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Gnocchi Bar's Lisa Nakamura Digs Uwajimaya's Food Court

The former Allium chef scarfs manapuas and beef chow fun in the International District.

Uwajimaya Seattle [Facebook]
Seattle is home to a lot of restaurants, and among them are hidden gems some Seattleites just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share with us their under the radar recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.

Chef Lisa Nakamura, formerly of Allium on Orcas Island, has been hard at work on her upcoming restaurant Gnocchi Bar, which has held pop-ups at Miyabi 45th and launches a crowd-funding campaign October 24. Nakamura is a fan of the Uwajimaya food court, where she opts for manapua ("the perfect self-contained sandwich") or beef chow fun, because they remind her of her childhood in Hawaii.

Growing up in Hilo, we didn't really have a great dim sum place.  So when my relatives would visit from the 'big city' of Honolulu, one of the gifts they would bring would be a cake box filled with dim sum. And our favorite was the manapua. The ones at Uwajimaya are just like that: big, fluffy and filled with red pork scented with five spice. I take a bite, and I'm a little kid again, eying that pink cake box with longing and anticipation.

I thought manapua was strictly a Hawaii thing. When I moved to Seattle after living in Phoenix and Atlanta, I was delighted to find my childhood friend here. Delighted, and confused, as here it is called hom bao. I can always tell a true Hawaii transplant because we say manapua.

Chow fun seems hard to find in Chinese restaurants here in Seattle. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places. In Hawaii, chow fun is kind of a staple on a 'good' Chinese restaurant's menu. It's certainly something we always ordered. And what's not to love about big wide fat noodles with lashings of oyster sauce, tender strips of beef, and pungent green onions all tossed together in an impossibly-hot wok?

These two dishes are my version of fast food. Super easy to get, super easy to eat...well, the manapua at least. Driving and eating chow fun with chopsticks is NOT recommended.

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