Chiu Hong Bakery – A Hidden Gem In Chinatown

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

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
(212) 966-7664

Tan Cang Newport Seafood – One Of My Favorite Restaurants In Orange County

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

Fried Tofu:

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
(714) 531-5146

Tao Hong Bakery – A Solid If Unremarkable Chinatown Bakery, But Try The Mango Sticky Rice Ball

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
(212) 219-0981

New Kam Hing Coffee Shop – One Of The Best Sponge Cakes In Chinatown

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.

Sponge Cake:

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
(212) 925-0425

Mei Li Wah – A Cha Siu Bao Institution; Amazing Cha Siu Bao? No…The Best In Chinatown? Probably

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
(212) 966-7866

Café Hong Kong – The South China Garden Guys Are Back!! (And Yes They Are The Best Restaurant In Chinatown)

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
(212) 608-5359

Lee Tong Kee – Famous For Ipoh Hor Fun, But Come For The Chicken

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
Singapore 058827
Phone: 6226 0417

Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wan Ton Mee – Famous, but Ultimately Disappointing Wonton Mee

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).

Wonton Mee:

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

Sing Kee – One Of The Last Of An Endangered Species In Hong Kong (Dai Pai Dong)

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

Xiao Tian Gu – Some Damn Good Tang Yuan in Tai Hang

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 – Chinese Sausages…and Snake Soup In Central

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

Lake Pavilion – New Cantonese in Flushing Worth Trying and Surprisingly Good Peking Duck

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

Peking Duck:

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

Steamed Flounder:

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 (  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
(718) 886-6693

Cong Sao Star Dessert – Excellent Hong Kong Style Desserts In Causeway Bay

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.

Durian Pancake:

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 – A True New York Chinatown Institution

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
(212) 349-0923

Mid-Autumn Festival – It’s Time For Mooncakes, A Taste Test of Local Mooncakes (Part 2)

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:

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

 Double Crispy Bakery:

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

 New Wing Wah Bakery:

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;
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 – A Hong Kong Dan Ta (Egg Custard) Institution That Lives Up To Its Reputation

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:

Dan Ta:

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

Chicken Pie:

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=”” target=”_blank” color=”grey-lite’]Website[/button]

Kwan Kee Claypot Rice – One Claypot Rice To Rule Them All…One Of The Best Meals I’ve Had In A Long Time

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

Mid-Autumn Festival – It’s Time For Mooncakes, A Taste Test of Local Mooncakes

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.

Kwong Wah:

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

Lung Moon:

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

Grand Fortune:

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

Kam Fung Restaurant – Serious Food Nazi Service, But Oh Man The Pineapple Buns And Cold Milk Tea Are Worth The Abuse!

Kam Fung Restaurant 金鳳茶餐廳 is an old school cha can ting 茶餐廳 in Wan Chai that is famous for their pineapple bun, cold milk tea, chicken pie, egg tarts and various instant noodle / macaroni dishes. Cha can ting literally means “tea restaurant”. They are a style of casual restaurants in Hong Kong that are very popular and serve a type of comfort food that is a mix of Chinese and Western cuisine; you can read more about them in this Wikipedia article. The food might sound a little odd if you’ve never had it, but it’s very enjoyable.

The restaurant is a tiny restaurant located on Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai, which is a street that has a lot of good local eateries located on it. In fact, I unintentionally ended up eating at Chiu Yuen afterwards because I realized it was located next door after I finished eating at Kam Fung. The customer base was mainly locals, but Kam Fung is quite famous, so there were a few tables of mainland Chinese tourists who had read about the place in their tourist books.

Now I’m going to dedicate an entire paragraph to the service and the way things work at the restaurant as I think you’re going to be a little surprised if you’ve never been there before. The interior of the restaurant is super cramped and pretty chaotic. When I walked in I told the old lady at the front that I was one person, she looked at me, turned around and went back about her business. I was confused, but then realized you had to seat yourself. So after I hustled my way into a seat, I kept trying to flag the waiter (there is only one waiter) and he kept ignoring me and even ignored the other old lady at my table who was a Hong Kong local then I came to another realization that he only comes and talks to you once it’s your turn to order, so just flag him once and then wait your turn. Finally, he came to take my order and was gone in a heartbeat after taking it. He showed up about 10 minutes later with my food. So the rules of engagement here are: a) find your own seat b) flag the guy once and then wait your turn and c) get your food and pay up front. Now as a happy ending to the story when I was paying the old mean lady smiled at me and asked me how I liked the food. I don’t think they are evil necessarily just really gruff old school efficient Hong Kong style service, so prepare accordingly.

Here’s what I got:

Iceless Cold Milk Tea (Wu Bing Dong Nai Cha 無冰涷奶茶):

They are famous for their cold milk tea without ice. Hong Kong style milk tea is a style of milk teat that is a little different than the milk tea that you may have gotten at your local boba place; I even found a Wikipedia article about it. It uses a fairly strong black bitter tea that I believe is a holdover from the British rule and it’s mixed with condensed milk. The result is the tea is more bitter and creamy and less sweet than the milk tea than the milk tea at your local boba place. The problem is sometimes you get someone who makes the tea too watery just using regular lipton tea bags or they put way too much condensed milk in it and turns it into a creamy mess. The tea at Kam Fung is basically as perfect a glass of milk tea as you’re going to get. The ratio of milk to tea is perfect and its super smooth not too sweet or creamy. Because it is served cold it is also very refreshing especially on a hot day like the day I was there. This is also the best glass of milk tea I’ve ever had. 9.25/10

Pineapple bun (Bo Luo Bao 菠蘿包):

Pineapple bun is something I have a soft spot for because they’ve been one of my favorite Chinese pastries since I was a kid, but they are also delicious and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like them. A pineapple bun is moist slightly sweet bread topped with a sweet crusty sugary topping. The version here is different than most other versions; the bread is more on the dense side compared to some which are very airy and the topping is almost like a separate really crunchy thin cookie on top. However, everything about it is just really good; the flavoring of the topping is much better than other ones and the crunch combined with the softness of the bread is just wonderful. This is the best pineapple bun I’ve ever had and is a perfect combination with milk tea. Also, you should note that many people get a pineapple bun with a slice of cold butter (bo luo you 菠蘿油), but I decided that would be a little too heavy that day since there were several other restaurants I wanted to try that day. 9.25/10

Despite the service and the crowded atmosphere this place really lives up to its reputation for the quality of its food and I’d highly recommend trying this place out and I’ll definitely be back to try some of their other dishes.

