san kee reading terminal market
Math skills crumble. Resistance is futile. Calorie counting, after an excellent meal at the Terminal, flies far out the window. Sauntering post-lunch, how many times does one seem to end up “entirely by chance” in the Northwest Corner of the Terminal. Home to Beiler’s Donuts and Salads (Ha! I see a line of 20 people for donuts, but if you want a salad, there’s no waiting!)
The fulfilling meal of tofu, cabbage, and rice leaves little temptation for desert. But occasionally, deeply embedded instinctual desires for sweets overcomes even the most hardened fitness buff. We are led . . . no, pulled, toward the donuts . . . but if even the tiniest bit of rational sense can struggle to the surface, we approach with only a single dollar in our hands.
That’s it. 95¢ for a ticket to heaven. Churches would be packed if they gave out tickets like this. The apple or blueberry fritters seem to be the most popular; between the two, one of them will be just-out-of-the-fryer. I’ll carefully purchase just one. There’s always tomorrow.
THERE IS A REASON SOME people live longer and stay healthier into their advanced years. Healthy living. Healthy eating. Moderation. The Cambodian shopkeeper has never used alchohol or tobacco, he’s in his 60s, and trim as a rail. The nonagenarian Chinese grocer hawking bok choi and odd-looking fruit experiences as little stress as a Pet Rock and has more energy than the average five-year old.
McDonalds and Coca-Cola both report declining sales. Unless on-the-road gathering stories for American Toolbox, I avoid their products, as most people my age seem to. So it is no surprise I hit the San Kee Lunch Counter once a week for a typical healthy lunch. Tofu and cabbage, stir-fried with sesame oil and oyster sauce. Depending on who makes it, the garlic might be of flame-throwing quantity. One thing is certain. I always feel great after this meal.
- 12 ounces firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut same as carrot
- 1 pound cabbage, cored and shredded
Within the historic Reading Terminal Market, across from Old City Coffee, one finds a dozen stools affronting a high counter. Behind the counter, four or five white-clad employees, dedicated to quickly serving great food, dance and jostle. Dumplings, duck, pork, rice and chicken. Chop-chop fast-fast! Welcome to San Kee! *
At some point, I realized less is more. A small lunch at 11am before the tradesman’s slithering and crawling into the tightest depths of a colonial-era building was the most I might have. The colonists were of smaller stature, perhaps?
Regardless, the “80% full” mantra has stuck with me. Regular visits to this lunch counter have contained my belly and my wallet! My favorite? A bowl of rice and a bowl of steamed greens with scallions and oyster sauce. $3.25 in 2015.
* there are several in the Philadelphia area. this is my favorite.