Chiu Hong Bakery is an old school Cantonese bakery located on the cusp of Chinatown and Soho. It’s the type old school Toisan family owned bakeries that are slowly dying in Chinatown. The place is dingy with no décor whatsoever. There’s not much more to say about the place other than it’s turning out some great pastries.
Lotus Seed Pastry (Lian Rong Su)
This is a flaky pastry that is filled with lotus seed paste. The dough was nicely flaky and not too oily or dry. The lotus seed paste was fairly dense and not overly sweet. It was pretty good. 7.75/10
Wife Cake (Lao Po Bing)
This is a thin flaky disc shaped pastry filled with a winter melon filling with roasted sesame. The version here is excellent, definitely the best version I’ve had in NY and pretty close to Asia level good. In particular the filling is excellent; it’s not the paste that most places have, but rather actual strips of winter melon. This is really excellent and definitely a must order. 8.5/10
Peanut Mochi (Hua Sheng Nuo Mi Ci)
Everyone knows about Japanese mochi, but there is a Cantonese version of mochi as well. I believe they were very popular a long time ago in the 50s or 60s. Anyhow, today they are an old school pastry that you don’t see a lot of people eating anymore. Chiu Hong’s version is excellent and homemade. The dough is very soft, thicker than Japanese mochi and dried coconut has been sprinkled on the outside. The ground peanut and sugar filling is delicious. These were really good. 8.5/10
Red Bean Mochi (Dou Sha Nuo Mi Ci)
These are the same except with red bean paste in the middle. 8.5/10
Red Bean Pancake (Shao Bing)
This was a thin disc shaped pancake made out of rice dough with red bean filling that has been lightly grilled on one side. The rice dough was soft, but had a slightly crispy texture on one side and the red bean filling was nice. This was surprisingly good as I thought it might be bad because it looked like it had been sitting around for a while. 8/10
Fa gao is a steamed fluffy cake made of rice flour that kind of looks like a cupcake, but is much more fluffy. You normally eat these at Chinese New Years. They are simple, but fairly easy to mess up and are dry when they are bad. Unfortunately, these were a total dud here and were quite dry. 6.5/10
Baked Roast Pork Bun (Kao Cha Shao Bao)
This was a typical roast pork bun except the filling was really ugly and not the regular red or brown filling. It tasted much better than it looked although I thought it was meat wasn’t great. The bun was quite good and it could’ve been a good roast pork bun if it had a more flavorful filling. 7/10
Steamed Roast Pork Bun (Zheng Cha Shao Bao)
Same as the baked pork bun except it was a steamed bun. 7/10
I highly suggest trying this bakery because given it’s location in Soho, I can’t imagine it will be around that much longer. Some of the pastries here are really high quality and it will be a shame when they’re gone.
161 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
Tan Cang Newport Seafood is basically an institution at this point in Little Saigon (Santa Ana and Garden Grove) and the San Gabriel Valley (San Gabriel and Rowland Heights). They are known for several dishes, but famous for their lobster. I’ve been eating here for several years now, but a recent really good meal prompted me to write a post about it.
To clarify the SGV restaurants are still affiliated with each other, but neither of the OC restaurants are affiliated with any of the others. According to their SGV restaurants’ websites the Orange County ones are the originals, but were sold. According to the Santa Ana restaurant’s website they are the original and the others are imposters (their site is no longer up). This review is for the Santa Ana branch which I think is excellent. The Garden Grove one is not as good. The San Gabriel one was similar to the Santa Ana branch in quality. I have not eaten at the Rowland Heights one.
Now that we got that out of the way, the food they serve here is billed as Teochew (Chao Zhou / Chiu Chow) food. Teochew are Chinese from the Chao Shan region of China, which is eastern Guangdong. They have their own language and their food is known for their fresh seafood and generally light cuisine (not a lot of oil, lots of steaming, braising and poaching). It’s one of my favorite types of Chinese cuisine although it’s quite rare in the US. Anyhow, this is not traditional Teochew food but rather is a mix of Teochew, Cantonese and Vietnamese. The people who run the restaurant are Chinese from Vietnam and they speak a ton of languages (I’ve heard Cantonese, Teochew, Mandarin, English, Vietnamese and an Asian language I couldn’t figure out what it was).
The restaurant used to be smaller, but they renovated and doubled the size of the restaurant. While it’s not going to knock your socks off its not a total dump like it used to be before. The servers are generally reasonably nice although service is quick and brisk. The short Chinese boss lady who I believe is the owner is really nice if you talk to her.
On to the food:
Kung Pao Chicken:
Most people associate kung pao chicken with Americanized-Chinese food, but it actually is a real Sichuan dish. However, this is Tan Cang’s own take on the dish, which resembles the Americanized-Chinese version, but it’s drier without any gloppy sauce. The chicken is very tender, slightly crispy on the outside and the sauce is a bit sweet and spicy. I find it quite delicious. 8/10
This is battered fried blocks of tofu topped with sautéed onions, green onions and chili. It served with a dark soy sauce and a dish of salt and white pepper. You can also squeeze a lime on it, which I recommend doing. The batter is quite thin and while it looks really oily it’s actually not that heavy. The batter is nicely crispy while the tofu retains a great soft texture. By itself it’s rather plain, but with all the toppings, soy sauce and salt and pepper it’s delicious. 8/10
Spicy Basil Clams:
This is another popular dish, but I’m not that big a fan of it. The clams are generally decent although not amazing quality. However, but I find the sauce rather bland; it’s a brown sauce that is slightly spicy with black bean, basil and green peppers in it. It’s an okay dish, but a bit of a dud. 6.75/10
Sauteed Snow Peas:
This is a classic rendition that is snow peas leaves sautéed in oil, salt and garlic. The thing that is different is they use the really small skinny snow peas, which is not that common. I like these small skinny snow peas more than the regular one. 7.75/10
Salt & Pepper Squid:
This is classic Cantonese style salt and pepper squid, which is squid battered in a salt and pepper battered and fried then topped with jalapeno. Most of the time this dish is pretty decent with a good crispy batter and reasonably tender squid, but occasionally it can come out too oily. 7.75/10 (7.25/10 when they make it too greasy)
Salt & Pepper Shrimp:
Same dish as the salt and pepper squid except with shrimp. They also give you a lime and a mix of salt and white pepper. They do a better job on this dish as it’s always pretty delicious and never seems to be too oily. 8/10
Bo Luc Lac:
This is the French style beef in a black pepper sauce. They don’t always cook this the same way; sometimes it’s more sauce-y and sometimes it’s drier. The beef is nicely tender and the sauce is slightly sweet and peppery. I like the version here better than most versions I’ve had in Little Saigon and it’s quite tasty with white rice. 8.25/10
House Special Lobster:
This is the house specialty and you will see it on every table. You order it by the pound and the lobster are big ranging from 4-6 lbs. They are battered in a sweet and spicy batter that is really delicious. The lobster meat is sweet and tender and I really love the sweet roe (they are the red stuff in case you’ve never seen lobster roe). The quality of the lobster can vary a bit; sometimes you get a great lobster and sometimes it’s just a decent lobster, but the way it’s prepared it always ends tasty. 8.5/10
Boiled Live Prawns:
This was a special from my latest trip. These were classic Cantonese style boiled prawns served with a dark soy sauce with sesame oil and sliced jalapenos in it. The prawns were live, huge and very fresh. The meat was sweet with good texture and tasted great with the sauce. I prefer slightly smaller prawns, but this was still quite good. 8.25/10
Geoduck Soup (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
This was part of a special that was actually the reason I wrote this post. The waiter told me they had live geoduck and the quality was especially good that day (I got upsold for sure). The first way they served it was in a light soup where they had boiled the geoduck parts along with cabbage, mushrooms and other vegetables. The result was a broth that was very light and tasted similar to a clam broth. It was a nice light flavored soup, but it definitely needed a little white pepper to kick it up. 7.75/10
Spicy Geoduck (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
This was sliced geoduck that was very quickly blanched then topped with a hot and sour sauce with basil and bean sprouts. Everyone at the table was shocked at how good this was. The hot and sour sauce was light and paired perfected with the basil and didn’t overpower the geoduck at all. The geoduck meat was nicely tender and it was just generally a really good dish. 8.5/10
Geoduck Sashimi (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
As a disclaimer since this was the only time I’ve had this dish here, I can’t say that it wasn’t a fluke, but wow this was amazing. It was the standard geoduck sashimi that is sliced, put on ice and served with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. This geoduck was so fresh; it had a good crunchy texture and tasted briny with no fishy taste whatsoever. It was honestly a lot better than the geoduck I’ve had at top sushi restaurants in NY and LA. It’s so simple that I can’t tell you much more to describe it other than it was really good. Also as a side note, the geoduck 3 ways was $35 per lbs and we got 4 lbs, so it wasn’t cheap. 8.75/10
Overall, while it’s certainly not fancy, I really like the food at Tan Cang. It’s always just delicious and really satisfying. I highly recommend coming here.
4411 W 1st St
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tao Hong Bakery is a bakery I noticed because of a positive review on chowhound, which you can see here.
It’s a rather small and non-descript Cantonese bakery which would not particularly standout if you were just walking by it. The interior is quite small with two display cases at the front and side and that’s really it. The lady who runs the place is quite nice and can speak English pretty decently if you don’t speak Chinese.
Here’s what we got:
Pork Floss And Crème Bun
This is a baked bun that has pork floss (rou song) and a slightly savory white crème in the middle. The bun itself was quite good; it had a slightly sweet flavor and was nicely moist. The pork floss was good as well, but I’m just not a fan of the savory cream which sort of reminds me of room temperature butter. This is a good version of this type of bun and probably the best one I’ve had in NY, but as a dish it’s just not my thing. 7/10
Egg Tart (Dan Ta)
The actual egg custard was pretty good; it had a decently egg-y flavor and was fresh. The crust was standard, but not as flaky as I like it. It was a pretty decent rendition, but I prefer Double Crispy or Ka Wah. 7.75/10
Coconut and Red Bean Pudding
This is a square of cold coconut and red bean pudding with some coconut shavings on top. The pudding is creamy, but fairly light and not too sweet. It’s not heavily flavored and generally tastes a bit more of coconut than red bean as the red bean flavor is faint. It’s decent although I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it, but if you happen to be here might be worth trying. 7.5/10
Vanilla Cake Roll
The cake was decent although it could’ve been a bit moister. The vanilla crème was good and it’s slightly salty which I liked as it contrasts nicely against the sweet cake. It was decent, but nothing special. 7.25/10
Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao)
The bun itself was pretty decent, fresh and reasonably fluffy. However, I wasn’t crazy about the sauce; it was that red sweet sauce and it was a bit gloppy and too sweet. I much prefer Mei Li Wah’s to these. 7/10
Mango and Coconut Glutinous Rice Ball
This is the standout here. It’s a fairly large mango flavored glutinous rice ball covered in coconut shavings with fresh mango in the middle. The lady told me to eat it the same day. The glutinous rice ball was very soft and tender with a slight mango flavor and was sweet although not too sweet. The coconut shavings add a nice textural contrast and flavor. The mango in the middle was very fresh and tasted great. This is the one thing I’d say is worth coming here for. 8.25/10
Overall, everything at this bakery is fairly decent and it’s definitely an above average bakery in NY. Although I didn’t feel like anything was particularly standout with the exception of the mango ball and I prefer Double Crispy and Ka Wah for Chinese pastries.
79 Chrystie St (between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10002
New Kam Hing is an old school Cantonese coffee shop on Baxter Street in Chinatown. It’s really small consisting only of a kitchen and small display counter. It’s a true specialist only offering a handful of items and for many years it’s been known for its great sponge cakes.
It was originally run by an old Cantonese woman, but she decided to retire at one point and I heard it was going to close. However, it appears that the Mexican worker who has worked there forever has taken over and now runs the place (he can speak some Cantonese btw), so it appears that this place will be running for a long time to come hopefully.
There is only one thing to order here and this is it. This is an egg-y sponge cake that will remind you of an egg-y version of angel food cake. The version here is moist, egg-y and quite good. The only version I’ve had in NY that is close to it is Ka Wah, which you can read about here. While pretty-self-explanatory this is definitely quite good. One thing to note is that they are significantly better when they are freshly baked as opposed to when they have been sitting around (I suggest warming them up in the microwave if you come when they have been sitting around for a while). 8.5/10
Overall, while not a destination spot if you’re in Chinatown during the day this is a great place to pick up a nice light snack.
119 Baxter St, Ste B (between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10013
Mei Li Wah is a Chinatown institution and my blog would not be complete if I didn’t cover it. It’s a cha chaan teng / cha can ting (literally means tea restaurant), which is a type of old school Cantonese restaurant that is common in Hong Kong serving tea, coffee and various cheap foods. In particular Mei Li Wah is known for its various buns.
Originally, Mei Li Wah was a rundown super old school Toisonese run place, but a few years ago they changed ownership, renovated the restaurant and hired a much younger staff. Now it’s a much brighter, cleaner and new looking restaurant. The service is still fairly quick and brisk although it’s nicer than before when the old guys had little patience if you didn’t know what you wanted right away although some people liked that as part of the character of the place. I’m not one for nostalgia, but I do miss the old school feel of the old Mei Li Wah a bit.
Generally, I stick to their buns, which are all displayed up front as I find a lot of their other food to be pretty mediocre.
Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):
This is their most famous item. It’s a fluffy steamed white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce. One of the major differences between MLW’s and others’ versions is that the sauce is much more savory and brown than the normal sweeter red sauce. The sauce is the best thing about this bun as I really like that savory flavor. The cha siu itself is decent although sometimes it can a bit too much fat in it. The bun has a nice slight sweetness to it, but I’ve noticed over the last year or so that it’s become noticeably less fluffy than it used to be. I still think this is the best cha siu bao in Chinatown, but because of the decline in quality of the bun I’d say it’s good, but no longer great. 7.75/10 or 8/10 on a good day (a few years ago I’d have probably given it an 8.25 rating)
Baked Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):
This is baked white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce. Same exact filling as the steamed version. While I normally much prefer steamed cha siu bao, MLW’s baked version is actually quite good and maybe better than its steamed version as the bread is quite good with a nice honey glaze on the outside. 8/10
Big Bun (Dai Bao / Da Bao):
This is another famous offering. It is similar to a cha siu bao except it’s bigger and filled with chicken, Chinese sausage, half boiled egg and shitake mushrooms. They used to make these quite well, but I’ve noticed that the bun has gotten way too dry since they switched ownership. The filling tastes like it sounds and is reasonably tasty. Overall, it’s decent version, but not great. 7.25/10
Cocktail Bun (Gai Mei Bao / Ji Wei Bao):
This is the sleeper for me here. This is a baked bun with sugar on top and a minced buttery and sweet coconut filling. The bread is nicely moist and the sugar on top adds nice textural contrast. The filling is good and not too buttery like most places. I’m not sure everyone will like this as much as I do because I really like gai mei bao, but they make this really well. 8.25/10
Overall, they are pretty decent cha siu bao and certainly better than the vast majority in Chinatown which are quite mediocre. I’d recommend coming to try out the cha siu bao and the cocktail bun.
