February 03, 2012

Chinatown: Lucky Creation / The Wok Shop, and how to season a wok | San Francisco

While we were in San Francisco I was worried I wasn't taking enough photos — ha! Clearly that wasn't the case, as you can see from my collection of photos from our fourth and last day exploring the downtown and Chinatown.

Walking around a beautiful city for five hours with a camera around your neck is bound to result in a few pictures. So please bear with me. We checked out of our airbnb at 11 a.m. and hopped the light rail  with Jordan and Alison for a short ride to San Francisco's downtown.

It was Martin Luther King Day, and a large human rights march was in progress.

Jordan pointed out the building where he works — the tan one you can see left of his head. We were headed to the Ferry Building. According to the Ferry Building Web site, "built in 1898, the Ferry Building and its 240-foot tall clock tower is the iconic landmark of the San Francisco waterfront. The dramatic heart of the building is a three-story tall, sky lit hall, known as the Nave. It runs the entire 660-foot length of the building. The ground floor of the Ferry Building is devoted to a 65,000 square foot public food market showcasing the very best of the Bay Area's world-renowned food community. The second and third floors of the building house 175,000 square feet of office space and the ceremonial hearing room of the San Francisco Port Commission." 

 A model of historic preservation, the building is a celebration of food — shops, restaurants, farmers market, kitchen and garden stores — fill the great hall. We tried various samples, and bought kale chips and a small bar of Scharffen Berger chocolate, but we were saving our appetites for chinatown. I snapped the above photo for two reasons — 1., it was adorable to see the two girls perched on the take-out counter eating Asian noodles, and 2., after four days in San Francisco, seeing children was beginning to seem like a novelty. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was starting to think no one older than 30 (maybe 35) lived in San Francisco, and there also seemed to be a dearth of children. In fact, the population of children under 17 in San Francisco has been steadily declining since 1970. San Francisco has one of the smallest percentages of children in the country, so if you don't like kids (and you're under 35 :D) you might consider moving there.

We headed towards Chinatown and lunch. I had a list of "hole-in-the-wall" restaurants, and the first one to turn up on our walk was Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant.

There were so many choices I got confused and ended up ordering a combo-lunch plate. I gave away the noodles but consumed everything else and ended up stuffed, like the tofu on my plate. Yum.

My husband ordered a hot pot of some sort, and he loved it.

I must have been getting tired of taking pictures of food because I don't seem to have any of our dining companion's lunches.

Didn't notice the couple when I took the photo.
After lunch we wandered around Chinatown, heading in the general direction of our next destination, The Wok Shop.

I cook in a wok all the time — not just when I cook Asian food. I use it as my all-purpose cooking pan. Ever since Jordan ordered a hand-hammered wok from the Wok Shop (when he still lived in Seattle), I've been coveting one, and here I was in San Francisco's Chinatown just steps from The Wok Shop. I had to go and "just look." OK, I couldn't just look. I bought a wok and a couple of inexpensive  bamboo things.

Here's my new flat-bottomed wok at home, after following the Wok Shop directions for seasoning it. Pretty, isn't it?  I wanted a wok with two wooden handles, but the hand-hammered ones ones I saw only had one handle that looked like it wouldn't hold up. The shop clerk convinced me to get a wok with two metal handles. I don't necessarily recommend this version because I still think wood handles are easier to use, but I love the look of the hammered metal, and I'm not sorry to own this beautiful wok.

I'm including a video from the Wok Shop on how to season a wok, either carbon steel or cast iron. I followed the directions and my wok came out great.

We started the long walk back to Alison and Jordan's apartment, and honestly, there were moments when I just wanted to lay down on the sidewalk and not move. I think it took about two hours to walk back.

We trudged up the vertical hills on which the cable cars teeter, and it was with relief as much as interest, that we took a break to enter the cable car museum to view the actual cables in operation. Seriously, how do people think of these things — and get others to finance their plans.

We saw exotic blooming plants, like bird of paradise, and bottle brush, as we walked. I haven't seen a bottle brush since we lived in Australia.

