to Caucasians, I was surprised to see a bit of a split between the Chinese.

Recently while I were searching Yelp the other day to try and find a good Japanese restaurant out of all the Japanese restaurants around us I started to notice something about the businesses around us that people where complaining about. Chinese complaining about Chinese. WTF?

Then I began thinking about it. In particular I’m going to be referring to Noriega Street because that’s where I saw most of the complaints. Noriega is one of those odd streets in the Sunset like Judah, Irving and Taraval that allow a short run of commercial sections and then housing. The majority of the business on Noriega are Asian owned. What I’ve noticed over the years that there are a number of Chinese that are coming in that are new to the U.S. and either don’t know English, know vary little or know it, but feel more comfortable speaking Chinese [Mandarin or Cantonese take your pick] In a short walk from 33rd and Noriega to 30th and Noriega you’ll be lucky to hear a word of English spoken.

This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but you have to understand the area that you’re dealing with if you go shopping there. There is a dim sum place, Mong Kok [see map below] that I’ve learned you have to understand that you’re walking into a place where English is a second language and that while they expect the occasional non-Chinese speaker to come in they don’t know more than a few words and how to count in English. They know me because I’m the white guy who goes in to pick up some of the cheapest dim sum you’ll find. They always smile and say hello, but I don’t go farther than that because I probably know about as much Cantonese as they do English and with my luck they probably speak Mandarin. People have said they are rude, but I don’t think so. I think it’s more that they are there to get their job done and English isn’t really a part of it.

I think what’s happening is that there are Chinese people who have made the complaints on Yelp haven’t had a need to learn Chinese because they were born here and they get frustrated that their own people don’t understand them. These are Chinese people who know about as much to even less Chinese than I do. You have to realize that the business owners are used to the way things work in China and that’s not exactly what people born and raised here regardless of race come to expect here.

If you need to do some shopping and have to do it in the Sunset District you’ll just have to remember that sometimes it’s like you’re taking a trip to China. I’m not afraid of that. Besides, sometimes you’ll discover something you didn’t expect to find.

[gmap zoom=’16’ lat=’37.7536611′ lon=’-122.4900452′]

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FinGate 2.0: Leland Yee

First off, I’d like to start by saying I haven’t seen FinGate anywhere before, so if any other news group uses the term I request that they use my name and a link back to this sight.

Now, onto the story. Last week Leland Yee proclaimed that the elimination of shark fin soup as an attack on ancient Chinese culture. The next day he held a conference serving shark fin soup to the media to show how wonderful and delicious it is.

Then apparently, Leland remembered how environmentally friendly the people of San Francisco Bay Area are. He sent out a rather waffly sounding email that says that while he condemns the finning of sharks, he opposes the ban on shark fins.

Well, I’ve done a little research and here’s a few things I’ve found:

  1. The industry that is involved with shark fishing that uses the entire shark does not supply enough fins to feed the shark fin soup lovers. Shark meat is rarely sold outside the Asian marketplace.
  2. While checking the DNA of shark fins available in San Francisco and Los Angeles more than half of the fins belonged to endangered sharks.
  3. While many other countries fish for sharks or use the finning method that California is trying to outlaw, the majority of all shark meat and all of the fins are sold to China and other Chinese markets
  4. According to research done by SharkWater, 100 million sharks  are finned yearly to supply the Chinese demand for shark fin soup and it’s use in Chinese cures.
  5. The finning of sharks is an unsustainable form of fishing with shark populations dropping severely around the world leaving the seas in an unbalanced state. According to a 2009 study shark populations have dropped 50%-75% due to shark finning. Some species have dropped by 90% in population over the past 20 years.
  6. 87 Countries exported their shark fin catch to Hong Kong and the USA in 2008. Not one kept a shark fin for their own consumption.
  7. Shark meat contains the highest level of mercury found in fish, well above the recommendations of the FDA.
  8. The health claims by Chinese that shark products can increase male vigor and prevent cancer have been proven to be the exact opposite. The high levels of mercury found in shark meat can cause impotence, sterility and cancer.
  9. Costco does not sell shark meat contrary to Leland Yee’s statement. Shark meat is loaded with uric acid and is quite smelly and unappealing and must be soaked for at least a day to leach the urine smell from its flesh.

Is eight reasons enough or need I say more? Apparently while my site is focused on San Francisco and has the most readers here I received a letter from a Shelly Cole in North Carolina:

Hi Eric,

My name is Shelly Cole and I live in Greensboro, NC….Tonight while perusing the net I ran across your blog from 2/16, “Waiter!  There’s a Shark Fin in My Soup!” .  Great blog!  Very well written.  I decided to check out Mr. Yee a bit to see who his is.  I despise hypocrisy!  My number one pet peeve is to be lied to!  I just can’t stand it.  If you lie to me…we’re done….or you at least better be hoping that we have a relationship that goes back for MANY MANY years.  You certainly won’t be trusted again any time soon, but you might not get booted out the door.  ‘Course…if you lied to me….you just might not care if you get booted out or not…

