Thursday, December 07, 2006

Field Trip! Off to Milpitas for Asian Goodies!

Field Trip! Off to Milpitas for Asian Goodies!
©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

Last Friday I needed a little break from the hundreds (literally) of moving boxes surrounding me and I also needed a few fresh items for the larder. I went down 680 to Milpitas, which is on the Northern border of Silicon Valley.

When we arrived to Milpitas Square, it was evident that 99 Ranch (338 Barber Lane) was the anchor to this shopping center. 99 Ranch is about the size of a typical grocery store, but that is where the similarities end. It is an Asian *Treasure Chest* of a store, filled with all kinds of amazing things. The complex is about twice the size of a typical suburban strip mall, with stores and restaurants on both sides of 99 Ranch. It was built about ten years ago and is billed as the largest Asian shopping center in Northern California. There are 20 restaurants and about 35 smaller stores and medical suites.

Our first stop was at a large and busy Dim Sum restaurant, The Mayflower Seafood Restaurant. The place was humming with activity, as a good Dim Sum place should be at lunch time. It kind of reminded me of being in a casino. It was an assault on the senses in a good way; bright lights, red and gold everywhere, gigantic aquariums loaded with large fish on the walls, gaggles of people talking, the food aromas, the waiters aggressively hawking their wares, the captains acting like “pit bosses” in their short starched jackets and the constantly ringing cash register. We were swiftly seated by a young hostess whose shiny black pony tail swished past her miniscule hips with every step. My hips have not been that small since I was six.

The tea came and immediately we were confronted with women pushing their wares. The problem was that so much of it was the same stuff. We selected a few items and it was almost impossible to eat because we had to shoo away the barrage of servers trying to get us to take their plates of dumplings or sesame balls. Overall, I would say that the food was average. I have had far better dim sum in Chicago and Montreal. My favorite things were the chive pancakes I accidentally ordered (couldn’t say “no” fast enough) and the greens, which I have always called Chinese Broccoli, though I am not sure of the Chinese term for them. They were lovely, green crunchy green stalks with tiny broccoli like heads on the top of them and long, thin, graceful leaves that cover the heads. The rest was unremarkable to my taste. But it was a fun experience and a bargain to boot. With tea, the tab was easy to split at $10 each.

From the Mayflower, we went to M.V. Trading Company, a small but jam packed (typical for Chinese cooking supply stores) House ware and Restaurant Supply Store. For those of you in the Bay Area, they have four locations, the other three are in San Francisco, San Jose and San Mateo. This place was loaded to the gills from floor to ceiling with all kinds of Asian imports for the kitchen and tons of restaurant supplies. The aisles are too small for carts and the selection of some items was so mind boggling that it was difficult to really decide on what you wanted. Our mission was to get a spun steel wok. The lids cost 2 X what the actual woks cost. So, after we found the woks (among probably 20 other kinds in a variety of sizes), and searched high and low, finally found the lids, then had to ask where the rings were… in a completely different part of the store of course. The store was an amazing place, but we only had a total of three hours to eat lunch and shop before the traffic would make our return trip North *Hell on Wheels*, so we paid for our purchases and vowed to come back early one day so we could comb the aisles properly.

On to 99 Ranch, another place that really requires a slow sweet amble through each aisle to see what is offered. As it was, we moved on the periphery ~ produce, meat, seafood and deli, with a run through the noodle aisle. Much of it was jaw dropping ~ especially when it came to the seafood… a lot of it still swimming ~ or crawling as it may be in the case of a former friend of mine's favorite clam…. The Geoduck , but I call it the Penis Clam, because that is what it looks like. A big clam shell with a 6-10” thick yellowish penis like thing hanging out of it. See the pictures above! Alternate spellings include gweduc, gwíduhq, gweduck and goiduck. They are native to the Pacific US and Canada (primarily Washington, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska), it is the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing in at an average of one to three pounds (0.5 - 1.5 kg) at maturity, but specimens weighing over 15 pounds (7.5 kg) and as much as a 2 meter (6 ft) in length are not unheard of. Imagine THAT????

There were lots of fish swimming, eels, oysters (only blue points), lobsters for only $10 a pound and you can get the fish killed, cleaned, scaled or fried there for free.

Then we rounded the corner to the Deli, where aside from a full array of "to go" dishes from a buffet like service, there were Chinese roasted ducks (both pressed and not pressed), Cantonese ribs and roasted pork loins hanging from hooks. I bought a pork loin and a duck and had those both chopped (see pictures). Total for both including tax: $17.74. When I brought the duck home and stripped the meat off to make summer rolls with, I did find it pretty scrawny. It was delicious, but not very meaty. Wes proclaimed it, "A MOST awesome Duck"! The pork was lean and lovely and enough to use for 5 different dishes. We barely got one meal from the duck, unless you count the stock I made from the bones.

We then ran through the noodle aisles and a sauce aisle before dashing for the car so that we could hit the freeway and beat the Friday afternoon traffic from Silicon Valley. This is surely a great store that we will re-visit. There is another one in Richmond, which is a little closer to us, so maybe that will be our next adventure. And a new one is being built in Dublin (even closer).

So, that was field trip number one… and there are many more to come in my new home land of the Bay area. It could take the rest of my life to visit them all. Gee… rough job eh?

Back to my unpacking ~
From the kitchen with a view of Mt. Diablo

Great Lake House for sale in Sleepy Hollow, IL

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