Luu To
Cook, Shanghai Garden, 524 Sixth Ave S (International District), 625-1688.

Since 1994, Shanghai Garden has been a favorite among its faithful devotees. Although Shanghai specialties like salt-and-pepper squid (and an epic menu that offers meats, seafood, and specialty soups) are consistently excellent, the Garden's cult status can be attributed to its hand-shaved noodles: made in-house and shaved in thick, uneven strips, served in generous piles with fresh Asian vegetables and your choice of sautéed beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp. Before lapsing into a noodle coma, I convinced Luu To to take a quick break from the kitchen.

This place is famous for its noodles.

"They're always popular, we make a lot--"

--how often do you get the flour out and make a fresh batch?

"Once every morning, once daily."

You've got these green noodles on the menu, in the "High Nutrition" section.

"That's not spinach that makes them green, you know. It's barley green [powder]. It's what gives them that nice, light green color."

What's the most frequently ordered noodle dish?

"Everyone loves the chicken-and-mushroom hand-shaven chow mein. But the customer's always right."

I just saw you and the other cooks eat your family meal, and it looked amazing. A feast.

"We just throw together whatever's lying around, whatever we've got extra. We'll eat anything."

Do you get produce and stuff from the markets around this neighborhood?

"Oh, no. We order from purveyors, and we get deliveries. It's too expensive around here. The Pike Place Market is too expensive."

Tourists love it, though. You probably get a lot of tourists in here.

"Especially from Canada, and California. Chinese folks wanting something familiar when they're traveling. There's so much Chinese food in this area. And in Kent, too."

There's also a lot of sushi places around here.

"I can't deal with sushi. It's fish. It's raw. I'll never get used to it."

I don't know why I always thought the I.D. was more Vietnamese and Japanese.

"Well, it's a pretty big mix here--you've got people, too, from Shanghai, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines.... But, you know, us Chinese folks--we always outnumber everybody. I mean, wherever you go on the planet--there's billions of us. We're everywhere."

Interview by Min Liao