64 Bayard St (between Mott St & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
Hou Yi is a hot pot specialist restaurant located in the northeastern Fujian section of Chinatown that borders the Lower East Side.
Hot pot is a pot of broth which you cook raw ingredients in and then dip in various sauces. Surprisingly I’ve had a hard time finding a decent hot pot place in the city and usually go to Flushing to Baidu to get my fix, which you can see here. It’s surprising because it must be one of the most universally popular dishes amongst all types of Chinese people.
The restaurant is a small place that quite ugly even for Chinatown with bright orange walls, dim yellow lighting and ugly wooden tables. The service was fine and relatively efficient. Both times I’ve been there has been a wait, so I’d either go early or late. The price is $23 for all you can eat hot pot including drinks, so it’s very well priced.
I’ll break down the hot pot by different aspects:
We got regular and spicy broth. Both were pretty standard, but good. The light broth is a standard mild flavored broth and the spicy one is a Sichuan style ma la broth. The spicy one is very spicy and spicier than the broth I’ve had at most Sichuan restaurants in NY, so if you can’t handle spicy food I’d avoid it. 7.75/10
We got the beef and lamb. While they were frozen they seemed reasonably fresh to me. I liked the beef better than the lamb. My GF thought the beef wasn’t good quality, but I thought it was fine. The lamb was alright, but was a bit gamey (my GF did not like it at all, but she doesn’t like lamb in general). 7.5/10 for the beef, 7.25/10 for the lamb
They have a variety of standard non-meat sides of vegetables, dumplings, fish balls etc. We got fried tofu skin, fried tofu cubes, corn, tofu, enoki mushrooms, daikon, cabbage, Hong Kong style fish balls, Fujian style fish balls and some other stuff which I’m forgetting. I thought all of it was good except I thought the Hong Kong style fish balls were too processed tasting and the fried tofu cubes were mediocre as well. 7.75/10
They don’t have a lot of options for sauces, I used the sesame and sha cha sauce. The sha cha sauce was not provided on the tables and I had to ask them for it. Sha cha sauce is a dried shrimp sauce, which you can read more about here. Both sauces were pretty standard tasting, but reasonably decent. The major shortcoming of this place for me was the lack of variety of sauces. I normally like to make my own with soy sauce, chili oil, garlic, sesame oil and cilantro. I felt like it was missing an element without that. 7.5/10
Overall, while it’s not amazing hot pot, it’s pretty decent and extremely reasonably priced. If you’re looking for your hot pot fix in the city without going to Flushing this is a decent place.
112 Eldridge St (between Broome St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
South China Garden was my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, which you can read about it here. It was one of the only places in Chinatown that you could get consistently good Cantonese food.
Needless to say I was quite dismayed when they were forced to shut down after they lost their lease. However, I recently received wonderful news when the owner’s son emailed me to tell me they’ve re-opened as Café Hong Kong. Also, the owner is still the head chef along with his brother, which means the food is being cooked by the same people.
The new restaurant is smaller, modern and much cleaner looking. Some of the staff is still the same from SCG. The menu is smaller and now includes a fairly substantial section Hong Kong café style foods (baked pork chop rice, spaghetti etc). However, it still has most of the staple Cantonese dishes, which I previously ordered at SCG.
Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):
This is exactly the same as before which means that they make the best version in Chinatown. The salty non-greasy batter and tenderness of the squid makes this a solid rendition of this dish. 8/10
Lobster in XO Sauce (XO Jiang Chao Long Xia):
This is again the exact same quality as SCG. In fact I thought the quality of the lobster was actually better than SCG (although I’ve only tried it once). The XO sauce tasted great and this was a winner. 8/10
Stir Fried String Beans:
This was slightly different than SCG as there weren’t any preserved vegetables in it, but other than that it was the same. It’s the classic stir fried string beans with minced pork and dried chilis. They still get good wok hay meaning the flavor you get from effectively smoking the food in a wok at a very high temperature. This is a definite winner. 8/10
Fried Garlic Chicken (Suan Xiang Cui Pi Ji):
Another SCG classic and it again tastes exactly the same although the dish is a little smaller. The meat is very tender and the skin is perfectly crispy and the garlic compliments it perfectly. This is still one of their strongest dishes. 8.25/10
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce Casserole (Yu Xiang Qie Zi Bao):
I ordered this randomly because I saw it on another table. While it was cooked nicely, making the eggplant nicely tender, I found the sauce to be a bit on the bland sauce. I like the sauce to be slightly sweet and spicy and it just didn’t have enough of that. 7/10
Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):
This is the Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork chops. The pork chops are perfectly fried; the meat is tender, the outside is crispy and it’s not greasy or oily at all. The sauce is slightly different than SCG in that they added more pineapple to it and while it was still good it wasn’t quite as good as SCG because I prefer less pineapple flavor. 7.75/10
Steamed Buffalo Carp (Qing Zheng Yu):
This is the typical Cantonese style where you steam the fish and then pour hot oil and soy sauce over the fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The sauce was excellent as well being both salty and very slightly sweet. While I am not surprised their technique was good, the quality was the fish was surprising. Carp typically has this muddy flavor that I really do not like and while this had a very little bit of that it was not that noticeable and really made this an enjoyable dish. While I still prefer an ocean fish, this was quite good. 8/10
Normally, I wait to go a few times to report on a place, but I thought that I should report on this as soon as possible. I definitely recommend trying Café Hong Kong out.
51 Bayard St (between Bowery & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
Yeh’s is a Taiwanese bakery that’s been recommended to me for a long time, but it’s taken me years to finally getting around to trying it. When I decided to revisit Main Street Imperial, which you can read about here, I decided I should do lunch so that I could try Yeh’s as well.
Yeh’s is located near Main Street Imperial which is not in downtown Flushing and is closer to the LIE. The bakery is very small with just two glass display cases. Unlike most Chinese bakeries, they have a much more limited selection consisting with a few types of cakes, cake rolls and traditional Chinese pastries such a sun cakes and moon cakes.
Sun Cake (Tai Yang Bing):
Sun cakes are a traditional Taiwanese pastry from Taizhong / Taichung. They are difficult to find outside Taiwan and last time I was in Taipei they were actually even difficult find to there with one bakery even jokingly telling me “go to Taizhong if you want those”. I believe they’re not that popular amongst younger generations. Anyhow, it’s a circular flaky pastry that looks similar to a wife cake (lao po bing) with a filling made of malt sugar. At Yeh’s the English name says “honey cake” or something like that and while the flaky exterior is normal, the filling does taste like honey which is not normal. However, I liked the honey flavor and it was much better than other sun cakes I’ve had in NY. It isn’t close to a real good one in Taiwan, but it’s a decent version and worth checking out. 7.75/10
This is what they are known for. It is a cake with cream custard filling and powdered sugar on top. The cake is extremely light and fluffy literally one of the lightest cakes I’ve ever had anywhere. The cream custard in the middle is also really light with the perfect level of sweetness (i.e. its sweet without being really sweet). While it’s really simple this is one of the best cakes I’ve had in Asian bakery even in Asia. I highly recommend you try this, it is really good. 8.75/10
Green Tea Roll:
This is another specialty. It’s a cake roll with green tea flavoring and vanilla cream in the middle. The cake is more dense than the Boston Pie and similar to pound cake. The green tea flavor is very light so you will barely notice it and the vanilla cream is again only slightly sweet. While not amazing I thought it was solidly good especially if like vanilla cake rolls as I do. 8/10
Overall, I really enjoyed this bakery a lot and if you like Asian style cakes then I highly recommend you try this place. I look forward to trying the rest of their cakes and pastries.
5725 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355
Taiwanese food is definitely one of my favorite Chinese cuisines. It’s a delicious mix of southern Fujian food blended with regional cuisines from all over China that came about because the large influx of mainland Chinese immigrants to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution. However, I feel like people often tend to only associate Taiwanese food with street food and maybe beef noodle soup. While these are certainly great and delicious there is much more to Taiwanese food than these two types of food. Main Street Imperial is a Taiwanese restaurant whose strong points are not street food, but rather more home style type dishes.
The restaurant is not located in Downtown Flushing, but rather further down Main close to the LIE, in the 2nd area in Flushing that has many Chinese restaurants. It’s small and homey with some décor in that it has colorful pieces of paper that have various dishes written in Chinese on them. The servers are really nice and are pretty helpful although I’m not sure they really speak English very well. The other issue you’ll run into is that about half the menu is not translated into English and some dishes are listed only on the wall in Chinese. I’ve provided the characters of the dishes I ordered since some of them are not translated to English, so I’d suggest printing them out if you don’t read any Chinese.
Here’s what we got:
Sauteed Cabbage (Chao Gao Li Cai 炒高麗菜):
This is one of the house specialties. It’s a simple dish of cabbage sautéed with oil and garlic. While simple they do a nice job on this dish and it’s quite tasty. The cabbage retains some crispness and the oil and garlic compliment it well. It also has some wok hay (the smoky flavor you get from effectively smoking food by cooking it at a very high heat in a wok). Overall, this is a solid dish. 8/10
Oyster Omelette (Hao Zai Jian / Oh Ah Jian 蚵仔煎):
I almost never order this outside Taiwan because it’s so easy to screw up, but a friend wanted it and surprisingly it was much better than the 1st time I came here (so can’t tell you it wasn’t a fluke). The omelette was crispy and not overly gooey. The sauce was sweet, but not overpoweringly so and the oysters were decent tasting. Overall, I actually enjoyed eating this which is rare in the US. 7.5/10
Clams in Basil Sauce:
I didn’t order this dish, so I’m not actually sure what the exact Chinese name of it was on the menu. This was clams cooked in a slightly spicy light brown sauce with basil. This is a pretty common Taiwanese sauce. I thought the sauce was nice being slightly spicy, sweet and salty and I love basil so that was great as well. The clams were decent quality, but not amazing. 7.5/10 (could’ve been higher rating if they used better clams)
Three Cup Tofu (San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐):
“Three cup” is a famous style of preparation that involves one cup of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil hence the name “three cup”. There is also sugar, ginger and basil in it as well. While three cup chicken is the most common it can also be cooked with other meats or tofu. This was fried cubes of tofu in the three cup sauce. The outside was perfectly crispy while the interior remained soft, which was great texture wise. The sauce was both sweet and salty as it should be with the basil being a nice compliment. Overall, this was one of the best dishes I’ve had here. 8.25/10
Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞):
Oddly unlike the three cup tofu, this dish ended up being not sweet whatsoever and was a little overly oily. The chicken was very nicely tender, which was the best part about the dish. It was an alright rendition, but a little too oily and plain flavor wise. Gu Xiang’s version is much better than this and flavor wise Liang’s Kitchens’ version was better, but Main Street did a better job than Liang’s actually cooking the chicken (i.e. it was very tender here). 7.5/10 (could be a higher rating if they improved the sauce)
Sesame Oil Kidney (Ma You Yao Zi 麻油腰子):
This is one of the house specialties that I read about on a Chinese blog. Its slices of kidney sautéed in sesame oil based sauce. The kidneys are cooked very well so they are perfectly tender and they did a good job so the metallic flavor you can get in kidneys is only slightly present. The sauce has a slight flavor from the sesame oil and has some soy sauce flavor as well and because they seared the kidneys at a high heat in the wok you get a bit of the smoke-y slightly burnt taste which is nice. If you like kidneys this is a very good rendition of kidneys. 7.75/10 (I like kidneys, but don’t love them otherwise it’d get a higher rating)
Salt and Pepper Shrimp (Jiao Yen Xia 椒盐虾):
This was on the wall and I saw a couple of tables order it, so I decided to try it. This is just typical salt and pepper shrimp, but they did a nice job on it. The batter wasn’t too heavy or oily and had good salty flavor. The shrimps were fresh and good sized. I don’t have too much more to add to this other that it was good and worth trying, probably one of the better versions I’ve had in NY. 8/10
Putz Fish (Bu Zi Yu 布子魚):
Putz is actually something I’ve never had and I’m not even sure I’d even heard of it until ScoopG on chowhound mentioned it. So I made it a point to try it this trip (you can read more about it here). I tried ordering the whole fish on two occasions, but both times on of the waitresses told me that the pieces were better quality and flavor so I should order those instead of the whole fish. The fish pieces were nicely cooked and tender. The sauce was a nicely light soy sauce based sauce that wasn’t overpowering. The thing that I ended up liking the best about this dish was the putz; it reminded me of a sweet olive. Overall, while not mind blowing this is a solid dish and I’d recommend giving it a try for something different. 7.75/10
Red Cooked Ribs (Hong Shao Pai Gu 紅燒排骨):
I was trying to order another dish, but the waitress told me that that dish was too similar to the Hakka stir fry (which I forgot to take a picture of), so she recommended this dish. These were ribs cooked in a style called “hong shao” which you braise meat in a sauce made up of ginger, garlic, chilli, sugar, soy sauce and rice wine. The sauce here was pretty thick, thicker than normal. The ribs were cooked decently although I’d have preferred them to be a little more tender. The sauce was just ok, I found it to be kind of bland. I probably wouldn’t order this again. 6.75/10
Can’t Taste Stinky Tofu (Chi Bu Dao Chou Dou Fu 吃不到臭豆腐 ):
This is another one of the house specialties. It literally translates to “can’t taste stinky tofu”, which I think it’s called because the way the chef cooks it he cooks out most of the stink, so it’s only faint. The stinky tofu is fried in a slightly spicy and salty red meat sauce with cabbage. It’s a bit hard to explain, but definitely order this dish it’s very good. 8.25/10
Fly Head (Cang Ying Tou 蒼蠅頭):
This is my favorite dish here. It translates to “fly head” (I have no idea why it’s called that) and its diced garlic chives, red chili, minced pork and fermented black beans all stir fried together. This dish is the type of dish you really need a hot wok for because the wok hay adds a whole new level to this dish. It’s spicy, salty, smoky and just delicious. This is the dish to come here for. 8.5/10
Overall, this is probably the best overall Taiwanese restaurant in New York and it’s worth your time to check out.
