San Francisco Chinatown with Martin Yan | 100 Days: Drinks, Dishes, & Destinations | KQED

San Francisco Chinatown with Martin Yan | 100 Days: Drinks, Dishes, & Destinations | KQED

(Chinese music) – [Leslie] You can’t come to San Francisco without visiting Chinatown, and this is the oldest
Chinatown in North America. With Kearny Street in the
East, Broadway in the North, Powell in the West and Bush in the South, Chinatown covers more
than 24 square blocks and five zip codes. And with more than 175 years of history, it has tales to tell, sips to savor, and flavors to experience. 100 Days Drinks Dishes and
Destinations is brought to you by – [Male Narrator] With Ama Waterways, guests can climb, pedal, and
journey beyond the beaten path, while cruising on storied
rivers across Europe. You can find out more at – When I picture my dad,
Josh, I remember his hands. Strong, and were worn and stained. That was years of
hard-working as a lumberjack. His commitment, work ethic, values, that’s what really inspired
me to create Josh Cellars. (gentle music) – [Male Narrator] Otherworldly,
and down-to-Earth. Visit Napa Valley. (upbeat music) – Come with me to stamp
your passport to delicious. (upbeat music) I’m drinks and culinary
expert, Leslie Sbrocco. And I’m traveling, tasting,
sipping and savoring the world to share my bucket list of
pallet pleasing experiences. Cheers.
– Cheers. – [Leslie] On 100 Days Drinks
Dishes and Destinations. (upbeat music) This is the Dragon’s Gate, and it was donated to San
Francisco by Taiwan in 1970. It frames the entrance to Chinatown. There’s this existing
beautiful architecture, with festive lights and pagoda elements. And when you’re walking on Grant Street, every day of the year is festive, because you can shop for gifts, and you can shop for antiques and jewelry, and of course, woks. (chimes) And at the Wok Shop on Grant Street, I’m here to meet Martin Yan,
who is, fortunately for me, guiding me through Chinatown. – How are you? I would just turn to Tane, old
friend, even she is not old. How long have you been here? – Oh Martin, why do you have to ask that? (laughing) But I’m so proud, 49 years and
I started very, very young. – Now the amazing thing, a
lot of people don’t realize, wok is one of the most important utensil in any Chinese kitchen. – If you walked in off
the street and you said, “I want a regular wok,” this is heavy. – This is spun steel. This is really good.
– What is this? – The good thing about this. – Is that a solid, all purpose wok? – This is really good,
but you gotta season it. This one handle, and this also a handle, so for people, like me,
not as strong as Tane. Then you lift it up like this.
– Right. – But sometimes, now
two of these, you see? And then also, this is flat bottom. For people to have induction
burner or electric. – Ah, okay. – Okay? And then you have
one that looks like this. All hand hammered, look at this. Just look at the size. This is the mother wok. This is the baby wok, and
this is the grandbaby wok. And then you have,
– This is a- – The well-seasoned wok. – This wok says “well-seasoned wok”. Did it look like this and
this is just years of use? – Yes, see this is the new wok. – Right.
– This is well-seasoned wok. – [Tane] That’s a seasoned wok. – And this is a well-seasoned wok. – A well-well-seasoned wok. – In fact, I just got
it from Tane’s kitchen. This has been used, by Tane, for 49 years. – No. – Look at this, this the one
that I want to buy for you. – Brass and oil do not get along. Nothing will stick to brass
when you’re deep-fat frying. It’ll just slough off. – And then get one of
these, and get one of these, and get a seasoned wok
and we can get out of here and then move on to do something exciting. (Zither music) (foreign language) (Erhu music) Moonlighting. ♪ Alabama with a banjo on my knee ♪ – Donation, donation. (Chinese music) Do you barbecue at home? – I barbecue a lot. – This is my favorite barbecue place. You have barbecue spare
rib, barbecue pork, poached chicken, barbecue duck, and then also soy sauce duck. So a lot of the people
walking around here, they don’t have time to cook at home. – [Leslie] Sure.
