Geo keeps telling me that we have been everywhere in Spokane, but I am pretty much convinced that Spokane will never run out of places that we have never been. New restaurants open every month, or so it seems. I happen to think Geo simply has discovered some favorite restaurants among all the places we have been and he wants to revisit them. We do occasionally revisit our favorites for sure, but while he would like me to believe that we have been everywhere there is to go, I do know better.
So there we were, contemplating the possibilities, waxing and waning between old favorites and something new, when we drove past Chai Hana Salam Asian Cafe and Bakery, located at 3329 E Sprague. Needless to say, we both agreed, this was to be our diner destination.
I love ethnic food. I think that it is very wonderful to enjoy the food and flavors that originate in faraway countries. Tonight it was the faraway flavors of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. (Click on the country list to see them on a map.) Our hostess brought out a globe and showed us the countries where the food is from.
I had originally heard about this little restaurant sometime after they had first opened. It has taken me so long to head this way because being a cafe, I falsely thought it was only open for lunch. I was wrong. They are open until eight o'clock! The place was very comfortable, the hospitality quite welcoming, and the food... delicious!
I was a little bewildered looking at the menu when we first looked at it. Even with pictures of the food, I had no idea where to begin ordering things with such foreign names, things that we had never heard of...things like "manti" and "plov" and "samosa."
There were some things that we had heard of too, like "borscht" "kebab" and "baklava" but neither of us really knew what would be good to try. Besides, really, it all looked great. The hostess came to our rescue though, and gave us some suggestions of new things to try. When we ate it, we loved it all.
We began the meal with black tea and a triangular shaped biscuit-like food called samosa.
The samosa was a sort of pastry with meat inside, served with a container of a mildly spicy, almost ketchup-like red sauce. This food actually reminded me a little bit of the highly coveted "pasties" that were consumed in mass quantities by the Finnish and Scandiavian "locals" of the UP in Michigan where I once lived. These were a little different than those pasties. I never really liked pasties much, though my kids did. I did like the samosa. It was the perfect appetizer.
Next we were served our soup.
The soup, called Lagman... (I think this is what it was called!) was fantastic! We liked it because it too reminded us of another (and a very favorite) food we were familiar with, one called, Lecsó.
The food connection between this food from our own ethnic heritage and this one here was kind of neat. It made me think about how food connects people, how foods have certain, "dialects." We could taste something here that was famliar, and yet it was something we had never eaten quite like this before.
This soup also had some great noodles, ones "like mother used to make." Needless to say, we really liked the soup. Geo happens to love soup... of almost any kind. He even thought that the soup alone would have been a great meal... but "no,".... more delicious things were yet to come our way.
Next was the Manti,
and the Carrot Salad.
The Manti was a dumpling dish served with sour cream. The Plov was a rice dish with some tender meat served on the top. The Carrot Salad was basically shredded carrots with vinegar and seasoning. All of that was good as well. Then there were these Cream Puffs for dessert.
(These are not your freezer case cream puffs!)
I was fascinated by the Tandir ovens and even got a glimpse of the big one in the kitchen while I was there. It's huge! I have since learned that it was shipped specially overseas to Spokane for use here at this restaurant. In addition to the big one in back, there is a smaller one in the dining area, which is used for cooking as well. It was hot to the touch.
I knew these ovens were used to bake bread. I have seen them before, but not so up-close. I have to admit, I had no idea that the bread was cooked while being adhered to the side of it!
Here are some other resources on the internet about this restaurant and their ovens.
--A Spokesman Review Article about Chia Hana Salam
--A You Tube Video:
Placing Laposhki into Tandir oven
Its good to know that one needn't have gone everywhere before revisiting restaurants.. right Geo?