I spent a few years living in the Orient, so whenever I have the chance to reconnect to familiar Chinese sounds, smells and architecture I make a point of reserving an afternoon to tour.
Not all Chinatowns are created equally, and that would be true for Seattle’s. I crave the hustle and bustle of people making a living with street carts or noodle stands, and markets with big cleaver scared wood tables with chickens squawking along side, and vegetable, picked hours before, piled in baskets sitting on the floor of the stalls where change is given in the form of one or more scallions. My nose twitched when we arrived at the top of Seattle’s Chinatown subway stairs. Can I smell stinky toufou?
We passed under the red and gold arched gate marking the entrance to the hills of the town and the signs change from English to Chinese. The quaint shops hang reminder of this seafaring city’s roots in the shipping industry.
We dig deeper, still searching for the smells and sites that would connect me to my time living among this wonderful, ancient culture. We walked every street and no stalls line the way. Desperate for a bottle of water we enter Uwajimaya, an Asian food and gift market. I’m shocked. Uwajimaya, is the modern day, Seattle version of a Chinese market. It is a mixture of a food court in a mall with new vision stalls where I can sit with chopsticks in hand, eating a bowl of soup noodles in the air conditioned comfort of indoors.
After the food plaza we scour the attached emporium. A treasure trove of foreign named spices, bottles, cans, and packages fill every shelf. Section by section I examine what once were familiar ingredients that bring back fond memories and tempt my fancy. The saying goes that you can never go back but you can let your imagination run wild every once in a while.