G/F, Spring Garden Mansion, 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai
Phone: 2572 0526

Danny Ng’s Place – In Search of a Replacement For South China Garden (Part 3)


I’ve tried two other places trying to find a good Manhattan-based replacement for South China Garden, which you can see here and here.  Although I liked both, I didn’t think either of them were replacements.  However, I found a decent replacement in Danny Ng’s.

Danny Ng is a somewhat well known Chinatown Cantonese chef / restaurant owner that used to run Danny Ng’s on Pell Street, which closed and then later re-opened at its current location on Bowery just south of Canal.  Amazing 66 and Sing Kee have some affiliation as well although I’m not sure if it’s actual ownership or the chefs just used to work at Danny Ng’s.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor in a weird space below the now defunct Golden Bridge, which was located above it on the 2nd floor.  It’s set back between two staircases and the restaurant has no windows, so keep your eyes peeled as it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking.  It’s typical Chinatown décor in that there isn’t much although it seems relatively clean.  The clientele was almost strictly Cantonese Chinatown local type families.   The servers were reasonably nice and seemed to speak Chinese and English, so I don’t think communication should be much of a problem.

Here’s what we got:

Pork Bone Soup:

This was given as complementary soup.  It was a simple soup made from boiling pork bones with seasonings, but it was executed nicely as you could tell they didn’t cut corners and the soup was boiled properly so that you could taste the pork flavor.  It was clean, light and not too salty.  7.75/10

Roast Chicken with Preserved Cabbage:

This was typical Cantonese style chicken although I believe it is fried and not roasted as the English name says.   The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat was tender and juicy.  They topped it with minced preserved cabbage (mei cai 梅菜), which was very good, giving the chicken a nice salty and pickled flavor.  It all went together very well and I thought they did a really good job on this dish.  8.5/10

Sauteed String Bean with Minced Pork:

This was a standard version with string beans sautéed in oil with minced ground pork, but it ended up being the only weak dish of the night.  I prefer this dish with black bean in it, I also like my string beans a little more tender and thought it wasn’t dry enough and therefore didn’t get the good wok hay that you get when you make this dish well.  Wok hay is the somewhat smoky flavor you get from cooking in a wok at a very high temperature, which good Chinese chefs get. 6.75/10

Baked Lobster with Cheese:

This is a house specialty that sounds kind of weird, but I heard that it’s good from some friends and the waiter also recommended it.  Its fried pieces of lobster in a light cheese batter.  The result looks sort of ugly actually, but tastes pretty good.  The cheese is mild tasting and goes pretty well with the lobster which was nicely fresh.  It’s little hard to explain, but everyone thought it came out pretty decent.  8/10

Pan Fried Chilean Sea Bass:

I asked the waiter for a fish recommendation and he recommended this.  It’s a filet of Chilean sea bass that was breaded, fried and then topped with a thicker sweet soy sauce.  The outside was very crispy, but the meat was very tender.  The sauce on top was almost like a teriyaki sauce, but not quite as sweet or thick.  It was different than I was expecting, but everyone at the table thought this was quite good.  They also gave you French fries with the dish, which was kind of weird.  8.25/10

Peking Pork Chops:

This is an old school Cantonese classic that I really like.  It’s simply fried pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce.  The downfall of this dish is either the batter is too thick and oily or the sauce is too gloppy or too watery.  However, the version here was one of the better versions I’ve had in a while as it had none of the downfalls that I just mentioned and was really pretty addictive.  8.25/10

Steamed Dungeness Crab with Sticky Rice:

This is the dish that I always get at Imperial Palace / East Lake, which you can see here.  I was quite interested to try it since I barely see it in the city.  The flavor of the rice was pretty decent with a nice crab flavor.  However, the texture was definitely not as good as Imperial Palace / East Lake where it’s very al dente; it was mushier here.  Also, they didn’t put enough of the fried garlic and scallions on top so while it tasted good it wasn’t quite as flavorful as Imperial Palace / East Lake.  Overall though I thought it was tasty and worth ordering, but a notch below Imperial Palace / East Lake’s version.  7.75/10

Green Bean Soup:

This was complementary dessert soup.  It was the typical sweet green bean soup with tapioca in it.  It was pretty decent.  7.5/10

Overall, this was a very satisfying meal as the execution on the food is definitely a notch up from other restaurants in Chinatown and this is a good replacement for South China Garden.


52 Bowery, Ground Floor (between Bayard St & Canal St)

New York, NY 10013

(212) 608-0688

Hop Shing – In Search of a Replacement For South China Garden (Part 2)

Hop Shing was the second place I tried to in my search to find a replacement for South China Garden.  My first stop was Oriental Garden, which you can see here.

Hop Shing is an old restaurant located in Chatham Square that was originally known for its super cheap dim sum and good cha siu bao (pork buns) when I first came to NY.  They later changed the name to Chatham Restaurant, closed down for a while a few years ago, re-opened under new management I believe and reverted back to the old name of Hop Shing.  My friend’s dad knows the owners of the restaurant and told us that it’s good for dinner if you know what you’re ordering, so that’s how I decided to try it.

Despite closing down a few years ago the restaurant hasn’t changed much and looks just the same as it did many years ago.  It’s typical old school Chinatown decor meaning very little décor, bright white lights and run down.  There is counter up front where they have various dim sum in steamers and in back there are the tables and booths for sitting.  The clientele is mainly old Chinatown locals.  The staff is also super old school and some of them only really speak Cantonese; their Mandarin or English is pretty poor, but they are nice.

Here’s what we got:

Pork Bone Soup:

This was a complementary soup made from boiling pork bones.  It was light and had a nice pork flavor; it tasted good with some white pepper.  Overall, it was pretty good.  7.75/10

Steamed Shrimp:

This is an off the menu item; my friend called to special order it.  It’s a very simple preparation; you get fresh whole shrimp, steam them and dip them in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, green chili and green onions.  If it’s done right the shrimp should be sweet and complimented by the saltiness of the sauce.  The shrimp they used here are smaller than what you normally get, but they were fresh and sweet and the sauce was great with them.  Overall, this was quite good although I do like slightly bigger shrimp for this dish.  8/10

Lobster in Ginger and Scallion:

My friend told me the lobster dish to order here is the Sichuan style version which is spicy and has eggs and pork in it, but they were missing some of the ingredients that day, so we got the lobster with ginger and scallion.  The lobster was pretty good and was cooked pretty decent, but I prefer XO sauce as it has more flavor.  7.5/10

Oxtail in Pumpkin:

This was listed on the as a special on the wall in Chinese only.  Its oxtail cooked in a brown savory sauce and put inside of a pumpkin.  The oxtail was reasonably tender and the sauce was tasty, but I liked the pumpkin better as it was really tender and tasted good as a sweet contrast against the savory sauce.  Overall, it was decent, but not great.  7.5/10