5914 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355
Spicy Village was originally a branch of Henan Fengwei from Flushing. Around 6 months ago they were supposedly shutting down and possibly re-opening in another space on Allen. Luckily that never happened and instead they ended up changing their name to Spicy Village, but everything else remained the same.
Spicy Village specializes in cuisine from the Henan province in China. Henan is a landlocked province that is northwest of Shanghai. I’d love to give you some long winded background on Henan cuisine, but I don’t actually know that much about their cuisine as I have little experience eating it as isn’t prevalent or popular in the parts of China I usually visit. This Wikipedia article discusses it a little bit. I believe the owners are actually from Fuzhou as I’ve heard them speaking in the Fuzhou dialect with customers.
The restaurant is typical Chinatown in that it has very little in the way of décor although it is clean. The service is fine and the lady who runs the place is really nice. She also happens to speak English well and the entire menu is translated into English, so you will have no issues ordering.
Here’s what we got:
Cucumbers and Smoked Tofu (Liang Ban Huang Gua Dou Gan):
This was typical cold marinated cucumbers and smoked tofu called dou gan in Chinese. The pickles are tangy and a bit sweet as well. The version here was alright; it had decent crunch and flavor, but they were missing the really good flavor you get in a good version. I wasn’t really a fan of the dou gan as it was pretty plain tasting. 7.5/10 for the cucumbers; 6.75/10 for the smoked tofu
Pancake with Pork (Rou Jia Mo):
This is a shredded pork sandwich with cilantro. The bread is sort of like pita bread and is crispy from being toasted. The pork is actually quite light and is savory from the brown sauce they cook it in. It will remind you of the pancakes from Xi’an Famous Foods except the bread is thinner, it’s not as heavily spiced and it’s lighter. Overall, it’s not amazing, but it is a tasty enough pancake. 7.5/10
Pancake with Beef (Niu Rou Jia Mo):
This is the same as the prior pancake except with beef. However, I find the meat to be a little more flavorful, so I’d give the nod to the beef version. 7.75/10
Soup Dumplings (Guan Tang Bao):
While these look like misshapen ugly Shanghainese soup dumplings they are actually quite good and different than regular soup dumplings. The skins are a bit thicker and there is no soup inside. However, they are delicious as the filling is very flavorful. I actually enjoy these more than I do most Shanghainese soup dumplings in NY (I only like Nan Xiang actually). These are one of the best dishes here. 8/10
Homemade Steamed Dumplings (Shou Gong Shui Jiao):
These are typical northern Chinese style dumplings with thicker skins and pork and chive filling. I like their dumplings, but I don’t love them. The skins are decent, a bit on the doughy side, but I find their filling to be a bit bland. I end up using a lot of black vinegar and chili oil to make them tasty. 7.25/10
Black Bean Sauce Huimei (Zha Jiang Hui Mian):
Hui mian is thick wheat noodles that I believe are Henan in origin. Zha jiang mian literally means “fried sauce noodle”. You may know this dish as it is a ubiquitous dish in Korean-Chinese restaurants where Koreans took northern Chinese dishes and fit them to Korean tastes; they call it ja jang myun. I think it’s almost more popular with Koreans than it is with Chinese despite it being Chinese in origin. The Chinese version is more of a meat based sauce similar to a ragu. This can taste very different depending on who is making it. Here the sauce is fairly light in flavor and mainly just tastes like meat. I added some chili oil which made it a lot better. The noodles are excellent as they are a bit al dente and have great texture. Overall, the dish was decent, but not great. 7.5/10
Spicy Beef Brisket Huimei (Ma La Niu Nan Hui Mian):
This is a spicy beef brisket noodle soup. The beef brisket has been simmered for a while so it was quite tender and also had a good five spice flavor. The noodles are excellent being nicely al dente. The broth is flavorful and a bit spicy. While a bit different from traditional beef noodle soup, this is my current pick for the best beef noodle soup in NY. I think it far surpasses the various Lan Zhou noodle places around Chinatown (and Flushing) as the beef and broth are far superior in quality. This is another one of my favorite dishes here. Also, definitely use some chili oil and black vinegar, it tastes great with it. 8.25/10
Oxtail Huimei (Niu Wei Hui Mian):
This was an oxtail broth noodle soup with the hui mian. This was one of the duds here; I thought the broth was a bit bland, so there just wasn’t that much to it. We had to add a lot of chili oil and black vinegar to make it more interesting. 6.75/10
Grilled Pepper Chicken with Rice (Qing Jiao Ji Fan):
This was a surprise dish as I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention it. Its stir fried pieces of chicken in slightly spicy and sweet sauce with diced green peppers. The chicken is tender and the sauce is really good, it’s a bit peppery, smoky, spicy and sweet. It tastes great with rice. This is one of my favorite dishes here. 8.25/10
Spicy Big Tray Kitchen (Da Pan Ji):
This is the dish that made them famous. It’s large chicken casserole in big iron pot. There are big chunks of very tender chicken on the bone and potatoes topped with cilantro. The sauce while it looks really oily isn’t actually all that heavy. It’s also ma la in flavor, which is normally a Sichuan flavor profile. “Ma” means the numbing sensation you get on your tongue from the Sichuan peppercorns, while “la” means spicy. While it is ma la, it’s not nearly as ma la as what you get at most Sichuan restaurants. It’s a bit hard to explain this dish, but it’s really good, so just hurry up and go try it. 8.5/10
Sweet Peanut Filled Rice Ball Soup (Tang Yuan):
Tang yuan has always been one of my favorite Chinese desserts, so I almost always get them when I see them on a menu. They can have various fillings, but here they serve them with peanut filling. The peanuts are not chopped that finely, so the chunks are pretty big. The filling also had these pinks things, but I couldn’t figure out what they were and they really didn’t taste like anything. The skins were decent, but not as super tender as I prefer them. These were alright, but I think this is the way Fuzhou people prepare them because this is the way they always taste at Fuzhou restaurants in NY. I prefer the Cantonese preparation. 7.25/10
Overall, I enjoy this place a lot and it’s somewhere that I eat at quite regularly. It’s also one of the few bright spots in a fast dying Chinatown, so I’d highly come recommend coming here to support them.
68B Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002
Singapore sits right on the equator and if you’ve never been there then you might not realize exactly how hot and muggy it is. During the day you end up sweaty and wanting something refreshing. After finishing eating at Outram Park Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh, which you can read about here, I decided ice kachang sounded pretty good and walked over to check out Annie’s Peanut Ice Kachang.
Almost every country in Asia has their own version of shaved ice, but they all are the same basic premise of a mound of shaved ice with sweet toppings. In Singapore and Malaysia, it’s called ice kachang. Ice kachang is a mound of ice that usually has colorful sweet syrup (sometimes even gula melaka), condensed milk and a variety of toppings that can include red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, cendol and attap chee (palm seeds that look like weird eye balls) among other things.
Annie’s is a hawker stall located in Tanjong Pagar Market and Food Centre, which is a small hawker center located on the 2nd floor of a huge residential building in Tanjong Pagar close to Chinatown. This hawker center is kind of old school as its cramped, run down and quite hot; definitely a very local vibe. At the stall you’ll immediately notice the amount of media clippings and awards she has as it’s a fairly well heralded stall.
The lady (presumably Annie) who runs the stall is really friendly and was very happy that I liked her ice kachang. Not sure how well she speaks English, but the whole menu is in English so you’ll have no problem.
The ice at Annie’s is quite fine; it’s not total powder like the best shaved ice desserts I’ve had, but it’s definitely more fine than average, which is great. Now as I mentioned before ice kachang can have a lot of ingredients in it, but Annie’s keeps it’s pretty simple with ground peanuts, red beans, sweet corn and the little green worm shaped jellies you get in cendol. So what’s the twist? The twist here is that she adds ground peanuts, which is not common at all, in fact this is the first time I’ve ever had it on ice kachang. According to some blogs Annie actually started this (I don’t know whether that is true or not). Anyhow, the peanuts are not factory made and are roasted and ground at the stall. You can really taste the difference as they are very fragrant, have great crunchy texture and really add a nice dimension to the ice kachang. The other thing is that while it looks really sweet because of the syrup, it’s actually not that sweet, which I like. You almost felt like you ate nothing after finishing this. While it’s not as good as the best shaved ice I’ve had in Taiwan (I think they make the best shaved ice) it was very good and certainly an above average ice kachang. 8.5/10
Overall, I enjoyed the simplicity of the ice kachang here and it was very refreshing on a hot day. I don’t think it’s a destination type place, but if you in the area I’d definitely check it out.
Tanjong Pagar Market and Food Centre, Stall #02-36
6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha is an old and famous bak kut teh restaurant in Singapore.
Bak kuh teh is a soup made from simmering pork ribs for many hours with various spices. It directly translates to “meat bone tea” (rou gu cha 肉骨茶). There is also more than one version; there is the Teochew version that is very peppery and has more garlic in it, there is the Hokkien version which is darker because of soy sauce and has a more herbal flavor and there are also other versions in Malaysia particularly in the Klang Valley, but I’ve never been there so I can’t really comment on what the difference is with their bak kuh teh. Most people have a strong preference for one kind versus the others; I prefer the Teochew version as I love the peppery flavor.
The restaurant is located off Keppel Road on the ground floor of this residential building. There isn’t too much décor to the place as it’s kind of a coffee shop setting, but it’s not rundown and it’s clean. The service was fast and efficient and my server was nice as well. I’m not sure how good or not good their English is, but the menu is totally translated into English and they give you a paper checklist, so you just check off what you want.
I found this video of the restaurant which you can see here.
I love boiled peanuts; I never understood why they aren’t more popular in the US. Anyhow, these are stewed in a lu wei 鹵味 sauce, which is a braising technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up). The peanuts were very soft and had a nice flavor from the lu wei sauce which was slightly sweet and salty. These were a nice condiment. 8.25/10
This is called kiam chye in Teochew I believe. It’s diced up salted that cabbage has been boiled. It’s a bit salty and sweet. It’s a nice condiment as well. 8/10
Bak Kut Teh:
They serve the Teochew style bak kut teh here, which is peppery (think black pepper not like spicy pepper) that I really like. However, some people find it too peppery, so not everyone may like this as much as I do. The broth is very light, not oily or heavy at all and has a great flavor that you can only get by simmering bones for hours. The ribs were quite tender and tasted good although I did sort of mess up because I forgot to ask them for long ribs (chang gu 長骨) as it’s not on the menu and you have to specially ask for it, but the ribs were still nice anyhow. They give you a you tiao (fried crueller) and a dark soy sauce with cut up chili in it. The you tiao wasn’t very good because it wasn’t fresh, so it was a bit soggy. I liked the dark soy sauce with chili in it, but I tried not to use it too much since I thought it overpowers the soup a bit. Overall, I really enjoyed this a lot as it’s the type of thing I could eat every day and be totally happy. Fyi, there are free re-fills of soup. 9/10
Ter kah are pigs feet braised in a lu wei sauce. Here you have the option of getting the lean or fatty kind. Since it was pretty early in the morning I decided to get the lean version. The lean version is much less collagen-y / fatty and had more meat as opposed to collagen. The meat was nicely tender and I like the lu wei sauce which was a bit sweet and salty. This was a nice accompaniment to the bak kuh teh, it would’ve been really good with some rice, but I was going to other places that day so I didn’t want to fill up on rice. Overall, this was quite good and I’d get it again. 8.5/10
I’m not a bak kut teh or ter kah expert, so it’s totally possible there are better places that this (and please tell me if you know them), but I really enjoyed my meal here and this was one of my most satisfying meals this trip along with Sin Huat and Nam Sing.
7 Keppel Road
#01-05/07 Tanjong Pagar Complex
Phone: 6222 9610
Lee Tong Kee is famous for being one of the first places to bring Ipoh hor fun to Singapore from Malaysia (it moved to Singapore in 1948).
Ipoh is a predominately Chinese city in Malaysia that is known for its Chinese food. I remember when I lived in Singapore people used to always tell me that I needed to go to Penang and Ipoh for great food. Unfortunately (and stupidly) I never went as I always got sidetracked going to other cities in Asia, so I’ve still never been although I’ll make it one of these days.
Anyhow, Ipoh hor fun is flat white rice noodles (he fen 河粉) that can be served in soup or a brown gravy and can have different toppings such as seafood, beef and wontons.
Lee Tong Kee is located in Chinatown and is very close to Maxwell Road Food Centre. We actually came here after eating at Old Airport Road Food Centre and Hong Lim Food Centre (if you’ve been following my recent posts you’ll realize how gross it is that two people ate all this food in one sitting…I literally didn’t eat dinner that night and still wasn’t hungry the next morning). Anyhow, I haven’t been here before, but I’m sure they must’ve renovated recently as the restaurant looks brand new and the décor is supposed to be old school Chinese décor, which I liked and thought was a nice touch especially in Chinatown where most places are pretty sparse in decor. The service was fine and our server was nice (believe she was from mainland China).
Wanton Hor Fun:
The wontons were excellent, nice skins and good fresh shrimp filling. The vegetables on top were cooked perfectly and the noodles were also cooked nicely. The light brown sauce was light and clean tasting although it was a bit on the bland side although I always find the gravy in Ipoh hor fun to be a bit bland. Overall, I liked it, but didn’t love it as I find Ipoh hor fun as a dish is a bit bland for me. 8/10
Lee Tong Kee Tender Chicken:
This was boiled chicken, prepared very similar to how the chicken in chicken rice is prepared with oyster sauce on top. This was a total surprise, it was really good. The chicken was very tender and the skin was perfect and separately nicely from the meat. It was very flavorful and I really liked it with the oyster sauce, which gave it some extra flavor. Surprisingly, this was as good as the chicken at Tian Tian Hainan Chicken Rice, which I had eaten the day before (I love Tian Tian). If this was a free range chicken with a bit more chicken-y flavor this would be a 9.25 or 9.5 for me. I would come back just for this chicken. 9/10
Overall, I enjoyed the food and would like to come back to try more when I haven’t eaten at like 7 places beforehand!
278 South Bridge Road
Phone: 6226 0417
Hua Kee was another famous stall I went to at Old Airport Road Food Centre. They specialize in wonton mee and there are actually three famous wonton mee stalls all in the same row; one with a red sign, one with a yellow sign and one with a green sign. We decided to go to the one with the red sign (#01-02) which is covered in various news articles and awards.
