Kau Kau BBQ – File Under: Life’s Simple Pleasures
I was driving home from a fun filled summer day with the kids this afternoon when we stopped in the International District to pick up the key ingredient for tonight’s dinner. I can make a pretty mean stir fry in my home kitchen. However, there is no way I can replicate the deliciousness that is BBQ pork from Kau Kau. It’s char siu style pork with this beautiful red color and a sticky, caramelized coating on the outside. It sticks to your fingers as you eat it and you must lick it off when you are done. My daughter lovingly calls it ‘sweet pork’ and is the chicken soup for her little soul. And so we get it from the masters there every time.
Hopefully everyone allows themselves a guilty pleasure or two in life. For some it’s watching marathons of ‘The Real Housewives of Wherever’. For others it’s eating Taco Bell or KFC. Our simple, guilty pleasure is sitting outside of Kau Kau in the car with a heaping takeaway box of char siu while eating it with our fingers. Yes, it is so delicious. And it’s never quite as good as that very moment when we pop open the box and eat half of it as quickly as we can. I love those moments and sharing them with my daughter.
The Old Chef Knows What’s Cooking
I am no expert on the diversity of restaurants in the ID, Chinatown, Little Saigon or otherwise. There are so many to choose from and I’d have to spend every day dining there for a year to get my bearings and make an educated comparison of the good, bad and ugly. Sure, I have my favorites and have been known to cobble together meals from a few different places when bringing home our takeout dinners. I always go to 663 Bistro for General Tso’s chicken and salt and pepper wings. I generally stop at Bush Garden for a drink in their old school bar though I’m usually too early to watch so-bad-it’s-good karaoke. And I can’t resist grabbing some super white escarole sushi at Uwajimaya.
Even with all of the above favorites the highlight of every trip is getting BBQ at Kau Kau. I don’t know if it’s seeing the giant Pacu fish (formerly Swish) or the old Chef behind the counter with his cleaver and cool fu manchu style beard. Regardless, I love going there. And I love trying to get him to smile while my kids pretend to chop meat with hand cleavers following his lead.
Greatest Hits at Kau Kau
The place is nothing fancy. The website is broken but functional. The decor is old school Seattle ID. And many of the non-BBQ dishes are sort of meh or too deep fried. But that’s not why you go. You go because of the damned BBQ. At $8.20/pound, you can get enough BBQ pork to feed 6 people for under $30 bucks. For the same price you can get their roast pork which is a side of pork belly roasted with crispy skin and a 1/2 inch layer of fat. My other guilty pleasure.
Also hanging in the window are Chinatown standards – soy sauce chickens and roast duck. Both good, tender and cheap. A whole chicken will cost you a whopping $8.50 and a duck will run you $12.95. They also have a lovely lau mei and BBQ spareribs if you are into that kind of thing.
If you live in Seattle then you probably already know about Kau Kau. Or maybe you used to go there and haven’t been for awhile. If you haven’t – then check it out when you’re down in the ID. Or if you’re on your way to a Sounders, Seahawks or Mariners game. You won’t be sorry and you’ll too perhaps create a family tradition like we have. Or acquire a guilty pleasure…