Posts Tagged ‘Chinatown’
I had a sandwich for lunch every day during secondary school. It was a utilitarian meal of chicken or tuna with mayonnaise, Kraft Singles, tomato slices and iceberg lettuce. Weary of soggy bread, limp lettuce and mealy tomatoes, I avoided sandwiches in my university years and I still rarely them.
A recent highlight was Fusion on the Run‘s coconut ginger chicken bánh mì at last year’s Mobile Food Rodeo. Naomi suggested Sub-Sand (潛水艇) for a weekday lunch. Located next to Fuji Bakery, Sub-Sand specialises in bánh mì style sandwiches.
Coral walls and a black menu with orange print was the backdrop for the sandwich counter. An illuminated light box displayed photos of dishes.
A shark motif decorated the dining room. Shark shaped lamp shades were on the ceiling and a hammerhead sharks mural was painted by the owner.
We ordered two sandwiches to share. The ingredients were layered in crusty baguettes and pinned by a toothpick. Both were garnished with batons of pickled carrot and cucumber, slivers of red onion, shredded lettuce, sprigs of coriander and jalapeño.
Aromatic and succulent, the lemongrass chicken was a delicious contrast of meaty, crunchy and chewy textures.
I had expected the salt and pepper tofu sandwich to be stuffed with cubes of deep fried bean curd, instead they were marinated slabs smeared with mustard. A curious combination in a sandwich, the silky tofu was pleasingly savoury.
I had spotted egg waffles (雞蛋仔) displayed in the window and was delighted that they made my favourite traditional Cantonese street food. I devour a bag a day when I’m in Hong Kong!
A thick batter was poured into a pockmarked waffle iron and rotated for even cooking. The sweet scent perfumed the air, so much so that a guy asked us what we were eating as we exited the restaurant! Crispy edged and spongy inside, the bubble wrap lattice was a light dessert.
Priced between four and six dollars, the generous portions were excellent value!
Seattle has a reputation for authentic Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. I’ve had Tamarind Tree on my list and I finally dined there last month. In Asian Plaza on the corner of Jackson and Twelve, I had to circle the mall a couple of times to find the restaurant at the back.
Our group of five gathered for a weekday lunch. The modern interior was decorated in warm tones. A majestic pot of fuchsia and white orchids was on the bar.
We were seated by a thoroughfare with a view of the kitchen.
Featuring a classic wise men motif, the ceramic teapot was handmade Bát Tràng porcelain, as were all the serving plates and bowls.
A caddy of fiery condiments was on each table.
Myra recommended sửa đá chanh, a blended beverage of fresh lime, condensed milk and crushed ice. It was a refreshing milky drink laced with citrus notes, tempering the bold flavours of the meal.
We ordered several dishes to share. Spring rolls (gỏi cuốn) and egg rolls (chả giò chay) were appetising. Vegetables, herbs and rice noodles were wrapped in rice paper parcels.
A salad (gỏi đu đủ) of shredded green papaya, steamed prawns, pickled jicama, julienne carrot, roasted peanuts and fresh herbs was a symphony of tastes and textures.
A golden cratered crescent was filled with prawns, sliced pork, slivers of shiitake mushroom and bean sprouts. The rice flour and coconut milk crêpe batter was crispy and stuffed with ingredients, a delectable version of bánh xèo.
A favourite homely rice pot (cơm gà tươi Hải Nam), the rice was cooked in chicken broth and topped with Hainanese steamed chicken. It was fragrant and rich, brightened by splashes of ginger fish sauce (nước mắm).
The final savoury dish was bún chả Hà Nội, Hanoi grilled pork noodles. I wrapped grilled pork portions, rice noodles and herbs in lettuce leaves and ate the rolls by hand.
The waitress suggested two desserts. First was flan, a dense silky custard in a pool of caramel sauce.
The second dessert was bánh chuối nướng Cognac, Cognac red banana cake. We tipped the glass of warm Cognac coconut milk over the spongy cake, a sticky sweet adult treat.
I understand why the dining room was full for the two hours we were there!
I have lamented the lack of authentic Chinese food in Seattle. I was pleased with Chiang’s and love the consistency of Din Tai Fung but I really miss yum cha (飲茶), the traditional Cantonese lunch of dim sum (點心). I was adamant that Seattleites have to travel north to Richmond in Vancouver for variety and quality until Shirley introduced me to Jade Garden (翠苑酒家).
Regal in red, a festive cartoon dragon (龍年) denoted the Lunar New Year (農曆新年).
A school size chalkboard listed the daily specials in calligraphy (English) and scrawl (Chinese).