Peking Steak:

This was similar to peking pork chops (jing du pai gu) except instead of fried pork chops, it’s with steak and onions.  I liked this as I love the sweet and sour sauce they use and the steak was nicely tender and flavorful.  Overall, this was one of the better dishes of the night.  8.25/10

Salt & Pepper Pork Chops:

These are pork chops deep fried in a salt and pepper batter and topped with fried garlic, diced green onions and green chili.  The batter was a bit on the heavy side although it wasn’t too oily and the saltiness of the batter was good.  The meat was nicely tender and it all tasted pretty good together and could’ve gotten a higher rating if the batter was a little lighter.  7.75/10

Fried Stuffed Tofu:

This is tofu that is stuffed with minced shrimp paste, battered, fried and served with the same sauce that was used in the steamed shrimp I posted on earlier.  The version here was quite good, the batter wasn’t oily or too thick and the shrimp paste was good.  It tasted great with the sauce.  8.25/10

Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves:

This is just snow pea leaves sautéed in oil and garlic.  This was standard version although I thought it was a little under seasoned.  7.25/10

Steamed Flounder:

The fish was cooked in the standard Cantonese preparation where you first steam the fish then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it before serving.  This type of preparation is one of my favorite ways to eat fish because it’s flavorful, but still allows you to taste the flavor of the meat.  It was pretty decent even though flounder is not one of my favorite types of fish.  The meat was tender and didn’t have any fishy or muddy flavor.  7.75/10

Beef Chow Fun:

I don’t usually order this dish as I only like getting it if it’s a place that really knows how to cook it, but one of my friends likes it, so we got an order.  It ended up being pretty decent as it wasn’t too oily and had decent wok hei, which is the smoky flavor you get from cooking in a wok at a high temperature.  If you’re craving this dish, the version here is not bad.  7.75/10

Stuffed Eggplant and Peppers in Black Bean Sauce:

This is purple eggplant and green peppers stuffed with a minced fish paste and the cooked in a black bean sauce.  I’ve always loved this dish and tastes just like it sounds.  The version here was quite good, not as good as SCG, but still good. 8/10

Overall, I enjoyed my meal here although I don’t think it was a replacement because the food is a little different than South China Garden as it’s somewhat less seafood centric and simpler food, but overall the food was consistently good and worth checking out.


9 Chatham Sq (between Mott St & Worth St)

New York, NY 10038

(212) 267-0220

Oriental Garden – In Search of a Replacement For South China Garden (Part 1)

I’ve been searching for a “go to” restaurant for family style Cantonese food in Manhattan as a replacement for South China Garden since it unfortunately closed.  In Flushing, I go to Imperial Palace / East Lake Seafood, which you can read about here.  However, since I live in Manhattan and can’t make it to Flushing as often as I would like, I’d like a place like South China Garden where I can get reliably decent Cantonese.

I started my search by trying Oriental Garden, which has been recommended to me several times.  It’s known for having fresh seafood and being a little more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown.

The restaurant is a typical Chinese banquet hall type of setting although it is definitely a little cleaner and nicer than most other Chinatown restaurants.  The service was fine and they definitely speak English, so language is no issue.  The clientele was interesting as it was probably 80-85% non-Chinese on a Saturday night, which was sort of surprising.  Also, the prices around probably anywhere from 30-100% more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown, but part of that is a function of them priding themselves on having fresh seafood.

Here’s what we got:

Steamed Scallops with Garlic and Vermicelli:

This was a special on the menu.  It was fresh scallops steamed in the shell topped with minced garlic, scallions and vermicelli noodles.  The scallops were fresh and sweet and the garlic and vermicelli complimented them well.  However, I had to take off some of the garlic because it was too strong otherwise, but besides that this was a well prepared dish.  8/10

Braised Tofu:

The waiter recommended this as a tofu dish.  It was a typical preparation where the tofu is fried and then braised in a light brown sauce.  The tofu was served with a spongy white vegetable that I couldn’t identify and some green vegetables.  The sauce wasn’t gloppy and was decent, but it was a little too light handed flavor wise and was a bit on the bland side.  7.25/10

Country Style Lobster:

This was also recommended by the waiter.  It was lobster sautéed with eggs, spring onions and pickled vegetables in a slightly dark salty sauce.  The lobster meat was nicely fresh and sweet, but I wasn’t crazy about the seasoning.  The eggs and pickled vegetables were good, but the overall seasoning seemed a little bit on the bland side even though it didn’t look bland at all.  7.25/10

Peking Pork Chops:

This was a typical preparation of fried pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce.  These were nicely fried and the meat was good.  The sauce was decent, but was a little too watery and didn’t stick to the pork chops well although it still tasted good. 7.5/10

Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves in Egg White Crab Meat Sauce:

I almost always get this dish and the version here was good.  I liked the sauce and the snow pea leaves were cooked nicely.  8/10

Fried Garlic Chicken:

This was fried chicken with minced garlic, scallions and soy sauce.  The version here is decent, but not great.  The skin wasn’t crispy enough and I thought the non-dark meat pieces weren’t quite as tender as they should be.  However, overall it was still tasty enough. 7.25/10

Sautéed Broccoli Stems:

This was a very simple preparation of broccoli stems with oil, salt and garlic.  It was pretty decent although not amazing.  7.25/10

Steamed Fish:

This was one of the things that I looking forward to here given their reputation for having fresh seafood.  I told the waiter I wanted a good ocean fish.  He picked this fish out, which I’m forgetting exactly what kind it was right now.  He did a good job; the fish was fresh and didn’t have any bad fishy flavor.  It was cooked in the typical Cantonese fashion where you steam the fish then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it very quickly.  Overall, this was quite good and probably the best dish of the night. 8.25/10

Overall, while the quality of their seafood was a little better than South China Garden the chef is less skilled in terms of how the food was prepared, seasoned, cooked etc.  So I’d say I prefer SCG over OG, but that said it is probably one of the better restaurants in Chinatown.  Also, as a side note, do not go here for dim sum, it’s awful.


14 Elizabeth Street (between Bayard St & Canal St)

New York, NY 10013

(212) 619-0085

Imperial Palace / East Lake Seafood Restaurant – My Favorite Chinese Restaurant in New York

There are probably a couple things I need to clarify about the title of this post.

First, Imperial Palace actually has two branches.  Both of which have the same owners, Chinese name (Dong Hu meaning East Lake), logo, food and menu.  The only difference is that they are a few blocks apart and have different English names (East Lake vs Imperial Palace).  I believe Imperial Palace is the original location as it’s more well-known and also more crowded.