– They just come here and pick it up. This is a beautiful piece
of roast pork, you see this? – Uh huh. – And, you can eat it with your hand. Now this comes from that big
piece of pig right there. Look at this, it is crispy. – This has got the barbecue on it. – This is barbecue pork,
and you can taste it. It is very, very different,
the texture, the color. And then you eat one, you save half, and put it in the fridge. – Or the floor. – Oh look at this, this is
good, this is roast duck. This is moist. Oh.
– Oh. – It melts in your mouth. – That is so tender and so delicious, and so flavorful.
– Juicy, juicy, juicy. This is pig’s blood, just like a custard. – I need a little cabernet.
– Just like a Jello. You got to be adventurous. When you come to Chinatown,
you have to be prepared to try something you
have never never taste. – I am, and you know what,
it’s not gelatinous texture, it’s got a nice firm texture.
– Yes. – It’s almost got a little edge
of sweetness to it as well. This is quite good. – Yeah, now try this, pig skin. – I don’t like this. – [Martin] You don’t like it?
– No. The taste is quite mild, it’s very nice. It’s almost like a chicken breast taste, but I don’t, texture I don’t like. – This is the first time
that I know that Leslie did not like something, but
I don’t want to waste it, so. (laughter) I will eat it. Mmmm, it’s delicious. Mmmm. – You know how I like
my pig skin? Like that. That’s the way I like my pig skin. – Normally what you do is
soak it until it is softened. You put it in soup, put in stir-fry, you can put it in all kinds of things. – I kind of like it like this.
– Yeah. Let’s take a look at how they cut up this. With one big knife, whoa. And the skin is so good. – You have to know how to
use that knife, don’t you? – This is really good. Whoa. This is one piece for me. – The floor kind of reverberates. – The key is, the key is, look at this, this is the meat, this is the skin, the skin is crispy.
– Crispy. – And then you got the pork, the pork fat, it is absolutely delicious. Mmm. They have huge, Chinese
style barbecue oven. And you take the duck,
which is already done. Look at that, they can
do about 16 at one time. All of these can be done. So that means you can
stock it up in your fridge, and the whole week, Monday through Friday, you have something different. Bring it home and invite me
and my family and my neighbor to come to your house, we’re going to have something different every day. – Walking around Chinatown with Martin is a walk of discovery for me. Martin says that most Chinese
diets are based on vegetables. And here, everywhere shoppers
are picking their greens. I mean, this is a Monday, can you imagine this on a weekend? Packed. Watercress, long beans,
I’ve seen those before. But, bitter melon? – When you cut it open,
it’s white and green. And then inside there’s the seeds. You remove the seeds, slice it
up, put it in boiling water. You stir-fry with black bean sauce. This is good to lower your blood sugar. – Lotus root, three kinds of
bok choy, so many vegetables. And there are fruits galore. – Instead of having sweet
and dessert after the meal, the Chinese always have fruit. Dragonfruit. – Okay, oh dragonfruit. – Yes, dragonfruit.
Golden-colored dragonfruit. Look at this, golden-colored dragonfruit. So inside this golden.
– The flesh looks like this? – Yeah, you eat it like a salad. You can scoop it out, it’s amazing. – [Leslie] And then there
are the dried goods. A whole store full of dried everything. From shrimp, tiny dried fish and squid. Scallops at $85 per pound. – Sea cucumber, this is so hard, it can kill people with this. When this is re-hydrated,
it will be about this big. – Not a pretty food. These ingredients are
important in Chinese cuisine, as they add intense flavor. And, as long ago there
were no refrigerators, food was preserved by salting,
pickling or dehydrating. Bamboo shoots to fungus to
mushrooms, small and very large. – This is actually one dry Wood Ear. This is fungi, this is
Wood Ear. Wood fungus. – So you would only
take a little piece off, and you’d grind it up,
that’s why it’s so expensive. And steep it like a tea, or cook it in? – Soup.
– For soup. – And this is one of my
favorite, dry tangerine peel. Now you have $96 pound, $216 a pound, and $338 a pound. Now, where’s the difference? – Because the age and the different area. – You scrape it, the
skin, and smell it again, and then the fragrance. – It’s just like a fresh
tangerine would smell. Do you go to China,
– Yes. – And find all of these,
– Yes. – And bring them back?
