Lunar New Year is here, and you’ve got a craving for handmade dumplings, citrus fruit wrapped in red paper, and red bean sweets. But hitting San Francisco's Chinatown isn’t an option - the already crowded streets, bakeries, and produce vendors will be overrun with tourists and festival-goers in town for the Year of the Rat parade and related celebrations. Besides, you’ve never much cared for the faux pagoda décor installed after the ’06 earthquake anyway. Those in the know head for the other Chinatown: San Francisco’s Clement Street in the Richmond District.
The two storefronts at 707 and 711, taking up almost the entire street block between 8th and 9th Avenues, make up the Richmond New Yet Wah Supermarket. Inside lie treats. Fresh fruit and packaged snacks line the outside of the store. Grab a hand basket (carts aren’t available) and head towards the produce on the right. Handwritten signs label foods unfamiliar in their natural form, like lotus roots and water chestnuts. Lobsters, crab and fish swim in tanks along the far wall, while their less animated brethren lie in crushed ice at eye level. For the truly brave, there’s even a stack of balut, the fetal duck delicacy of lore. To the left, past a dragon-themed cognac ad mural, are the packaged foods. Wonton wrappers in every size and thickness sit next to sponge cakes and fresh tofu. One aisle is devoted to beverages of such diversity that it boggles the mind. Soymilk and lychee nectar may be familiar, but what about basil seed, asparagus, or pennywort juices? We dare you to try something new. You can find the soy sauce that your mother uses next to a confection as odd as corn-flavored jellies, but everything’s worth exploring. Make it your lunar new year’s resolution to taste the true groceries of the Far East. This is by Sarah, who is up for one of our new writer positions. Welcome Sarah!