SAN FRANCISCO— There are two things I am grateful for today: 1.) I am typing this column wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a North Face vest, as it is 48 degrees in the Bay Area. 2.) I am about to eat the best steamed dumplings this side of the Mississippi River.
I love San Francisco for many reasons: The culture, the arts community, the weather, and the food, but not just food in general. I love Chinese food. San Francisco might be the capital of Chinese food outside of Mainland China.
I have been camping under the redwoods along the Russian River for a week. This morning I made a quick dash into the city to write and send this column, and to eat as much Chinese food as I could possibly manage in the short amount of time available to me.
In my hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. I have access to excellent Japanese restaurants. The sushi I eat a few miles from my home compares to that in big cities across the country. There is nothing close to the refinement of Nobu in town, but we do O.K.
A few miles south of Hattiesburg, on the Gulf Coast, there are several Vietnamese restaurants I frequent. The pho at Kim Long is as good as any I have ever had.
When it comes to Thai food, we are lucky to have Bordean Pienpermpat, a 10-year veteran of Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in the Essex House in New York. Ducasse has earned 19 Michelin stars over the course of his career, and Dean was there for a few of them. Dean operates Jutama’s in Hattiesburg. It’s one of the top five restaurants in town, and probably the best Thai restaurant in the state.
For a small town in South Mississippi we are in good shape when it comes to Asian cuisine, except Chinese.
I love Chinese food. My hometown is devoid of any “real” Chinese restaurants. We have several line-‘em-up-at-the-feed-trough Chinese buffets, but they all serve the same canned hoisin sauce entrees. One has to travel to Mandeville, Louisiana, and the Oriental oasis that is Trey Yeun, to escape Mississippi’s Chinese food wasteland.
In San Francisco my favorite Chinese restaurant is Fang. The Fang family has been operating restaurants in San Francisco for decades. The steamed pork buns served at Fang are the best this side of Momofuku, and the steamed dumplings are excellent, too.
Pork buns and dumplings for lunch and more dim sum for dinner, then it’s back to the woods before heading back home. I’m going to have to eat enough Chinese food in the next few hours to hold me over for a full year. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to chew it.