Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Secret Waterfront Wonton Truck

A rare sighting of the Wonton Truck on a Chinatown shopping stop

You scuttle along the Embarcadero until you are in front of the gaping maw of a bulkhead building.  Glancing over your shoulder to see if you are being followed, you duck into the building and peer into the gloomy interior of the long, barnlike structure.  In the distance you can barely make out the outline of a van, silhouetted against a huge incongruous Union Jack. You trudge along a railroad track, a vestige of busier times at the port, for nearly 300 yards, along the way breathing in the heady aroma of fresh-caught fish emanating from a fish wholesaler at the pier.   Eventually you find yourself standing in front of a mobile canteen.

You know what you want, and hand $7.00 to the cheerful woman.  In a few minutes, she delivers to you a large, steaming hot container of savory soup chock full of plump, meaty pork and beef wontons, and sauteed fresh vegetables and mushrooms.  It's a tasty, filling potion guaranteed to cure any flu.  As you turn to leave with your bounty, you glance up at the lengthy bill of fare posted on a signboard.  Along with an extensive list of Hunan-style Chinese food  it includes quesadillas and other Mexican specialties, perhaps a tribute to the truck's former use. You vow to return to try the Mongolian menudo.

Pulp fiction?  An outtake from Les Bas Fonds de Frisco? No, it's all true, even the Mongolian menudo on the menu.  The truck is The Wonton Stand, a.k.a. Eva's Catering, and the pier is Pier 33, hard by the Cruise ship terminal.  It's no underground operation, but a fully permitted, fully equipped food truck of the classic taco truck mold.  Eva is real, and her partner is reportedly a former cook for  Brandy Ho's Hunan restaurant (I'm still wondering about that Mongolian menudo.) So check it out.

One more thing, though, it's best (as it always is) to have a Plan B.  I went looking for it recently, at high noon on hump day, and it was nowhere to be seen.  Had Eva retired, or moved to Oxnard?  Apparently not.  "They come and they go," said the testy warehouseman I interrogated. "Sometimes they are here in the morning, and sometimes they are here in the afternoon.  Sometimes I see them, and sometimes I don't."

Maybe that's what the word "inscrutable" means.

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