Second, when I say that it is “my favorite Chinese restaurant” it’s kind of like saying it’s “my favorite European restaurant” because China is a huge country with many different types of cuisines, people and dialects that are as unintelligible to each other as English and French.  However, at the end of day Imperial Palace / East Lake would be where I want to go if you said you can only choose one Chinese restaurant to go to. With that in mind, as I’ve said before, I’m admittedly biased towards southern Chinese cuisine (most areas Shanghai and south including Singapore / Malaysia and Taiwan) and in particular Cantonese cuisine is my favorite type of Chinese food.

So what is Cantonese cuisine?  Cantonese cuisine is from the Guangdong province on the southern coast of China and it’s where Hong Kong is located even though Hong Kong is technically a special administrative region.  Because Guangdong is located along the ocean and has a semi-tropical climate, it has a fair amount of everything you want to cook with such as fresh seafood, vegetables, produce and meat.  In America, Cantonese cuisine is probably most well known for dim sum, the BBQ meats you see hanging in the windows in Chinatown, wonton noodle soup and chow fun among other things. However, Cantonese cuisine has a huge breadth of types of dishes, more so than any other Chinese cuisine I’ve come across including huge amounts of seafood, meats, desserts, dumplings, noodle dishes, baked goods and too many others to name.  Also, the food is actually supposed to be light, fresh and should emphasize the freshness of the ingredients, which has sort of been lost in a lot of American Chinatowns where you will find the food to be somewhat heavy handed and greasy.  When done right I find Cantonese cuisine to rival any cuisine in terms of its complexity and flavors.

East Lake / Imperial Palace are known for their family style Cantonese food and in particular are known for their crab rice, but they have a host of other signature dishes that you will see on most people’s tables (most of which I’ll show you).  The service is usually pretty good and I find the waiters to be reasonably nice and should have no problems with communication.  I’d recommend coming here with at least 4-5 people preferably more like 6-10 because you’ll be able to order more dishes to share.

Here’s what we got:

Winter Melon Soup (Dong Gua Tang):

Winter Melons are a type of big non-sweet melon that is used fairly often in Chinese cuisine.  By itself it doesn’t taste like much, but it has a nice texture in soup.  The version here had chunks of winter melon, chicken, scallops and a green vegetable that looked like bitter melon, but wasn’t bitter at all.  The soup was excellent; it was light and flavorful without being too salty.  The ingredients were all quite good too with in particular the chicken was nicely tender.  Also, I recommend putting a dash of white pepper in it.  8/10

Fried Chicken with Sauce (Cui Pi Zha Ji):

This is a typical Cantonese preparation of chicken.  The chicken looks like it’s a rotisserie chicken, but it’s actually fried.  The skin is crispy and flavorful, while the meat is juicy and tender.  The sauce they give you tastes like a mild chili sauce that is not spicy and is very slightly tangy.  This is a signature dish that you will see on most tables and it is very good here.  8.5/10

Cumin Lamb Chop:

This is an odd dish to be a signature dish because lamb is one meat that is not that common in Cantonese cuisine.  It is lamb chops that have been dusted in cumin that are fried and served topped with sautéed red and green onions and golden fried onions and coconut.  The meat is very nicely tender and unlike the Sichuan and northern Chinese versions of this dish the cumin flavor is not very strong.  The saltiness of the seasoning, the slight cumin flavor and the flavor of toppings particularly the red onions come together really nicely in this dish.  8.5/10

Snow Pea Leaves in Crab Claw Meat Egg White Sauce (Xie Rou Pa Dou Miao):

This is sautéed snow pea leaves that are covered in a sauce made of egg whites and crab claw meat.  Snow peas leaves are similar to spinach, but better and the sauce is a lighter sauce that allows you to taste the snow pea leaves more than anything else.  I don’t believe this dish is on the menu, but you can order it easily and you will see it on quite a few tables. 8/10

Fried Stuffed Tofu in Dried Scallop Sauce:

The dish is tofu stuffed with shrimp, battered and fried then covered in a light brown sauce that has dried scallops in it.  The tofu was perfectly fried where it was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside without being greasy at all.  The sauce was savory and flavorful without being gloppy or overly salty; it was the type of subtle flavoring that is classic Cantonese done right.  This was an excellent dish.  Fyi, I think the English name might be a little different than what I wrote, but it’s close to this.  8.5/10

Garlic Fried Lobster (Bi Feng Tang Chao Xie):

Bi feng tang is a type of typhoon shelter and refers to a specific type of Hong Kong style dishes that you can read about here in my post on Canton Gourmet.  This was chopped up lobster that is fried in a garlic batter topped with fried garlic, onions and chili.  Surprisingly, I’d say their version may have been better than the last time I had it at Canton Gourmet (it’s their signature dish) as it was lighter and less greasy.  The batter was nicely flavorful and the meat was tender and sweet.  Overall, this was quite good. 8.25/10

Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):

These are basically sweet and sour fried pork chops.  The pork chops were slightly crispy and nicely tender.  The sauce was good, it was sweet and wasn’t too gloppy although it was pretty watery in texture and I think I prefer my sauce with a little more starch, but it was a good rendition of the dish nonetheless. 8.25/10

Crab Rice (Pang Xie Nuo Mi):

This is the dish that most people come here for.  It is sticky rice that has been steamed in a big steamer with a whole crab that has been cut up.  The juices of the crab run into the rice and flavor the rice.  It is then topped diced scallions and golden fried garlic and onions.  Because the rice is steamed it has a wonderful al dente texture that I love and it nicely savory from the juices of the crab.  The condiments pair perfectly with the subtle flavor of the rice and give it some necessary saltiness.  Some people mistake this dish to be about being about the crab, but to me it’s all about the rice.  The crab hasn’t been seasoned much and has somewhat been drained of its flavor by having all of the juices run into the rice, so it’s all about the rice for me.  This is a great dish.  8.5/10

Cantonese Style Steamed Fish (Qing Zheng Yu):

The typical Cantonese preparation of fish is to get very fresh fish, steam it and then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it with julienned spring onions.  When done correctly, it is probably my favorite preparation of cooked fish because it allows you to taste the quality of the fish, but at the same time give it a slight kick up in terms of flavor.  I saw this fish going to another table and it looked very good, so I asked our waiter about it.  He told me that it was a more expensive ocean fish that costs $25 per lbs and said it was much better than the regular cheaper fish.  We got a 2 pound lbs fish and he was right; the meat was very fresh tasting without any fishy or muddy flavor and the flesh was tender, but still has some texture to it (i.e. it wasn’t mushy).  I unfortunately forgot what the name of the fish was, but if you ask them and tell them you want a good fish I’m sure they can direct you to it. This was the surprise of the night as I have been trying to find a decent rendition of this dish for years to no avail and this was very good. 8.5/10

 Red Bean Soup (Tang Shui):

They gave us a complimentary tang shui (literally means sugar water) that was red bean soup.  This was a good version, the soup was flavorful and had some thickness to it (I don’t like it when it’s too watery).  They also put tapioca in it and definitely used some orange rinds as you could taste a slight citrus flavor.  Overall, it was pretty good. 7.75/10

Overall, this is a great restaurant and definitely worth checking out.  Also, for everyone mourning the loss of South China Garden, Imperial Palace / East Lake is a replacement for you as I think the food is a bit better than SCG.


East Lake Seafood:
37-17 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 358-0888

Imperial Palace:
13613 37th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 939-3501

Wah Fung #1 Fast Food – Where The Locals Get Their Shao La (Cantonese BBQ)

There are a few places in Chinatown that I would classify as “local restaurants” because they are filled with mainly Chinatown locals (meaning they are Chinese and are from Chinatown) and they are usually pretty good.  Places like Poon Kee, Yuen Yuen and South China Garden fall into this genre.  Wah Fung #1 Fast Food is also one of these places and although I’ve been there before for some reason I’ve never written about.  So last weekend while I was picking up some food for lunch, I decided that I needed to write about Wah Fung.

Wah Fung specializes in shao la, which is Cantonese style BBQ. I believe it originally started as a street cart many years ago, but became so popular that they eventually opened up a small restaurant.  Actually, “restaurant” is probably the wrong word because it’s more like a take-out stand that happens to be inside.

When you walk inside the area by the window is occupied by the owner who stands with a cutting board chopping meat.  He offers 4 types of meats: roast pork (cha shao / cha siu), soy sauce chicken (jiang you ji / see yau gai), roast duck (kao ya) and roast pig (huo rou / siu yuk).  Further inside there is a woman (who I believe maybe his wife) who has a cart that has steamed rice rolls (chang fen / cheung fan), fish balls (yu dan) and fried thin rice noodle (chao mi fen).  There is also one very small table with two seats, but that is it.  The place is tiny and can barely fit that constant amount of people waiting for food, so there is usually a line forming outside.

Combination Plate With Sauteed Cabbage Over Rice:

I ordered the combo platter with 3 meats and because there were so many meats in this platter I’m going to break this down meat by meat.  The sautéed cabbage while typical was quite tasty and paired nicely with the meat and rice. This platter is also ridiculously cheap at $4.50 and it could easily feed two people.

Roast Pork (Cha Shao / Cha Siu):

Wah Fung is known for their cha siuCha siu is a type of Cantonese roast pork.  Cha siu literally means “fork roast”, the reason being is that pieces of pork are skewered on long forks and then roasted in an oven.  The meat is seasoned in honey, five spice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and red fermented bean curd.  Also, red food coloring gives it its distinctive red coloring on the outside.  This is literally one of my favorite foods ever, when I was a kid I used to just eat plates of this with rice, wouldn’t eat any of the rest of the food my family cooked and was totally happy.  Normally, you see this hanging in windows, but at Wah Fung its sitting is metal steam plates filled with sauce.  The marinade sauce here is excellent; it’s sweet, salty and generally good tasting.  The meat is tasty although it should be a bit more tender.  In Hong Kong, when you have really good cha siu, its melt in your mouth tender.  While it’s tender at Wah Fung, it’s not as nearly tender as it should be.  Although overall it is quite tasty and I think I might ask him to pour even more sauce on it next time.  8/10 (7.75/10 for the meat, 8.25/10 for the marinade)

Roast Duck (Kao Ya):

The meat was nicely flavorful, but skin wasn’t as crispy as I prefer.  Also, it was a little leaner than I prefer, I like my duck a little more on the fatty side.  Overall, it tasted good, but wasn’t amazing.  7.75/10

Soy Sauce Chicken (Jiang You Ji / See Yau Gai):

The chicken was a little disappointing.  It had good flavor, but was too dry.  There are better soy sauce chickens in Chinatown. 7.25/10

Fish Balls on Steamed Rice Rolls (Yu Dan Chang Fen):

The fish balls were definitely homemade and had good flavor and texture.  The chang fen (steamed rice crepe) was nicely cooked and tender.  The sesame sauce and soy sauce were also quite good. I should’ve asked them to put on some hot sauce, but overall this was quite good and pretty comparable to Poon Kee, which has been my gold standard in Chinatown. 8/10

Overall, this place is solidly good and it has to be one of the cheapest places in Manhattan.  Their roast pig (huo rou) also looked good, so I’ll be back to try that soon.


79 Chrystie St (between Canal St & Hester St)

New York, NY 10002

(212) 925-5175

Bread Talk – Serious Eats’ Favorite Egg Custard, Is It Actually The Best?

A Serious Eats article about the best dan ta (egg custard tart) in Chinatown was recently brought to my attention on (you can see both articles here and here).  They went the remarkable mission of trying 43 bakeries and proclaimed that Bread Talk’s dan ta are the best in Chinatown followed by Golden Manna and Taipan.

Bread Talk is a fairly unknown bakery located in the very southern most part of Chinatown far from the main bustling part of Chinatown.  I’ve seen it before, but honestly never thought about trying it.  I decided that I had try it as soon as possible since it’s fairly rare for me to hear about something totally new in Chinatown. The bakery is pretty new looking and is a long narrow room with the display cases on the right and seating in the back with Cantonese TV playing in the background.  It was actually sort of nice by Chinatown standards and looked very clean.  They had signs advertising their 2 for 1 dan ta and ji wei bao (cocktail buns).  They also had big signs advertising a long list of steamed bao (buns) with various sweet fillings.  I’m not sure if they speak English or not (one yelper claims they don’t), but you should fine since everything is in English and displayed.

