Friday, March 31, 2023

Dumplings and Tea at the Carwash

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2023 at 11:58 AM

Even in a rainy month, Auto Spa in McKinleyville still sees a little traffic since the bright blue Auntie Hao’s truck is parked out front Thursday through Saturday (1642 Holly Drive). The trim menu of Chinese crepes, dumplings, fried noodles and tea stands out amid bumper-to-bumper taco and sandwich trucks, and it’s likely the only one with a punch-card that gets you a free carwash.
click to enlarge Pork dumplings from Auntie Hao's truck. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Pork dumplings from Auntie Hao's truck.

Co-owner Michael Evenson is part owner of Auto Spa, too, hence the deal and the permanent parking spot. But his wife, Xuanli “Shirley” Hao, is the one rolling thick, homemade wrappers and stuffing the juicy pork dumplings. She’s tight-lipped about the filling, but it’s a simple, straightforward pork mixture with mushroom-y earthiness, wrapped, sealed and pan fried to toasty brown on the bottom. Splashed with an unfussy soy dipping sauce, they’ll steam up your car nicely while you shelter from the rain.

click to enlarge Michael Evenson and Xuanli “Shirley” Hao serving Hong Kong boba tea. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Photo by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Michael Evenson and Xuanli “Shirley” Hao serving Hong Kong boba tea.

The drink menu is the place to branch out despite the relatively short list of flavors. Boba tea aficionados will want to pack their reusable straws for the Hong Kong boba tea. The strong black tea, condensed milk and tapioca balls yield a smoky, tannin flavor reminiscent of brown sugar. And those who’ve been curious about/missing milk cap tea (the more Western-friendly branding of cheese tea) will be happy to see jasmine, black and oolong options. The jasmine (which could pass for a foamy beer at distance so keep that in mind when you hit the road) is light and fragrant, and watching the layer of whipped milk, cream and cream cheese dissolve into the tea has the relaxing effect of a less frantic lava lamp. Sip and enjoy the slight saltiness that balances the sweet.

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About The Author

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal. She won the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2020 Best Food Writing Award and the 2019 California News Publisher's Association award for Best Writing.

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