Wonton mee is wonton noodle soup and you can order it “dry” or “soup”. The “dry” version has noodles that are tossed in sauce with broth on the side and the “soup” version has noodles in broth that are not tossed with sauce. In Singapore, the “dry” version noodles are tossed in a sweet chili sauce that I believe uses ketchup as well although you wouldn’t be able to tell if you didn’t know. This is different than in Hong Kong where the noodles are usually tossed in oyster sauce.
I found a video of the stall which you can see here.
In the video, he talks about how they used to make their own noodles, but now they don’t and basic stuff about the history of the stall and his technique. This stall is also very old as it started in the 50s, but the owner’s father. I also believe the owner is a Teochew (I actually heard you have to be Teochew to have a stall at Old Airport Road, but I’m not sure if that is a myth or not).
I got the “dry” version which I usually prefer to the “soup” version. I found the noodles to be pretty decent, they were reasonably al dente and had decent flavor. I also thought the wontons were pretty good as well. The cha siu was not good at all; it was sliced incredibly thin, was very dry and had no flavor (looks nothing like the cha siu in the video). The chili sauce was also too sweet and I didn’t think it had that great of flavor either, which was a disappointment because the reviews said the sauce was great. Now the video says that it was is suited to Teochew tastes and I think Teochew people like their food a bit on the sweet side, so maybe it’s just a difference in taste, but I just found it be pretty mediocre. The broth on the side was okay, but nothing special and it was a bit too salty as well. Overall, I found this to be a pretty mediocre bowl of wonton mee. Now I will caveat this with the fact that I much prefer the Hong Kong style wonton mee to Singapore wonton mee. However even with that said I’ve definitely had better bowls of Singapore style wonton mee than this one. 7/10
I wouldn’t bother with this place if you happen to be at Old Airport Road Food Centre.
Old Airport Road Food Centre, #01-02
51 Old Airport Road
Toa Payoh Rojak is where I went at Old Airport Road Food Centre to get my rojak fix. Rojak can mean many different things depending on where you are as there are many different versions that are very different from each other. They are all basically a type of salad, but today we’re talking about the normal Singaporean fruit rojak that has cucumber, pineapple, jicama, bean sprouts, deep-fried tofu puffs and cut up you tiao (fried crueller). This is topped with ground peanuts and a dressing is made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), hae chor (shrimp paste), ginger bud, sugar, chili, lime juice and maybe a few other spices.
Now, I knew this was a well-known stall. However, researching later I found out that a lot of people consider this the best rojak stalls in Singapore. As such there is a long line here and they actually have a real numbering system where your number pops up on an electronic sign when you’re rojak is ready, which I liked as it was a lot more efficient.
I found this video on youtube of the chef at work, which you can see here.
The sauce here was quite good; it was sweet as it normally is, a bit spicy because of the chili paste and had a good fermented flavor from the shrimp paste. The ingredients were all fresh and good tasting. Another thing I liked was that the you tiao was crispy as they toast it before you serve it so you don’t get a soggy you tiao. Overall, it was a very solid version. Now I will caveat my rating in that I don’t love fruit rojak as a dish, it’s pretty decent, but not something I really crave. It’s more a side dish to me, so while I thought that while this was quite good for rojak, but it’s still just rojak to me. 8.25/10
Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-108
51 Old Airport Road
So this was another place I ate at Old Airport Road Food Centre. This stall is pretty well known for its char kway teow. Char kway teow is one of the most famous hawker dishes in Singapore and Malaysia. It is made from flat rice noodles (he fen) stir-fried with soy sauce, chilli, shrimp, bean sprouts, chives, egg, Chinese sausage and sometimes cockles. The traditional places use pork fat to fry it and put in crispy bits of pork lard. However because of health concerns a decent amount of places in Singapore don’t use lard anymore or only use it on request (I generally prefer it with lard). If you’ve never had it before it is similar to beef chow fun, but a bit sweeter.
This stall is one of two well-known char kway teow stalls at Old Airport Road (Dong Ji being the other). It has a constant line, so be prepared to wait a bit. They have several sizes, but we got the smallest version because we were eating at so many places.
Char Kway Teow:
I described what char kway teow is made out of earlier, but the real key to good char kway teow is someone who really knows how to stir fry it well. In Chinese cooking wok hei is when you stir fry food at a very high temperature and effectively smoke the food. The flavor is amazing and it is definitely one of my favorite aspects of Chinese food done properly. Experience seems to be one of the key things to learning how to create good wok hei, so it’s really a matter of finding a talented and experienced chef to get wok hei correct. Anyhow, the version here was very good; it had good wok hei and nice flavor. It was a bit on the sweet side and I don’t think they used lard because there weren’t any crispy bits and it was on the lighter side for char kway teow. They did use cockles which I liked as the cockles were good and fresh tasting, not fishy at all. Overall, while it was probably not the best char kway teow I’ve ever had in Singapore, it was certainly a very good and certainly above average rendition. 8.75/10
If you’re at Old Airport Road Food Centre this is a place worth checking out.
Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-12
51 Old Airport Road
As I just discussed in my Nam Sing post, I ate at many places at Old Airport Road Food Centre. Another place I stumbled upon was Geylang Lor 20 Banana Fritters. Here they serve pisang goreng, which is a Malaysian dish that is just fried plantains except here they used pisang raja which are a type of sweet banana. The batter was nice, it wasn’t overly thick and wasn’t oily whatsoever. The banana inside was sweet and this was a very nice fritter. 8.25/10
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Overall, this isn’t a destination type place, but if you’re at Old Airport Road Centre it’s worth trying out.
Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-57
51 Old Airport Road
Nam Sing maybe the most famous or certainly one of the most famous Hokkien mee places in Singapore and it is also considered by many to be the best. It’s located at Old Airport Road Food Centre, which also happens to be considered one of the most famous and best hawker centers in Singapore. I’d never been to Old Airport Road Food Centre, so I was excited to go there. Fourseasons from chowhound was meeting me there later that day to go try a bunch of the places. I got there early and went to Nam Sing by myself since I heard the line can get really bad (I think I was actually the first plate he served that day).
Now Hokkien mee can mean different things in different places. There is the Malaysian style one, which is what you see in the US. That one is thick yellow noodles in a thick dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake and crispy pieces of fried pork fat (there’s also a Malaysian soup-y version that I’ve only heard of, but never tried). Then there is the Singapore version which does not use dark soy sauce and instead is in a semi-clear gravy with yellow noodles, bee hoon (rice vermicelli), shrimp, pork, squid and crispy pieces of fried pork fat. And to make this more confusing there is a dry version and a wet version meaning one has a lot of gravy and the other doesn’t. Anyhow, Nam Sing is famous for the dry version.
I didn’t talk too much with the chef or the guys working there and it’s a hawker center so it’s kind of quick service anyhow, but they do speak very good English, so if you don’t speak Chinese you’ll be fine.
So as I explained earlier this is yellow noodles and thin bee hoon (white rice vermicelli) stir fried in a clear sauce. However, unlike other places they don’t use any pork or pork lard, it’s simply a prawn and ikan bilis (anchovy) based gravy. It also has shrimp and squid in it as well. Also, instead of the sambal chili paste they normally give you, here they just give you soy sauce with cut up chili in it and a lime. It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but oh man it was really good. The gravy has a wonderful savory flavor, the noodles were perfectly cooked and al dente and it had some nice wok hei (the smoky flavor you get from cooking in a hot wok) as well. The gravy was really addictive. I thought that not having the sambal chili paste was going to be a letdown, but you can really taste the flavors a lot better with the soy sauce and chilis, which I liked. One other thing is that this is lighter than normal since it doesn’t have any pork or pork lard in it, which I also liked. This is probably the best Hokkien mee I’ve ever had. Now I will caveat that with the fact that I hugely prefer the Singaporean version over the Malaysian version. If I wasn’t about to stuff myself with a bunch of other food at Old Airport Road I probably would’ve gotten a second plate. 9/10
I’ll be posting several more posts about Old Airport Road Food Centre (it’s kind of gross how much I ate there), but I definitely recommend coming to Old Airport Road and if you do you must try this place.
Old Airport Road Food Centre, Stall #01-32
51 Old Airport Road
Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake is a stall at Tanglin Halt Market that specializes in mi chiam kueh (mian qian gao), which are pancakes with various fillings that I believe are Hokkien (southern Fujian) in origin. However, this stall is specifically famous for their peanut mee chiam kueh.
Tanglin Halt Market is a very local hawker center where you will see no foreigners at all. When I told the cab driver I wanted to go there he told me in his Singlish “wah you really must like the local taste lah, not for foreigners lah, why you want to go there?”, I explained that I was going to try the mi chiam kueh at Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake and to which he responded that it was very good and that he used to live right next to Tanglin Halt Market and used to get these all the time. I felt pretty good after that that I was in for a treat.
Anyhow, the hawker center has two parts to it and I actually ended up in the wrong part at first and was searching for stall 16 for probably 10-15 minutes before I found it. It’s located in the part that has a wet market connected to it and is one long strip of hawker stalls as opposed to the other part which is like a bunch of clusters of stalls.
There is an old husband and wife couple who run the stall with the husband doing the cooking and the wife doing prep work and serving customers. The old lady was really nice and sweet. I don’t know whether they speak English or not, but everything is translated into English so you shouldn’t have any problems either way.
I found this video of the stall, which you can see here. It’s cool because you can really tell how much pride they take in their work when you listen to him talk; he talks about how he does his prep work and how he is really happy to see his customers come back.
Here’s what I got:
Peanut Pancake (Hua Sheng Mian Qian Gao):
I’ve only had this once before at the place at Maxwell Road Center and it was so long ago that I don’t even really remember what it was like, so this was effectively like my first time trying it. It’s a pancake that he fills with a mixture of ground roasted peanuts and sugar and then folds it over and cuts up. The interesting thing about the dough is that he uses a yeast culture instead of the usual baking soda, which gives it a different texture. I found the texture of the dough to be more gummy than I was expecting (it’s not like an American pancake or breadlike at all), but it was good and mine was pretty warm and fresh, which definitely makes a difference. The peanut and sugar mixture is really good, they roast their own peanuts (he says he takes a day off to do prep work such as roasting peanuts) and you can really taste the difference. The peanuts are crunchy, flavorful and sweet without being overly sweet. They also give you a lot and I was eating the left over ground peanuts out of the bag because they were so good. Overall, I thought this was pretty good and I’d definitely come back. 8.5/10
Yam Pancake (Yu Ni Mian Qian Gao):
This was the same dough, but it was enclosed and looks exactly like a Japanese imagawayaki that you find in Japan and Taiwan (I grew up eating imagawayaki). However, again the dough was more gummy than bready. This was not as good because it had been sitting around longer and when it cools down the dough gets harder and doesn’t taste nearly as good as the fresher warm peanut pancake I had. The sweet yam filling was pretty good though as it wasn’t too sweet and had good flavor. This was decent, but nothing special. 7.75/10 (this probably could’ve been a lot better if it was fresh)
I enjoyed coming here as the peanut pancake was very tasty and this is the type of place that I’m sure will not exist in 10 years and you won’t have people making this the old school way where make everything from scratch. I’d recommend coming and trying it out before it’s gone.
Also, they are open 5am to 11am and closed on Mondays and Fridays (I came here at 8am to make sure I didn’t miss it).
Tanglin Halt Market – Stall 16
48 Tanglin Halt Road
Sin Huat is a famous seafood restaurant located in a coffee shop type setting in Singapore. Now by coffee shop I’m not talking about Starbucks, in Singapore there are open air restaurants that are referred to as coffee shops and inside there are usually a few different places to eat there, the main place and then some semi-hawker stalls set up as well. So I guess they are some sort of cross between a real restaurant and a hawker center. Anyhow, Sin Huat is one of these except that instead of your normal cheap simple cze char fare (cheap homestyle food) they specialize in expensive seafood.
The restaurant has become very famous with the likes of Anthony Bourdain dining there and the owner / chef Danny Lee has also become famous for being sort of a food nazi. What makes him a food nazi? Well, first you are not allowed to order at other stalls otherwise he’ll refuse to serve you. Next, there is no menu at this restaurant and he is pretty quick to tell you what you should order. Lastly, he speaks fairly quickly and assertively. So did he meet up to his reputation? The other stalls were closed that day and I wouldn’t have taken my chances anyhow, so I can’t verify that, but by all accounts it’s true. He didn’t have a menu and was fairly quick to tell me that I should order the shrimp that day. He was pretty fast in talking, but I thought he was actually a nice guy and was pretty receptive when I was talking to him about the food later and seemed really appreciative when I told him how good I thought it was. So it’s probably just the case of a chef who is very passionate about his food. Also, he is an ex-pig farmer, so I don’t think you’d expect him to be a polished white shoe type of guy anyhow.
The restaurant looks like a typical Geylang coffee shop meaning that it’s run down, has little to no décor and actually looks kind of shady, which is in stark contrast to most of Singapore. If you’re not familiar with Singapore, Geylang is home to two things: 1) the red light district and 2) some of the best food in Singapore. The service was brisk and I get the feeling they don’t speak English too well although I think Danny does speak English to some degree.
These were provided at the beginning of the meal for free. It was just typical peanuts and then peanuts with a sweet coating on outside. Nothing out of the ordinary, but the peanuts with the sweet coating were kind of addictive. 7.75/10
Scallops in Black Bean Sauce:
These were live scallops in the shell and came in a surprisingly thick black bean sauce that had some vegetables in it. The sauce was excellent with a nice black bean flavor although not nearly as strong as you would think looking at it and was slightly sweet. I thought the sauce was really nice and the scallops were great fresh scallops. The only thing is that the sauce overpowers the scallops, so you don’t fully enjoy the good quality of the scallops. Overall though this was an excellent dish. 8.75/10
Sauteed kalian is definitely a favorite dish of mine to eat when I’m in Singapore. Its leafy vegetable that somewhat similar to spinach, but has a more firm texture than spinach does. They sautéed it in a light brown almost clear sauce with golden fried onions on top. I’m not sure what it was about that sauce, but it was so good that we ended up getting two orders of this. 8.75/10
While the restaurant is known for its crab bee hoon, which I will talk about later, the gong gong turned out to the star of the night. Gong gong is a shellfish that I believe is a type of conch (anyone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). They come in the shell and you use a toothpick to pull them out, but don’t worry they are very easy to pull out. You then dip them in this spicy sweet brown sauce that has lots of diced chilis and green onions in it and I’m just going to call it “crack sauce” because it has to be one of most addictive sauces I’ve ever tried. Gong gong are similar to eating snails or maybe a clam, but much bigger and more awesome. We couldn’t get over how good these were; this is a “must try” dish not only at this restaurant, but if you are coming to Singapore in general. 9.25/10
Steamed Shrimp with Minced Garlic:
Danny basically told me I must order these, but it sounded pretty good, so I obliged. These were live shrimp, butterflied and then steamed with a lot of garlic and a light sauce. The shrimps were good quality with good sweet meat and the garlic tasted great with them. The only compliant I had about the dish is that the garlic somewhat overpowered the really nice flavor of having good fresh shrimp meat although that said the garlic was pretty good. 8.5/10
Crab Bee Hoon:
This is the signature dish at Sin Huat is known for. Bee hoon (mi fen) and is a thin white rice noodle. He steams the crab with the bee hoon in a clear sauce. It doesn’t sound like much, but wow this is really really good. The crab flavor with this amazing sauce all combine with the bee hoon and the bee hoon is the perfect medium because it soaks up all the flavors. It’s almost hard to explain if you haven’t had it, but it’s amazing and probably one of the best dishes I’ve had in Singapore. Also I thought the crab meat might end up being drained of its flavor from the steaming, but surprisingly the crab meat still tasted good. 9/10
Overall, I thought the food was really excellent here and it’s probably one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve eaten in Singapore.
659/661 Geylang Road Junction of Geylang Lor 35
I wrote about what a dai pai dong is in my post about on Leaf Dessert, which you can see here. Dai pai dong are a dying breed and I’m sure in 10 years from now there will be very few if any still around, so on my more recent trips I’ve been trying to go eat at them (there are only 28 left, so it’s not a crazy idea to be able to eat at many of them). I feel like it would be a shame not to at least have tried these places and more importantly many of them are known for having good food.
Oddly enough, Stanley Street in Central is where many of the remaining dai pai dong are located. This is in stark contrast to most of Central, which is a very modern business district (in case you are not familiar with Hong Kong). On this street you’ll find a row of metal hawker stands set up with plastic tables and chairs. While things like this are common in the rest of Asia, they are becoming increasingly very rare in Hong Kong, so it is cool to see it.
The service was pretty good; they were very nice and friendly. I’m not sure how much English they spoke, but their Mandarin was surprisingly good as I expect most places like this to speak heavily accented Mandarin. The menu is translated into English, so even if you don’t speak any Chinese you should be fine.
Here’s what we got:
Clams in Black Bean Sauce (Chi Zhi Chao Xian 豉汁炒蜆):
The waiter recommended this. However, it was a lot different than I thought, I was expecting it would come in the typical black bean sauce, but instead while it had some black beans in it, it was in this much lighter thinner sauce that was slightly sweet with onions and peppers. The clams were good quality, but I prefer the regular black bean sauce to this version. 7.75/10
Stuffed Peppers and Eggplant (Qian Rang San Gui 煎讓三寶):
This was typical stuff spicy green peppers and eggplant stuffed with a fish paste and then sauteed in some black bean sauce. It has pretty good although wasn’t anything of the ordinary. 8/10
Eggplant with Garlic (Suan Xiang Qie Zi 蒜香茄子):
The waiter recommended this. It was sautéed eggplant topped with minced garlic and diced green onions. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and while I thought it might be too much the minced garlic it went perfectly with this. Overall, I thought this was a really nice dish. 8.5/10
Fresh Scallops with Garlic and Vermicelli (蒜茸粉絲蒸扇貝):
This is a dish of fresh scallops served in the shell that are steamed with minced garlic and clear vermicelli. I really like this dish when it’s done well as the juices from the scallop mix with the garlic and its tastes really great. The version here was pretty good, but I had just had one of the best version I’ve ever had Qiao Tei (Under The Bridge Chili Crab) two days before, so it was a bit hard to match that. 8.25/10
Overall, I thought the food was good although not amazing by Hong Kong standards, but it was a fun experience and I’d recommend checking out this dinosaur before it’s gone.
9-10 Stanley Street, Central
Phone: 2541 5678
We started the night by having dinner at Fisherman’s Cuisine Hamayaki Taisho in Tai Hang. Tai Hang is a really cool up and coming neighborhood that has a lot of cool restaurants. It’s got this mix of old school and modern and it’s pretty low-key, but with a somewhat trendy vibe to it. Anyhow, after dinner I decided that I wanted dessert and we happened to walk by Xiao Tian Gu (小甜谷), which was totally full and had some people waiting. That’s usually a good sign, so I stopped in and got an order of black sesame tang yuan (hei zhi ma tang yuan) in ginger soup.
Black Sesame Tang Yuan (Hei Zhi Ma Tang Yuan):
Tang yuan are rice dough balls with filling, in this case ground up black sesame and sugar. This was honestly some of the best tang yuan I’ve ever had. The dough was perfectly tender, the filling had great flavor without being too sweet and the ginger soup wasn’t too sweet, gingery or watery (all typical downfalls of this dessert). I was really happy about it since it is a favorite Chinese dessert of mine. 9/10
The other desserts looked really good and I’m definitely going to stop in again next time I’m in Hong Kong. Also, fyi the sign is only in Chinese, so look at the characters I wrote earlier if you stop by.
G/F, 10-11B School Street, Tai Hang
Phone: 2882 6133
Ser Wong Fun (蛇王芬) and Se Wong Yee (蛇王二) are two well-known snake soup restaurants in Hong Kong. There are others, but I heard about these restaurants when I first started coming to Hong Kong a long time ago. I’m not sure if they’re related, but their names (Ser Wong Fun means Snake King Fragrance and Se Wong Yee means Snake King 2) and menus are very similar, so maybe they are or were related. Anyhow, I’ve been to both of them, but a long time ago far before I started blogging. So, I decided that it would be a good time to re-visit them and write one of them up and I happened to be meeting some friends who live in Mid-Levels, so Ser Wong Fun got the nod.
Ser Wong Fun is located in Central at the bottom of Mid-Levels. The exterior of the restaurant looks a bit out of place because most of the stores around there are reasonably modern and Western whereas Ser Wong Fun is old school and Chinese. The interior of the restaurant is plain, but kept clean. All the menus are in Chinese only, their Mandarin is heavily accented and I highly doubt they speak English. If you come here you should definitely bring someone who speaks Chinese or at least write down what you want ahead of time because you’ll probably have communication problems otherwise.
Here’s what we got:
Chinese Sausage Over Rice (Run Chang 潤腸 La Chang 臘腸):
One of the things they are known for are their Chinese sausage. The reddish sausage (la chang 臘腸) is the typical Cantonese style sausage; its pretty fatty and has a sweet taste to it (I absolutely love these). The dark brown sausage (run chang 潤腸) is a liver sausage that isn’t sweet, has a slight liver flavor to it (although it’s not strong at all) and is a little drier than the la chang. The sausages here are well made and have good flavor and texture. You eat them over rice with a slightly sweet thicker soy sauce (probably homemade) poured over it. Chinese sausage with rice is true comfort food for me and these were really satisfying for me. 8.75/10
Snake Soup (She Geng 蛇羹):
Snake soup is actually supposed to be a winter soup, but they serve it all year round here. It’s a thicker soup with a lot of snake meat in it and they also put in these big crunchy fried wonton skins. The soup is savory, but reasonably mild tasting. So, how is snake meat? Does it taste like chicken? Well, it kind of does. Texturally it shreds up like chicken although maybe a little more tender. Flavor-wise, the meat is mild and clean tasting and isn’t gamey whatsoever. It’s sort of surprising because I always imagine reptile meat as having some strong gamey flavor, but this doesn’t. I also really like the crunchiness of the fried wonton skins in contrast with the thickness of the soup. Overall, it’s a pretty tasty soup and definitely worth trying even for the less adventurous. 8.5/10
Sweet & Sour Pork:
We wanted a dish for the table and I saw this on a few tables, so we ordered this. It was typical sweet and sour pork, but cooked well. The sauce wasn’t overly sweet or gloppy and the meat was fried nicely, not too greasy or over-battered. It’s not a revelation, but it was solidly good. 8/10
Overall, this is an enjoyable place to eat at and probably the type of place I would stop by a lot for a quick meal if I lived in Hong Kong. I definitely want to come back next time for their double boiled soup as my friend told me they do a good job on those here as well.
G/F, 30 Cochrane Street, Central
Phone: 2543 1032
In my last post on Mission Chinese I discussed the evolving nature of “Americanized Chinese” food and how Mission Chinese is an example of Americanized Chinese evolving into something worth checking out (in my opinion). However, I entitled it “Part 1” because there is a second example of this in New York and its Yunnan Kitchen.
Yunnan Kitchen serves food that is influenced by Yunnan food. Yunnan is a province in China that borders Burma, Laos and Myanmar. In China, it’s known for among other things its nice weather, large number of minorities and its variety of mushrooms. The food is supposed to be quite different including very odd things like use of cheese which is completely unheard of in the rest of China and “Yunnan” food is somewhat of a misnomer because there are some many different minorities that I think “Yunnan” food can mean different things to different people there. Anyhow, I’ve only had it maybe once or twice as it’s not that common in most of the cities I normally visit and I’m not even sure if I’ve even actually met anyone from Yunnan.
There is a decent amount of information about the restaurant in this NYT article, which you can see here. Funny enough their “training” consisted of going to Shanghai and Beijing to two weeks (very far away from Yunnan) and training in some Yunnan restaurants there. So, I think it’s fair to say that this is a very loose interpretation of Yunnan cuisine.
The restaurant is well done; it’s got a very cool and relaxed feel to it with minimalist decoration and nice exposed brick walls. It’s a great place to have dinner with friends. The service has always been pretty good and everyone is nice. Also, be aware that there is usually a wait on Thursday-Saturday night.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
Pickled Green Papaya Salad:
This is shredded green papaya with warm shredded chicken, herbs and chilies. I was hoping this would be similar to the Thai papaya salads or even the Vietnamese papaya salads. However, I found this dish to be a bit too bland. It didn’t have any of the spice or the tart and sweet flavors of a normal papaya salad. This was a bit of a dud for me. 6.75/10
This was hen of the woods mushroom, frisee and mint salad. This was the other dish that I wasn’t crazy about, it was better than the green papaya salad, but I didn’t think there was too much too it. It was pretty similar to most other salads you get. Mind you it wasn’t bad, but just nothing special. 7/10
This was charred eggplant that was served cold with sawtooth herb, crushed peanuts and chilies. The eggplant was cooked nicely and was tender. It had a bit of spice to it and was a little sweet and tangy as well. I think I would’ve liked it better if it was served warm, but overall it was a decent dish. 7.5/10
Fried Potato Balls:
These were fried potato balls spiced with Yunnan spices and served with a soy-vinegar. These were really nice; they were nicely crispy, but weren’t greasy at all. The soy-vinegar sauce was the perfect complement to the fried potato balls. Overall, I thought these were great. 8.25/10
Tea Smoked Duck:
This was sliced cold tea smoked duck breast served with house pickled cucumber and salted peanuts. I actually don’t like tea smoked duck that much; it’s alright, but it’s not something I go out of my way for. However, I enjoyed it here. It’s much more delicate and lightly flavored than most tea smoked duck. The duck breast meat was nicely tender and it almost tasted more like a French dish than a Chinese dish. Overall, it was a solid dish. 8/10
Ham Rice Cakes:
This was Chinese rice cakes (nian gao) stir fried with chilies, tomato and pea shoots. I’m generally not the biggest fan of nian gao, but I got them because a friend likes them. These were pretty decent though. The tomato went surprisingly well with them and the slight tart flavor from the tomato gave it a nice tangy flavor and tasted good with the ham. It wasn’t really spicy at all and was generally a pretty simple dish, but not bad. 7.5/10
Stir Fried Mushrooms:
This was a variety of mushrooms stir fried with sawtooth herb, ham and peppers in a soy sauce. I love mushrooms, so this was a good dish for me. It tastes just like it sounds, but the flavor of the mushrooms pairs nicely with the saltiness from the soy sauce. Overall, a solid dish and tastes great with some rice. 8/10
Lamb Meatballs Shao Kao:
They have a shao kao section which means BBQ in Chinese and in particular is referring to BBQ skewers. In many places in China, particularly Northern China, skewers are a very popular dish. I’m not sure how prevalent they are in Yunnan (or not), but given that these chefs went to Beijing and Shanghai to train, I’m not surprised they picked these to put on their menu. These were lamb meatballs on skewers grilled and dusted with cumin and chili powder. The meat is perfectly cooked and the cumin and chili powder give it really good flavor. These are definitely one of the “must order” type dishes here. 8.5/10
Spicy Pork Shao Kao:
This is the same as the previous except with really juicy and tender pieces of pork with the perfect amounts of tender fat. These are really good as well and maybe the best dish here. 8.5/10
Crispy Whole Shrimp:
This is whole butterflied shrimp with salt, chili, lime and fried lime leaf. The shrimp is really nicely cooked and is nicely tender. The combination of salt, lime and chilli is a good one for this dish. It’s a pretty simple dish, but it’s excellent. Also, try eating the fried lime leaves, it sounds weird, but they’re tasty. 8.5/10
Steamed Market Fish:
I can’t remember what kind of fish it was, but it was a white fish filet served with seasonal mushrooms, Chinese chives in a Shaoxing wine sauce that I’m pretty sure had some soy sauce in it. The sauce is similar to the sauce that the mushrooms were in. The fish was light and clean tasting with no fishiness whatsoever. The sauce was really nice and paired well with the fish. Overall, this was a nice dish. 8/10
Chinese Sausage Fried Rice:
This was fried rice with Chinese sausage, seasonal mushrooms and Chinese greens. This was pretty straight forward fried rice. I love Chinese sausage so that was good; the rice had good flavor as well. However, it didn’t have enough wok hay, which is the smoky flavor that you get from cooking food in a wok at a very high temperature and it also wasn’t fluffy enough. That said overall it was a tasty dish. 7.75/10
Ma La Fried Chicken:
This is a special that is on the chalkboard. However, they’ve offered it every time I’ve been here. The chicken is crispy on the outside, but really nicely tender on the inside. It’s also not greasy whatsoever. The flavor is very ma meaning it has a lot of the numbing flavor and it is also la (spicy), but not crazy spicy. I like this dish a lot and its definitely another “must order” type of dish. 8.5/10
Overall, I enjoyed this restaurant a lot and while it has its hits and misses, the hits are very good and it’s become one of my favorite restaurants in the Lower Eastside. I highly recommend checking it out.
