South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Garden) – Still the Best Restaurant in Chinatown


I originally wrote about South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Garden) in January 2009, which you can see here, as one of the best restaurants in Chinatown.  Since then not too much has changed except for the English name; the Chinese name remains the same 粵江春餐館 (yue jiang chun can guan) which literally means Cantonese river spring restaurant, but really is referring to the Pearl River.  The menu, staff, manager and cooks all remain the same.  This has led to it also being the most consistent restaurant in Chinatown, which is actually quite a feat seeing how many if not most restaurants in Chinatown seem to suffer from ups and downs in quality as their kitchen staff comes and goes.

I probably come here about once a month maybe more, so I also come here much more frequently than any other restaurant in Chinatown by a long shot.  I’ve also slightly changed my order patterns as I’ve found other dishes in the restaurant that are very good.  I decided to write this post as an update since things are always changing in Chinatown and this is my re-affirmation that this is my favorite restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Here’s my latest meal here as well as my typical order now:

黃龍魚兩食 (Huang Long Yu Liang Shi / Yellow Dragon Fish Cooked Two Ways):

The one type of dish I always felt was missing at SCG was a good Cantonese fish dish, which I feel is pretty emblematic of Cantonese cuisine.  I’m not a big fan of the type of fresh water fish they used in their qing zheng yu (steamed fish) as it has that sort of fresh water fish taste that I’m not a big fan of (think the fish equivalent of being gamey).  This time I asked the waiter what fish is good and he told me to order the 黃 龍魚 (huang long yu).  Unfortunately, it is not listed on the menu and only listed on the wall in Chinese (hence I’ve provided the Chinese characters to make things easier for anyone who wants to try this).  First comes out the a very light fish soup that boils the fish, tofu, mushrooms, ginger and baby bok choy together and then they separate the soup from the ingredients.  The soup is excellent, very light, not fish and goes great with a dash of white pepper.  The other ingredients they give you on the side, but they’re not all that tasty since you’ve sapped most of the flavor for the soup.

The second preparation is diced pieces of the fish that have been lightly sautéed in a light clear sauce with peas (in the shoot), some other green stalk vegetable which I couldn’t identify and mushrooms.  This is a big winner, the fish is much higher quality (not remotely fishy), very tender and just a really good dish.  I highly recommend this as it’s one of my favorite dishes on the menu now. 8.25/10

Lobster in XO Sauce (XO Jiang Chao Long Xia):

This has been another staple dish for me and is not only quite good, but a steal for $25 for two lobsters.  I’ve tried most of the preparations and I prefer the XO sauce the best as it has good flavor and a slight amount of spice that really make it quite good.  The lobster is always tender and the sauce is great. 8/10

Fried Stuffed Hot Peppers:

This is another one of my newer favorite dishes here.  It is spicy green peppers stuffed with a fish paste and then sautéed in a black bean sauce.  The peppers are really delicious and the fish paste and black bean sauce go really well with the peppers. Surprisingly, the green peppers can be very spicy (it depends sometimes they are spicy, sometimes not) as Cantonese food isn’t usually even remotely spicy.   If you don’t like spicy food, I suggest removing the fish paste (it comes out easily) and scrapping out the seeds as the seeds are what is actually hot. 8.5/10

Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):

Along with NY Noodletown, SCG has the best version of this dish in Chinatown (I think NY Noodletown’s breading is better, but SCG has more tender squid).  The saltiness of the batter along with how non-greasy it is and the fact that the squid is still tender makes this a solid rendition of this dish. 8/10

Fried Garlic Chicken (Suan Xiang Cui Pi Ji):

For some reason this dish is called “Fried Chicken w. Sauce” on the menu, but it’s actually a fried chicken with minced garlic on it.  However, it’s not like American fried chicken as it’s not breaded and it actually looks like rotisserie chicken.  The meat is very tender and the skin is perfectly crispy, but not dried out.  The garlic compliments it’s really well.  I definitely think this is one of their strongest dishes. 8.25/10

Steamed Big Crab With Ho Fun and Garlic:

This is great dish that consists of a large crab that has been steamed over a bed of ho fun (thick rice noodles), garlic and scallions, so that the juices from the crab mix with the garlic and great it’s own sauce that is really good.  The star is the noodles rather than the crab although the crab is still good.  8/10

Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):

This is the Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork chops.  The pork chops are fried and coated with a sweet and sour sauce that is not gloppy or weird tasting.  It’s a very solid dish although it is sweet in case you don’t like sweet dishes. 8/10

Stir Fried String Beans with Preserved Vegetables:

I very recently started ordering this dish at the request of a friend and it turned out to be another good dish to add to the rotation.  It’s the classic stir fried string beans with minced pork, minced pickled vegetables and dried chilis.  They do it well here as you can taste that great wok flavor and the minced pork and pickled vegetables really compliment the dish and are not overly salty. 8/10

Pea Leaves With Crab Sauce (Xie Rou Pa Dou Miao):

This is dou miao (pea leaves) sautéed and then covered in a egg white and crab claw meat sauce.  Pretty self-explanatory, but very good.  8.25/10

Overall, still my favorite restaurant in Chinatown and definitely the most consistent.  Highly recommend.

22 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 964-2229

Wu Shi Nian Dai 五十年代– Great Kaya Toast and Coffee at Chinatown Food Center in Singapore

Kaya toast is one of my all time favorite breakfast items to eat.  Kaya is a spread made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk and flavored with pandan.  You spread it on toast with butter.  In Singapore, there are lots of “kopi tiam”, which are small restaurants or hawker stalls that serve Singaporean breakfast items like kaya toast, soft boiled eggs, coffee, tea, Milo etc.

Wu Shi Nian Dai 五十年代 is a small hawker stand in the Chinatown Food Center that serves typical kopi tiam items, but they specifically specialize in kaya toast.  They do not have an English name (it is only written in Chinese.  It literally translates to 50s, referring to the 1950s.  We noticed it because there was a fairly long line and whenever you see lines in Singapore there is a high probability that you’re going to get some good food.

Kaya Toast:

At Wu Shi Nian Dai they use thick toast that I really liked and the kaya was very good.  If you’ve never had kaya before, its sort of hard to explain, but its a sweet and thick spread made up of coconut milk and pandan leaves.  It that has a pandan flavor to it (if you’ve never had pandan I can’t explain to you what the flavor is like). Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the actual toast.  Pretty self explanatory, but it was awesome.  I could eat kaya toast everyday if it was readily available in the US. 8.5/10


Their coffee was also really good.  In Singapore, you get coffee served with condensed milk.  8.5/10

Blk 335 Smith Street
#02-48 Chinatown Complex Market S050335

Shanghai Café – Surprisingly good Shanghainese meal with the off the menu dishes

I’ve been to Shanghai Café many times and it’s been mixed in terms of quality, some dishes are pretty decent and some are mediocre.  However, it is probably the best Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan.  I recently went back to order off the Chinese menu, which luckily I had a print out of as it wasn’t posted on the wall for some reason (scoopG on Chowhound has a great post of it, which you can find here).  As Shanghai Café is a well-known restaurant, I’ll get straight into the food.

Hundred Leaves Knotted BBQ Meat (Bai Ye Jie Kao Rou /百葉結烤):

This dish consists of knotted tofu skin and pork belly cooked in a brown sauce that is hong shao (red cooking).  Hong shao sauce is made of sugar, garlic, star anise, soy sauce, shaoxing wine and broth.  It’s slightly sweet, but still savory.  The sauce was good and not gloopy or over salted.  The meat was very tender and good.  I really like the knotted tofu skin as it absorbs the flavor of the sauce really well.  Overall, a very solid dish, definitely the best dish of the night. 8/10

Crispy Yellow Croaker (Cui Pi Huang Yu /脆皮黃):

This is a yellow croaker that has been lightly battered and fried.  The sauce is a sweet and sour sauce.  It was surprisingly good; I was concerned it would have that fresh water fish flavor that I don’t like.  A lot of Chinatown restaurants have that flavor because the fish aren’t great quality.  However, there wasn’t any of that flavor in this dish, which was great.  The skin was very good, freshly fried and crispy.  Everyone liked this quite a bit. 7.75/10

Fragrant Shredded Peppers and Beef (Xiao Jiao Xiang Gang Niu Rou Si /小椒香干牛肉):

This is shredded beef, dried tofu and sliced spicy green peppers.  Very simple and self-explanatory, but I always liked this dish and the rendition here is good. 7.75/10

Crab roe soup dumplings (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao):

I decided to try the XLB here again, but unfortunately they were disappointing again (there are no even decent XLB in the city).  The skins were too thick and a bit over-steamed.  The soup is too heavy and the filling was a bit bland.  Stick to the regular dishes.  6.25/10

Stir Fried String Beans (Gan Shao Si Ji Dou):

I love this dish, but unfortunately it was very mediocre.  It had none of the wok flavor that it should have and it was a bit on the salty side.  Simple dish, but I wouldn’t order it here. 6.25/10

Overall, this was a surprisingly good meal and definitely took Shanghai Café up a notch in my book.  The state of Shanghainese food in NY especially Chinatown is pretty bad and in Chinatown this is definitely the best place although the competition is terrible.  Definitely recommend trying some of the dishes I ordered.  I look forward to trying more of the Chinese menu.

100 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3988

Sun Light Bakery – Fresh made to order chang fen / cheung fan (Chinese steamed rice crepe) in Chinatown / LES

Sun Light Bakery is a small Cantonese bakery on East Broadway located on the far eastern part of Chinatown that borders the Lower Eastside.  The bakery is a regular Cantonese bakery with decent baked goods.  However, the real draw is that next door is a small snack shop that is part of the bakery that serves fresh made to order chang fen / cheung fan, which is a steamed Chinese rice crepe with various fillings you can choose.  Typically, you see this dish at dim sum places.  However, in Hong Kong there are places that will make it fresh for you.  It’s much better fresh and when I saw they were serving it fresh, I got very excited.  They have a variety of fillings you can get such as dried baby shrimp, fresh shrimp, beef, roast pork.

So far I’ve tried the beef, dried baby shrimp and the cha shao / cha siu (roast pork):


The beef is different than the version you get at dim sum places, this is more small chunks of minced beef as opposed to the minced beef that fills up the middle.  The chang fen is cut up and the lady will ask you if you want scallions and she will sprinkle diced scallions and cilantro on it (definitely recommend getting that).  You then pour a dark, semi sweet soy sauce on it.  This was quite good. 7.75/10

Dried Baby Shrimp:

This was the same thing, but I liked it a bit better as I really like dried baby shrimp. 8/10

Cha Shao / Cha Siu (Roast Pork):

This was the same thing, but I thought the cha siu wasn’t very good quality as it was a bit dried out although it still tasted pretty good overall. 7/10

Overall, a solid place and if you’re in the neighborhood I recommend stopping in.  Also, I recommend eating it immediately as it tastes much better.

160 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(212) 608-8899

Overseas Asian – Authentic Malaysian food in Chinatown


I’ve been to Overseas several years ago, but I don’t really remember it being anything special.  However, I walk by there all the time and noticed it’s consistently crowded with a local crowd (i.e. Chinese from Chinatown).  I decided that I should give it another try as I’ve been looking for a decent Malaysian restaurant in the city for a while after Happy Joy closed down.  I went there last weekend with my gf and another friend.  It turned out to be a surprisingly good meal, far better than other Malaysian restaurants I’ve been to in Chinatown lately.

The restaurant is in the far eastern part of Chinatown on Canal almost in the Lower Eastside.  It’s nicer than most Chinatown restaurants, its clean and looks new with a wooden interior and wooden tables.  In the back of the restaurant, they have a small area where they sell various Malaysian / Chinese goods such as instant noodles, white coffee (a famous type of coffee from Ipoh), mooncakes, some Malaysian pastries, chili sauces etc.

The service is fine and the servers are pretty nice.  They do speak English if you don’t have anyone who speaks Chinese (they are Cantonese from Malaysia).

On to the food:

Roti Canai:

Roti canai is a layered pancake that you dip into a spicy curry sauce.  It’s very popular in Singapore and Malaysia (used to eat this all the time when I lived there). This was quite good, nice and crispy and tasted freshly cooked, a bit thicker than it should be, but still good. The curry sauce was much better than most of the restaurants I’ve had in the city as it was spicier, had good flavor and the chicken and potatoes in it were quite good.  Everyone liked this dish a lot. 7.75/10

Kari Mee (Curry Mee):

Kari mee is a simple spicy coconut curry noodle soup with egg noodles, shrimp, pork, fish cakes, fried tofu, crispy fried tofu skins, bean sprouts and green onions.  This version was quite good, much better than the version I had at Taste Good in Elmhurst which was way too coconutty.  The broth was very good, spicy, a little bit coconutty, not overly salty and just generally good.  All of the ingredients tasted fresh, I particularly liked the crispy fried tofu skins (recommend eating them quickly as they get really mushy quickly).  The only real downfall to this dish was the noodles, which were clearly packaged and a bit too mushy.  If they had better noodles, this would be a really good dish.  Everyone liked it. 7.75/10

Beef Rendang:

Beef rendang is a coconut curry dish where you slowly cook beef in a coconut curry broth until it’s very tender.  It’s hard to get right and most places tend to mess it up royally.  The version here is pretty decent although not amazing, but better than most places I’ve had in NY though.  The curry sauce is good, spicy, good flavor and not too salty.  The beef while tender was a bit drier than it should be.  My friend really liked it though.  Overall, it was a pretty decent dish. 7.25/10

Ipoh Bean Sprouts:

Ipoh bean sprouts is a dish that I like quite a lot, its blanched bean sprouts with soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions and these really small golden fried onions (you fry them for 45 mins).  Sounds very mundane, but when you have it done correctly it’s really good.  The version here is just okay though.  The bean sprouts were fine as were the other ingredients, but I felt the sauce was lacking and seemed to be a bit bland.  It needed a bit more salt and a lot more sesame oil (it barely had any sesame oil).  6.75/10

Kang Kan Belachan:

This dish was the winner of the night.  Kang kan is kong xin cai in Chinese or water spinach in English.  The dish is cooked in a sauce using belachan, which is a fermented shrimp paste that I really like a lot.   I absolutely love kang kan belchan and this version was outstanding.  The vegetable were cooked perfectly, so they retained a good texture and their flavor.  The sauce was excellent, not being overly salty or using too much belachan.  This tastes pretty close to what you would get in Singapore or Malaysia.  We were all wow’d by this dish.  Highly recommend. 8.25/10

Bak Kut Teh:

Bak kut teh is a soup dish that simmers pork ribs in broth of a whole bunch of herbs and spices like black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, garlic etc for a very long time.  In Chinese it translates to meat bone tea (rou gu cha).  The result is a broth with a deep meaty peppery flavor that isn’t too heavy, most people usually eat it for breakfast with a you tiao (fried crueller).  It’s really good when done right although fairly difficult to find outside of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Besides the pork ribs it usually contains mushrooms, fried tofu puffs and sometimes vegetables.  The version here is okay, nowhere nearly as good as the real version.  It was too sweet (shouldn’t really be sweet) and while it had a decent meaty flavor, it wasn’t as flavorful as it should’ve been.  I meant it tasted good, but if you’ve had the real deal this pales in comparison.  We weren’t expecting much and it was actually probably better than what I was expecting as my expectations were really low. 6.75/10

Hainan Chicken:

