This entry really doesn’t have too much to do with food except that A) sometimes you bring food to the cemetery as an offering and, of course, you eat it, and B) after visiting our ancestors this year, we ended up at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village Restaurant in San Gabriel and ate beautiful dumplings.
Each spring, Chinese celebrate with the Qing Ming Festival and we visit our ancestors at their grave sites. It is situated 15 days after the Spring Equinox – or for my family, anywhere near Easter. As it happens, I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles during this time and Mom says, “Do you want to visit GrandMa and GrandPa’s grave on Friday?”
I say, “Yes, what are the details?”
She says, “I don’t know, I’ll call your Uncle George.”
A day passes and no details are forthcoming. I decide to take matters into my own hands and I text him. This is how it goes:
“Let’s meet at Chinese cemetery at 1100.” So I am thinking, “hummm, am I supposed to naturally know where this is? I text back
I don’t hear back for some good number of minutes (15 or so) – really an eternity if you think you are having a text “conversation.” My Uncle is hip and all, but still, being an Uncle, he is of the older generation and I am suspicious of his texting protocols. So I decide to Google “Chinese Cemetery” just to see what happens. To my surprise, there is a Wiki site for it
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Cemetery_of_Los_Angeles; and second there is a Yelp map.
This cemetery was established in 1922. Prior to that, due to discrimination, persons of Chinese ancestry in Los Angeles were only allowed to be buried in indigent graveyards or “Potters Fields.” Even in death, institutionalized racism denied citizens of common civil rights.
If you were reading the text messages carefully, you might have caught the phrase, “walk the mountain.” This is the literal translation of “haung shan.” In China, the burial sites in Southern China are on near by mountains that face the village and “haung shan” is customary to pay our ancestors respect. Each year, in early Spring, there is the Qing Ming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day). I’m not sure what chore is actually performed in China, but what we do is trim the grass around the head stones and bring flowers.
If you wander around, you notice many offerings of food left from other families – fruits, meats, incenses, and candles. I remember we used to bring food when my Grandma Wong was alive. As a kid, I seemed to always be hungry (not a surprise, if you know me now) and I liked that we brought dim sum with use because it meant I could eat before we went out to eat.
This year, Shanghai No. 1 was the choice and my Uncle can order good food. The stone pot fried rice was a perfect blend of Chinese ham and many greens, including ‘lots of Chinese scallions. The soup dumplings, xiao long bao, are flavorful, and the pan-fried pork buns, sheng jian bao, has a crunchy bottom and very soupy center. I am not normally a fan of steamed bao filled with egg centers, but the salted duck egg bun was unbelievable – when I opened it, the egg yolk like center was warm and sweet and savory. And the “special dumpling,” is a fist sized dumpling filled with whole pieces of seafood, floating in a chicken based broth with slivers of winter melon. From mid-city, San Gabriel feels like it is several towns over. But for this kind of food, I will happily take this cross town excursion again. My Aunt and Uncle say they sometimes drive from Culver City just to eat at Shanghai No. 1 and I know exactly why.
Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, California
Monday – Saturday 10AM-10:30PM, Sunday 10 AM-9:30PM
Eat and be happy.