Avocado bubble tea from Bubbles in West Seattle, Jaci's bicep and humbao. I'm going to connect all three in this post.
We'll start with Jaci's bicep. She competed in the Danskin Triathlon on Sunday, and here are her results:
107th out of 3496 and 21 out of 481 in the 35-39 age group.
My friend is impressive, for sure. I've attended two triathlons this summer (Lake Padden, afternoon and sunny, Danskin, EARLY and WET) and at both I hoped to be inspired to participate in one some day, but that didn't happen.
I do, however, take a killer circuit training class at Anderson's, and Cris, the trainer, is as energetic as five "energetic" people combined (unless you know Jaci, then it would be more like two energetic Jaci's combined.)
Well, this morning, he asks me, "Hey, when does school start?" (because he is as nice as five nice people combined) and my tone is really edgy when I answer, "WHY does EVERYONE have to know when school starts? Why is THAT INFORMATION so important to everyone?" And poor Cris, he is just baffled at my bitchy response. So I apologize and explain that I just get really depressed when I have to say goodbye to summer.
"Clinically depressed?" he asks.
Well, not clinically. But that got me thinking about what I could do today that would ward off the dread a bit. And then I thought of my brother's comment from a few days ago when I suggested a taco truck contest.
He said: "Oh, I'm too scared to put my taco truck up against yours; I haven't eaten there for 5 years. I don't even know if it's still there. But I would drive to Seattle in a heartbeat if your adventure could include tacos and humbao..." Which can be translated into "I love you and I understand what makes you really happy."Taco trucks make me happy, and so do food missions.
So I came up with a plan to ward off depression while preparing for my brother's humbao visit: a little lunchtime humbao research before my haircut appointment (which was close to the International District). I have to admit, I have been a little stand-offish to my city since my return from New York. Like, I didn't really feel like talking to it since it didn't have a subway when I first got home, and I was like, "you're so small and not all that cosmopolitan." But I was wrong to treat my city that way, because it has been very good to me and it does the best it can being so far west and having such a small harbor (in comparison) and so I thought I would try to work on our relationship by ending the silent treatment and actually doing something active with it by conducting a little humbao research, even though I would have to drive my own car and park, and pay for parking, etc.
Here were my rules:
1. I had one hour to complete my mission, paid for at the Uwajimaya parking lot.
2. I would taste as many humbao as possible within this one hour time limit.
3. If the humbao wasn't good, I would throw it away (waste of taste and calories).
Before leaving, I googled "best humbao, Seattle" and the Honey Court Restaurant on Maynard came up...perfect place to begin. They were serving dim sum for lunch, and the humbao only came in orders of three. I thought of Elsa freezing her humbao for lunch, so I agreed and paid the $2.25. Getting humbao kind of blind is exciting...you just don't know what is going to be inside the sweet, puffy dough. It could be ground pork, could be barbecued pork, or it could be a hunk of Chinese sausage and a hard-boiled egg. You just don't know. But I love the Door #1 and Door #2 kind of excitement. The Honey Court buns were sweeter than usual because of their custardy-sugary coating (they were baked, not steamed, as is the classic). The pork inside was nice and barbecue-y and it would have received an excellent rating had it not been on the "luke" side of lukewarm. Certainly not bad enough to throw away, however. Probably much better steamed at home, which I will try later.
Across the street was the Purple Dot cafe, and though they did not list humbao on their menu, when I asked, the woman removed three traditional steamed buns from her dim sum cart and charged me $2.13 for them. I could find absolutely nothing wrong with these buns. They were hot and delicious. How is this for a close-up? Across the street from that, I went to the huge China Gate restaurant and purchased three more buns, which were almost exactly the same as the Purple Dot steamed ones, and they are pictured at the top of this post. If you were to ask which ones were better, I would have to say the China Gate bao were and if you were to ask me why, I would just say "I don't know why."
A few places after that were so crowded that I couldn't even get in the door to ask about humbao- like Shanghai Garden and Imperial Palace. Some places didn't have humbao, like J & L Cafe. The woman at the counter there pointed at her wrapped banana leaves tied with string and said these were the equivalent, but with sticky rice. I've had them before, and thought I should try them for my brother since they are an "equivalent" to his favorite.
"Peanut and pork, or mung bean and pork?" the woman asks me. I choose the peanut and pork, and a man sitting at a table near the counter can't help but interject why he likes the mung bean and pork ones better.
"OK, the mung bean and pork one, then," I say to the woman.
The man rolls his eyes a bit and says, "Oh, you've got to try both of them. They are only $2 a piece!" Like, you aren't buying two cars, lady! Obviously he didn't know that I had six leftover bao in my bag at that moment and was planning to buy more, but I gave into his bullying because it was food bullying and that kind of bullying I can respect. Here is a picture of one of them, tied up so neatly.
But by that time, I only had twenty minutes left on the clock, so I decided to wait to open the sticky rice surprise since it was cold, anyway, and I had to run to Uwajimaya to buy $7.50 worth of stuff to get my "free" hour of parking. I bought some origami paper and made my way to the food court, where I purchased my last humbao, from Yummy House Bakery. It was bigger and much more expensive, at $1.25, but it was nice and the pork was shredded and there was lots of it. This one was also baked.
When I got to my car, I unwrapped the banana leaves and took a big bite of the sticky rice, which was a mistake. I don't recommend biting anywhere near the leaf, because it doesn't smell very good. I decided to save it and heat it up later (which I did and it was excellent).
While getting my hair cut, I reflected on my humbao mission. Here I had taken an hour to reconnect with my city and had eaten so many good humbao, but I had to admit that I still had the memory of that humbao spot on Mott street in New York (the one where I took that rushed blurry picture because I was so hungry). I can't explain why, but it was better...so much better.
I knew what I had to do. I knew a place in Seattle that did something better than New York, for sure...Bubbles in West Seattle makes the best avocado bubble tea. In New York they just didn't get it quite right...maybe not cold enough, maybe too much sugar...I just couldn't get it perfect (and don't try it on Queen Anne, either....ewwww it was bad and ruined my perfect record of recommendations to Dennis). So that's how it all connects, see? And that is the end of my story. Thank God Cris asked me the dreaded question this morning, and that I have tools to work through my depression, and that he works us out hard enough that I can go on these kinds of missions without doing too much damage.
And I am back with Seattle.
Oh, here is the sticky rice package when I got it home and away from the smelly leaf and heated it up: I loved it.
Brian, when are you coming down?