We started our food tour of Seattle’s International District and Chinatown a few weeks ago with, naturally, food.
Cream puffs to be exact.
Our tour, led by Taylor Hoang and assisted by Rayleen Nguyen both of Pho Cyclo Cafe, departed from the Huong Binh Restaurant in Little Saigon. This Vietnamese dining place is run by Taylor’s mom and is, as we’d soon find out, amazingly good. First stop from there: Saigon’s Bakery and Bubble Tea where we tasted scrumptious cream puffs; light and not too sweet.
I think some of our fellow guests on the 12-person food tour of Seattle’s International District could have gladly just spent the rest of the day there in cream puff heaven. But onward we pressed.
Time to go shopping on the food tour of Seattle’s International District
From there we visited Lam Seafood on King Street near 12th. If you live in the Seattle area and you want fresh produce or seafood, come here.
The prices are in many cases half to a third of what they are in the grocery stores and the selection, at least for Asian foods, is unbeatable.
We came back later on our own to shop and stock up on sauces, as well as buy from a huge selection of mushrooms, vegetables and fresh fish.
Next stop, Thanh Son Tofu. Even if you don’t like tofu, you should check out the very affordable sub sandwiches and other treats they have in this brand new facility. And if you do like tofu or soy milk, well, this is your cream puff of a place…
Back to the Huong Binh Restaurant for a wonderful soup of wontons, pork, shrimp, squid and quail eggs along with celery leaves, chive and fried shallots in a pork broth. That alone could have been lunch enough, but then came the “main course:” Rice noodles, grilled pork, pork meatball and grilled shrimp garnished with lettuce, peanuts, herbs, onions and a delectable sauce. Oh, and cookies for desert. Delighted and satisfied, our food tour of Seattle’s International District could have ended there.
But wait (as they say in infomercials), there’s more on this food tour of Seattle’s International District!
We headed from lunch down to Chinatown where we tasted dim sum, stuffed buns, barbecued pork and coconut-infused rolls. We learned of other places to shop, restaurants to try and gift items to purchase. By the time we finished, we were full. OK, more than full. Stuffed. And not just of food.
We learned so much that day from Taylor that we’d never have uncovered on our own, at least not without considerable time and effort. It reminds me that sometimes a guide can make all the difference in your experience of a place.
Ten Benefits of Using a Guide
In fact, here are ten benefits a guide provides in a new place (or at least did in this situation):
- They make you aware of places you’d never find on your own
- They introduce you to new people
- They introduce you to new food types and sources of ingredients or new products and even ideas
- They show you how to use the things (ingredients in this case) you find there that may be unique to that place.
- They keep you from getting lost
- They vet the good from the bad and show you the best
- They make you feel like an insider or like you belong there or have a right to be there
- They create a sense of community, with your other group members on the tour and with the people you meet along the way
- They increase the number of customers and business for mom and pop stores: You know where your money is going and that it is a good deal. (Unfortunately, with some guides overseas, you are channeled to expensive tourist traps where the guide gets a kickback. Here, the guide does it out of a sense of community and desire to share what is good.)
- They show you how to do this yourself next time on your own
And in this case, they also give you a little goody bag with containers for all the food you can’t possibly eat at the time, as well as a coffee press that Taylor showed us how to use at the end of the tour.
This food tour of Seattle’s International District was a wonderful experience that revealed a hidden world in our own neighborhood. It also showed how valuable a guide can be to any place that seems foreign to you…even ones so close to home.