Here’s what I tried:

Egg Custard Tart (Dan Ta):

Bread Talk only seems to offer the regular dan ta here not the Portuguese style ones (burnt on top).  The egg tarts look very pretty, the crusts look very symmetric and the egg custard is a nice light yellow.  The crust was excellent; it was nicely buttery, crispy and flaky.  The custard was pretty good, it wasn’t too sweet and when I heated it up it had nice consistency, but it lacked “egginess” and I prefer mine to be egg-y.  Overall, I’d say I prefer Ka Wah’s because I like their filling better which you can see here (word of advice, go in the morning when they are fresh as they are quite good in morning) or Double Crispy for Portuguese style egg tarts, which you can see here.  With that said this is definitely one of the better dan ta in Chinatown and is worth trying. 8/10 (8.25/10 for the crust, 7.5/10 for the filling)

Cocktail Bun (Ji Wei Bao / Gai Mei Bao):

Cocktail buns are one of my favorite Hong Kong pastries.  Their Chinese name literally means chicken tail bun hence the name cocktail bun.  A cocktail bun is a soft baked bun filled with a sweet, salty and buttery shredded coconut filling.  They were supposedly created in HK back in the 50s when people were trying not to waste ingredients so they created these.  Quality can vary pretty heavily with good ones being awesome and bad ones being pretty bad since they can be way too sweet, buttery, dense etc.  Unfortunately, Bread Talk’s version fell pretty flat.  The bread was just okay; I found it to be too dense.  But the real downfall was the filling was way too buttery and didn’t have enough coconut in it. The version at Mei Li Wah is light years better, so I’d recommend trying them there and don’t waste your calories on them here. 6.5/10

Overall, the dan ta are worth trying and a lot of their steamed buns looked pretty good, so I’ll be back to try some more stuff.


47 Catherine St

New York, NY 10002

Double Crispy Bakery – Solid Portuguese Style Egg Tarts and Wife Cakes in Chinatown

This is a short post on Double Crispy Bakery, which is a bakery that I found a few months ago by accident walking around Chinatown.  It doesn’t look any different or offer anything particularly different than other Chinatown bakeries.  It’s fairly non-descript with a bunch of shelves and display cases showing off their various Chinese pastries, cakes etc.  However, I noticed to the left of the cash register a display case showing of their dan ta (egg custards) and lao po bing (wife cake).  They looked particularly fresh and good so I gave them a try and I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I get:

Dan Ta (Egg Custard Tart):

Ka Wah has been my go to bakery in Chinatown for dan ta, but I’ll have to say this place maybe better than Ka Wah.  They offer three different types of dan ta: Portuguese / Macau style, regular and egg white.  The ones to get here are the Portuguese / Macau style.  These have always been my favorite type of dan ta.  They have the exact same crust and egg custard filling as the regular ones you see, but they are burnt on top, so they have a slight caramelized flavor to them.  The ones here were surprisingly good, the crust was nicely flaky and the custard was warm, fresh and egg-y.  They weren’t quite as burnt on top as I like them, but overall I liked them quite a bit.  I definitely recommend trying these and if they aren’t already warm when you get them then take them home and put them in the microwave because there is a world of difference between a warm dan ta and a room temperature one (fyi every time I’ve got gone they have been warm).  8.25/10

Lao Po Bing (Wife Cake):

Lao po bing is a thin disc shaped pastry that has a flaky and slightly buttery exterior and a filling made of sweet dong gua (winter melon).  Normally, they are fairly thin and pretty big and the interior is usually slightly gooey, but the version here is a little different.  The crust is a thicker and flaky crust, but the actual pastry is quite small.  The filling isn’t gooey at all, it’s a little more dense and isn’t quite as sweet as normal.  They also use more salt in the crust, so there is a slight saltiness to it.  I think they’re delicious and I definitely recommend trying them out.  8/10

This is a solid bakery and it’s definitely worth checking out for the items I listed above.


230 Grand St (between Elizabeth St & Bowery)

New York, NY 10013

(212) 966-6929

Beautiful Memory Dessert (Formerly Called Manji Dessert) – Hong Kong Style Desserts in Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court

Beautiful Memory Dessert, formerly known as Manji Dessert, is a rip-off of a very famous dessert shop in Hong Kong called Honeymoon Dessert (man ji tian pin / 满记甜品).  Honeymoon Dessert started off as a dessert shop in Sai Kung and eventually expanded to having branches all over HK and other parts of Asia.  I’ve actually been to the original many years ago before they got really big and it was one of the best dessert shops that I’ve tried in Hong Kong.  I’ve also eaten at some of their other branches in Hong Kong more recently, which are good as well.  You can see the original branch here.

Manji Dessert opened in the New World Mall with the exact same logo and Chinese name as Honeymoon, but with a different English name (Manji is simply the transliteration of the Chinese name).  The actual Honeymoon quickly put out a statement saying that this was not a real branch of Honeymoon, which you can see here.

So with all that drama put forth, on to the actual review.  The types of desserts that this place serves are Hong Kong style desserts.  They are mainly things like mango and durian pancakes and various different types of sweet soups that usually have fruits and sago in them.  They are generally fairly light and not overly sweet.  I really love these types of dessert, but it’s very hard to find a good version outside of Hong Kong.

This stall is a little different than most of the stalls at the New World Mall as you can actually sit inside the stall.  While it’s small, it’s definitely nicer than sitting in the regular seating because it’s much less hectic and loud.  The servers are nice, but they seem to get overwhelmed a lot of times between taking orders from customers getting desserts to go and customers inside the store.

Here’s what we got:

Durian Pancake:

In Hong Kong, this is my favorite thing to get at Honeymoon.  It’s a thin slightly spongy crepe-like pancake that is filled with a very light and fluffy crème that is sweet, but not too sweet and mashed up durian.  There is also a mango version, which I love as well, but they never seem to have it here.  While not as good as the real deal, the version here was enjoyable (assuming you like durian).  The pancake was not as thin and delicate as the one in HK, but it was decent.  The crème was pretty good although again not as light and fluffy as the one in HK.  The durian was surprisingly tasty especially considering that durians have to be frozen and sent to the US (they aren’t as stinky and tasty afterwards).  Overall, I enjoyed it and thought it was passable version and it’s nice to find it since it is almost impossible to find in the U.S.  7.75/10

Mango Glutinous Dumpling:

This was glutinous rice balls covered in coconut shavings with a small piece of fresh mango inside.  It tastes similar to how it sounds.  The texture of the glutinous rice was soft and a bit chewy, the coconut shavings were decent (I think they’re more for texture) and the piece of mango in the middle was nicely ripe and sweet.  That said while I like rice dough desserts, I’m not that big a fan of glutinous rice dough desserts (there’s a difference), so this was just decent for me. 7/10

Mango Pomelo Soup:

This is a sweet and slightly creamy mango soup that has pomelo (very similar to a grapefruit), chopped up mango and sago (tapioca balls that are made from sago palm pith).  In Hong Kong, this is one of my favorite dishes, but unfortunately it fell a bit flat here.  The mango, sago and pomelo were all fine; the mango was sweet and ripe, the sago wasn’t mushy and the pomelo had a decent grapefruit flavor.  However, the actual soup was pretty bland, it should be a flavorful and refreshing soup and instead it was a bit dull, so this was a bit of a disappointment. 6.75/10

Black Sesame Rice Balls in Walnut Soup:

Tang yuan are rice dough balls filled with sweet fillings usually ground up black sesame or crushed peanuts.  It is one of my favorite Chinese desserts.  It’s often served in either a sweet soup or hot water.  We got it in a walnut soup, but I’m not a huge fan of walnut soups generally as they are pretty thick and somewhat pasty, I find they overpower whatever is in them.  The version here was just okay.  However, the tang yuan were quite good, the rice dough was melt in your mouth soft and the black sesame filling was nice and not too sweet.  I would get this again, but switch out the walnut soup for something else. 7.5/10 (7/10 for the walnut soup, 8.25/10 for the tang yuan)

Thai Black Glutinous Rice with Mango in Vanilla Ice:

This was balls of black glutinous rice, sliced mango on a bed of vanilla ice.  The black glutinous rice balls are sticky and nicely al dente.  The mango was nicely ripe and sweet.  The vanilla ice had a similar flavor to vanilla ice cream, but it was small chunks of ice.  I enjoyed the combo of flavors and I liked the texture of the black glutinous rice balls, but I wish the ice was more powdery or if you switched it for coconut milk that would be even better.  That said, I enjoyed eating it and I would get it again. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the ice was better)

While it’s not as good as the real deal in Hong Kong and it’s been getting panned on Yelp due to the fact that it’s a rip off, some of the desserts are worth trying.  I’ve been stopping here a lot after my meals in Flushing for dessert and I think it’s worth checking out.

40-21 Main St (Between Main Street and Union)
Flushing, NY 11354

Luc Dinh Ky Restaurant – Delicious Com Nuong (Crispy Rice) and Nuoc Mat (Chrysanthemum Herbal Tea) in Little Saigon

Flying always sucks and on my latest trip home the weather was perfect in NY and CA yet due to “mechanical problems” my flight was delayed 2.5 hours.  So, instead of enjoying a nice leisurely dinner at 8pm, I was absolutely starving and scramming to find a place that would still be open at 11pm.  Luckily, I remembered Luc Dinh Ky, a place I’ve been meaning to try, which is open very late.

While Luc Dinh Ky is a Vietnamese restaurant, similar to my recent review of Canton Restaurant, you will see a lot of Chinese influence at Luc Dinh Ky.  The menu is about half Chinese and half Vietnamese.  They’ve got a few specialties which you see on pretty much everyone’s table including com nuong (various meats with crispy rice), chao (Cantonese style porridge), mi (Cantonese style egg noodles and noodle soup) and nuoc mat (chrysanthemum herbal tea).

The restaurant is brightly lit and doesn’t have too much in the way of décor although it is newer looking compared to a lot of the restaurants in Little Saigon, which are quite run down.  I was shocked at how crowded it was at 11pm, we actually had to wait about 10 minutes for a table and keep in mind this is 11pm in Orange County, which is pretty unheard of (I felt like I was back in NY!).  They also had a steady stream of people waiting in line for take-out.   Our waitress didn’t really speak English and didn’t seem to speak Chinese either even though their menu is translated into Vietnamese, Chinese and English, but she was nice enough and a series of pointing worked its way out.

Anyhow onto the food:

Com Nuong Ca Salmon (Salmon with Grilled Rice):

Com nuong is rice that has been lightly grilled. It’s basically the rice that you get at the bottom of the hot clay pot, which I absolutely love.  I’m not sure why you don’t see this more often as a standalone dish in East Asian food as I think all East Asian people like the crispy rice at the bottom of clay pots and all of the cultures eat rice in hot clay pots. I got the grilled salmon in a sweet sauce with cucumbers and soy sauce.  I liked the sauce a lot, it was not too sweet and wasn’t gloppy at all; the flavor was perfect with the salmon.  Dipping it in soy sauce gave it a nice contrast between the saltiness of the soy sauce and the sweetness of the sauce.  The crispiness of the rice was very nice with everything.  Overall, I liked the dish a lot; it was comfort food that was quite satisfying.  8/10

Com Nuong Bo Luc Lac (French Style Beef Steak with Grilled Rice):

This was typical bo luc lac, which is marinated beef cut into cubes grilled with onions.  The version here was quite nice, the beef was nicely tender and the sauce tasted good.  The sauce was savory and just very slightly sweet; it wasn’t quite as addictive as when I’ve had really good bo luc lac, but it still tasted great with the crispy rice. Overall, it was good and on a relative basis was above average bo luc lac for Little Saigon.  8/10

Chao Ga (Chicken Congee):

As I explained in my recent post on Canton Restaurant, congee is simply rice that is cooked with a lot more water, so instead of getting the dry rice you normally see you end up getting a thick porridge.  The congee itself is fairly plain tasting, but you add different meats and other condiments to it to give it flavor.  Normally, you eat it with you tiao, which is a long fried donut that you dip into the congee.  However, it was too late for you tiao, so we just ate it straight up. The congee had good thick consistency and was nicely creamy although not as thick and creamy as Canton Restaurant.  They garnish it with ginger, scallions and cilantro.  I also put a healthy dose of white pepper into the congee.  Normally, I get the pork and preserved egg, but my sister thought chicken sounded food, so we got chicken.  It was all white breast meat and it was reasonably tender, but personally I find chicken is a little too light in flavor for congee.  Overall, it was good congee although not quite as good as Canton Restaurant, but very solid nonetheless.  8.25/10

Nuoc Mat:

This was iced herbal tea that was made with chrysanthemum flowers.  It was sweet, but not overly sweet and had light chrysanthemum and a slightly herbal taste to it, but it wasn’t strong at all.  It tasted like a better version of the sweet tea that people drink in the South. This tea was really good and I ended up buying a bunch that they have in refrigerators to bring home. 8.5/10

Overall, I enjoyed the food here and while I don’t think it’s the best restaurant in Little Saigon, it was very satisfying and if you need food late night this would be a good spot to try.  Also, I’m looking forward going back to try their mi (egg noodle soups) as they looked delicious.

9600 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 775-8811

Canton Restaurant – Delicious Cantonese Fish Congee (Porridge) and Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill) in Little Saigon

Canton Restaurant is emblematic of something that I’ve found over my time trying to discover everything that Little Saigon has to offer, which is that Chinese influence is fairly prevalent in Vietnamese cuisine.

Canton Restaurant specializes in two dishes, one is completely Chinese and the other is completely Vietnamese.  The specialties I’m speaking of are Cantonese-style fish porridge (congee) and Vietnamese cha ca thang long, which is turmeric fish with dill.

I did a little research on Wikipedia and turns out ~1% of Vietnam’s population is Chinese, but it is significantly higher in some bigger cities, making up ~6% of Ho Chi Minh City’s population.  As it turns out the main Chinese ethnicities are Cantonese and secondarily Teochew.  All of this seems to jive with what I see when I visit Little Saigon as all of the Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon are either serving Cantonese or Teochew food.  I really like the combination of Chinese and Vietnamese food as they complement each other very well.