79 Clinton St (between Rivington & Delancey)
New York, NY 10002
The term “Americanized Chinese” conjures up thoughts of cheap take-out food featuring gloppy sauces, unidentifiable fried meats and fun names like General Tso’s chicken and moo goo gai pan. However, while many “foodies” may act like it’s a sacrilegious, for many it has a nostalgic quality about it and I have many friends who really like having this type of food from time to time. That said you’d be hard pressed to find someone who really thinks of this type of food as cuisine that you would go out of your way for. The problem is that mentality this has created this idea that this is actually what Chinese food is like (i.e. basically cheap, greasy food). Besides the fact that saying “Chinese food” is kind of ridiculous because it’s literally like saying European food, it’s really created this stigma that people can’t get over and to a certain degree it’s created this self-perpetuating cycle because many restaurants think that’s what customers expect.
This has finally started to breakdown as people have become more educated on Chinese food via the media and as authentic Chinese food has become more readily available. However, in terms of Americanized Chinese, I did not grow up eating Americanized Chinese food and it holds no nostalgic quality for me and most attempts to make fusion Chinese food have generally been awful in my experience. So is it possible to make good Americanized Chinese food? I think the answer is yes as places like Mission Chinese are making great food that is not authentic Chinese, so it truly is Americanized Chinese.
The restaurant is a tiny space on Orchard and looks like a take-out joint up front and opens up into a small room with fluorescent lights in back. The wait times are ridiculous at 2-3 hours at peak times and so you constantly see lines out the door. However, luckily I live close enough to get take-out from here and I just call in my order and pick it up 20-30 minutes later. I haven’t actually eaten in the restaurant since I don’t want to wait, so it’s tough for me to comment on service.
Here’s what we got:
Thrice Cooked Bacon:
This is one of the signature dishes. Its chunks of bacon stir fried with rice cakes, tofu skin, bitter melon, chili oil and fermented black bean. It tastes exactly as it sounds and was surprisingly quite ma la (numbing and spicy). I’d read that this place makes stuff quite ma la and it did live up to its reputation. I liked the tofu skin and rice cakes as well; they provided a nice textural balance to the dish. Also, as a word of warning this dish is quite salty although it’s salty in a good way. Overall, this was a very good dish. 8.25/10
Kung Pao Pastrami:
This was another signature dish. Its chunks of pastrami, which I believe they get from Katz’s, stir fried with peanuts, celery, potato and chili oil. This was also quite ma la although more la (spicy). It was also a bit of a salt bomb since pastrami itself is quite salty, but it tasted really good with rice. It had decent wok hay, which is the smoky flavor you get from stir frying in a very hot wok. Overall, this was another very good dish. 8.25/10
Stir Fried Sweet Peas:
These were individual peas, pickled ramps and chili oil. I thought it was a really well prepared dish as I found the flavor of the sauce to be excellent and was also again nicely ma la. However, I thought I was ordering pea pods and I don’t really like sweet peas, so while I thought it was a very good for a sweet pea dish, I don’t really sweet peas so it’s hard for me to be really constructive on this dish. If you like peas you should try this dish. 7.25/10
Fresh Tofu Poached In Soy Milk:
This was interesting, it was tofu in a bath of soy milk with spicy fermented bean paste (dou ban jiang). The tofu was just regular tofu and the soy bean milk was quite milky in flavor probably more so than usual. It was actually quite a light and refreshing dish, which was a nice contrast to the other dishes. The dou ban jiang was salty and spicy and the fermented flavor went well with the dish. Overall, I thought it was a reasonably tasty dish and a good compliment to the other dishes. 7.75/10
Mapo Tofu with Pork Shoulder:
This was the last signature dish and was probably the most normal tasting dish in that it tastes reasonably similar to an authentic version of mapo tofu. It was quite ma la, oily and salty. I’d say that it was probably a little more salty than normal, but not in a bad way. The pork shoulder was different since you normally use ground pork, but I liked that a lot because the pork was pretty decent quality. The other thing that was different is that they use a more firm tofu as opposed to a silky tofu. I liked the tofu, but I prefer silky tofu. Overall, this was very good and definitely worthy of being a signature dish. 8.25/10
Beijing Vinegar Peanuts:
These were roasted peanuts in the skin with smoked garlic, anise and rock sugar in black vinegar. I was hoping these would be more similar to the ones at BaoHaus which I really like. However, these were just so so, they just tasted like regular roast peanuts in some vinegar. 6.75/10
Stir Fried Pork Jowl and Radish:
Jowl are the cheek and are similar to pork belly or thick cut bacon. This dish was jowl stir fried with fermented black bean, shiso and mint. I could see where they were going with this dish, but this was one of the duds for me. I felt like it was just a bunch of ingredients put together, but they didn’t meld well. In particular I thought the shiso and mint were totally out of place with the black bean. So while it was an okay dish, it wasn’t something I’d go out of my way to order. 6.75/10
This is just rice with barley in it, but for some reason I found it particularly tasty. It was cooked very nicely, slightly al dente and the barley gave it a slight bit of flavor and it tasted great with the other food. 8/10
Overall, I enjoyed Mission Chinese a lot and I have a lot of respect for what Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint have done.
154 Orchard St (between Stanton & Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
Pok Pok Phat Thai is one of Andy Ricker’s restaurants. I wrote about the predecessor when it was called Pok Pok Wings and specialized in chicken wings, which you can see here. However, it changed this year and now focuses on pad thai because apparently the kitchen was too small and was making it difficult to cook the wings properly (the kitchen is tiny). I’m not going to give too many details about the restaurant because I already did in the original review.
Here’s what we got:
Phat Thai Ruam (Pad Thai with Shrimp and Pork):
This is supposed to be the authentic version of pad thai. Its rice noodles cooked in rendered pork fat with tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried tofu, dried shrimp, preserved radish, egg, garlic chives, bean sprouts and chili powder. You can choose it plain, with shrimp, with ground pork or with both. I got the version with both shrimp and ground pork. It’s much drier and less sweet than the sloppy sauce-y Americanized version. The flavors are a bit subtle although it’s not bland by any means. The various condiments were all quite good and definitely make the dish better. Overall, while I’m no pad thai expert, I found the dish to be pretty tasty and a little extra fish sauce and chili powder definitely kicks it up a notch. 7.75/10
Kuaytiaw Khua Kai (Stir Fried Rice Noodles):
This is wide rice noodles stir fried in rendered pork fat with chicken, cuttlefish, egg and green onions. According to their website this is a Bangkok Chinatown specialty, which makes sense since kuaytiaw is actually a Chinese word for noodles in the Hokkien / Teochew dialect (粿條 guo tiao). Southeast Asia has a ton of Chinese influence (mainly Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese) and Thailand has a substantial Chinese population, which you can read about in this Wiki article. This is somewhat similar to char kway teow which is a common dish in Singapore and Malaysia. Anyhow, it tastes just like it sounds. I liked it a bit better than the phat thai as it had a bit of the smoky “wok hai” type of flavor that you get from cooking food in a very hot wok. Overall, I liked this dish and thought it was good. 8/10
Hoi Thawt (Mussel Broken Crepe):
This is a starch-y broken crepe with steamed mussels, eggs, garlic chives and bean sprouts served with Shark Sri Racha sauce. I’m almost certain that this dish was taken from Teochew Chinese as it tastes very similar to the oyster omelette / crepe you find in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and certain parts of southern China. Although I’d say it’s more similar to the Taiwanese version. Anyhow, it’s sort of starchy, but with lots of crispy bits, egg and mussel and topped with the tangy slightly spicy sauce. I thought this was shockingly good; it actually tastes very similar to what you get in Asia. In fact, this is the only time I’ve had this dish done well in the US. I’ve even gone back three times in total to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke. This is the dish that is worth coming here for. 8.75/10
Overall, I enjoyed this place a lot and it’s definitely a good spot to check out if you’re in the neighborhood.
137 Rivington Street (between Norfolk & Suffolk)
New York, NY 10002
Lake Pavilion is a huge new Cantonese restaurant located in Flushing, but not in downtown Flushing as it’s much closer to the Long Island Expressway in a small area that seems to turning into a 2nd area in Flushing with a lot of Chinese restaurants. Note that you will need a car to get here or have to take a bus from downtown Flushing. Another option would be to take a Chinese black car which will get you here for $24-25 from Manhattan.
The restaurant used to be called Palace Diner, which was an old school American diner type of place, but the exterior has changed from looking like a run-down diner to almost looking like some casino with super gaudy blue florescent lights lighting up the outside. The restaurant is deceivingly big and has to be one of the biggest restaurants in Flushing. It’s been completely renovated into a typical Chinese banquet type of place and everything is new, clean and bright. We sat in the main room, but there are many private rooms and also a fairly sizeable second dining room as well.
The service was quite good; they were attentive and surprisingly nice. I will caution that many of the servers spoke little to no English as several times someone from our table asked for something in English and got a blank stare. However, if you don’t speak Chinese then the good thing is that the entire menu is translated into English with lots of pictures with the exception of a very small specials menu that was on the table, so any which way you should be fine.
Here’s what we got:
Winter Melon Soup:
This was a standard version of the soup, but it was good and perfect during a cold winter night. The soup was nice and light and I thought the ingredients such as the crab, chicken, winter melon were all quite fresh. Overall, this was a nice rendition. 7.75/10
This turned out to be the surprise of the night. They brought a whole Peking duck to the table and carved it up in front of us, then made the buns for us and also brought us back a plate with a very large amount of extra duck meat. This is Cantonese style Peking duck meaning it’s actually a roast duck and you eat it in mantou (steamed white buns) instead of pancakes. The duck skin was nicely crispy and the meat was perfectly tender and really tasted great in the buns with hoisin sauce and spring onions. The leftover duck meat was great as well; I kept eating it with rice and hoisin sauce. This is definitely the best Peking duck I’ve had in New York. 8.5/10
Sizzling Black Pepper Steak:
We ordered this because I saw a lot of other tables ordering it. I thought this was one of the duds of the night. The steak while fine was a little drier than I like and I prefer a stronger flavored black pepper sauce although the sauce was fine overall. 6.75/10
Snow Pea Leaves with Crab Claw Meat Egg White Sauce:
They do a nice rendition of this dish here, the snow pea leaves were fresh and the sauce while standard was well executed. 8/10
Stir Fried String Beans:
This was another standout dish for me. These string beans had good wok hay which is the smoky flavor you get from cooking at a wok at a high temperature, but only chefs who know what they’re doing can get this right. The pork sauce was also really nice and not overly salty like a lot of places do it. This was definitely a good dish. 8.25/10
Eggplant and Sparerib Casserole:
Along with the Peking Duck, this was the other star of the night. It was a typical casserole consisting of eggplant and cut up spare rib swimming in brown sauce with some vegetables. The brown sauce was excellent; it wasn’t gloppy or bland like a lot of places make it. It had a great savory flavor and really tasted good with rice. The eggplant and spare ribs were both perfectly cooked. This was probably one of the best casseroles I’ve had in NY. 8.5/10
They have an extensive list of expensive sea fish, which I wanted to get, but one of my friends really likes flounder and wanted to get it as it was on most tables. Flounder is not my favorite fish, I usually get it fried if I do, but we got it cooked traditional Cantonese style where it’s steamed first and then hot oil and soy sauce are poured over it. They did a good job and the fish was very tender and the sauce was good. It has a very slight fishy flavor which is why I dinged it a little bit, but overall this was good and I definitely want to come back and try some of their higher end fish. 7.75/10
Peking Pork Chops:
This was the other dud of the knight. The sauce was fine, but they screwed up the batter as it came off the pork chops (it should be firmly stuck to them) and hence ended up being a little soggy. 6.75/10
Crab Sticky Rice:
The sticky rice here is different than the version at Imperial Palace / East Lake, which you can see here (http://www.lauhound.com/2012/03/imperial-palace-east-lake-seafood-restaurant-my-favorite-chinese-restaurant-in-new-york/). It was much more sticky and heavy being more similar to the sticky rice you get in a zong zi (Chinese tamale) or nuo mi ji / lo mai gai. It was flavored very nicely as the crab gave it great flavor and the crab meat was actually delicious as it had retained a lot of its flavor. The rice also contained a lot of crispy ham and peanuts as well. However, the peanuts were the downfall as texturally they were too hard for the dish and the flavor of roast peanuts is too strong and overpowered the crab. If they replaced the roasted peanuts with soft boiled peanuts I’d probably take make rating of this dish up to an 8.25/10. 7.75/10
Salt and Pepper Squid:
We almost didn’t get this dish because they forgot to write it down and the lady was like it’s too much food already, but then a friend came late, so we ended up getting it anyhow and I’m glad we did. The squid was really tender maybe the most tender version I’ve had in NY and the salt and pepper batter was quite good although South China Garden’s batter was better, but the squid was so tender that I’d call it a wash as to who’s version is better. I’m glad they make a good version because Imperial Palace’s version isn’t good and they are my go to Cantonese restaurant. 8/10
Red Bean Soup:
This was given as a free dessert at the end of the meal. It was standard, but quite good. 7.75/10
Overall, I enjoyed my meal here and this is definitely one of the best Cantonese restaurants in New York right now.
60-19 Main St
New York, NY 11367
I’ve been meaning to come to Cong Sao (聰嫂私房甜品) for a long time, but every time I’ve tried to go there was a very long line, so I never ended up going. However, on this trip I met up with a friend and made sure to go at an off hour and luckily there was a table available immediately.
Hong Kong style desserts generally fall into two categories; one is the old school stuff that old people eat, which you can see an example of here and the other is newer style desserts which is what Cong Sao serves. These desserts are quite a bit different than American desserts with lots of mango, durian, jellies, soups and puddings as opposed to cookies and cakes etc. I’m a big fan of both styles of desserts and it’s difficult to find good versions in the US, so I always make it a point to get these when I’m in Hong Kong.
This is a thin crepe-like pancake that is filled with a very light and sweet crème and durian (mango is the other fruit that they usually make this with as well). I believe the original Honeymoon Dessert in Sai Kung invented these although I’m not 100% sure about that. However, I remember in the early 2000s going to Honeymoon in Sai Kung before it became a big chain and people raving about these there and it sounded like it was something they invented. Anyhow, the version here is excellent. The pancakes are thin and just slightly chewy which I like. The crème is light and not too sweet and it pairs really well with durian. Now obviously you have to like durian although the durian here is not super strong, so I think even those who don’t really like durian would be okay with this. If you don’t like durian I’d recommend getting the mango. 9/10
Mango Tapioca in Coconut Milk:
This is pretty simple; it’s chunks of mango in an ice cold soup of coconut milk with tapioca in it. I like this dessert a lot, the combo of mango and coconut milk is really good and mangos just taste a lot better in Asia than they do in the US, they are much sweeter and have better flavor and texture. They made the coconut milk a bit sweeter than I prefer, but still good overall although there are dessert places in HK that definitely have better versions that the one here. 8.25/10
Mango Sago with Grass and Mango Jelly in Coconut Milk:
I’ll admit that sago looks like some weird alien egg or eyeballs, so sorry if they gross anyone out (my gf thought it looks really gross). This was like the prior dessert except not served as cold and it had sago and grass and mango jelly in it. Sago is made from palm stems, which you can read about here in this wiki article. They don’t taste like much, but they do give a nice texture. I’d say the same about the jellies. While similar to the other dessert, I like the textural aspect of this one a bit better. 8.5/10
Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls:
These are called tang yuan in Chinese and they are probably one of my favorite Chinese deserts. They are glutinous rice balls filled with ground up black sesame with sugar in a hot sweet ginger soup. They taste just like they sound, but I also really love the texture of the super soft rice dough with the crunch of the sesame and sugar. The tang yuan here quite good with nice flavor and texture, but the soup was a too gingery for me as it was very strong. 8.0/10 (8.5/10 for the tang yuan, 7.5/10 for the soup)
Overall, the pancake was really good and the other desserts were solid although not the best versions I’ve had in HK. I would like to come back as some of the desserts that other customers were eating looked great.
Address: (note they moved a street away recently, so this is the new address)
G/F, 11 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣耀華街11號地舖
Phone: 2278 2622
Great NY Noodletown probably the most well known restaurant in Chinatown and generally is a pretty famous restaurant. It’s been around for a long time and was here far before I arrived in New York. The restaurant specializes in shao la (Cantonese BBQ), congee and various simple dishes. I’ve been meaning to write about this restaurant for a long time as I feel like my blog wouldn’t be very comprehensive if I didn’t report about this place.
The restaurant looks like most other Cantonese BBQ restaurants in NY; its run down, kind of dirty, has no décor to speak of and has BBQ meats hanging in the window. However, you will notice when you walk in that it’s noticeably more crowded than other restaurants. You often have to wait for a table on the weekends and there is usually a line of Chinese people getting BBQ meats or food to go. Another thing you will notice if you go late enough is that it’s a late night spot that lots of drunk people come to after partying.
Here’s what we got:
Pork and Thousand Year Egg Congee (Pi Dan Zhu Rou Zhou):
Congee is one thing that Manhattan’s Chinatown does very well. I actually find the congee here to be fairly similar to what you get in Hong Kong. Congee is rice porridge that you make by cooking rice with a lot of water until it turns into porridge. I was actually wondering how they came up with the name congee since it’s nothing like that Chinese word for congee (zhou in Mandarin or juk in Cantonese) and according to this Wikipedia article it’s actually derived from a Tamil word. Anyhow, the congee here is very good, it has good thick consistency and nice flavor although congee by itself is fairly plain, but I’ve heard some people may add some chicken stock or lard for flavor. I prefer to get it with pork and pi dan which is a black preserved egg, which has a creamy flavor if you’ve never had it before. Also, I prefer a decent amount of white pepper and a little chili oil in my congee for flavor as well (it’s always sitting on the table). Overall, it’s simple dish, but it’s done very well here. 8.5/10
Beef Congee (Niu Rou Zhou):
This is the same thing as the other congee except it has nicely silky tender beef in it. 8.5/10
Fried Crueller (You Tiao):
You tiao is a long fried donut that is a standard accompaniment with congee. You take it and dip it in the congee and it’s delicious. The you tiao here are decent, but they are pre-fried, so they’re not nearly as good as a freshly fried one. 7.25/10
The first picture has roast pork, soy sauce chicken and roast duck (from left to right) and the 2nd picture is roast pork. Here are reviews of each:
Soy Sauce Chicken (Jiang You Ji / See Yau Gai):
This is roast chicken covered in a dark soy sauce. This is one of my favorite shao la (Cantonese BBQ) dishes. The chicken is very tender and the skin is very flavorful and pairs really nicely with the soy sauce. The version here is quite good although it can be a little inconsistent. One thing to note is that Chinese people like their meat tender and I’ve found some Americans can find the texture of the skin to be too slippery and dislike it. Overall, they do a pretty decent job on this dish. 8/10
Roast Duck (Kao Ya):
This is roast duck that they pour a semi-sweet soy sauce marinade on it. It’s got good flavoring, but it can be inconsistent as sometimes I find it can be too dry sometimes as I like my duck to be really tender and juicy. 7/10 when it’s off, 7.75/10 when it’s on
Roast Pork (Cha Shao / Cha Siu):
Cha siu literally means “fork roast” in Chinese; the reason they call it that is because you skewer a long piece of pork and then roast it in a special cylinder shaped oven. The marinades can vary, but generally it contains honey, soy sauce, five spice powder, hoisin sauce and some people use this stuff called hong fu ru, which is a fermented bean curd. The flavors can be quite different ranging from very sweet to barely sweet at all. Also, the reason it’s red on the outside is because they use food coloring. Cha siu is literally one of my all time favorite foods when I was a kid I used to refuse to eat the other food and just wanted cha siu with rice. When done right it’s tender, juicy and has a great sweet flavor. Anyhow, the cha siu at Noodletown is extremely inconsistent. When it’s on its actually quite good, I’d say you might even consider it maybe an average type place in Hong Kong, but when it’s off its dry and not good at all. It’s totally luck of the draw as to whether it’s going to be off or on unfortunately. Also, just so you can see here’s a link to the best cha siu I’ve ever had in Hong Kong. 6.75/10 when it’s off, 8.25/10 when it’s on
Ribs (Pai Gu):
These are prepared in the same marinade they use for the cha siu, so it’s a bit sweet and salty at the same time. They are pretty good, not as tender as the cha siu, but reasonably tasty nonetheless. 7.5/10
Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab (Jiao Yen Ruan Ke Xie):
This dish has become perhaps their most famous dish; I believe it was written up in the New York Times actually. It’s a soft shell crab battered and fried in a typical Cantonese style salt and pepper batter. It’s nicely crispy on the outside and the salt and pepper batter goes really well with the soft shell crab. It’s well deserving of its reputation and definitely a really tasty dish assuming you like soft shell crab. 8.5/10
Salt and Pepper Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):
Same thing as the soft shell crab except with squid. This is a favorite Cantonese dish of mine so I almost always get it when I come here. South China Garden (RIP) had the best version, but now that they are closed I find Noodletown to have the best version in New York right now. The batter here is good, the only thing is that I find their squid isn’t quite as tender as I like, but overall still quite good. 8.25/10
Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Jie Lan):
This is a standard dish, which tastes exactly as it sounds and they do it well here. 8/10
Flowering Chives with Beef (Jiu Cai Hua Niu Rou):
This is another signature dish. Its flowering chives which I believe are called garlic chives in English stir fried with beef, carrots and ginger. It has decent “wok hay”, which means wok air basically and it’s the flavor you get from cooking food in a wok at a very hot temperature which effectively smokes the food. The beef is very silky and smooth and the garlic chives have a nice crunch to them and good flavor. I think this is one of the best dishes here. 8.25/10
Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup (Xia Ren Yun Tun Mian):
While wonton noodle soup sounds like it should be an easy dish to make it’s actually very difficult and I would say that it’s somewhat akin to Japanese ramen in that sense. In Hong Kong people take it pretty seriously and you have lots of restaurants that specialize in it and people are very particular about it. I think the hardest part to get right is broth and I’ve never really found anywhere in the US that can get it right unfortunately. That said within in New York, Noodletown probably is one of the better versions in NY. The noodles are pretty decent, but be aware that the noodles in wonton noodle soup are very springy and some people find them almost too springy. The wontons are decent, they’re reasonably well made although I think it’d be better if they used better quality shrimp. The broth is decent although it doesn’t have the complexity a really good version has and I also find it has a little too much alkaline flavor. It has an alkaline flavor because you need to use alkaline salts in order to make the noodles. Fyi, the best version is Shifu Chio in Flushing which you can see here and I’d also say Noodle Village does a decent version as well. 7.5/10
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (Yu Xiang Qie Zi):
I ordered this randomly once, it’s your typical eggplant in garlic sauce, but they definitely made it on the sweet side. The sauce wasn’t gloppy, but I thought it was too sweet. 6.75/10
Overall, it is an enjoyable restaurant and definitely one of the better restaurants in Chinatown although their BBQ meats are inconsistent.
28 1/2 Bowery
New York, NY 10013
Given that people thought the first post I wrote about mooncakes, which you can see here and the fact that I realized a lot more bakeries in make their own mooncakes than I originally thought, I decided to try a few other bakeries.
I’ll get right into it since I already wrote a lot about mooncakes in the first post.
Koi Palace is obviously not in New York, it’s in Daly City, California and it maybe the most of famous Chinese restaurant in the U.S. I happened to be in Napa for a wedding, so I decided to stop by for dim sum (which I’ll be writing about soon since I’ve been there twice this year) and also picked up a mooncake. They had three kinds: purple yam with birds nest, mixed nuts with smoked ham and white lotus. In hindsight, I should’ve bought all three, but I only bought the mixed nuts with smoked ham and white lotus. So this was definitely the best mooncake of the mooncakes I’ve tried in my mooncake tasting this year. The exterior was nice and not overly oily. The filling was nicely moist and the flavoring was quite good. You could really taste the smoked ham, which sounds weird since it’s a dessert, but it went quite well and the mixed nuts gave it a nice texture. Also, the egg yolk was not dry either, which was good. Overall, this was as good as any of the good brands from Asia. I’m not sure if you can get them delivered to you, but these are probably worth it. 8.25/10
This is one of the bakeries that I frequent somewhat regularly and I’ve written about before. I tried their white lotus seed with one egg yolk. The exterior was fine, but I found the filling to be too dry and the egg yolk to be too dry as well. The flavoring was decent, but nothing special. Overall, I found it to be a bit disappointing. 6.75/10
This is a popular bakery in Chinatown that is much nicer than most bakeries in Chinatown. I actually haven’t really eaten much from this bakery, but I notice that it’s usually quite busy. They had a big sign advertising their mooncakes (it’s only in Chinese), so I decided stop by. These mooncakes weren’t actually made at the bakery, but I believe they were made exclusively for them by a bakery in China. These were pretty decent, they tasted very similar to Lung Moon’s, but the egg yolk was moister; the filling was nicely sweet with a good white lotus seed flavor. Overall, it was a pretty decent mooncake. 7.75/10
Overall, I don’t the bakeries in New York really stack up against the well known Asian brands, but it’s good to know that you can get at least a decent mooncake at places like Lung Moon and New Wing Wah.
Koi Palace: 365 Gellert Blvd Daly City, CA 94015; (650) 992-9000; https://www.koipalace.com
Double Crispy Bakery: 230 Grand St (between Elizabeth St & Bowery) New York, NY 10013; (212) 966-6929
New Wing Wah Bakery: 246 Grand St (between Bowery & Chrystie St) New York, NY 10002; (212) 941-1924
Tai Cheong is a very famous bakery in Central District, Hong Kong. They’re well known for all of their pastries, but they are particularly famous for their dan ta, which are Chinese egg custard tarts. I’ve been coming to Tai Cheong for over a decade, but I haven’t been in my last two trips to Hong Kong. Back in the day Tai Cheong was a rundown bakery with lines out the door; fast forward to today and it’s been bought by a publicly traded company (Tao Heung Group), expanded to have branches all over Hong Kong and totally renovated so it’s very nice inside now. What does that sound like to me? It sounds like a recipe for a massive decline in quality. However, I had to give it a try to see if that was actually the case or not.
Here’s what we got:
Drum roll…so how was the dan ta? Thankfully the answer is that they are as good as ever. They are definitely one of the best if not the best I’ve ever had. The flavor is amazing; the custard is very egg-y tasting and not as sweet as most versions, which I like better. I got mine hot out of the oven, so it was really soft and delicious. The crust is great as well; it’s not overly buttery or oily like many are and it’s also more solid as opposed to flaky, which is different than most places. Even though I normally prefer the Portuguese style ones where it’s burnt on top (normally get them from Lord Stow’s) these are definitely of my favorite versions anywhere. 9.25/10
This is another pastry Tai Cheong is famous for. It’s a buttery thick pie crust filled with chicken, mushroom, peas and maybe a couple other vegetables in a thick semi-creamy sauce. It will remind you of a much less soup-y version of chicken pot pie. The crust is pretty moist and a bit salty. The inside tastes just like it sounds. I’m not the biggest fan of these in general, but it’d been a long time I’d had one and Tai Cheong’s version was better than most. 7.75/10
Overall, while it turned into a chain and the bakery got a lot nicer, the dan ta still taste exactly like I remember them and I highly recommend giving them a try if you’re in Hong Kong.
G/F, 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central 中環擺花街35號地下
Phone: 2544 3475
[button url=”https://www.taoheung.com.hk/en/brands/tai_cheong_bakery/index_p_2.html” target=”_blank” color=”grey-lite’]Website[/button]
Tak Kee Chiu Chou Restaurant 德記潮州菜館 is a popular Chiu Chow (Teochew / Chao Zhou) restaurant in Western. It is a full family style restaurant as opposed to the Chiu Chow noodle soup and braised meat specialists that are very common in Hong Kong.
As I’ve stated several times on this blog, Chiu Chow food is one of my favorite types of Chinese food. It’s known for relying on the freshness of ingredients and tends to rely on lighter methods of cooking like steaming and braising. It’s one of the Chinese cuisines that would be easy to eat daily.
The restaurant is located in Kennedy Town in Western District; Kennedy Town is located fairly far away from the more mainstream areas of Hong Kong Island such Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and isn’t easily accessible via MTR (subway), so the restaurant is very “local” with few if any tourists. The restaurant is a reasonably large room that while not having particularly exciting décor is very clean and isn’t a dive. The restaurant’s walls are lined with multi-colored banners that list various specials and there is also a display area showcasing their various cold dishes such as fish, crabs and braised meats; this is a common sight in Chiu Chow restaurants and I love seeing all the stuff they have to offer. I didn’t see an English menu, but I read that they do have an English menu. Any which way, I wrote the Chinese characters so you could order what I ordered easily.