– Yes. – You feel good? – I feel fabulous.
– You see? You feel good to smelling
these exotic flavor and aroma. (upbeat music) We’re gonna go to the bao, the big bao. Bao means “bun”. – Ah, the smell, it smells like
freshly baked bread in here. You just get this amazing aroma. – This is, I called it the
“Big Bao”, the giant bao. Ah, barbecue pork. Barbecue
is nice and moist and delish, and this is moist and soft. – Just like fresh bread,
straight from the oven. – And then they have the
vegetable and meat bun. And this, you see, looks like a leaf. Let me show you, when you
open, there’s a piece of paper. Unless you’re really hungry,
don’t eat the paper, okay? Mmm, delicious. – It’s almost like the
filling in a pot sticker. – Yeah, yeah. Say, “Huo Hua Sai”. Huo Hua Sai. – Huo Hua Sai. – Huo Hua Sai,
– Huo Hua Sai, it is delicious.
– Delicious, it is. – And this is a dessert bun,
look at how big this is. – I can tell my buns
are going to look like after eating all of these. – Oh, and look at it, wow.
– Whoa. – Egg yolk, sugar and butter. Mmm, delicious. – That’s my kind of dessert. – This is one of the very few
places to have such giant bao. All kind of bao, see? They have Cha Siu Bao,
Char Siu Pau, Gua Bao, all kind of bao, all of these are bao. Bao, bao, bao, bao. Big bow, a bow, a lot of bow. Ah that’s what it is, oh it’s delicious. (drums) (firecrackers) (symbols) (firecrackers) – Where are you going to take me next? I’m shopping a little bit right now. – You’re always smiling,
you must be happy, you must have a sweet tooth. – Of course.
– That’s why we stopped here, the dragon beard candy. Look at it.
– Look at that. – You see those little hairs? It’s pulling by cornstarch and molasses. So this is the base, molasses. – Okay. – So this molasses a
little bit concentrated, than the regular one, okay yeah. – Start one, and become two,
two to four, four to six. – You know, I actually
went to Martin’s restaurant and Chef Tony taught me
how to pull the noodles. – But this one is much finer and delicate than that.
– Very fine. – That’s why, in the past,
the dragon beard candy was only made to the Emperor,
it’s like the royal dessert. Because my great, great,
great-grandfather used to make this in the Beijing Palace for the Emperor. – [Leslie] Oh my God.
– [Martin] Wow. – And you saw those little powder, it’s not the sugar powder,
it’s the corn starch. I need to keep pulling the
corn starch on the molasses to make sure it won’t stick together. – It’s amazing, look at this.
– Wow look how fine it all. – We are here, yeah, we
are almost there, yeah. – [Leslie] Look at that.
– Thousands and thousands, almost there. And now you break it
up into smaller batch, and then you put the filling,
the filling can be anything. – This one is peanut.
– Peanut. – Coconut and sesame seeds mixture. So be sure everyone okay
with nuts, no allergy, okay? – [Leslie] I’m good with nuts. – That will be great, so
you will be the first one to try this batch, okay?
– I’m ready. – Okay, here you go. – Here it is, it’s very soft. Ooh look, I do have a little. – Now you’re eating, look at
the dragon beard, look at that. – Oh my God, that’s good. It turns back into being a
little more dense and chewy, as you put it into your mouth.
– Ancient candy. It’s not really sweet like cotton candy or taffy.
– No, it’s not really sweet, it’s got more of that nutty, coconutty kind of character to it. – You eat it, you put it
in your mouth, and you go. (laughter) This is how you eat it. – I’m much messier than Martin. – I think Leslie is creating
a commotion in Chinatown, because we are serving,
– Dragon’s beard, brought to us by Martin.
