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WesAtRedBean's Profile

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Seeking Harbin Beer

@Tripeler, it's a lager distinguished by it's slightly sweet finish that makes it especially crisp and refreshing, IMO. More information from this online profile:

Harbin Lager

Beer Category/Style: Chinese-brewed super-premium pilsner-style lager.

Industry Ranking: Harbin Lager won the coveted “China Top Brand Award” in 2005 for a second consecutive three-year period based on overall quality, market value, economic impact and potential for future development. Harbin Brewery Group was the Chinese province’s first company to win the award two consecutive times.

Taste Profile: Harbin Lager offers a complex floral and fruity hop aroma from the use of the unique “Qindao Dahua” aroma hop variety grown in China’s remote Northwestern Regions. This distinctive hop character is layered on a balanced and round malty body and crisp finish.

Ingredients/Brewing: Harbin Lager is brewed with a blend of Chinese “Qindao Dahua” hop and European aroma hop varieties, as well as a blend of fine two-row malt for a round mid-palate and complex flavor. Its unique yeast strain and traditional brewing techniques, including a long and cold aging process, adds to the beer’s nuanced aroma and crisp finish.

Packaging: Available in 11.2-ounce (330 ml) longneck bottles, and 20.3 ounce (600 ml) restaurant-style bottles featuring special rice paper wrapping.

Interesting Facts: Harbin Lager is brewed and packaged by Harbin Brewery Group Ltd. in China for export to the United States by Anheuser-Busch, Inc. The beer’s distinct taste differentiates it from other Asian beers and makes it an ideal accompaniment to spicy and aromatic Asian cuisine. Anheuser-Busch acquired Harbin Brewery, China’s oldest brewer, in 2004.

Seeking Harbin Beer

Hi Everyone,

I'm searching for Harbin beer here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've checked all the usual suspects among beer retailers and Asian markets. Anyone have a lead on where I can find this Chinese beer brand? Willing to travel between Richmond to the north and San Jose to the south!


Asian Sweet Snacks

Hah, indeed. Here's an interesting article about the general snacking culture in Japan. At the end, it gets to the whole "how to eat a lot without gaining weight" question.


Asian Sweet Snacks

Haha, yes, a bit. There's just a bit more of a food gift-giving culture in Japan. Imagine if all the gift shops at U.S. airports sold small food regional items, instead of key chains, postcards and the like. That's pretty much the vibe.

Are you snacking on anything right now? **End of summer edition**

I was pretty excited to find this new brand of vacuum fried fruit chips by a Thai brand called Greenday at New May Wah in San Francisco. They're the first I've seen that combine all natural ingredients with this "vacuum fried" process. They are crunchy crisp, while still retaining their sweet, fruity flavor. I'm the biggest fan of the jackfruit chips, but the pineapple and taro varieties are pretty good, too.

Dec 04, 2014
WesAtRedBean in General Topics

Are you snacking on anything right now? **Springtime Edition**

These have got to be my favorite recent find: Soy Sauce Cashew Nuts by Ikeda (Hokkaido, Japan) — I picked them up at the Nippon-Ya store in San Francisco. They're an "otsumami" snack definitely best with beer. The cashews have a soy sauce glaze that masks the underlying sweetness of the nut, chased by a sharply spicy red pepper finish. Can't stop munching them.

Dec 04, 2014
WesAtRedBean in General Topics

Asian Sweet Snacks

Many of these Japanese flavor variations are sold only regionally in Japan. It's part of the omiyage tradition whereby travelers bring home foods to share with their friends and colleagues. Most of these snacks (Kit Kats, mochi, etc) are small, inexpensive and beautifully wrapped.

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

Thanks to everyone for so generously sharing your tips. I visited as many places in NY Chinatown as I could. A few reflections before I share what I found.

First, I was struck by how NY Chinatown still seems like the same Cantonese community I grew up with in the 1980s. More change in the outer boroughs.

Second, I noticed how similar the product offerings are between the markets in New York and San Francisco. I found little regional variation.

Third, if you haven't visited the Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre St, please do. The exhibits framed a visit to the neighborhood outside so well.

Ping's Dried Beef (58 Mulberry St) and New Beef King (89 Bayard St) were the real deal for traditional jerky.

Aji Ichiban (37 Mott St) had great bulk sweets, but was much smaller than our outposts in San Francisco, which also stock home goods and other foods.

Sun Ming Jan (111 Hester Street) for lap cheong reminds me of Wycen Foods in San Francisco. Same relationship between their packaged goods and those you can buy directly from the store.

I had a wonderful conversation with the owner at Sun's Organic Tea Shop (79 Bayard St) and left with a sample of a delicious black tea.

