If you’ve been eating Chinese food in Santa Rosa your whole life, you’ve been living a lie! Hang Ah Dim Sum Restaurant, by some accounts, is the only authentic Chinese food in Santa Rosa.
China is one of the biggest sources for US tourism, so being able to refer them to authentic Chinese food is crucial for our rental car agency. A recent report from Business Insider said 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited America and spent a whopping $21.1 billion in 2014. That number could top $80 billion by 2021, writes Avery Booker at China Luxury Advisors. So, if you fly into STS and rent a car from Sixt, Hang Ah has authentic Chinese food just 15 minutes away in downtown Santa Rosa.
My family moved up from the Bay Area when I was very little, but we brought with us a strong tradition of going out for Chinese food with the whole family. That’s the extent of our Chinese tradition, as we are of European extraction, but we love Chinese food, pot-stickers, egg rolls, sweet & sour pork, mushu pork, broccoli beef, hot and sour soup, Peking duck, you name it.
Before we moved to Santa Rosa from the Bay Area, where there is a large Chinese population, I remember going out to a different places, some in the East Bay and some in San Francisco. My family would fondly reminisce how after I was finished I would crawl under the table and fall asleep.
I remember eating Dim Sum in China Town as a little boy, which is quite an experience if you’ve never done it. It was pretty fancy, you sat down and they rolled different carts around with what looked to be appetizers on small plates and you would choose items off the cart. If it had three plates underneath, it would cost 3 dollars, a dollar a plate.
Most of the things that would come around were a mystery to me, because it would be a roll, a bun or a dumpling, with a hidden surprise in the middle. And when I asked what it was, I would be embarrassed not to understand what the waiter or waitress was saying so I just kept my mouth shut until it was time to eat. The fried chicken feet was the highlight of the meal and my sisters and I would giggle about them. I had to order at least one to try so I could tell my friends about it. “I ate fried chicken feet!” And they would say “Eeewww!” I have to admit, they were pretty tasty.
After moving to Santa Rosa, I remember we chose one place downtown as our goto Chinese restaurant. There are many favorite Chinese places around town. Gary Chu’s, Royal China, Kirin, China Star, China Bowl, and on and on. G&G Market has a good Chinese deli. They are all good places, but I had an experience that changed my perspective.
What happened was Jing Jing the intern. We were lucky to meet her through a Chinese business student/internship program and she came to live with us for a short time. She was smart, clean, and a good tenant, so we were glad to take her out to some Chinese food with our family to make her feel welcome and hopefully keep her from getting homesick. No so. We took her to one of the nicer restaurants and we were surprised after a very good meal when she said, “This isn’t real Chinese food.”
Well, that really threw me for a loop, because my whole life I considered myself a Chinese food-phile. Well, we ended up taking her to an even nicer Chinese restaurant, and the same thing. “This isn’t Chinese food, this is more like Hong Kong food.” What? I’ve been eating Hong Kong food all my life?
Then it started to make sense. I remember that many of the Chinese immigrants that came over to California in the late 1800’s came via Hong Kong. A couple days later Jing Jing told me she found a restaurant that was more like “real” Chinese food. Hang Ah. We had actually eaten there a few times, and it was more of a dim sum type of place. Finally full realization set in. What we know as Dim Sum is actually the way most Chinese eat — in China. This was my China moment.
According to an article and review in our local paper, The Press Democrat “Our Own Dim Sum – Hang Ah“, Hang Ah is owned by the same people that own a famous Dim Sum restaurant in San Francisco. Apparently the original Hang Ah has been there since the 1920’s.
The food is delicious. I ordered Mongolian beef as well as pot stickers and spicy beef dumplings. The hot and sour soup was delicious. My wife ordered the vegetarian egg rolls and sauteed vegetables. The food was fresh, hot and delicious. It also had special flavors that give you a feeling there is tradition and skill behind their cuisine.
So I would highly recommend Hang Ah to those visiting Santa Rosa. If you are Chinese and looking for an authentic Chinese restaurant, Jing Jing says you’ll feel right at home at Hang Ah Dim Sum.
My only critical comment would be that the location, being the old A&W Root Beer Burger joint, leaves something to be desired. There is very little atmosphere in the wide open restaurant, but it is clean, well-lit and delicious.
Xie xie to Hang Ah Dim Sum and Jing Jing for teaching me how to appreciate authentic Chinese food.
- Review: Dim Sum Comes to Santa Rosa – The Santa Rosa Press Democrat
- Hang Ah on Facebook
- Sixt rental cars of Santa Rosa
- Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS)