Tag Archives: cheap eats

Location, location, location. It matters for restaurants too.

Vanessa’s Dumplings
220 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

The dumplings here are not good. Yet, I have them at least once every two weeks. Why? Because it’s the only place near me that specializes in dumplings and I ache for dumplings about once every two weeks.

I always get the basic: boiled cabbage and pork dumplings ($3.99 for eight). Cabbage and pork dumplings are classic. The cabbage adds moisture and sweetness to the meat. A quality dumpling would have thin, yet chewy skin, tender and flavorful, not-too-loose-nor-dense filling. As you can see here, Vanessa’s dumplings have thick skin, and despite the color of the meat, it actually is quite bland. Soy sauce and chili sauce is needed. In China, the classic way to eat dumplings is just to dip it in a little vinegar. The vinegar helps cut the flavor and fattiness from the dumpling itself.  Continue reading Location, location, location. It matters for restaurants too.

Bo Ky Restaurant – $5 Pho

Bo Ky Restaurant (or New Bo Ky Restaurant)
80 Bayard St
(between Mulberry St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013

Y.P. wanted pho. I don’t have Vietnamese food very often for some reason… not too sure why because I love pho and love this one whole roasted fish dish that you pick at and wrap in rice wrappe sheets – anyone know what it’s called? I was going to be in the Financial District area so looked up the best pho place in the area and found Bo Ky.

The restaurant reminded me of those typical Chinese fastfood places in Hong Kong where people slurp up their wonton noodle soups in suits, leave cash on the table, and head back to their busy lives. We came on a weekday for lunch and the place was surprisingly packed with mostly solo diners. You are expected to share tables and to leave as soon as possible.

I didn’t actually see pho on the menu, though everything they had was “pho-like”. They had a number of other noodle dishes, as well as some appetizers such as the Salted Water Duck, which I saw many order. People came in as regulars and ordered without even looking at the menu. I felt pretty n00by needing a menu and taking more than 3 minutes to decide. I ended up getting the Cambodian Noodle Soup ($5), which had a typical pho-like broth (supposedly made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, onion, ginger, and spices) but instead of the usual condiments, had pork slices, shrimp, and fish balls with half-cooked bean sprouts.

Continue reading Bo Ky Restaurant – $5 Pho

When you know what to get, Henan Flavor can be great.

Henan Flavor (now Spicy Village)
68B Forsyth St
(between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10002

In the mood for some cheap somewhat-legit Chinese food?  Henan Flavor is a good place to check out… only if you order the best.  Their menu consists of a variety of hand-pulled wide noodle dishes, dumplings, and the renown Big Tray of Chicken (pictured above).  They have some other chicken dishes but I have never seen anyone… anyone order them. I’ve been here a couple of times and have now tried many of their dishes.  I would suggest not to order the noodles, even though Yelp reviewers say otherwise.  The noodles are decently chewy and clearly homemade but the soups and the sauces lack depth and flavor.  Yes, one big bowl of noodles can range from only $4-$6, but I can guarantee you a better meal if you order these things instead:

1. Pork Pancake or 肉夹馍 (meat between steamed buns).This “pancake” is $2 each (one pancake pictured) and beats Xi’an Famous Foods and Prosperity Dumplings pancakes by far.  The steamed bread (it really isn’t cakey; not too sure why people insist on calling it a pancake) is soft and chewy.  The exterior seems to have a very thin film of crispiness.  The pork inside is like an Asian carnitas: semi-fatty, lots of juice (as you can see from the semi-soaked bread), and bursting with flavor.  It also has the perfect 1:1 bread:meat ratio.  I happen to love cilantro so this was of course a welcomed addition.  But if you are like LAW and despise these fragrant little green things, the lovely woman who makes the pancakes is happy to exclude them from your order.

2. Big Tray o’ Chicken or 大盘鸡 + NOODLES

Remember how I told you NOT to get any noodles dishes?  This is because you have to order the Big Tray of Chicken and ask for noodles on the side.  The Big Tray of Chicken (first photo) is a fairly large tray of chicken and potatoes seeped in a spicy chili oil sauce… for only $12.  This is by FAR the most expensive item on the menu and for good reason.  This large tray fed 3 hungry eaters, two of whom are boys who normally eat for two, for TWO meals (they are great as leftovers).  The chicken is super tender and rich with flavor.  They also use Sichuan peppercorns, which gives the dish a slightly numbing taste … extremely addicting.  The potatoes are very soft and a nice carby addition to the chicken, especially since the chicken will have you hissing like a snake after a few bites due to the spice and numbing effects.  The NOODLES on the side are just plain hand-pulled noodles that come on a plate.  The reason I like ordering this over any other noodle dish is because you can pull off a single noodle and dip it in the chili oil sauce as you wish, keeping all the noodles al dente, rather than soaking in a soup or sauce that makes them soggy and blah. Continue reading When you know what to get, Henan Flavor can be great.