If you find yourself running around in the El Cerrito area and are in need of a substantial snack, hop on over to Hong Kong Snack House in Pacific East Mall (3288 Pierce). The mall is in that section of Richmond that juts into the Albany side of ‘Cerrito to the west by the bay.
Pretend you’re going to Costco and head west on Central, only turn left onto Pierce at the intersection from hell — by the two gas stations. The mall will be to your left as you travel south on Pierce.
This little stall shop carries lots of good eats, and the propietors are nice as can be. There are pandan leaf waffles, egg puffs, Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), crepes, shumai, spring rolls, fish balls, rice rolls and all kinds of tropical drinks.
I always get the curry fish balls and fresh coconut juice. You get 5 big curry fish balls on a stick for $1.95. Buy 3 and you get 1 free, which is what I do. I eat two skewers in the car and give Matthew the other 2.
The fresh coconut juice is to die for — especially in the summer, when it’s particularly cooling and refreshing. It’s not cheap, running upwards of $4, but worth it.
I don’t know how the coconut juice at Hong Kong Snack House is concocted. It’s a little thick and very creamy with just the right amount of sweetness.
It’s not coconut milk, which comes from grated coconut. It’s not coconut water, the liquid inside a young coconut. It’s not coconut cream, which is more or less a thicker coconut milk, and it’s not cream of coconut, the sweetened stuff one uses for a piña colada.
It’s as if the best of all of these coconut products were whipped together in a blender.
If you don’t want to have your snack in your car, park yourself on one of the benches in the mall. Hong Kong Snack House has only one or two tables, and they’re often full.