Hainan chicken is a whole chicken boiled in water flavored with garlic and ginger and then dipped in ice water, so the skin separates from the meat.  It’s served either room temperature or slightly chilled.  This is one of the most famous dishes in Singapore and one of my favorite dishes, I used to eat it everyday for lunch literally (Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan is my favorite place).  It’s normally served with a light chili sauce, a very dark thick and sweet soy sauce and this ginger garlic oil.  In the US, the places never seem to give you the soy sauce, which is unfortunate b/c it’s really good.  They give you the chili sauce here, which tasted reasonably authentic.  The chicken however wasn’t that great, the skin was a bit too gelatinous and the meat was sort of difficult to get off the bone.  It was also served too cold.  I didn’t like it that much, so it was a bit disappointing. 6.5/10

Hainan Chicken Rice:

This is rice cooked in a chicken stock, looks just like light yellow rice and while it  sounds bland, its very flavorful and really good when you put the chili sauce and dark soy sauce on it.  It’s unfortunately a difficult dish to get correct, in Singapore it’s usually only specialists who make it.  The version here is okay, although far better than most versions in Chinatown which usually range from bad to awful.  It’s got a decent flavor although it doesn’t has the great deep flavor you’d get at a good place and isn’t as fluffy as it should be.  Decent and will do if you really want Hainan chicken rice. 6.75/10

Sambal Sting Ray:

The waitress recommended this dish.  In Singapore, I used to get this dish at this one hawker center all the time and it was another one of my favorite dishes.  If you’ve never had sting ray it is similar to skate.  The meat is very light tasting white meat that isn’t fishy, it should be very tender if done correctly.  The sting rays they use in the US are quite a bit bigger than the ones they use in Singapore, which I think have a better tasting meat, but they are still pretty decent.  This was another surprise dish that turned out to be quite good.  The meat was very tender and cooked nicely, much better than the version I had at Nyonya and better than the version I had at Taste Good in Elmhurst.  The sambal sauce was pretty good, a bit sweet, spicy and had a good flavor from the belachan that was in it.  Sambal is a chili paste used in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.  Overall, I’d definitely recommend this dish. 7.75/10

White Coffee:

This type of coffee is from Ipoh in Malaysia, I’ve had it before in Singapore, but I wasn’t actually sure what the difference was aside from flavor until I looked it up on Wikipedia (  It’s got a much lighter flavor than regular coffee, its smoother and much less bitter.  It’s mixed with condensed milk.  This is the instant version, you simply pour boiling water over the ground mixture of coffee and dried condensed milk.  It’s not quite as good as the real version, but tasty nonetheless and I was pretty excited to find them selling it in the back part of the store.  I’d recommend buying a pack. 7.75/10

Foh San Mooncakes:

It happens to be mid-autumn festival right now when you eat mooncakes.   Foh San is a famous dim sum / mooncake bakery in Ipoh, Malaysia.  Ipoh is a mainly Chinese city in Malaysia that is known for having very good food.  Several Malaysian places in NY are selling the Foh San brand.  They have several different flavors, I tried the Imperial Jade and Durian flavored versions.  They are quite good, the lotus paste is also mixed with some coconut milk and pandan leave that I really liked and I liked the flavor better than the traditional version.  They both have one egg yolk, which I prefer.  The durian version tastes like durian, but you obviously have to like Durian, which a lot of people do not.  I’d recommend this brand and this is where I’ve been getting my mooncakes this year. 8.25/10

Overall, an authentic and surprisingly good meal here, much better than other Malaysian restaurants I’ve been to in the Chinatown including my former go to Skyway, which I’ve been pretty disappointed in the last few times I went there.  I’ve read some pretty bad reviews on about this place, but from what the reviewers said I have a feeling people ordered the wrong dishes b/c they don’t know much about Malaysian food (one person talked about ordering Mapo Tofu).  Definitely recommend trying.

49 Canal Street (between Ludlow St & Orchard St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 925-3233