Thursday, June 7, 2007

Seattle's International District

You can't really call it Chinatown. Seattle's "ID" does have it's fare share of Chinese businesses but you're just as likely to walk into a Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, or even Filipino restaurant or shop. I love spending the afternoon having lunch at one of my favorite dim sum spots like House of Hong or Sun Ya. If you've never had dim sum, you should try it. Small plates of dumplings, steamed buns, and more interesting things like chicken feet (Not my favorite. Kind of like chicken jello with bones). There are hundreds of different dim sum dishes that go screaming by on carts with surly waitresses yelling at you for your order. Be quick or they'll take off to the next table. If I'm not in the mood for the hectic chaos that is dim sum I'll opt for a quieter scene at my favorite Chinese restaurant Shanghai Garden. It used to be called Shanghai Garden II but I guess they're now the only one in town. Usually I'm skeptical about restaurants that use the word healthy to describe their food. You generally have to switch the word healthy with words like "bland" or "never heard of salt". Shanghai Garden says they serve healthy Chinese food, and they don't lie. It is healthy. No MSG, fresh ingredients, less oil, barley noodles, brown rice if you want it. Yet they still manage to make extremely flavorful dishes and there are no Americanized dishes to be found. You won't find spaghetti noodles in their chow mein.

Speaking of authentic Chinese food, have you ever had congee? I hadn't until a couple of months ago and now I have dreams about it. Congee is a Chinese rice gruel where they boil the rice until it breaks down into a thick porridge. Not sold by the word gruel are you. Trust me. It is delicious. Ocean City's Noodle House makes the most amazing congee ever. They use a ton of garlic and ginger, and you can add things like Peking duck or beautiful white fish or chinese sausages. If you're a fan of duck, Kings BBQ has the best Peking duck. They also have some of the best Chinese sausage and BBQ pork I've ever had. Whenever I go there I get a half a duck, a pound of sausage and a half pound of BBQ pork. I don't think very many caucasians go into Kings. At first they always look at me like I'm lost but once I order they are always pretty friendly. I guess it is a little bit menacing seeing the various organ meats and the ducks hanging by their necks in the cloudy window or the grumpy cook furiously chopping with his giant cleaver, duck scraps flying everywhere. But don't let that scare you off. Trust me, you'll be thanking me later. One of the things that I love about most asian cultures is that they don't waste food. Every part of the animal is eaten. They seem to have a better relationship with food and want to know where it comes from. A lot of Anglo-Americans are so squeamish about their food. They don't want to know what animal they're eating or how it was made. If the fact that you're eating a animal grosses you out then maybe you ought to become a vegetarian. Anyways, after Kings we usually have to stop into Yummy House Bakery for a couple of sweets. Beautiful cakes and buttery cookies. They also have savory buns (humbows) filled with bacon of chicken. Very delicious and usually by the time I leave Yummy House I am so full of food I want to lay down and die. Perfect time to go grocery shopping now that my hunger won't interfere with my rational mind. It's funny how my grocery bill is always twice as much when I go on an empty stomach.

There are a lot of amazing Asian grocery stores in the ID. My favorite is Uwajimaya because it has every Asian ingredient you can think of under one roof. Uwajimaya is the largest asian grocery store in the United States. It's like Disneyland for a cook. I can spend hours and hours just trying to figure out what some of the beautifully packaged things are and how I can cook with them. If there is an asian ingredient you can think of they will have it. Whenever I go I have to make a list or I will get lost in a time warp and end up losing 4 hours of my day. From beautiful sushi grade fish, to the freshest bean curd you've ever had, to the stinkiest Durian you could possibly want. On my way out I always have to stop by their deli to grab some sushi snacks and a couple of spam masubi (Hawaiian spam sushi. Don't roll your eyes, it's delicious!). Okay, now I'm hungry again.

1 comment:

cin said...

stephen, congee is comfort food of the best kind. great for a lazy, late lunch on a sunday afternoon or just when you're not feeling 100%. as kids, we had it with a small dollop of marmite and some pickled lettuce hearts...mmmmmmm