I just want to thank Jordan and Alison for being such congenial hosts and giving us the grand tour of their city.


I've been nominated for the Top 25 vegan bloggers in the Mom's circle of friends. I know I've been adding this to every blog post, but I didn't truly realize I was in the running until two weeks had passed after I received an email saying I'd been nominated. I've been pretty obsessed with restoring the lost photos to the blog, and wasn't paying attention. I don't have a fb page for my blog, and am pretty bad at self-promotion, so I really need your votes!  I don't exactly fit the profile of a young mom raising kids, but hey, I AM a mom and I raised three vegan boys. Now all I need are votes, and I'd be honored to have yours. Please take a minute to vote for me. You can vote once every 24 hours. Thanks! :D


Seattle vegetarians: It looks like Seattle is getting another veg restaurant in May or June. The Veggie Grill, a chain of plant-based eateries, will be opening several locations in Seattle.

Full disclosure: I purchased the wok on my own. I received no money for the mention of this product. I am not an affiliate of this company. Any restaurant reviews are totally independent and not at the request of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.


  1. I have so many posts to catch up on, but I wanted to congratulate you on the blog award nomination! You are definitely getting my vote :-) Now I am off to read about the rest of your trip...


  2. Courtney!
    I was just thinking of you and wondering how you were doing when your comment popped up. Hope all has been well and you've been too busy to read blogs.:D

  3. Isn't The Wok Shop great? Love that store! Looks like you had a super fun time in SF but walking up the hills are killer. :-) Off to vote for you, congrats and good luck!

  4. Lucky! I want to eat in Chinatown too.... although I did just have Chnese takeout for dinner! Thanks for all the photos of Alison and Jordan. Great to see them! And I think I'm gonna need a new wok too...

  5. THe wok really is beautiful, and lunch looks wonderful. Even if you walked it all off on the way back!

  6. congratulations on your sweet new wok! it's gorgeous. i need to get me one of those.

    isn't it odd to go somewhere in the states where flowers are in bloom this time of year? it doesn't seem possible...

  7. Chow vegan,
    Oh yes. I don't think I'll be able to visit San Francisco without a trip to the Wok Shop. Great store!

    It's just my opinion, but eating in Chinatown trumps takeout. :D Of course, eating in China trumps both, and you've done that! My new wok is so pretty, I just like to look at it.

    I was happy to walk it off, but maybe would have been happier with less steep streets.

    Thank you. I agree it's a pretty thing. It amazes me to see green grass and plants blooming in February here in Seattle, but seeing tropical things in bloom in San Francisco was weird. In Wisconsin the ground was frozen all winter — everything was dead and brown.

  8. Congrats on your nomination! Whoo hoo!

    Your descriptions/photos really brought me back to my (only) visit to San Fran, so long ago. Still gorgeous! And I do remember walking along those hilly streets. . . such fun. Looks like you had a great time!

  9. Ricki,
    Thanks. San Francisco is such a fun-to-visit and beautiful city, I'm already looking forward to going there again. The last time I was there was so long ago, and so short a visit, I barely remember it at all. And I think we rode the cable cars, not walked the hills!

  10. I've been voting for you! You can vote for more than one blog so I voted for all my faves, too hard to choose!

    I want a wok like that too. We got one from Sur La Table which was a disaster. We didn't have a gas stove and couldn't season it. I wish I had yours. :-)

  11. Bitt,
    Thank you! The seasoning method in the video doesn't need a gas stove. The wok gets baked in the oven, then you cook chives or onions in it on the stove. I love the way my new wok looks, but it probably cooks the same as my old one, which we still also use. Can't have too many woks. :D

  12. Interesting about the age/children stats in SF. I have to say, that the hot pot is most delicious looking. What was your tofu stuffed with?

    I remember you mentioning your wok in a post quite a while back now. I bought one online from the wok shop, but I haven't used it because it's meant for a gas stove and I have one of those crappy electric ones where the elements are under a glass surface. Hopefully someday I'll have a gas stove. Your wok is indeed very pretty.

