Sun Chong steps up with Chinese treats
The Year of the Rat begins in a little more than a week, and the usual shopping frenzy has hit Chinatown. But something's different: It's our first Lunar New Year since the closing of Shung Chong Yuein, the Maunakea Street cake shop that offered one-stop shopping for all the Chinese treats essential to the celebration.
This has left many people at a loss. I've been getting calls and e-mails from those in need of direction. Good fortune, longevity and happiness, after all, are at stake.
So, this is where you go: Sun Chong Co., 127 N. Hotel St., just ewa of Maunakea Street. (Sun Chong/Shung Chong -- try not to get confused.)
The tiny Sun Chong grocery has two of the items that always sent me to Shung Chong Yuein at the new year: rice cakes and candied fruits and vegetables, along with moon cakes, almond cookies and much more.
The candied fruits and veggies can be found all over Chinatown, packaged in bags and plastic trays, imported from China. Cost runs from about $4 for a single choice, to a $20-plus for a variety gift pack.
But at Sun Chong, they're sold in bulk, for $5.99 per pound, mix-and-match, self-serve. On Sunday, people were lined up in the tiny space, waiting for a chance at the tongs to fill their plastic bags.
The candied items come from Eastern Bakery in San Francisco and seem to have better color and freshness than the prepacked versions. The shop offers ginger, lotus root, lotus seed, water chestnut, mango, papaya and coconut.
Also found here -- toong mai, the Chinese puffed-rice cake studded with peanuts, sesame seeds and ginger. Made locally, it's sold in $11 white plastic tubs holding a little more than 1.5 pounds -- just like at the old Shung Chong. The tubs are stacked unceremoniously on the floor and they're unlabeled, so it takes a trained eye to spot (mine is well-trained).
OTher treats of the holiday are easy to find all over Chinatown in markets, bakeries and street stands. These include freshly made gao (steamed mochi cake), jin dui (fried mochi balls), jung (triangles of steamed mochi rice wrapped in ti leaves). Packaged dried lotus seeds and sesame-peanut candy are also available. Order jai (monk's food) at restaurants.
Or get it all at the 59th annual Narcissus Festival, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday on the streets of Chinatown, or at the Chinatown Open House, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Chinatown Cultural Plaza.
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