Months ago, a caller complained that I eat "weird" food, not "American" food.
This week, an e-mailer wants me to tell him where to find the best pozole and the best borscht in Tacoma.
I love swimming in the melting pot, but I'm coming up empty on pork-and-hominy stew and beet soup recommendations.
Meantime, my colleagues and I are working on a series of stories about South Tacoma Way. I'm doing the cultural angle, which can often be told through food.
Hong Sheng Fung (aka The Pot Sticker) opened recently at 8302 South Tacoma Way, across from the drive-in flea market. The restaurant serves Chinese food cooked by a woman of Chinese descent who was born in Korea and later moved to Tacoma.
My first meal at Hong Shen Fung included pot stickers -- one-bite dumplings with crisped edges and mild, meaty fillings -- and once I got those out of the way, I moved into the small menu's more interesting territory:
Pigs feet and cold roast beef.
Chinese delicacies, both, according to Jennifer, the chef who came out of her kitchen to see who ordered her house specialty combo.
"I wanted to see if you are Asian," she said.
I hardly had to assure her I am not Asian, and we spent the next several minutes talking about the pan-cultural pleasures of pigs feet and what many American diners won't eat.
"These are my mother's recipes," the chef said. "I cook them how I want to, how they should be. If they don't like it, tough."
By "they," I assumed she meant anyone who wasn't Chinese or didn't have a taste for the edible unknown.
Not everything on the menu is "authentic." For instance, meals are served with banchan, mini plates of mixed Korean appetizers. Sweet and sour pork, fried rice and the like are on the menu, too.
I wanted pigs feet, boiled until the fat melted away. Roasted and glazed to a light-brown sweetness, they were chopped and served cold.
"Enjoy them with a beer," the chef said.
I enjoyed them for their swine simplicity: Shed of fat, the pigs feet were all about cartilage and collagen -- chewy, almost creamy morsels accented by pockets of meat.
Roast beef, too, was served cold, in slices that revealed no fat, just layers of meat accented by cracks that used to contain fat. This beef was dense and tender and intensely black from its soy-chili seasoning.
On my next visit, I opted for sweet and sour pork, plus steamed pot stickers (a little more slithery than the fried dumplings, but just as good).
Sweet and sour pork is one those dishes tailored to American palates. It's the chalupa of Chinese cuisine. I didn't expect to find crunchy slices of black mushrooms, or sweetly marinated cucumber tossed among battered pork and pineapple. An otherwise unimpressive dish made a slight impression.
Now, where to find pozole and borscht in Tacoma?
I know a place on South Tacoma Way that serves pozole. I don't recommend it. I'll gladly search the eastside's Mexican joints for the best bowls, amigos.
Borscht? Beats me, comrades, but there's a Ukranian deli in downtown Auburn where I'm hoping to find something "weird" and edibly un-"American."