As with many Chinese restaurants, the interior is austere. Drab walls, plain tables, sturdy chairs, chipped china and Lazy Susans are the standard! Jade Garden is a labyrinth of dining rooms. When I was directed to our table at the back I thought I had to walk through the kitchen!
A card was stamped to record orders from the carts.
The condiments (醬油) tray consisted of salt and pepper shakers, soy and vinegar bottles, and a mysterious stainless steel container.
Shirley explained that it’s the homemade chilli sauce (辣椒醬) which was a well blended paste.
Stacked high with steaming bamboo baskets, ladies (and it’s always ladies) wheeled carts to hawk their dumplings. First were pork and prawn dumplings (燒賣). Minced pork, prawn and shiitake mushroom (冬菇) are lumped in a thin wrapper and dotted with roe. These were a tender version of the meaty morsels.
The other classic was prawn dumplings (蝦餃). Translucent and pleated, the starchy wrapper encased chunks of succulent prawns. The skin was a little thick and I doused these in the homemade chilli sauce.
These beige blobs were deceptive in appearance. We happily slurped the fragrant broth of the soup dumplings (小籠包).
Tinged with green, the prawn and chive dumplings are a variation of prawn dumplings.
Similarly, the prawn and crab dumplings had mounds of shredded crab on top of the wrappers.
Fried food was next. These awkward objects were taro dumplings (芋角). The puffed taro outer shell was crispy, crumbling at each bite, contrasting with the porky texture inside.
Golden and football shaped, these mochi like dumplings (鹹水角) had a glutinous, sticky coating. Its sweetness contrasted with the salty filling.
The final savoury selection was stir-fried noodles (炒麵). Curly thin noodles were tossed with bean sprouts and chives, a homely vegetarian dish.
Rolled in sesame seeds, these mochi balls with lotus seed paste (蓮蓉煎堆) were nutty and chewy.
And finally my favourite Chinese dessert, custard tarts (蛋撻). Traditionally baked in a flaky crust with an intense, creamy set custard, these are best savoured fresh from the oven.
The more the merrier for yum cha!
This is our first full winter in Seattle and I’m learning the art of layering, and loving the essential quartet of coat, scarf, gloves and boots. I’m searching for a hat and considering ear muffs! There is only one walking pace on a frigid day and that is brisk. My glasses fogged up when I entered King Noodle for lunch with Naomi.
A banner tacked to the window announced the opening of the restaurant. A small room with about half a dozen tables, the décor is simple and homely. A blue bird and cherry blossom decal is featured on a cream wall.
The compact menu is printed with checkboxes for self ordering. Customised noodle soup is the specialty and other dishes include congee and clay pots. There is a selection of soup bases, noodles, vegetables, proteins and other ingredients.
I ordered a red bean and sago coconut milk as it reminded me of my childhood. Served in a bubble tea cup, it’s always fun to pierce the sealed lid with the thick straw. The beverage was an icy blend of red bean paste, starchy sago pearls and sweetened coconut milk.
We pondered the noodle soup combinations and submitted our pieces of paper. We spotted a condiments bar which had a variety of chilli oils, soy sauces and fermented bean pastes.
An enormous steaming bowl of flat rice noodles, sliced mushrooms, chives (mistakenly listed as leeks on the menu), wontons and barbecued duck swirled in chicken broth. It was soothing to slurp the slippery noodles and the wontons were a flavour delight.
Naomi had a medley of QQ noodles (Taiwanese), tofu skins (bean curd sheets), sliced mushrooms and chives in spicy Szechuan soup.
I shall return for congee and clay pots!
I’m not a baker but I love desserts. A spoonful of sugar completes a meal.
In Sydney my favourite pâtisserie for dessert to take to dinner parties is Adriano Zumbo. He had my loyalty before his MasterChef Australia appearances! Macarons of every flavour and then some, seasonal and whimsical dessert concoctions, creative twists on classics, it’s Adriano and the Chocolate Factory.
Fuji Bakery reminds me of Adriano Zumbo in that I would like to order one of each! One each of the croissants, one each of the brioches, one each of the Danishes, one each of the cakes.
Painted a neutral colour and its name discreetly engraved on the window, Fuji Bakery is located at a busy intersection. There is an espresso machine serving Caffé D’arte coffee, and a couple of tables in the corner.
A curved pane of glass shields the two tiered display from prying fingers. There are some savoury items but the highlight is definitely the sweet baked goods.
After much deliberation, I selected four treats. Clockwise from top: fondant chocolat, custard cream, brioche Suisse and poire.
In a crimped foil wrapper, the mini cupcake sized fondant chocolat is made with bittersweet chocolate. The dense cake is baked until just set while the middle remains delightfully batter like.
