Sunday, April 26, 2009
Childhood Memories of Wonton Noodles
I recently went back home to the Bay Area for the weekend. A quick trip true, but I managed to get most of the hometown eats that I crave whenever I return. My mom greeted me with steamed cod my first night in town. The next morning I got dim sum at East Ocean Seafood Restaurant, a mediocre place, but one that I've been going to for as long as I can remember. It's nice to go back to a restaurant where you can identify various points of your life with memories dining there. All Chinese Alamedans know East Ocean.
The day I drove out to Oakland Chinatown and got four banh mi at my favorite Vietnamese sandwich place BC Deli to bring on the plane. But the best food I had while I was back at home was a bowl of wonton and fish ball egg noodles with a side of roast duck and char-siu at Gum Wah Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown.
During the years I toiled at Saturday Chinese school, I was always bitter about missing the cartoons in the mornings. But after class, my dad would take me to one of two places for lunch--McDonald's or Gum Wah. While our repertoire surely wasn't limited to the two, all my memories are of these places. I always ordered the same thing, the aforementioned bowl of noodles. This last time I went back and had the same thing. Phenomenal. Usually it's the case where something is never as good as you remember it, but this bowl of wonton noodles had all the savory, MSG-laden, deliciousness that I fondly recalled. I'd also recommend the roast duck and char-siu over rice.
It got me to think about the "last meal scenario." Inmates on death row invariably pick something that reminds them of home. Few people really choose a decadent last meal like Francois Mitterrand. Instead, they tend to default to their mom's fried chicken or Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. While I wouldn't choose Gum Wah wonton noodles for my last meal, it would certainly be in the running. Sometimes in this hobby, it's easy to become too focused on what's universally good. The real focus should be on what makes you feel good.
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