After moving to Los Angeles, I was happy to discover that there was an active food culture here as well.
In fact, there is not much that I could get in San Francisco that I can’t also get in LA.
BUT…it is less convenient to get to in LA.
In LA, the best Korean food is often in Koreatown, the best Japanese food is in Little Toyko, etc. Since most neighborhoods in LA are about 45+ minutes away from each other, this does not help me much for cheap, tasty, weekday dining options.
In SF, this is not the case. A good Japanese restaurant is close to a good Chinese restaurant, which is close to a good Mexican place.
And the best Chinese restaurants are not in the tourist Chinatown, but off in the foggy avenues, away from crowds or interesting architecture. The avenues, most notably around Clement and Geary, and Irving and Judah, are packed with Chinese restaurants, Chinese takeaways, and Chinese dim sum bakeries.
I really, really miss the bakeries. You could get a ridiculous amount of BBQ pork buns, shrimp noodles, taro puffs, and turnip cakes for about $10. And a big bowl of jook (Chinese rice porridge) for about $2. And while some were better than others, they were all pretty good.
Now that I’m living in a place that requires a significant journey instead of 5 minutes to get any of these things; I wonder why I wasn’t eating dim sum every day when I lived in SF. *
My sad workaround to get a facsimile of what used to be extremely convenient, is to buy frozen versions of these items. Trader Joe’s sells BBQ pork buns which are decent. But their recommendation that you microwave the buns under a damp paper towel if you don’t have a bamboo steamer? Pfffffft! They turn out rubbery.
However, I found this works perfectly!
I got it in Japantown years ago. I put a bit of water in the bottom, and the little, vented, white tray sits above the water, keeping the BBQ bun from getting soggy while it steams in the microwave.
I have yet to find a suitable substitute for the roast duck that hang in the Chinese takeaways though.
*and then I remember, “oh yeah. Because I didn’t want to gain fifty pounds.”