Which brings me first to the concept of the chinese "hamburger." For quite some time now, Lav and I have been on the prowl for our go-to chinese restaurant... something that would have the same easy, down home goodness of a place like Shan Dong back in Oakland. Fu Man Dumpling House in Greenwood comes pretty close. A tiny, family-run operation in the smallest of strip malls, the restaurant features a variety of house-made Shandong style dumplings (think simple, slightly thicker, chewy wrappers), which you can watch being made through the kitchen window. While the simply boiled pork dumplings hit the spot on a cold day, the real king of Fu Man's offerings is their "hamburger" dumpling:
These collossal dumplings are made of seasoned ground beef (or pork), hermetically sealed in a toothsome wrapper, then steamed and pan fried until crispy. As the meat cooks inside, it gets basted it its own juices, intensifying the flavor of the filling. Lav hadn't had these since she was a kid, and her eyes sparkled with excitement when I pierced the golden, crispy exterior, releasing an explosion of juices--which you can mix with the dipping sauce to coat each delicious bite.
Later that day, we flipped our switches to the other side of the omnivore spectrum and had a terrific meal sans meat courtesy of our buds JR and NR. I only spotlight the vegetarian aspect of the meal because we tease NR a lot for being a vegetarian who loves bacon (like my veggie pal GH back in SF) and disdains mushrooms, eggplant, tofu and tomatoes... but is primed to espouse the glories of vegetarian pho with an unmatched passion.
There's something immensely comforting about enjoying a meal prepared from scratch by good friends. Part of it is realizing the time, effort and intention put into the meal exclusively for your benefit. It's also the experience of being welcomed into another person's home... the place where they themselves feel the most comfortable. And I love the fact that you have an opportunity to break bread and share of the essential communion of a "meal" -- a multidimensional concept weaving together food, drink, enlightened conversation, newfound community, and shared experience; a small respite from the barrage of meaningless noise that can be modern life.
We started with a salad of avocado, pommegranete seeds (effort appreciated), and beautiful freshly snipped kale (look at that color!) from the garden.
JR, currently a budding breadmaking enthusiast, baked a fresh loaf of french bread. Really nice crust, with a slightly denser interior texture that had just a hint of sweetness. Look a that crumb!
And to finish, a decadent, home-baked apple pie... flaky crust, gooey interior, all-around decadent goodness.
Thanks to JR and NR for a great meal, West Seattle style. We didn't miss the meat one bit!