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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sam Wo's Sam Jup Wonton

I think my love of food comes from my Mom. She’s my absolute favorite person to dine with. Not only is she really enthusiastic about food (she's been fist-pumping for her favorites, like corn dogs and lemon meringue pie, long before The Jersey Shore came about), but she’s also introduced me to a bunch of wonderful dishes that she remembers enjoying back in the day - back when you could buy a Coke for 3 cents and taking the bus was only a nickel.

Dishes like the "Sam Jup wonton mein" pictured here, which is unfortunately teetering on the brink of extinction.

Back in her day, Sam Jup wonton mein could be found (for 30 cents) at a number of Chinese establishments in Chinatown and even on its outskirts. These days, it’s down to just one place (that I know of), the San Francisco institution Sam Wo on Washington Street.

And it’s not even on the menu.

“Sam Jup” literally means “three sauces” in Chinese, and the three flavors here are ketchup, curry and soy sauce. I'm sure there's some funny story behind it being created completely by accident, with surprisingly tasty results.

Though a bit sweet and tangy from the ketchup, the soup gets it a good chunk of flavor from the soy sauce, and a nice kick from the curry. The meaty wontons, slivers of barbecued pork and crunchy scallions all chime in nicely too. And Sam Wo’s soft, melt in your mouth mein/noodles should be a blog post unto themselves. (That and the fact they are the only restaurant I know of that still has a dumbwaiter).

This dish might not be for everyone’s taste. For those people I’d say Sam Wo’s rice noodle rolls, beef stew, fish salad, and dry fried beef chow fun are really, really delicious. But for today it’s all about Sam Jup wonton mein, and the dish that takes my Mom back. Back to when you could get a Coke for 3 cents, and taking the bus was only a nickel.



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