Tag Archives: Chinatown

DUMPLING GALAXY 🌌


Dumpling Galaxy
42-35 Main Street
(Franklin Avenue)
Flushing

I. Love. Dumplings. So. Much.

Dumplings are my ultimate comfort food I think. Especially the handmade kind where the skin is not too thin nor too thick… where the skin has this amazing stretchy, chewy texture. Machine-made skin is so boring compared to handmade. It’s just thin. And just thin is never good. Handmade can be thin yet have so many other qualities. But poorly handmade skin where it is so thick it’s like bread is also no good. It’s hard to find a good dump. Ranking would probably be:

Handmade Thin Skin > Machine-made Thin Skin > Handmade Thick Skin

Okay now that you understand the skin, onto the fillings. The best fillings are ones that are not too fat or lean (GOTTA GET ‘EM JUST RIGHT), that have an ingredient combo that when cooked, excretes a juice worthy of having as a standalone soup. My mom makes the best dumplings. The skin is not too thin or thick, the fillings not too fat or lean, and sized just right so you pop one into your mouth all at once each time – maximizing the juice intake. Continue reading DUMPLING GALAXY 🌌

The most authentic Canto food at Cha Chan Tang

Cha Chan TangCha Chan Tang (aka Tea Restaurant)
45 Mott Street (between Pell St and Bayard St)
New York, NY 10013

Cha Chan Tang is a type of restaurant that is popular in Hong Kong and specializes in cheap Canto-Western style foods. It also happens to be the name of a restaurant in Chinatown that serves up this exact kind of food. Directly translated, “cha chan tang” means “tea restaurant.” They came to exist after the British colonized Hong Kong and brought the concept of having tea and cakes. Western food was very expensive so restauranteurs decided to make a “tea restaurant” just for locals which served up a fusion menu. This restaurant in Chinatown mimics these types of restaurants through their menu and decor (see above… they have these fake windows that play videos of Hong Kong streets/traffic on loop… pretty cool).

Cha Chan Tang
The reason I knew we had stepped into an authentic cha chan tang was because of the intense smell of Hong Kong style milk tea. Hong Kong style milk tea is made with black tea and condensed or evaporated milk. Sounds simple enough but the real deal is actually pretty hard to come by. To make this concoction, tea leaves are placed in a sackcloth (see above), which are then placed in a container with water that is brought to a boil. The sackcloth is said to make the tea smoother. The container is removed when the water is boiling, and then sometimes brought back to a boil. This repeated action intensifies the flavor and caffeine levels – hence, the milk tea is usually pretty caffeinated.

Cha Chan Tang
The milk tea looks just like this. You can then add sugar to your liking. It’s strong, milky, and very, very fragrant.

Cha Chan TangThis is a classic pineapple bun. Growing up, I had one of these at least once a week. It is a slightly sweet bread that is made to resemble a pineapple. Nothing about the taste is pineappley. The crust is flakey and sugary while the center is soft and fluffy. This version is a buttered pineapple bun that is very common in cha chan tangs. A warm pineapple bun is served with a fat slab of butter in the middle, melting as it reaches your table. The bun paired with the strong tea is enough reason to visit the restaurant over and over again. Continue reading The most authentic Canto food at Cha Chan Tang

Barrio Chino, a Mexican restaurant in Chinatown.

Barrio Chino
253 Broome St
(between Ludlow St & Orchard St)
New York, NY 10002

I finally made it to Barrio Chino.  LAW doesn’t like Mexican food very much and since he is my primary dining date, I had yet to venture out to this very well-known Mexican restaurant situated right on the edge of Chinatown.  There’s also always a long line so there was even less incentive to go.  Anyway, I finally made it on a girls’ night out (+T.G.).

Started out with a round of margaritas.  I got the grapefruit margarita with a rim of sugar… apparently their most popular drink.  It was a good margarita, but lacked grapefruit taste.  I was imagining a deliciously cold sweet and tart tequila drink with hints of grapefruit bitterness… but just got the sweet and tart bit instead.  I would have had another round if I wasn’t biking home from dinner.

