Goodbye to the Year of the Rat

On Friday, February 12 we will celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year - the year of the ox! Tonight we observe what westerners call New Year’s Eve, but there’s not much to celebrate here in the United States.

One thing to be cheery about: we just got our first donation of $100. Thank you, mystery contributor!

And hello to our eight subscribers! Yes, things are starting out low and slow here at the Nirvana Wok newsletter. No pressure.

Chow Fun Times
I have rediscovered bean sprouts! Been staying away from sprouts that don’t come with pho because they are foodborne-illness problematic. Putting them in piping hot pho solves that problem, but so does firing them up in a hot wok! So now we have mung bean sprouts in our version of chow fun. They provide a pleasant crunch. You could also blanch them before assembling a dish, which works fine. Another note about our chow fun - the fresh noodles are too perishable so we’re going with dry wide rice sticks now. A brand from Thailand. They’re good because they are wider and thinner than the fresh chow fun noodles you can buy at Mekong Rainer, Uwajimaya and other Seattle outlets.

Also: no more beef on the menu! You can add prawns or pork tenderloin, which we marinate in a mix of soy sauce, oil, baking soda, corn starch and spices. Our menu, and the chow fun, is always evolving.

Lobsters of Destiny
After repeated attempts to get Rocket Fresh2U to respond to my complaint regarding our missing lobsters: nothing. I knew this service was too good to be true - I should have realized that after noticing that they don’t publish a phone number on their website. You can try and communicate with them through WeChat, whatever that is. We were not victims of dreaded mythological “porch pirates” here - I saw the guy deliver the Rocket box to our porch, sans lobsters.

Their website says they are selling geoducks for $9 each - which also might be too good to be true. There’s no minimum size limit for harvesting these delightful Pacific Northwest clams so I imagine the $9 ones are gonna be pretty small. Smaller, younger animals are usually tastier, as a rule, and I certainly wouldn’t want to kill a large geoduck that was born shortly after the Civil War - they can live to be over 150 years old.

Luxury Tent Living
It’s been a slow December for delivering food. Last week we gave out a dozen pairs of socks and gloves to people at the encampment near the VA Hospital on Beacon Hill in Seattle. Nirvana Wok is still a no budget operation, but we head into 2021 with the goal of handing out as many free hot meals as possible. This is a microcharity. Nirvana Wok is also an LLC, not a 501c3 - but according to the latest COVID relief act passed by Congress corporations can deduct 100% of restaurant meals from their taxes, which means a company can order food from Nirvana Wok, or to be donated, or a combination of both, and it will be tax-deductible.

Seattle: Bagel Desert
There's a new bagel place across from the Amazon Spheres (known locally as “Jeff’s Balls”) that looks promising. Rubenstein’s Bagels is the latest attempt to bring something that resembles a real New York bagel to Seattle. That place that sold “Montreal style” bagels didn’t work out. Long ago, in the early 90s, there was a chain called Spot Bagels. That didn’t work out. There’s a long list of bad Seattle bagel places that no longer exist.

Rubensteins looks authentic. I would crave an open faced lox sandwich with choice of schmear, capers and red onion, so $12 seems okay but $5 extra for salmon roe is … spendy. The employees at Amazon can afford it, although most of them are working from home right now and the Amazon campus has been a ghost town since April. One thing we can all agree on: cured salmon is one of the greatest things in the world. Just ask the people who were living around these parts a few thousand years ago.

Eater Seattle pointed out that Rubenstein’s sells “smears.” The typo was later corrected, but the fact that the writer might not understand basic Yiddish phrases is troubling.

The Year the Restaurants Died
Did I forget to mention that the restaurant industry in Seattle was wiped out this year? Too many closings to tabulate. Multi-million dollar operations like Tom Douglas took pandemic money to try and get by, but that won’t save them in the long run. It’s grim, people. But you know what? The food at Tom’s restaurants was great but it was also really expensive. Confession: I once had a two hundred dollar lunch at Tom’s Etta’s Seafood with my friend Ronald. Nobody’s perfect, but that kind of indulgence does not play well in a reality where millions of people – through no fault of their own – do not have money for food. We need to re-think how we feed people.

Induction Junction
I don’t want to close on a sanctimonious note so here’s good news that doesn’t necessarily reek of virtue-signaling: Nirvana Wok just purchased a new induction cooker! An under $100 model, not one of those restaurant-grade ones. Good enough for now. Boils water instantly. Super heats a wok instantly. Sweet times.

-Alex

nirvanawok@gmail.com

Covid-19 Seattle-Area Emergency Food Resources