– Dragon’s beard candy. In the mood for more than
quick tastes and treats, places like New Asia
restaurant have it covered. Here you’ll find dim sum, and dim sum and then a whole lot of, oh, you’ll see. I want the full Martin Yan, take me through dim sum experience. – Yep, normally when you have dim sum, they normally serve breakfast or lunch. The first thing you do is,
they also call yum cha, it means you drink tea.
– Yum cha. – You always serve tea with dim sum. And then,
– And then, – You’re the expert,
you know the tradition. (laughter) When people pour your tea,
normally the host would do that, you always go like this. – And the history of that
is because it’s like bowing. – Yeah, like bowing,
because in the old days, the Emperor, went out of the
capital in regular clothes. – Right.
– And then someone recognized him but wouldn’t
dare to say anything, just go like this.
– So they’d just do that. – Bowing, they say, “Wow, your highness”. – So that’s “thank you”. – And your tea, drink to it. Now in a dim sum restaurant,
“dim” means point. – So “dim” means point. – Sum is your heart. – Dim sum. I want something
that delights my heart. – Yes, the heart’s delight. Now, we’re going to try it all out. (foreign language) You ask them what they are. This is chiu chow dumpling. Now you point to it. Chicken feet. – Chicken feet.
– You eat more of these, you run faster. This is spare rib with rice noodle, and then you put kind of a soy sauce. Now look at this, so far, this all steam. Oh, before we talk about it more. – More before I’ve even had a chance. – Steam bun with Peking duck, it’s amazing.
– I can’t wait for that, okay. – And.
– Right there. – And that (mumbles) is beautiful. You got the crunchiness of
the skin, the savory meat, and then the moist, soft, spongy bread. – That has got a little place
in my heart, this dim sum. This is fantastic, can I
go in for the chicken feet? – Yeah, go in the chicken feet first. You use your lips.
– Okay. – Your tongue and your teeth.
– Okay. – To separate the bone and the rest. (dishes clanking) Bone. – Okay. – Patience, patience. Actually nothing wrong with using fingers. You just use your lips, your tongue, and your teeth to separate. – Oh that’s got a nice spicy kick. – Also try the rice noodle,
stir-fried with chili. Look at the chili. – Look at everybody here, this is a social activity, isn’t it? – People get together
with buddies and neighbors and they just chit chat Saturday, Sunday, the whole family will
come, three generations, four generations, this place is packed. This place can hold 900 people. – Oh my God. (laughter) – Oh the bao. – These are for the end, right? – This is sweet, and this
is, you can eat it as savory, and also as a sweet. This is how you pay for it, look at this. When you order this, they
have little stamp to stamp it. – Oh that’s how they
do it, I was wondering. – Yeah, look at this. The small, so much. The medium, so much. So you order, this is big.
– Right. – This is big, this is
small, small, small. – And those are the red ones. – The red ones cost a little more. Now this. – What’s that? – This is a shrimp with
shredded dumpling, spring roll. And then, this is sesame seed bao bun. Now this is.
– Stop. – This is deep-fried,
deep-fried and deep-fried. This is broccoli, chard,
oyster-flavored sauce. And then you cut it easier for
you to use, cut it in half. – Oh, that’s much nicer
because it’s hard to eat. – And then they have a roast duck. – Roast duck.
– Last, last, that’s enough. The best way to have dim sum
is not coming by yourself or with your significant other, but with about four or five friends. The more people, the
more variety you can try. And they’re constantly
popping up new items. A lot of chefs go to work in
Japan and Middle East or India. – So they bring those influences. – Right, they bring the influence. And there are up to 150
different dim sum items. – And I noticed you use the
back end, when you were serving, you turned your chopsticks
around to help serve. – The reason is because when
you eat, you eat with this. – Right.
– When you turn it upside-down this is not contaminated.
– Right. – Because you’re not eating with this, so you can use this to give
it to your friends like this. – Right, that’s great,
and I’ll have to say, coming to Chinatown with you, and this insider look at
Chinatown is really special. Thank you, Martin. – Cheers.
– Cheers. – Yum cha.