Kam Man (200 Canal St) and Asia Food Market (71 1/2 Mulberry St) are same as they ever were. Quintessential markets.

I regret that I didn't make it to either Mimi Cheng’s Dumpling Shop (179 2nd Ave) or Cha Chan Tang (45 Mott St) for a hot snack. Next time!

Oct 28, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Searching for 7D Dried Mangoes

So just an update for everyone. I did end up finding these…on Kauai: Big Save Market (5516 Koloa Rd, Koloa, HI 96756). $2 and change per bag.

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

Wow, this place looks very cool. I'll add it to my itinerary!

Oct 06, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

Thanks for these suggestions. Hadn't thought at all about Momofuku Culinary Labs. That sounds fascinating.

Oct 03, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

Yes, Aji Ichiban is on my list. They've got branches here in the Bay Area, too, but I've found regional variation surely exists.

Oct 03, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

I totally would, but I've got to stay in Manhattan on this trip.

Oct 03, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

That sounds terrific. I love traditional jerky and I've been looking for a new place. If you're ever in San Francisco, I can offer back Jackson Market (1201 Jackson St) in return! Thanks for the suggestion.

Oct 01, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

Chinese specialty and gourmet stores?

Full disclosure: I'm asking this question for my business, but it's also my personal passion. So, I hope you understand and will help me out!

I'm coming to NYC in search of Chinese specialty stores. Not restaurants or supermarkets, but stores that sell snacks, teas, candies, baked goods and other pantry staples.

I'm coming from San Francisco, so examples from there are places like Red Blossom Tea Company (tea), Heartland (organic snacks), Wo Chong (tofu) and Mow Lee Shing Kee (sausage).

Basically, the artisan movement applied to Chinese food. I think of it as: a) makers using quality ingredients and traditional techniques; b) importers who work directly with suppliers; or, c) innovators updating classics for contemporary tastes.

Are there are any these "specialty" or "gourmet" Chinese food shops around NYC you love?

I'll visit as many places as I can and then reply with a full round up report for everyone!

Thanks for your help,


Sep 30, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Manhattan

ZONGZI aka CHINESE TAMALES SFBA Dish of the Month May 2014

Big +1 to the zongzi at Gum Wah (345 8th St) in Oakland! $2.25 apiece makes them a great deal, too!

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Feels good to "give something back" after receiving your awesome suggestions, so...

Just this morning in Oakland Chinatown, I happened upon the Green Tea Kit Kats that periodically set off a small online furor. There are two boxes at Won Kee Supermarket at 216 7th St. $4.99 a bag. First time I've seen them in a long time.

Hope this helps someone!

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Drumroll! Here's my report!

I started in search of gourmet Chinese food shops around the bay area, defined as either: a) artisanal producers using quality ingredients and traditional techniques; b) direct importers who work directly with suppliers; or, c) innovators updating old favorites for contemporary tastes. I'm also requiring clearly labeling as a requirement to exclude grocers and a myriad of fresh foods.

Your definition may differ, but I thought this was a good starting place. Here is the list of some of my favorites, after having visited all locations on this list:

- Red Blossom Tea Company (831 Grant Ave, SF): Direct importer of premium looseleaf teas from around China.
- Ten Ren Teas (Various Locations): Ubiquitous boxed teas, but company stores also stock looseleaf varieties.
- Aroma Tea Shop (Clement & Chinatown, SF): A looseleaf tea shop that's a bit more accessible for newbies.

- Kee Wah Bakery (Various Locations): Hong Kong-style bakery with fresh baked goods, and many delicately-flavored cakes and cookies.
- Sheng Kee Bakery (Various Locations): Family-owned California bakery with great packaged cookies.
- Sogo Bakery (Various Locations): Taiwanese Bakery with the best mooncakes on this bakery list.

- Wo Chong (863 Washington St, SF): All organic, non-GMO tofu.
- Sogo Tofu (1600 S De Anza Blvd, SJ): All organic, non-GMO tofu plus soy milk (and amazing steam table).

Snack Foods:
- Heartland (Sunset, SF, Fremont & Sunnyvale): Organic, all-natural snacks imported from Taiwan.
- Jackson Market (1201 Jackson St, SF): Chinese-influenced beef jerky made fresh.

Honorable Mention:
- Mow Lee Shing Kee (774 Commercial St, SF): Delicious Chinese sausage, but no product labeling.
- Wycen Foods (832 Stockton St, SF): Same as above.
- Vua Kho Bo (10919 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino & Milpitas): Good looking jerky, but no product labeling.