Anyway, after going to Mr. Yee’s sight, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  The hypocrisy!  AAAAGGHHH!!  So I decided to send him a note.  I thought you might be interested in reading it.  Not that I claim to write as well as you, but I hope he actually sees it and that I conveyed the point home to him in such a way that he not only gets it, but that he NEVER FORGETS IT!!  I copied your blog into the email so he’d know what he was getting creamed for, in the event that he hadn’t read your blog.  I intentionally left out the part of who wrote the blog, the name of the blog, or the blogs url.  If he hadn’t read it and then didn’t like it, I was sure how you would feel about unwanted/unsolicited attention that it might garner you from him or from his camp.  I hope you don’t mind my small attempt at “protecting” you.  I doubt I’ll hear back from him, but if I do and he wants to know who the blogger was and you want me to tell him, I’ll be happy to do so.  If you don’t want me to tell him….he’ll never hear it from me…..  😉

I was really very angry with him after having read both  his statement and your blog.  So….I let him know about it….

Sincerely,
Shelly Cole
Greensboro, NC

Thank you Shelly, I think Leland knows about me by now. 🙂 Apparently this is bothering more people than those in the SF Bay Area and they’re speaking up about it [keep in mind my site is read by people in over 100 countries around the world.] I also learned that in the heavily Asian populated state of Hawaii that they have banned the preparation, selling and serving of shark fin soup. Apparently Hawaii doesn’t have as much problem with an ancient Chinese cultural tradition as other people do.

I’ve noticed that no one has really been talking about the taste until my friend Danielle sent me a comment:

I’ve had shark fin soup. It’s pretty gross. And the thought of where it comes from and how it’s obtained makes it even less appealing. From what I recall… the broth was fishy, but not overwhelmingly so. The fin parts have no taste on their own, and we had the shredded kind (they come in shredded and whole form), so the texture kinda reminded me of very short, very very thin (like rice vermicelli, maybe), yet overcooked, noodles.

Just so you all know, Danielle is not Chinese, but Filipino, a culture that has a very strong connection to eating fish [I won’t hold durian against her though. Hell, I wouldn’t hold a durian against anyone, but fruit doesn’t feel pain when you cut into it at least.]

The UK based group Shark Trust had an interesting article with lots of information on the shark fin trade as well a letter from Chef Gordon Ramsay who, like him or not was appalled to find out about shark finning. This site also provides lots of information to use if you want to be so bold and approach a Chinese restaurant that serves shark fin soup.

None of this is an attack on the Chinese population, it is an attack on a practice not a people, that is reprehensible and is destroying our ocean’s food chain. China has had many cultural traditions that they have tossed aside as being barbaric. If I remember correctly, the British stopped beheading and draw and quartering criminals a few centuries ago, yet that was a cultural tradition. The Romans [Italians] as a cultural tradition fed slaves to lions to amuse the poor, but that as well is gone. So why not add shark fin soup to the list. The only reason that Chinese feel they are targeted is because they are the only one’s that eat it and total of the finning trade supplies China and Chinese markets around the world [if the country allows them to serve it of course.]

Leland Yee, please follow the links here and read the information. Perhaps you could find some way to progress and show your wealth and abundance, not by eating the fins of barbarically captured fish that is toxic to consume and instead show your wealth by giving back to the people. I believe that is a finer tradition to embrace.

Waiter, there’s a shark fin in my soup!

Today I read an article on sfgate.com about AB376 a bill that if passed would make the sale of shark fins for shark fin soup illegal. The reason behind this is that the fins for this soup come from a process known as “finning” where a captured shark has its tail and fins cut off and then is thrown back in the water. You might think that the shark would die instantly from this, but that’s not how it works.

The sharks can live on for quite some time suffering and unable to swim the shark dies in one of two ways, starvation or suffocation. Sharks need to keep water moving over their gills in order to breathe. If they can’t then they suffocate from a lack of oxygen.

Senator Leland Yee made a big mistake in the article. He claimed it as an “attack on asian culture“. Riiiiight. Leland, in a city that is 60% asian it’s best not to play the race card when you’re trying to sit in the Mayor’s seat. San Francisco needs a mayor who can bring the people together not separated because of their different cultures. San Francisco is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world, not a side order of shark fin soup.

[mappress mapid=”34”]I’ve never had shark fin soup, so I can’t vouch for the flavor of it and at $178-$500/pound I doubt I will ever get a chance to. The reason it is so expensive is because of what it represents to the Chinese who serve it. It’s a way to show off your wealth and success. It’s not served for it’s yummy taste. I’ve yet to hear someone other than a waiter who is trying to sell me some of how yummy this soup is.

I frequently see Leland Yee at the Tennessee Grill. He likes to hold his informal meetings there. Now that he’s gone on record about this it will be interesting to see how well he’s received there. It will also be interesting to see how well he is received in the next run for Mayor. I always liked Leland, but apparently I didn’t know as much about him as I should have. I’m sorry Mr. Yee, but you’ve just lost my vote for Mayor of San Francisco. I urge all of you who read this article to share it with facebook, tweet it or share it with any of the other share links on this site. If you want a working unified San Francisco we need to speak up about it and make it so the politicians who are working to serve their own political agendas do not move into power.

