Where to go and what to eat at some of the city’s best international festivals
When it comes to having access to a globe’s worth of native foods, we’re lucky for many reasons. The one we’d like to note in particular is the fact that Seattle is home to dozens of cultural festivals each year. Below, are a few of the lesser-known choices, but don’t miss the Seattle Center’s internationally themed events: Festal (seattlecenter.com/festal) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a cookbook of global cuisine as well.
Bite of Greece Seattle
(June 2–4) Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption Capitol Hill, 1804 13th Ave.; 206.323.8557; biteofgreeceseattle.com
What to eat: Mountains of Greek food, including gyros, olives with feta and pita, baklava and chicken souvlaki
Pista Sa Nayon
Usually on the Sunday of Seafair weekend, which is (August 4–6) Seward Park Amphitheater Seward Park, 5900 Lake Washington Blvd. S; 206.484.2274; pista.org
What to eat: Filipino eggrolls known as lumpia are a must, as is halo-halo, a shaved ice milk dessert topped with fruit and beans.
(July 15–16) Multiple locations in the Chinatown/International District; 206.382.1197; cidbia.org/events/dragonfest
What to eat: Traverse the annual food walk, where neighborhood restaurants offer small bites (mango pudding, salt and pepper tofu, pork dumplings and more) for just $3.
(May 13) Polish Cultural Center Capitol Hill, 1714 18th Ave.; Facebook, “Annual Seattle Pierogi Fest”
What to eat: A plate of 12 pierogis—Polish dumplings with meat, sauerkraut and mushroom, or potato and cheese filling—will be $10. (Note: This event is no longer all you can eat.)
(September 10), North Seattle College, Facebook, “Thai Festival Seattle”
What to eat: Take advantage of the stalls that sell Thai dishes harder to find in local restaurants, such as kanom krok, a sweet-savory custard-like dish, and sai ua, a northern Thai sausage.
Wish you were here
For all the dishes we’re celebrating in this package, there are dozens we’ve encountered on our global travels that are but wistful memories and completely unavailable in Seattle’s international cuisine offerings. Even more heartbreak is experienced by our friends who grew up elsewhere and still dream of dishes from home. A few noteworthy examples of global dishes and restaurants we wish we had:
“I miss kanom jeen: [a Thai dish of] freshly made fermented rice noodles with curries to put on top. This is a dying art, like most things nowadays [that] take too long or are too hard to prepare. These noodles are hard to make. I am on a quest to find out how they do it—I would love to make it here.” - Poncharee “PK” Kounpungchart, chef/co-owner of Little Uncle
“I wish I could find good dulet [an Ethiopian dish], made from lamb stomach and liver and some intestine. Haven’t seen that because of the shortage of getting the clean stomachs here in America.” - Mesfin Ayele, co-owner of Jebena Cafe
“I crave banh can [a Vietnamese dish from the central highlands]. It’s a very basic dish sold on the streets or in markets and eaten anytime of the day. It’s made of rice flour and old rice ground together and made into a runny [savory] batter, then poured into special saucer plates that sit atop a coal stove made out of clay. You can add a variety of toppings to the batter—my favorite is duck eggs. It is served directly into a bowl of anchovy and pineapple fish sauce, sautéed green onions and lots of chile peppers. Growing up, my grandmother used to give me money to go to the street vendors to eat these for before-school breakfast or after-school snacks.” - Taylor Hoang, chef/owner of Pho Cyclo Café and cofounder of the Ethnic Seattle website (ethnicseattle.com)
“I’m from Beijing. What I miss the most is the chao gan, which has pork liver and intestine cooked with soy sauce, minced garlic and other spices, then use starch to make the broth very thick. We eat it with steamed pork buns as breakfast! OMG, my mouth is watering now.” - Vickie Ji, marketing representative for Dough Zone Dumpling House
Eat this, don’t do that
American manners dictate that your elbows should be off the table and that you wait for everyone to be served before eating, but what does minding your manners mean at tables around the world? The food taboos of other cultures are good to keep in mind.
Japan (and many others)
Chopsticks stuck upright into rice are part of the funeral rites in Japan—and a major faux pas for the dinner table. Lay them down next to the bowl when you’re not using them.
When eating whole fish, don’t flip the fish over—that flips the boat we’re all in. Instead, pick the meat from the top, then pull the skeleton out to reach what’s underneath.
Southern India (and many others)
Don’t use your left hand at the table—that one is used for toilet business. (If you’re left-handed, don’t use your right hand—it’s more of a separation of tasks than a fixed hand.)
Don’t put an empty bottle back on the table—it’s an omen of less prosperous times ahead. To keep the wealth coming, if you finish off the vodka, make sure the bottle goes on the floor for safekeeping.