– Yum cha. (Chinese music) I’ve learned so much today. Wandering the streets of Chinatown, you really experience the community. And it’s a community that
has faced many hardships through its history. From Portsmouth Square, located on the site of
the first public square, in what was then called “Yerba Buena”, the city became San Francisco in 1847. Now it’s thought of, and is nicknamed, “the heart of Chinatown”. It’s a community gathering space with places for card
games, musical performances and the bridge to the
Chinese Cultural Center. There are surprises, too,
as you wander the streets. Colorful, painted architecture,
lanterns, temples, and the Golden Gate
Fortune Cookie Factory, where they’ve been making fortune cookies, by hand, since 1962. Every day, the batter is made and baked, and each cookie has to
be filled with a fortune and folded within four seconds. And they are hot. While the origins of the fortune
cookie are still debated, they’re a fun treat, familiar to all. On the hunt for more Chinatown treasures, I take Martin’s recommendation
to visit Uncle Gee. He’s the amazing, 89-year-old
owner of Vital Tea-Leaf on Grant Street. – Leslie.
– Uncle Gee. The minute I met him, I knew I was in for
serious tea enlightenment. – What we want to do is to open a tea bar, where you could sit down
and purify your body. And each tea is for something. – So, somebody could come in
and say, “Oh my feet are sore,” or, “My back is sore,” or,
“I have high blood pressure,” and you would have a tea for that. – Yes, let me explain to it. Of course, we are not doctor, but we’ve been drinking
tea for 6,000 years. This is the tea you’re gonna drink now. First thing you do, you smell it. It’s Iron Goddess, okay, it’s
a very beautiful tea to drink. This is one tablespoon of tea leaves, that will give you a cup of tea. Now you have to rinse your tea leaf. Any time hot water touch
it, it take out what we call the “garlic acid”, the
bitterness of the tea. It take out 60 to 70
percent of the caffeine. This is what we call a Gaiwan. Gaiwan is that we’re flipping the water, the water is moving and the tea
has a chance to breathe out. And water in, water out. Most important thing, never
put boiling water in your tea. You destroy all the
antioxidants of the tea. – Now this is very aromatic, it has almost a white floral aroma to it,
and it’s got a lovely softness. – Yeah, it’s a very nice,
gentle tea to drink. – I then tasted a wide variety of teas, from light and gentle, to
the dark and earthy Pu’er. This one has the Pu’er tea
stuffed into a tangerine skin. – Pu’er tea is a black tea,
and they buried this thing in the ground for seven years. This is the only kind of tea
to have unlimited shelf life. – The older the tea is,
– Really? – The better it tastes. You could use half, okay,
now what do I do first? – Smell it. Oh, it smells like orange. – That’s the one we’re serving now. This is 15 years old. – 15 year old.
– 15. – It’s much more intense, richer,
heavier, more full-bodied. – That’s right, it’s a
tea called “Milk Oolong”. You like buttered popcorn?
– I do. It does, it smells exactly like buttered popcorn.
– Buttered popcorn. – Smooth and silky, but
there’s a kick of citrus almost on the finish, too. – It just feels milky like.
– It’s not heavy. – I’ll have to tell
you, this was an amazing education for me. – We always tell people,
when you come to my house, you came in as a stranger,
now you leave as a family. Ganbei.
– Ganbei. – All right. (gentle music) – [Leslie] And there are new
places being created, too. China Live is an eatery
with cooking stations, serving seasonal foods,
as well as an elegant, fine-dining restaurant. Here, famed Chef, George Chen,
takes a step back in time to serve his private chateau cuisine, as it was served in the great
cities of China decades ago. I’m at Eight Tables. – Hi Leslie, how are you?
– Hi George. – Good to have you here. – Thank you, great to be here. Family photos. – [George] Yes, that’s me and my parents, and that’s my grandparents
and I, when I was little. This is all reminiscent
of the merchant class, or you know, the elite, and
how they wanted to dine. – [Leslie] Each booth, each table, is very secluded and private. – Yes, and people want
a little more privacy, when they’re dining, and
they’re more comfortable. Everything about this place
is understated elegance. Chinese food is the first ethnic cuisine that most Americans enjoy, you know. When people went out for ethnic
food, 50 to 100 years ago, they went to Chinese restaurants, before Mexican and Italian restaurants. And it’s still very popular,
but the food hasn’t evolved. So I just wanted to change the perception of Chinese food, on an elevated basis. And people talk about farm to table. I mean, Chinese have
been doing that forever. Except the Chinese
restaurants in this country, over the last hundred years. – This is artwork, George. – Thank you.