We shared the Guacamole with homemade tortilla chips and salsa roja ($10).  M.B. pushed my expectations way high when she said that we had to get it because it was some of the best guac she’s had.  She’s from California, where avocados are in season all year round, so she definitely knows her stuff.  The guac was creamy, yes, and very good.  But I think avocados are naturally just so awesome that I can’t say I’ve ever had bad guac before… it requires little more than mashing and some light ingredients.  The best guac is definitely the kind you make for yourself because you add as much salt, pepper, lime, and chilies as you like… This guac was not spicy enough for my taste and could have used a bit more lime.  But honestly, any ripe avocado makes me salivate.  $10 for a small bowl was also a bit pricey.  If you are willing to pay for overpriced guac, check out Rosa Mexicano.  They have a highly customizable guac appetizer that is deeelicious.

I had the Camarones Borrachos, which was a plate of fresh shrimp sauteed in tequila, guajillo chiles, and garlic, with green rice, avocado slices, and tortillas ($12).  The first thing I noticed was that the rice wasn’t really green.  Green rice, or arroz verde, is rice dish made with long grain rice, parsley, and steamed spinach leaves.  I’ve never had it so was excited to try what I envisioned to be a flavorful rice.  However, it tasted pretty plain, which after having the shrimp, I was happy about.  The sauce was tasty and had a nice kick to it from the chiles.  It was a little too salty, which is why the plain rice and tortillas were welcomed.  I was bummed that the shrimp was overcooked… overcooked seafood is one of my biggest pet peeves.  A couple seconds too long on the heat and the shrimp or fish is completely un-salvageable.  Seafood should be fresh, sweet, and only lightly seasoned to enhance its own flavors.  Not chewy, tough, and doused in sauce. Continue reading Barrio Chino, a Mexican restaurant in Chinatown.

Chinatown Hangover Cure at Congee Village

Congee Village
100 Allen St
New York, NY 10002

 

If you are an American Born Chinese and grew up eating in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Congee Village will make you nostalgic for your childhood.  Congee Village is the quintessential Chinatown restaurant.  It is Cantonese (early Chinese immigrants were mostly Cantonese so most Chinatowns now are dominated by a Cantonese population), uses huge gold wallpaper adorned with dragons and phoenixes, has plenty of large, round table seating, and has an all male wait staff that wears black slacks, white shirts, and little black vests.  If you’re hungover, Congee Village will provide the hearty dishes and watered down tea to make things right again.  I happened to be both an ABC and hungover on a Sunday afternoon (well, I’m always an ABC) and so Congee Village was doubly perfect for me.

I seriously woke up, with a headache, craving Salted Fish and Diced Chicken Fried Rice ($9.50).  If you’ve never had it, you’d think I was weird.  But if you have, you’d completely understand.  I needed the oily goodness of second-day jasmine rice fried up with chicken, peas, scallions, and most of all, salted fish.  Good fried rice is always made with second-day rice because the extra day in the fridge* lets the rice dry out.  Fried rice always involves some sort of liquid (oil, some kind of sauce, or cooking wine) and if you start out with a plump batch of rice, the additional liquid will just make your rice mushy.  If you can’t fry each individual grain of rice, you know you have a problem.  The chicken is actually kind of useless in my opinion and I’d be completely okay leaving it out… but it is part of the traditional style of this canto dish so Congee Village leaves it in.  Chicken is very difficult to make well… a couple seconds too long on the stove and you have a dry stringy wok of diced chicken.  I do love the peas but according to T.W., they are not actually part of the traditional dish.  Americans eat a lot of peas, so one day, someone just decided to add them to every fried rice possible.  It adds color and I think it tastes great.  It gives a bit of sweetness to counter the salty fish… my favorite part of the dish.  Yes, salted fish smells kind of like … feet … but it tastes like salt on crack.  There isn’t a whole lot of it in the rice, which makes it all that much more special.  Tiny pieces of the fish are sprinkled throughout just to give you enough to make you yearn for more.  Serious umami factor here.

Continue reading Chinatown Hangover Cure at Congee Village

Banh Mi Saigon, the best banh mi in Manhattan?

  

Banh Mi Saigon
198 Grand St
(between Mulberry St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013

I posted about banh mi’s a bit ago in my Xe May Sandwich Shop post so you can read the earlier post for more details about the historic Viet-French sandwich.  I mentioned at the end of the post that though Xe May is great, Banh Mi Saigon is slightly better.  Well, after going back to Banh Mi Saigon recently, I decided that I was a fool and that Banh Mi Saigon trumps Xe May by far.

