Finnie Phung in front of her Green Fish Seafood Market in Oakland Chinatown (photo courtesy of Save Our Chinatowns)

 

“Have you eaten yet?”

It’s a common question among acquaintances who meet on the street in Oakland Chinatown, a congenial neighborhood that’s especially beloved by people who have grown up there.

During the pandemic lockdowns, pressures to develop these blocks have been growing due to Chinatown’s location near City Center. The threat has prompted a group of locals, organized through nonprofits Good Good Eatz and Save Our Chinatowns, to volunteer time and talent toward rescuing treasured shops and restaurants that are now deeply in danger of disappearing forever.

Daphne Wu, a co-founder of Oakland Cocktail Week, is a second-generation child of Oakland Chinatown. Her contribution to the rescue effort is a charming little blue-and-pink zine filled with stories, facts, quotes, graphics, and recipes meant to inspire East Bay neighbors to learn about the treasures that might be lost.

Conch at Green Fish Seafood Market

“We wanted to showcase some perhaps overlooked areas of Chinatown and specifically the markets, which may seem overwhelming to people who are not familiar with Chinese grocery stores.” With Lunar New Year on the horizon, Wu visited Finnie Phung, owner of Green Fish Seafood Market.

“We started talking about hot pot immediately and how that’s the quintessential Lunar New Year’s dish for a lot of Chinese families. [Phung’s] got a whole host of ingredients for people to try, and even some that people like me, who are maybe second generation, may shy away from. [In the zine] we suggest some ‘level up’ ingredients they may not have tried before.” For instance, a visitor to Finnie’s market will see live conch, “something that her Chinese customers are huge fans of,” says Wu.

“Have You Eaten Yet?” can be purchased for $25 at Save Our Chinatowns. For an additional $15, you can get a five-pack of local artist-designed Lunar New Year red envelopes. All proceeds go to Green Fish Seafood Market; Yuen Hop Co, a grocery store which also makes the world’s best noodles; and Cam Anh Deli, home of delicious lemongrass tofu.

“We feel like just getting people to be curious about Chinese ingredients is so important. Getting people to just show up will hopefully lead them down the path to opening up their palates and their curiosity.”