Gung Hay Fat Choy: It’s Gonna Be a Biggie

Chinese Building on Waverly Place

Building on Waverly Place, Chinatown.

Chinese New Year is a big deal in San Francisco. Public schools are closed, Chinese food is gobbled, firecrackers are popped and at the end of the two-week celebration, a huge parade (the largest outside of Asia) featuring lion dancers, a 200-foot long Golden Dragon, stilt walkers, marching bands and acrobats floats through town.

I’d planned on kicking off the lunar year with an invigorating run. That plan got squashed when I woke up with chills and congestion. Thankfully, I’d scheduled our sitter to come for a few hours, so I took myself to lunch at Woodhouse Fish Co. on Fillmore Street. I ordered the deep-fried fish tacos and a hot water with lemon.

Woodhouse Fish Co. restaurant

As I waited, I witnessed at the table to my left, an exchange between potential business associates, meeting in person for the first time. “It’s so nice to put a face with the voice,” and similar niceties. The woman, a second generation San Franciscan (a rarity, as she pointed out) was upbeat and bubbly. The gentleman, who had never been here before, got a short rundown of some of the city’s history (the African American community on Fillmore Street during segregation, the influx of Japanese and Japantown, the Italians in North Beach, Chinatown). The conversation quickly turned to all the different foods we have at our fingertips, thanks to the mix of cultures. “I love my city,” she said. “I’m always discovering new places.”


After lunch, I popped in next door to Fraiche, my favorite frozen yogurt shop. Organic, of course. I always get the same thing: a regular natural (plain, nonfat yogurt) with olallieberry puree and mochi, a Japanese sticky, starchy dessert made from rice flour. (I overheard them saying to a customer once that it was a secret recipe, but I know how to make it. I’ll share sometime). But today I opted for a Blue Bottle cappuchino.


I tried to concentrate on my library book (The Tiger’s Wife), but it was a beautiful day and I kept staring out the window, watching traffic and passersby. I thought about the woman at lunch and how proud she was of her city and how I share her fervor. Is the move going to be a huge letdown? Am I really going to venture out and discover all the cool places in Detroit? Or am I going to sulk in my kitchen (aka my office) and long for home?

I’m keeping an open mind. My friend Christine says not to think of it as being better or worse, just different. I can live with different.  No matter what, the Year of the Horse is going to be a biggie for us. And so it begins…Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Eliza’s Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers and MenuIf you’ve never had pot stickers from Eliza’s, I’m feeling very sorry for you right now. I grabbed some of these in the middle of a frantic errand-running morning and devoured them in the car. And maybe I brought a container of rice vinegar from home so I could add the sauce packets to it because I am that obsessed about how a dipping sauce should taste like. They are perfectly flavored with ginger, pork, scallions, garlic (could it be that simple or are there secret ingredients?) and are juicy on the inside without being soggy on the outside.

My love of pot stickers started when I was a kid. Growing up in Hawaii, I had access to a variety of dumplings: Korean mondu, Japanese gyoza, Chinese won ton, pot stickers. I loved them all. I’m one of those people who gets food cravings, and pot stickers is at the top of the list (along with steak, which is totally random). When I was pregnant with Lucy, all I wanted were pot stickers and hot and sour soup from Eliza’s. If dumplings are on the menu, they will be in my belly.

Restaurant 18th Street

Eliza’s old location next to Chez Maman. Photo credit:

I’ve been going to Eliza’s since the late 90s, back in my SF Weekly days, as I now call them (as many of us do). They used to have a location on 18th Street on Potrero Hill, sharing a wall with Chez Maman.  Whether there were just two or a whole crew, we always ordered the pot stickers, aka “pillows of love.” While we were waiting for our orders, we would all mix our own dipping sauces using our preferred combination of the three condiments on the table (soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste). They didn’t give you little bowls for the dipping sauce, so the only thing we had for our sauces were flat appetizer plates. What this meant was that every time someone lost part of their pot sticker (which happened often, especially given the slippery plastic chopsticks), it would splash onto their plate, splattering the culprit and sometimes the whole table.

My love for these dumplings run deep. How am I going to satisfy my pot sticker, my Eliza’s pot sticker craving in the middle of the Midwest?! Does Detroit even have a Chinatown?

Abandoned building

Image credit:

Yup. Here it is. According to Curbed Detroit, vacant for 14 years, Chinatown can be yours for just $500k. Although someone wrote in the comments section, “I didn’t know Detroit had a [Chinatown]. Where did all the Chinese people go?!? Troy?!?” Great.

I’m not sure Operation: Find the Best Pot Sticker in Detroit is even going to get off the ground. I could try to make my own version, sure, but it won’t be the same. *Sigh* Eliza’s, you will be missed.