Next stop: Steveston.
A picturesque little town. Mr. Chi-Town and I were awed by it’s beauty. Before exploring the area, we decided to grab some chow. They say when in doubt, ask the locals, so we parked the rental car and walked into Mary’s British Home, a little English-goodies/grocery store. The sights and smells of chocolates, sweets, toffees, teas, biscuits, and so on instantly took me back to the 10 0’clock Shop in Bristol, England, where I used to go grab milk, bread, and other student necessities. Never in a million years I would have thought I’d see a store like this outside England. When asked which place they’d highly recommend for a bite, and the two lovely ladies’ response in tandem was “Steveston Seafood House!”
They were right. The restaurant had just opened for lunch, so it was empty. Getting a nice table by the window was a breeze. Our waiter, Gilles, was a super gracious Irish gentleman who was ready to please. Mr. Chi-Town and I each tried the calamari. The rings of calamari came interestingly arranged on a platter with a small side of salad, a dip, and a lemon wedge. The calamari was fried to a golden color. It’s part crisp, part delectably tender!
I could have used a jog. But with a happy tummy filled with calamari, we rolled around the town sluggishly picking up a bric-a-brac or two along the way. Then we remembered what daughter #2 had told us was a must-try here: Timothy’s Frozen Yogurt. Without thinking twice, we dragged ourselves toward Timothy’s. My heart said “Time’s ticking away”. My mind said “Go for it!”
The nice young Asian chap took our orders. Like an expert, he chucked a small, solid white marble-like bar of frozen yogurt, threw in the fresh fruit and berries into this fancy contraption, pressed the button, and voila! The creamy goodness came swirling out like fruity whipped cream, icy cold and refreshing.
No durian flavor here. So what?
So I picked a weird combo: Raspberry and mango.
Chi-Town opted for his true love. You guessed it!
Raspberry, raspberry, and raspberry.
Timmothy’s Frozen Yogurt was a fun. The Seafood House was memorable. Mr. Chi-Town vowed to return to try the latter’s seafood pasta dish.
Next, we spotted a crowd, so we scooted over to the Fisherman’s Wharf to find out what in the world was going on.
A couple of boats were pulling in. A few grinning locals started flocking around to see what the catch of day was. There were sea urchins and stuff but what attracted my attention was these beauties. Take a look.
The jovial fishermen call it “spot prawns.” These glossy, orangey prawns were alive and begging to spring back into the water. A restless-looking young Asian lady, probably in her late 20s standing next to me, grabbed them all for $20 a pound without saying a word. I got a sense that she’s a spot prawns regular customer and was familiar with the timing of the vessels that brought in the catch of the day. Out of curiosity, I gently her asked what she planned to do with them. Beaming, she replied in broken English “Buh-ther, sal’, yea? Cook littah bit. Good,” she claimed as she held on tightly to her 2 pounds worth of the golden catch. She was nice enough though to let me take a photo of her prized possession which she was about to take home in a hurry to butter and salt them for a much-anticipated sweet spot prawns dinner that evening.
Bye bye, spot.
Research Vessel. Sturgeon Conservation Society. Tagging program? Isn’t that cool? All the more reasons I have to love Steveston.
Now when I think about it, I really like this town. It reminded me of that quiet little seaside town I grew up in Malaysia. It’s just that we never had to go out and buy fish. Fresh-off-the-boat, gunny sacks of seafood would land in our house every now and then. You see, everyone knew everyone. The fishermen knew my father. Fish of all sizes and colors, tiger prawns, cuttle fish, crabs, you name it, we had it. Talking about crabs, did you know that there’s a crab variety found in the Straits of Malacca which has a ‘cross’ on it’s shell called “crucifix crab”? This “crucifix crab” got its ‘cross’ on its shell (supposedly) from Saint Francis Xavier. Don’t believe me? Googling is believing.
Reflections: Those days, no one in my neighborhood ate frozen fish. In the first place, we didn’t have refrigerators. And secondly, people believed that “less was more” especially when they willingly gave away their share to others. Our gregarious Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Eurasian neighbors were a harmonious lot. Can you imagine what would be cooking in the neighborhood in the coming days? Womenfolk aka “aunties” would swap dishes and recipes with one another. It was so fun!
At home, Tiger Mom used to whip up seafood combo curries, crispy fritters, fiery sambals, and Nyonya-style stir-fries. Yep, combo curries. If it’s hard to imagine, think “cioppino” cranked up with fresh hand-ground aromatics and spices and treated with a good splash of fresh tamarind juice and freshly-squeezed coconut milk. This curry was a bomb! I remember scooping up caramelized deep red molten sauce from an earthernware pot to see which nicely cleaned and scaled, bone-in fish was to my fancy. I still vividly remember the beautiful red snapper, mackerel, even grouper coupled with okra and sliced eggplants which surprisingly added another dimension of earthy-“meaty” flavors to the seafoody gravy. These dishes were Tiger Mom’s masterpieces.
Those were the days when the land and the sea came together at our family’s dinner table. When I see frozen seafood in the grocery store freezers today, I’m grateful for the seafood overload that I had to bear with almost every day of my childhood . Though I’ll never find the freshest seafood of that quality, yet I am still grateful for the well-labeled, headless, boneless, tail-less, scaleless frozen fish in the local markets where I live. The lateTiger Mom, nevertheless, would be offended if not infuriated by Mrs Paul’s Frozen Fish Sticks.
Part 7 is coming soon. Until then,