UPDATE: Leland Yee at a press conference today served up shark fin soup so everyone could taste it. Perhaps he should have shown how the fins were acquired from the fish or perhaps he just wants to show all in attendance how prosperous he is.


Chinese New Year: Where you at?

Gong hay fat choy! I suppose I should be hearing that a lot more lately. My daughter’s pre-school was closed yesterday because of Chinese New Year, so why haven’t I heard anything about it other than a few friends on Facebook mentioning the year of the rabbit.

San Francisco has a huge Chinese population, 60% of the city is in fact Asian and the Sunset District where I hide out is probably even more Asian than that. We used to jokingly call it the “Chinatown Annex“. I even had a friend drive me home many years ago and after a trip down Noriega Street he remarked, “I didn’t know you lived near Chinatown.”

Well, he was from Marin so I can cut him some slack, but every year around Chinese New Year you’ll start hearing the firecrackers going off like it was 4th of July, maybe a few skyrockets that were illegally obtained, the usual. Some of the stores on Noriega, Irving and Taraval will start sprouting up  big red and gold banners and all of the Chinese people you see on the street are smiling.

So what’s up with dat this year? I haven’t heard one firecracker, I don’t see anything in the paper and I have yet to hear of the announcement of the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco on TV or in the newspapers. I don’t hear non-Chinese trying hard to say, “Gong hay fat choy” to Chinese friends or even weirder any one they think is Chinese on the streets. This is the time the Chinese call “tuan yuan” which means reunion. It’s kind of like all the Chinese coming together to celebrate their friendship and families and the fact that they’ve made it through another year successfully. They all exchange red envelopes with gifts of money [not drugs as my father used to think, no really, I’m serious] to each other to show their prosperity. The only place I’ve seen red envelopes for sale was at the health food store I wrote about yesterday.

Well I did read something that may explain the somber tone. Apparently some Chinese think that this might not be the greatest coming year which might usher in terrorist threats, natural disaster, an 89 year old Oakland minister claiming the end of the world on My 21st? What’s next will Brad and Angelina break up because they were married in the year of the rabbit?

Well at least The San Francisco Symphony’s Chinese New Year symphony is sold out, but I don’t even know what date that is or when the Chinese New Year parade is going to be televised. It was always a guarantee around our house that we’d order out from one of our local Chinese Restaurants for the night of the parade and would sit in front of the TV watching while we stuffed ourselves with Kung Pao Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Mongolian Beef, egg rolls, you know all the usual “white people chinese food” 🙂 I did try one of the cakes with a hard boiled egg in it once [which a Chinese friend I was working with couldn’t believe because even he thought they tasted nasty], only once and you well never get me to order jelly fish or sea cucumber from a Chinese restaurant.

Now will somebody please tell me what day the parade is so I know when to order the Chinese food to stuff myself with?

Shopping on Irving Street

Irving street is a funny mix of stores. There’s a produce place just about every other storefront and then there some electronic/kids clothes/candy/XXX Vcd places. Yes, I did say XXX VCD’s and they were right next to the kid stuff, but at least they had cardboard in front of them and I didn’t get smacked by my wife when I pulled a piece of  cardboard up to reveal the perfect asian boobies behind the cardboard.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’d like to talk about my two favorite places to go on Irving street that concern food. The first is the 22nd Avenue Market. It’s been there for years and is mostly a produce market, but it also sells canned and bottled food in the back that you won’t find in your average grocery store. A lot of it comes from the Mediteranean. Greece, Turkey, that kind of thing with some Russian stuff thrown in. What I especially like is big aisle of nut sacks they sell. Yes, you heard me right. There nothing like a huge Irving street nut sack and they have all kinds of nut sacks to choose from. They have colored nut sacks, white nut sacks, raw nut sacks, even roasted salty nut sacks.

The list is mind boggling, but their also very inexpensive. I’ve recently found a new snack food I love called cacahuates or “Japanese Peanuts”. These are salty peanuts covered in a slightly sweet hard coating. You can think of them as Mexican M&M’s without chocolate. I have a huge bag of them now and they’ll probably last me at least a week. I was tempted to purchase some Turkish Delights, but I couldn’t find a price on the box so I figured I’d hold off for now.

After a trip to the 22nd Avenue Market you have to go next door to the Sunrise Deli. This is a great Mediterranean Deli that has THE BEST falafel in the city. You can get a half dozen falafel for $2.99, now that’s a deal. They’ve opened another place downtown, but it’s more expensive because of the neighborhood. This is still the best and most inexpensive place to get mediterranean food I’ve found. Their hummus and baba ganoush  is always fresh and cheaper than you could get it at a big chain grocery store. We feed about 40 people on less than $75 with food from here for my daughter’s first birthday. You can also sit down and enjoy a nice shawarma plate or one of their other fine plates that will run you around $6.95 and you probably won’t finish it. Incidentally, the plates come with these little pink things [That I don’t know what they’re properly called] that are pickled turnips. They taste much better than they sound and are worth a try. I would recommend you back away from the myrrh flavored chewing gum as it’s a rather odd taste that the Western palate probably isn’t quite ready for yet. Now time to run off and eat my falafel and hummus!