Pot stickers were not common fare on Northwest menus when Ching Fang Hsu opened his tiny restaurant in an abandoned hamburger stand in Seattle's...

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Pot stickers were not common fare on Northwest menus when Ching Fang Hsu opened his tiny restaurant in an abandoned hamburger stand in Seattle’s Wallingford district more than three decades ago.

Neither was Mandarin fried chicken. At least not the way Mr. Hsu’s wife, Wen Wha Hsu, served it up.

Those were reasons enough for customers to flock to Mr. Hsu’s Harbin Mandarin Chinese Restaurant, even though seating was limited to four counter stools and a couple of tables.

“People would wait for a lengthy amount of time just to get a seat,” said Ruth Eng of Seattle, the youngest of Mr. Hsu’s five children.

For 16 years, Mr. Hsu and his family operated the restaurant, which moved to Greenwood Avenue North in Phinney Ridge, then to an old root-beer stand along Lake City Way Northeast in Maple Leaf.

Mr. Hsu, 84, died at Northwest Hospital on April 24, two days after falling while weeding outside his home in Cedar Park.

John Hinterberger, former Seattle Times restaurant critic, wrote in 1985 that Mr. Hsu’s family restaurant was where “Seattle’s first pot sticker stuck” and where “this city first encountered the exotica of Northern Chinese cooking.”

At the time, most local Chinese restaurants specialized in Cantonese cuisine, said Mr. Hsu’s daughter. His also was one of the first Chinese restaurants open in North Seattle.

Hinterberger described the restaurant as “a harbinger of culinary happenings, spawning imitators and searing gullets from the far reaches of Bellevue’s Crossroads to the grime of Canton Alley.”

Mr. Hsu, the youngest of five siblings, was born in Jilin province near the city of Harbin in northeast China. With little formal education, he spent early years in the import/export business and learned to speak Japanese, Korean and Russian in addition to his native Mandarin Chinese, family members said.

When communists invaded northern China in 1946 and began placing bounties on private merchants, Mr. Hsu and his wife escaped on foot in subfreezing temperatures to communist-occupied North Korea, then to South Korea. It was there he learned that a Seattle congregation, University Presbyterian Church, was open to sponsoring refugee families.

Ron Hsu of Tacoma, Mr. Hsu’s oldest child, said the congregation helped relocate the family, which by then included three youngsters, here in 1957. From their residence in the low-income Yesler Terrace housing project, the family bused across the city for services at the University District church, even though Mr. Hsu’s limited English made understanding the sermons a challenge.

While working various jobs to support his family, he saved enough money to open his restaurant. “He was enterprising, and very industrious,” said his son.

The restaurant was named Harbin, said his daughter, “because he knew that people from northern China would recognize that name.”

He left the cooking to his wife. “He was known for being one of the friendliest managers in town,” Eng said. “He would make it a point to greet everybody who came in, and he would remember his customers.”

The restaurant made it possible for him to help other refugees resettle in this area. By the time he retired in 1981, his last place could seat nearly 100 patrons.

Ron Hsu said each of the offspring, who have all become college-educated professionals, had a turn working in the business.

In 1967, Mr. Hsu was a founding member of the city’s first Mandarin Chinese-speaking church, the nondenominational Evangelical Chinese Church. The congregation was an outgrowth of a Bible-study group Mr. Hsu had helped establish for others who spoke Mandarin Chinese.

He and his wife were married for 63 years. Also surviving are sons Larry Hsu of Honolulu, and Richard Hsu of Albany, Calif.; another daughter, Mary Li Hsu of New York City; and 11 grandchildren. A service was held Saturday at the Evangelical Chinese Church. Memorials may be made to the church, 651 N.W. 81st St., Seattle, WA 98117.