Here’s what we got:
Tofu and Pickled Vegetable:
This was served as a complementary dish at the beginning of the meal. It was pickled cabbage (suan cai) and tiny pieces of fried tofu in a sweet chili sauce that was very slightly spicy. The combo of sour flavor pickled cabbage and the sweetness of the sauce was really nice together. Also the texture from the crunch of the cabbage and the fried tofu was great. While very simple, I thought this was really good. 8.75/10
Vinegar Smoked Anchovies (Chen Cu Xun Feng Wei Yu 陳醋燻鳳尾魚):
These were whole fried anchovies in aged vinegar (chen cu 陳醋) served at room temperature. The aged vinegar is fairly sweet with a thick consistency somewhere in between water and syrup. The fish is eaten whole and you don’t notice the bones at all. The texture is jerky-like, which makes me think they smoked then fried the fish. These were pretty tasty although a bit on the sweet side for me. 8.25/10
Braised Goose (Lu Shui E 鹵水鵝):
Braised meats are a staple of Chiu Chow cuisine; the braising style is called lu wei 鹵味, but Hong Kong they refer to it as lu shui 鹵水. This technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up). I didn’t have any expectations of this, but it turned out to be some of the best braised goose I’ve ever had. The cut I got is the breast and it’s a fairly lean cut, so sometimes I find it can be a bit too dry, but here it was really tender and juicy with slight pieces of fat that were great. The braising sauce was outstanding; it was light with a good balance between being salty and having a slight sweetness to it. The vinegar cuts the fat from the meat perfectly. I actually thought it was better than the version I had at Hung’s Delicacies, which is a one star Michelin restaurant known for this dish. 9/10
Baked Fish in Plum Sauce (Mei Zi Shao Wu Tou 梅子燒烏頭):
I was going to order a steamed fish since that is traditional Chiu Chow style fish, but the waitress told me that the baked fish is one of their specialties. They took a fish called wu tou 烏頭 (crow head) and baked it in foil in a sweet plum sauce. The result was excellent; the fish was really nice and tender and not fishy whatsoever. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but still tasted good with the fish. Overall, this was a solid dish. 8.5/10
Oyster Congee (Hao Zai Zhou 蠔仔粥):
Chiu chow style congee is very different than Cantonese style congee. It’s very watery as opposed to Cantonese congee which is very thick. I believe Chiu Chow people say something about it being like mountains and oceans because of the rice popping out from the surface of the water. Also, unlike Cantonese they don’t call it zhou 粥, they call it mi 糜 (mue in Chiu Chow). The version here had oysters, pork and pickled vegetables in it. The ingredients were excellent; the oysters were fresh and clean tasting, the pork was tender and the pickled vegetables gave it a nice sour flavor. This was a very good version, but I prefer Cantonese style congee as I find it much more flavorful and like the texture better as Chiu Chow congee just feels like rice with too much water in it. 8/10
Fried Oyster Pancake (Zha Hao Bing 炸蠔餅):
This was another dish the restaurant was known for. It’s a fried oyster pancake with lots of chives in it. It looked really oily, but it was surprisingly not oily and was more airy than dense. The oysters they use here are very fresh and don’t taste fishy at all. It was served with vinegar that was similar to the vinegar for the goose; it was a nice compliment as it didn’t over power the flavor of the pancake, but cut the oil from frying. Overall, I thought it was pretty good although it was a little lighter in flavor than I was expecting. 8.25/10
This was an enjoyable meal and probably one of the better Chiu Chow restaurants I’ve been to in Hong Kong, definitely recommend checking it out.
G/F, No 3 Belcher’s Street
Kennedy Town, Western District, Hong Kong
Phone: 2819 5568
Kwan Kee Claypot Rice 坤記煲仔小菜 is a famous claypot rice (bao zai fan / bo zai fan 煲仔飯) restaurant located in Western District in Hong Kong. My friends have been raving to me about it for years, so on this trip I finally got to try it although it happens that I actually came here many years ago, but it was well before my blogging days so I never used to keep track of where I was going back then.
Bo zai fan (claypot rice) is one of my favorite Cantonese dishes so that’s what I came here for, but when I told my friend that I wanted to go she told me that she actually doesn’t even really like bo zai fan as it’s too much rice, but she really likes the other dishes a lot, so that piqued my interest as I hadn’t really thought about their other dishes.
The restaurant is located in an alley right off Queen’s Road West. There is an indoor section and an outside area with picnic tables and plastic chairs; it’s on the border of being a dai pai dong based on the way it’s laid out and the general atmosphere. The restaurant is fairly cramped with an open kitchen and there are specials written all over the walls. The open kitchen is interesting as you can see they cook the rice using both a regular grill and a charcoal grill; I believe they switch the claypot rice from the regular grill to the charcoal grill or vice versa at some point during the cooking process although I didn’t ask them about their technique. Traditionally charcoal fire is the way of cooking claypot rice although I’m not exactly sure what the difference is between using a regular versus charcoal grill.
The service was fine as it was fairly quick and efficient. I’m not sure if they speak English or not, but it’s likely that they don’t or if they do not very well. Also note that you need to make a reservation here; you can walk in, but it’s a crap shoot as to how bad the wait will be.
Here’s what we got:
Imperial Chicken (Gui Fei Ji / Ba Wang Ji 貴妃雞 / 霸王雞):
This was boiled chicken served with minced ginger, garlic and scallion oil. The meat was nicely tender and had a great chicken flavor that you don’t get from most chickens in the U.S. The skin was really nice as well and was fairly similar to Hainan chicken although it wasn’t served quite as cool as Hainan chicken is and the skin doesn’t separate from the meat as easily. I thought it was great, but my friends said that normally it’s even more tender and that the skin is more yellow as opposed to the slightly off yellow color of the chicken we had. The waiter said that they used a different chicken that day, but that it was the same quality. I’d love to try it when it’s on because I thought it was great on an off day. 8.75/10
Lamb Belly and Bamboo Pot (Zhi Zhu Yang Nan Bao 枝竹羊腩煲):
This was a big hot pot with chunks of lamb belly, bamboo, fried tofu skin, corn and green vegetables. My friend told me it’s one of their specialties. The broth was light and clean tasting and it got heavier as the lamb cooked longer and the fat was rendered into the broth. The lamb was really nice; it was fall apart tender and not gamey at all. While it was a simple dish I thought it was excellent. It was definitely a surprise dish for me especially since lamb is not used very often in Cantonese cuisine. 9/10
Beef in Satay Sauce Over Chinese Broccoli (Sha Die Niu Rou Chao Jie Lan 沙嗲牛肉炒芥蘭):
This was strips of beef stir-fried with sliced bamboo shoots and peppers in satay sauce over boiled kai lan (Chinese kale). The beef was stir fried nicely; it was silky and tender. It had decent wok hay, which is the flavor you get from cooking stuff at a high heat in a wok effectively smoking it. The satay sauce was a light flavored brown sauce, which was pretty good although I thought it could’ve been a little more flavorful. Overall, this was good although not amazing. 8.25/10
Salt and Pepper Fish and Squid (Jiao Yen Jiu Du Yu Xian You 椒鹽九肚魚鮮魷):
You can get the squid or fish separately, but we got the combination. It’s the typical salt and pepper batter, but it was very nicely executed. The exterior was crispy without being oily and had a good salty flavor without being overly salty. The squid and fish meat was very tender which was great. This is one of the better version’s I’ve had in a while, I especially liked the fish which was called “nine stomach fish” in Chinese (no idea what it’s called in English). 8.75/10
Eel, Spare Rib And Liver Sausage Clay Pot (Bai Shan Pai Gu Run Chang Bao Zai Fan 白鱔 排骨潤腸煲仔飯):
Bo zai fan (claypot rice) is rice that is cooked in a claypot, various meats are added on top and the flavor from those meats runs into the rice while the bottom of the rice is very crispy from being cooked in a claypot over a hot fire then a special soy sauce that is darker, thicker and sweeter is poured on the top and you mix it all together. We got the eel, spare rib and liver sausage as toppings. My friends said they are known for their eel here. The eel was really good, very tender and clean tasting; even though I love eel I normally only like Japanese style eel, but this eel was definitely a pleasant exception. They also add some black bean sauce onto the eel, which was a nice touch. The spare ribs were really tender, but weren’t overly fatty like some places and the liver sausage was really nice, which I guess tastes somewhat similar to a blood sausage, but a little more firm if you’ve never had it before (it’s not metallic-y or very liver-y in case you’re wondering). The bottom of the rice was the best crust I’ve ever had, it was literally perfectly crispy all throughout the claypot and while it was crispy none of the rice was burnt. Having tried to make bo zai fan at home, I’m amazed at how they could get such a perfect crust. The soy sauce was great too, very flavorful and a bit on the sweet side; it complemented everything very well. As a side note their claypot rice comes in somewhat of a small bowl, so I found the best way to eat it is to take all the toppings off, scoop up the bottom of the rice to break up the bottom crispy parts and then put the toppings back in, pour the soy sauce on top and mix it all up. Overall, this was definitely the best claypot rice I’ve ever had. I don’t know if this is the right word to describe it, but I found it to be more refined than other versions as everything was so perfectly cooked and nothing seemed overly heavy or oily. 9.25/10
Eel, Chicken and Chinese Sausage (Bai Shan Hua Ji La Chang Bao Zai Fan 白鱔滑雞臘腸煲仔飯):
This was the same as the other bo zai fan, but had chunks of perfectly tender white chicken meat and regular Chinese sausage, which is slightly sweet and is one of my favorite things to have in bo zai fan because the combination of the sweetness of the sausage combined with the salt from the soy sauce and the rice has to be one of the best combinations ever. Overall this was unbelievably good just like the other one. 9.25/10
Chinese Kale Sauteed With Garlic (Suan Rong Chan Jie Lan 蒜蓉炒芥蘭):
This was kai lan (Chinese kale) that was sautéed with garlic, oil, fermented black beans and salted fish. It was nicely stir-fried and I liked the extra flavor that the black bean and salted fish gave the dish; very good version of this dish. 8.75/10
Overall, this was a wonderful meal and probably one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in Hong Kong as I love simple comfort food like this. I was also pleasantly surprised at how good the non-bo zai fan dishes were; I’d come here even if I didn’t want claypot rice. I highly recommend this restaurant.
Shop 1, Wo Yick Mansion, 263 Queen’s Road West, Western District 西環皇后大道西263號和益大廈地下1號舖
Phone: 2803 7209
Right now is a major Chinese holiday called Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋節); the actual date this year is September 30th, but it’s celebrated for a few weeks coming up to it. There is a long story associated with the holiday, but I’ll leave you to read this Wikipedia article to find out more about that. The reason you probably know about this holiday (assuming you’re not Chinese) is that people traditionally eat mooncakes at this time and right now if you go into any Chinese bakery or supermarket you will notice mooncakes everywhere.
Most mooncakes you will find here are imported from places such as Hong Kong, China and Malaysia, but some of the bakeries in Chinatown still make their own. I decided that it would be interesting to go try a few of the bakeries that are well known for their mooncakes, so that’s what this post is all about as I’d rather have a fresh mooncake than one that had to be imported.
Mooncakes are one of those things that you will tend to find that people either love or hate. I really like them, but I’ve had friends compare them to fruitcake in that it’s some weird traditional dessert people eat at a certain time of year, but no one likes them. Also, I’m writing about Cantonese style mooncakes, which will have a sweet filling generally made from lotus seed paste, red bean or winter melon paste. They can also contain salted duck egg yolks, melon seeds and mixed nuts and dried fruits. Other provinces in China have their own version of mooncakes, but I grew up eating Cantonese style mooncakes and that’s what’s readily available in NY, so that’s what I’m writing about. You can read this Wikipedia article about mooncakes to learn more about the various regional versions.
The three bakeries I tried were Kwong Wah, Lung Moon and New Golden Fung. I also bought one Hong Kong brand from Hong Kong Supermarket, which I thought was Wing Wah 榮華(a very famous HK brand), but it was the wrong brand. I was in a rush and saw the characters 榮華 in the name and just bought them, but I later realized that it wasn’t Wing Wah and was actually Grand Fortune. I should’ve known better since the box was so cheap at $15 for 4 mooncakes. Oh well, next time I’ll get the right brand. If you want to read more about Wing Wah, here’s a Wikipedia article.
For all the mooncake I tried, I got white lotus seed with one egg yolk.
The filling was extremely smooth, which was weird because while it’s supposed to be smooth this was just too smooth; it was also quite heavy, oily, not that sweet and tasted strongly of the lotus seed. The egg yolk was a little dry and didn’t have great flavor. The crust was fairly thin and a bit on the oily side. Overall, I thought it was fairly mediocre and not worth the calories. 6/10
The filling’s texture was exactly how it should be; it was smooth, but still had some texture. The flavoring was quite good; a nice lotus seed flavor that was much better than Kwong Wah and also sweeter than Kwong Wah, but I’d say that it was “normal” sweetness for a mooncake. The egg yolk was a bit on dry side, but nicely salty which I really like against the sweetness of the mooncake. The crust was nice and not too oily or thick. Overall, I thought this was a surprisingly pretty respectable mooncake and worth trying. 7.75/10
New Golden Fung:
The filling had a similar consistency as Lung Moon, which was good. It was sweeter than Kwong Wah, but not as sweet as Lung Moon and the lotus seed flavor was by far the least pronounced of the three to the point where it was almost undetectable. The egg yolk was very salty and too dry. The crust was quite crusty, which while not normal I kind of liked. Overall, it was a decent mooncake, but unremarkable mooncake that I found to be a little too plain as the lotus seed flavor was non-existent. 7/10
The filling was a quite dry with an odd chemical-y flavor that overpowered the lotus seed flavor. The egg yolk was very small and not salty enough. The crust was a little dry and rather thick. Overall, these were terrible, one of the worst brands I’ve ever tried, definitely do not buy these. 4/10
Overall, Lung Moon was definitely the best and the only one I would recommend trying. However, I still would default back to the Foh San brand of pandan flavored mooncakes that I’ve been buying for the last two years, which you can find at most Malaysian restaurants in NY.
Also, if you happen to have any recommendations I’d love to hear about them!
Kwong Wah: 210 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013; (212) 431-9575
Lung Moon: 81 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013; (212) 349-4945
Golden Fung Wong Bakery: 41 Mott St (between Pell St & Bayard St) , New York, NY 10013; (212) 267-4037
Hong Kong Supermarket: 157 Hester St, New York, NY 10013; (212) 966-4943