– This is artwork, Chef. – We always like to
start a Chinese banquet with cold appetizers. This beautiful China is fired
in France and glazed in China, is based on different dynasties, like Yuan, Song, Ming and so forth. And this pattern of
nine circles in a square is called a “Lo Shu Square”. It goes back thousands of years. I said, “Hmm, let’s do
some cool appetizers, but let’s have some fun with it.” So, I’m the first one to
actually curate, that I know of, to curate the nine essential
flavors of Chinese cuisine. Tian, xian, suan, ku,
ma, la, jian, xin xian. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, this one’s numbing tingling, spicy hot, fragrant nutty,
sharp fresh and smokey. – Beautiful.
– Here is our wonderful Wine Director here. – Champagne is wonderful,
across a broad array of flavors. – Well, I have to start
with the egg larvae, I’m gonna go sweet first. The sweetness is just ever so present. I’m gonna go over here. – I’ll follow you. – This brings me to the seaside. – I feel like I’m walking on a beach. Smokey.
– Smokey, it is. I like your path. – It’s smokey and crunchy. – Mm-hmm. – Oh that is heavenly, I have to admit.
– Thank you. – The whole dish comes
out, to me, as a painting, and each one of these are
colors, and brushstrokes, and you’ve really put together
a gorgeous piece of artwork. – Harmony, in Chinese
cuisine, is very important. Not every Chinese dish comes out of a wok. – My immersion into Chinese
culinary history continued, with Four Seas Dumplings,
dolloped with caviar and uni. (upbeat music) And Chinese barbecue. That is yummy. The Eight Immortals of
Buddhist vegetable feast. Okay, candied shiitake. Oh my God, that is amazing. And China’s prized rice,
accompanying pork belly. It’s like pork perfume. Truly a world class dining experience. Ganbei. – That mean’s “bottoms up”. (laughter) – This whole adventure, to
San Francisco’s Chinatown, has been enlightening for me. I mean, even though I taste
and eat and drink for a living, I’ve opened myself up to new
tastes, new sights, new sounds, and it shows you that you
have to be adventurous. You have to try the exotic. You have to take the bite of the unique, even though you may not want to. Because guess what, you might
find your new delicious. Ganbei. (upbeat music) 100 Days Drinks Dishes and
Destinations is brought to you by – [Male Announcer] With Ama
Waterways, guests can climb, pedal and journey beyond the beaten path, while cruising on storied
rivers across Europe. You can find out more at – [Male Announcer] When
I picture my dad, Josh, I remember his hands. Strong, they were worn, stained. That was years of
hardworking as a lumberjack. His commitment, work ethic, values, that’s what really inspired
me to create Josh Cellars. (upbeat music) – [Male Announcer]
Otherworldly and down-to-Earth. Visit Napa Valley. – [Leslie] For more
information on all episodes, along with our expanded digital series, including behind the
scenes footage and stories, and links to follow me on
Facebook and Instagram, go to (upbeat music) – I’ve known you for so
long, you got to let it go. – You gonna buy it?
– Are you gonna let it go? – Okay, it’s gonna be ten times more than the price of a normal wok. – Right, the normal wok is about a dollar, so I give you ten bucks.
(laughter) – Man. – Exercise your lips. (laughter) Now this takes a lot of practice. – Again, you’ve got that little
crunch, that little heat, the oh here’s the tingle. Ooh. – Good, right? – [Uncle Gee] You ever drink wine? – I drink lots of wine. I’m actually 75, you’d never know. Kidding. (ambient tones) (upbeat music)

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  1. Leslie and Martin do a wonderful tour of one of my favorite blocks in SF. Quite something….inspires me to go down for some dim sum even if I don't have out-of-town visitors…

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