    Sounds like you had a great trip!

  13. Ooh, the Wok Shop! I've always wanted to go to San Francisco, but as I'm a pretty terrible traveler perhaps never will, but I like looking at other people's pictures. I know you've heard this before, but you and your family are all so adorable...you're a great mom--it doesn't matter if your kids are grown, in fact it's better because you can be human beings together. I voted for you.

    And I like the metal handles.

  14. Rose,
    I'd have to agree that the hot pot was most delicious-looking to me, too. Have you ever had the hot pot at Bamboo Garden? I didn't realize you can't use a wok on a glass cooktop. You should ask your landlord to install a gas stove. (haha)

    I('m not the most congenial traveler either, but luckily San Francisco isn't too far away. Though in my opinion, airport security makes every place seem too far.

    It's not that I don't like the metal handles, but they require pot holders, and because the wok is low, it's an effort to keep the potholders from dipping into the flame. I need to devise some velcro wrap-around ones.

    Thanks for voting for me!

  15. I haven't had the hot pot at Bambo Garden...I'll remember that next time we go there.

    Yes, it is laughable to think my landlord would be amenable to that idea...only if it were the cheapest option.

    But, I think I can use the wok on the element, though they recommend not too. I think they tell you not to, because, with the curved bottom, the wok might not get as hot as it would over gas, and if you're cooking meat, that might be a problem...but since all I'd have in it is tofu and veggies, I bet it would work fine. That's my theory anyway. I'm doing a big kitchen cleaning this month, so once I get everything spic and span, I'll pull the wok out and get it seasoned and give it a try.

    Sorry for rambling. :D

  16. Rose,
    #80 — tofu skin with mixed vegetables in schezuan sauce. (tofu skin is tightly rolled pieces of yuba)

    All my woks are flat-bottomed, but maybe that's best on a gas stove. Maybe your stove will break and you'll need a new one.

  17. You win my vote as the best. Thanks for all you do for everyone.

  18. Whew, I'm exhausted watching you guys walk around the city! Hopefully, you didn't catch that couple walking with someone they shouldn't have! Hah! Ah, glad you're home safe now. The photos were beautiful.

  19. That is one gorgeous wok! Definitely my kind of souvenir, too. :)

  20. Juice,

    You know, the woman gave me a very strange look. (I was actually trying to get the couple on the right, but they moved out of the frame just as I snapped.) There were moments during the walk when I had to will myself to continue. San Francisco is a very hilly city.

    My souvenirs from the trip: a wok, chocolate, blood limes. Souvenirs that can be used for cooking or eating are my favorites. :)

  21. It looks like it was such a fun trip! San Francisco is such a great city, but you're right, it's easy for it to become a marathon since it's such a pedestrian town. Your wok is beautiful! I've never really cooked in one. What do you like about it? It seems like it could be very handy because of the large space for moving vegetables out of direct heat while others get a heavier burn. I'd be hesitant to buy another pan that needs to be seasoned since I failed with my old cast iron skillet, but yours looks so lovely, I could be convinced. Aren't birds of paradise beautiful? They're my favorite flowers. Sometimes I splurge here in the Midwest and buy them at my local co-op. They make me feel like I'm still on the West Coast.

  22. Cadry,
    I think every artist has a favorite brush, and every cook has a favorite pan. It doesn't matter so much what pan it is if you are comfortable with it and get good results. For me, the wok has always been my pan of choice. I like the way I can cook veggies quickly with little oil. I've never been comfortable with non-stick cookware, and a well-seasoned wok can be very non-stick without the plastic coating. The wok was easy to season by baking in the oven, then cooking green onions in it. And if you ever mess it up, you can always scrub it out and re-season it. Plus, it's so pretty!

  23. So sad about the deletions. Just poking my head in real quick to give this post a big thumbs up! And to tell you how much I adore Veggie Grill! You really deserved to win!!!


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