Curious Finds in San Francisco’s Chinatown

The first hint that someone had been through our luggage were our books.  They’d been moved from the bottom of the suitcase to the top.  The second hint was the printed notice from the San Francisco TSA saying they’d searched our bags.   I wondered what they’d seen to provoke them riffling through our dirty laundry.  It might have been this.  Can you guess what it is?

Fresh on the heels of my failure at bak chang wrapping, I’d discovered this unique device to hold and mold the pesky leaf wrapped dumplings.   I found it in San Francisco’s Chinatown under the ignominious name “Chinese tamale mold.”

Ceramics with purpose

The shop’s name was The Wok Shop and it was a treasure trove of kitchen supplies.  As you can guess, it’s main line is woks and although I was madly tempted, I kept my purchases to small packable items.  Like these cute ceramics with purpose.

The blow fish is a Japanese wasabi grater, perfect for scraping fresh ginger root.  When not in service, it’s just right as a decorative spoon rest.  The tiny little flower bowls were irresistible.  I bought two as mise en place containers for shredded ginger and garlic.

I don’t think the luggage inspectors were perturbed by my ceramics but I could see them being alarmed by the mold.  It’s metallic and nefarious looking.  That plus the accompanying heft of five kilos of books must have triggered concern. Once you handle the mold though, it is obviously innocent.  A lightweight, empty aluminum frame.  Still, unless you’re in the know, it’s hard to guess what it could be used for.

Here’s a video to explain.

 Toronto. July 2016


  1. Of course, that device/mould would raise suspicions in the customs crew. I once had a small battery-operated neck massager tubular with battery compartments and lights that attracted much attention by security gate staff at Singapore airport. They thought I had a bomb! That is an ingenious device. Glad that they didn’t confiscate it.

    Liked by 1 person

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