Poire, the French word for pear, is a Danish topped with organic custard cream and pears cooked in Tahitian vanilla. The flaky pastry shell is a textural contrast to the soft, translucent and glossy pear slices.
Deceptively plain in appearance, the brioche is light and buttery, filled with an organic vanilla bean custard cream, and dusted with icing sugar.
Long and flat, the Grand Marnier flavoured chocolate custard oozes out of the brioche Suisse. The brioche dough is studded with orange peel and bittersweet chocolate, a rich and decadent combination best shared.
I shall cross the lake soon to visit the flagship store in Bellevue which has a comprehensive selection!
If we were to play a word association game, the word ‘samurai’ conjures up the Samurai Pizza Cats anime for me. I have only vague memories of the show dubbed in English. Sword wielding, crime fighting cats who are undercover (or are they moonlighting) as owners of a pizzeria?
I found myself humming the tune of the theme song as I approached Samurai Noodle. Samurai Pizza Cats! Pepperoni, anchovies. Samurai Pizza Cats! I digress.
Huddled next to the entrance of Uwajimaya Village, Samurai Noodle’s street frontage is dominated by a large poster declaring ‘Seattle’s best ramen soup’ with scintillating photos of steaming bowls of noodle soups.
Inside is a small L shaped dining room with the kitchen operating out of a narrow corridor. The menu is divided into ramen and rice, and a long list of extra toppings including the aptly named samurai armour and shōgun combo.
Samurai themed paraphernalia like sumo calendars, t-shirts and printed articles decorate the walls. The tables are deceptively spacious but the stools are awkward to perch on.
A cute wall mounted condiment shelf was loaded with salt and pepper shakers and containers of Japanese seasoning, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and chilli flakes.
I ordered the tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu which is crumbed pork cutlet. A traditional dish from Hakata, the cloudy soup is made with pork bone, a rich source of collagen. The milky broth is viscous and soothing. A thick slice of pork, green onions and black mushrooms float above the thin, firm ramen.
Service is brisk and I gladly vacated my stool as soon as I emptied the bowl.
I walked to Chinatown-International District on Chinese New Year this year. My first visit to the neighbourhood, I was expecting a festive atmosphere, maybe hear the rhythmic echoes of drums, cymbals and gongs of a lion dance performance. Or at least red and gold banners wishing me happiness and prosperity.
There was none of that. It was eerily quiet and I counted two other people on the main street. The leaden sky blurred into the drab buildings, the entire area washed in shades of grey. Dilapidated and grimy, I left disappointed and a little homesick for the vibrant Sydney Chinatown.
I have since returned several times, mostly to frequent Uwajimaya. There are also a handful of non-Chinese eateries that justify the hyphenated neighbourhood, Chinatown-International District.
Expectations are clear in the succinctly named Thai Curry Simple! Located opposite a public transport hub, Thai Curry Simple is busy but efficient during a weekday lunch service. Many nearby workers order take-away, others seat themselves in the small dining room.
There is an extensive list of hot and cold drinks available, a good selection of classic curries on the menu, and daily specials, all colourfully chalked onto blackboards and prominently displayed.
The meals are a bargain, priced at five and six dollars. A rotation of tofu curries will satisfy vegetarians. I’m intrigued by the Thai roti desserts, each combination illustrated with a photo of delectable sweetness.
I was contemplating a curry until I spotted the pad see ew as one of the daily specials. I love flat rice noodles and I paired it with tofu as an alternative protein to chicken.
Some of the tables were laminated with Thai scripts with writing instructions and drawings.
No star or chilli symbols are used to indicate the spiciness of the curries, each table has a jar of fiery chilli sauce for individuals to increase the heat level of the dishes. My tolerance is improving but I did not open the lid on this warm day!
My pad see ew was speedily served. It was a perfect lunch portion, fresh from the wok. Silky ribbons of rice noodles were entwined with Chinese broccoli, fragments of fried eggs and cubes of tofu. Stir fried in a sticky soy sauce, the pad see ew was homely and delicious.
With the lunch crowd dispersed, the owner said hello to me as he went to speak with one of his regular customers. He suggested I stay a while as it’s cool inside.
I read the details of each of the roti, and was surprised to find two savoury options. My tastebuds would get really confused eating cheese and scrambled eggs drizzled with condensed milk. It would be like a Thai breakfast burrito!
I retreated to the safety of roti with condensed milk and sugar. A thin veneer of condensed milk is spread on the roti, sprinkled with sugar, rolled and pan fried. The flaky log is served sliced into bite size morsels. Simple and scrumptious, I was tempted to eat a second one of these.
I will return with Mr S and friends to sample their ‘real Thai food’ Saturday lunches!