Banh Mi Saigon is a small Vietnamese restaurant bordering Chinatown and Little Italy.  It’s interestingly enough run by Cantonese (southern Chinese) people.  I couldn’t tell you if this has affected the sandwich’s authenticity because I have never been to Vietnam and tried a “real” one* nor do I have Vietnamese friends** who can vouch for it (always welcome to introductions!) but I do know that it is an amazing sandwich shop.  When you walk into the sandwich shop, there are two rows of long tables along each side of the wall and a jeweler who sells Asian jade bracelets and necklaces and such (see top left).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone buy anything there so wonder if it is wasted real estate… perhaps if they converted it to a mini bubble tea seller…  As you continue to walk into this rectangular shaped shop, you approach the cashier and the open kitchen.  Stacks of freshly made baguettes are under the spotlight at a cutting station (see top right, center of photo).  Service is quick and friendly.

A classic banh mi includes fillings such as pork, spreadable pork liver pate, cilantro, pickled and shredded carrots and daikon, chili sauce and homemade mayonnaise.  The essential tastes of a good banh mi need to include a little bit of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and spiciness.  In the US, the chili sauce is often replaced with jalepeno peppers, a type of pepper they do not have in Vietnam.

Pictured above is what Banh Mi Saigon calls “BBQ Pork Banh Mi,” which includes a sweet and salty pork that is crispy on the edges, some kind of ham, pork liver pate, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and jalepenos.  The bread at this shop is amazing.  It makes that nice bread sound when you squeeze it.  Because they make their bread at this shop and are always busy, the bread is always freshly baked.

Pictured above is my favorite sandwich to get at Banh Mi Saigon.  They replace the BBQ pork, ham, and pate with juicy, hyper-tender meatballs.  These meatballs are definitely some of the best I’ve had (better than The Meatball Shop though I have friends who don’t think the two can be compared since this one is “Asian”).

Continue reading Banh Mi Saigon, the best banh mi in Manhattan?

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.

Gimme some of that Chinese BBQ!!!

  

Big Wing Wong
102 Mott St
(between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10013

 

It was a sunny President’s Day and we decided to celebrate by biking into Chinatown and stocking up on some cheap groceries.  We get our groceries roughly every two weeks from Hong Kong Supermarket, the biggest supermarket (I believe) in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  Vegetables and meats are so, so much cheaper here than at your average American supermarket.  Sometimes, you can get a whole bag of tomatoes for a dollar!  You can also find much more variety of vegetables, such as bitter melon, pea shoots, and fresh prince mushrooms – makes cooking much more interesting.  Since we were already in the area, we of course picked up some lunch.  I decided I was in the mood for some juicy char siu.  Char siu is a Chinese barbecue pork that is often eaten with rice, noodles, or even in a bun.  Red food coloring is often added to give the meat its reddish exterior.  It has a shiny glaze of honey on the outside that gives the meat a slightly sweet flavor.

Based on various reviews I read online, Big Wing Wong apparently has some of the best char siu in the area.  The restaurant was extremely busy when we popped in.  Tables were filled with various parties as you are expected to sit wherever there is an empty space.  We ended up sitting at a table with three girls who worked at the restaurant.  They were on their lunch break, which only ended up being not more than 15 minutes.  The place is extremely fast paced.  People come in and either order a whole duck to-go, or sit down and eat with their heads buried, without pausing to take a breath, down their tea, and peace out.  We were clearly noobs as it took us more than 5 minutes to decide what we wanted to eat and I of course had my camera out.   Continue reading Gimme some of that Chinese BBQ!!!

Prosperity Dumplings

Prosperity Dumpling
46 Eldridge St
New York, NY 10002

 

Bought a ton ($8 for 50) and boiled at home. Great for lazy nights. The dumplings are a little too big (though still smaller than the typical American Chinese “Peking Ravioli”.. Those guys are monsters). Real Chinese dumplings should only be about 2 inches in length, max. The skin should also be much thinner. Not paper thin though cause then it would be more of a Xiao Long Bao (soup dumpling).  All in all, Prosperity makes a decent (very cheap) dumpling that is better than its competitors, such as Vanessa’s.