Serving Sake to a Serb: Mee Sum Pastry

Mee Sum Pastry is a tiny shop in Pike Place Market that slings assorted Chinese goodies, including humbows, barbecue pork skewers, pot stickers, crab wontons, and almond cookies. They stay busy all day everyday, steaming, baking, and frying without rest to provide for the hungry tourists and residents alike that line up at the walk-up counter and block off an entire segment of the sidewalk.

The business' no. 1 seller is its barbecue pork humbow (char siu bao in Chinese), available for $2.50. These babies fly off the shelves; fresh bread buns (baked, not steamed) stuffed with slow-roasted, sweetened pig meat. Survey the Market, you're more likely to see people holding humbows than you are iPods.

Great girlfriend alert: I made a stop at Mee Sum Pastry late yesterday afternoon to pick one up up as a snack for Slavko to eat while he watched the NFL draft. Not wanting it to get cold, I tightly folded over the white paper bag it came in and just 20 minutes later, was at his apartment, delivery in hand.

Slavko eats his hom bow with a knife and fork.
He grinned as soon as he saw that it was bread. Slavko loves bread in all its forms, it's a staple in Serbian cuisine. He slid the humbow onto a plate, then grabbed a knife and fork.

"What are those for?" I asked.

"To eat with," he said, stupidly.

I explained that there was no need; his hands would suffice. But Slavko refused to pick up the humbow. "In Serbia, you even eat pizza with a knife and fork," he informed me.

Barbecued pork filling.

I was skeptical. "Is that what you do in Serbia? Or is that what all Serbians do in Serbia?"

"Well, I can't speak for every Serbian in Serbia," he responded. 'But I'm Serbian, my family and friends are Serbian, and these Serbians I can say eat everything with a knife and fork."

He added, "It's much cleaner that way."

Then he set to work cutting off a piece of his humbow. It was strange to watch; much like watching someone use utensils to eat a cheeseburger or a candy bar. Sure, people do it. But it's still sort of strange.

Slavko liked what he was eating, regardless of how he was eating it. "It's like a dessert," he said in a pleased tone. "The bread is soft, the inside is sweet... actually, you know what? It's almost like a breakfast pastry."

His observation made sense, given that humbows are a popular dim sum selection. He nodded in agreement when I told him this. "I could totally eat this in the morning."

"With a knife and fork?"

"Of course."

It took only a few minutes for Slavko to polish off his plate. "That's some good stuff. Do you have anymore kung pao?" he asked.

"First of all, it's humbow, not kung pao. And second of all, I don't. Sorry."

"Oh! Wait a minute, kung pao is the stuff I get at Panda Express," he said, then added with a grin, "I eat that with a fork, too. But I prefer the humbow."

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