Whew, feels really cool to see a list in one place! That's it for now. Eager to hear your thoughts!

How do you stock your Chinese kitchen?

Totally agree with these lists. For me, the key has been keeping the pantry stocked with these items at all times. In the past, I was forever one ingredient short for a dish I wanted to make on a particular night. In the course of work, commute, etc, that was enough to dissuade me from doing much Chinese cooking at home. Such common sense, of course, but having a fully stocked pantry makes Chinese cooking at home just as easy and convenient as Western cooking. With some easy supplementation of proteins and vegetables during the regular weekly Safeway or Whole Foods run, many 30 minutes meals become possible on a regular week night.

May 06, 2014
WesAtRedBean in Home Cooking

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Haven't forgotten about my report! I'm hoping to make it down to some of the South Bay places this week. It's been tough finding a window to sneak a trip in and around rush hours!

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

I agree with your assessment. It's tough to categorize the jerky...the preparation isn't 100% traditionally Chinese per se (even though oyster sauce and soy sauce are the first two ingredients) — it's more "Chinese-influenced" in my book. That said, it's good stuff and a fun snack. I polished off my bag in a couple of days.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Thank you for this suggestion. I stopped in yesterday, the store is located right off Portsmouth Square above the parking garage (which, btw, at $3 an hour still has to be one of the best deals in the city).

As advertised, the store does stock veggie and organic foods, but it fell short of being a "specialty" store for me. The natural foods are merchandised alongside more typical Chinese grocery fare like big brand sauces, packaged foods and mixes, which makes it difficult to tell what's all natural and what's not. Perhaps with time, the store will move further in the organic direction.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

I stopped in at Jackson Market yesterday...after a march up the hill from Stockton St that left me completely out of breath. Wonderful little store -- thanks for the recommendation!

Made me smile to see the storefront almost entirely empty, except for a jerky-making operation furiously working in the back kitchen. That's focus.

I tasted the original recipe beef jerky. Delicious, with a very simple ingredient list: beef, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, starch and water. Available for purchase in person and online at the URL Melanie shared.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Melanie, thanks again for this recommendation. I visited Heartland today and tagged on a report to your original post. Really fantastic spot and exactly what I was seeking. Now if only I could find a store specializing in Chinese beef jerky and assorted Chinese sweet brittles and candies! ~Wes

Heartland Healthy Food, Irving St, San Francisco

I visited Heartland Healthy Food this afternoon and can report that it's a real find for people seeking organic Chinese snacks and specialty foods.

Most everything in the store is organic without preservatives, colorings or artificial ingredients. You'll find predominantly teas, dried fruits, teas, dried noodles and snacks like almond cookies and sesame candies.

What's particularly notable about the store is that everything is made from natural ingredients with packaging that's easy to decipher. Of course, such products exist at other Chinese grocery stores, but they're much more difficult to pick out and verify when they're mixed together with other products. There's a buyer confidence that comes from this clear approach to merchandising.

I spoke with Annie behind the counter who was very helpful explaining the ingredients in different products, as well as making recommendations for various "must try" foods.

As Melanie notes, there's a branch in Sunnyvale, as well as another in Fremont.

I wish it were easier to find more specialty stores like this.

Heartland additional locations:
43494 Ellsworth St
Fremont, CA 94539

1170 Kern Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94085

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

@Melanie - Ack! Thanks for that information about the reply function.

@All - These are all great recommendations! I'm going to get out to see as many as possible in the next couple of days and I'll let everyone know what I find!


Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

That's an awesome list, Robert! Again, I may have to spend a day walking through and then share back a few updated reviews.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

I like the look of Heartland. Noticed that there weren't any follow ons to the post you referenced, so maybe I'll go today and share a review.

Thanks for the Mow Lee Shing Kee & Company recommendation. I love makers that continue to use traditional methods like that!

How about any places down on the Peninsula around Cupertino or Milpitas?

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Thanks - I'm definitely aware of the supermarkets. I'm more looking for specialty shops that are selling more craft or artisanal versions of the products you can find more generally at Ranch 99, in Chinatown et al.

For example, like a shop selling TCHO chocolate vs. Hershey.

Any recs for Chinese specialty food shops in bay area?

Hi - I'm a big fan of stores like Red Blossom Tea and Aroma Tea Shop in SF, bakeries like Sheng Kee and Kee Wah and newer arrivals like 85C that make (or import) really high quality versions of old Chinese favorites.

Are there are any similar "specialty" or "gourmet" Chinese food shops around the bay area? I'm not asking about restaurants, but rather looking for places that sell snacks, teas, candies, spices and other pantry staples.

Thanks so much!