The restaurant looks like a typical Little Saigon restaurant meaning it has no décor to speak of.  Like most Chinese-Vietnamese places everything is translated into Vietnamese, Chinese and English.  The waitress was nice, however she didn’t really speak English although she seemed to sort of understand me when I spoke to her in Mandarin.  However, the boss guy and boss lady were able to speak some Mandarin, I heard them speaking Cantonese and they obviously spoke Vietnamese as the entire customer base was Vietnamese except for us and one older Cantonese gentleman.  It was an interesting communication experience, but they were pretty nice.

Anyhow, onto the food:

Cha Ca Thang Long:

This is white fish filets (not sure what type of fish) covered in turmeric powder and cooked on a cast iron skillet with onions and dill.  It’s served with a plate of fresh vegetables (lettuce, mint, cilantro, lime, onions, jalapeno and peanuts), banh da (black sesame rice crackers), rice noodles and a fermented shrimp and fish sauce.  The fish has a turmeric and dill flavor and also a smoky flavor from being on the skillet.  The fish is very tender and not fishy at all.  The seasonings are a little more heavy-handed than at Vien Dong, which is where I normally get this dish, but the rendition here is still excellent.  The fermented shrimp and fish sauce is sweet, but has a fairly strong flavor to it; however, the version here is not as strong as at Vien Dong. The way I like to eat it is to wrap the fish, rice cracker, noodles and peanuts into a lettuce wrap and then dip it in the fermented shrimp and fish sauce.  Overall, this was very good, I’d give Vien Dong a very slight nod on this dish because I feel like their version is more delicate, but it’s a close call. 8.25/10

Fish Congee:

Congee is simply rice that is cooked with a lot more water, so instead of getting the dry rice you normally see you end up getting a thick porridge.  The congee itself is fairly plain tasting, but you add different meats and other condiments to it to give it flavor.  It is usually eaten for breakfast and it’s sort of like Chinese chicken noodle soup in that people always want it when they are sick.  You also eat it with you tiao, which is a long fried donut that you dip into the congee.  The congee here is on the thick side and it tastes creamy, which is how it should taste.  They are quite generous with the amount of fish they give you and the fish was very good; it was a white fish that wasn’t fishy tasting at all and the texture was very tender, but not mushy.  They garnish it with ginger, scallions and cilantro, which really taste great with everything.  I also like to put a healthy dose of white pepper into the soup.  This tastes like classic excellent congee; this is comparable to what you find at a regular congee place in Hong Kong.  The you tiao was decent although it wasn’t freshly fried, but the combo of you tiao and congee is a must for me.  This is very much a comfort food for me and I don’t know if non-Chinese people will enjoy this as much as I do, but this was probably the best congee I’ve had in CA. 8.5/10

Soda Chanh:

Soda chanh is soda water, fresh lime and sugar mixed together.  I think it’s one of the most refreshing drinks so I get it pretty much every time I get Vietnamese food.  The version here was pretty decent, a little more of the lime flavor than most places, but still good.  7.75/10

Overall, I enjoyed the food here a lot.  If you want fish congee or cha ca thang long, this is definitely a place you want to check out.

8550 Westminster Blvd
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 892-2022

Foh San Mooncakes at Overseas Taste Restaurant (formerly Overseas Asian Restaurant) – My Brand of Choice for Mooncakes


This is a quick post about my mooncake of choice this Mid-Autumn Festival (the Chinese holiday which you are supposed to eat mooncakes).  I actually wrote about this brand briefly last year when I wrote about Overseas Taste Restaurant, which you can see here.

However, this time I took pictures, so people could see what they look like.  To recap, Foh San (富山茶楼) is a famous dim sum restaurant and mooncake bakery in Ipoh, Malaysia.  Ipoh is a mainly Chinese city in Malaysia that is known for having very good Chinese food.  I remember when I lived in Singapore people used to tell me I should go to Ipoh because the food there was amazing.  Unfortunately, I never made it up there although I will one day. Interestingly, I got in a discussion with klyeoh on chowhound who actually went to Foh San for dim sum because of our conversation, which was pretty cool and you can see it here and here.

Anyhow, last year I found Foh San mooncakes at several Malaysian restaurants in NY, but I’ve been buying mine at Overseas since it’s easy to get to and it’s in the city.

Imperial Jade Mooncakes:

Foh San has several different flavors, but I prefer the “Imperial Jade” (光輝翠月).  One of the main differences between these mooncakes and other mooncakes you’ll find in Chinatown is that the lotus paste is mixed with coconut milk and pandan leaves and there are crunchy bits of melon seeds in there as well.  I really like the flavor a lot better than the traditional version.  Also, I prefer to get one egg yolk as the saltiness of the egg yolk contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the lotus paste.  These are excellent.  8.5/10

If you’re buying mooncakes this year I’d highly recommend trying this brand.

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

Canton Gourmet – One of the Better Cantonese Restaurants in Flushing

Canton Gourmet is a Cantonese restaurant in Flushing that is famous for its garlic crab, garlic chicken and golden fried rice.

The Chinese name of Canton Gourmet is bi feng tang (避風塘 / bei fung tong), which are typhoon shelters for fisherman’s boats in Hong Kong and there is a famous Hong Kong crab dish called bi feng tang chao xie (避風塘炒蟹) that was supposedly invented by fishermen in the typhoon shelters.  As you would figure this crab dish is one of Canton Gourmet’s specialties.  In any area with a lot of Hong Kong people you can usually find a restaurant that specializes in this dish and as far as I know this is the only restaurant serving this in NY. I’ve actually written about one other restaurant, Seafood Village in LA, that serves the same specialty dishes as Canton Gourmet (garlic crab and golden fried rice) although Seafood Village is a notch above Canton Gourmet food quality wise.

The restaurant is located on Prince next to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao.  Oddly, the layout and décor of both restaurants are virtually the same.  The restaurant is pretty new looking and quite clean.  I’ve found the service to be quite good and they also speak very good English.

On to the food:

String Beans with Pickled Vegetable (Chao Si Ji Dou):

This is string beans that are stir fried with a mix of ground pork and salty preserved vegetables.  The version here is pretty good; the mix of pork and preserved vegetables go quite nicely with the string beans.  If they had a little more of the “wok flavor” this would be a great version of it, but overall it’s still quite good. 7.75/10

Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (Mei Cai Kou Rou):

This is pork belly that is braised using a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, star anise, garlic, sugar and preserved mustard greens.   I don’t see this in restaurants that often and I kind of think of it more of a home style dish. The version here was decent, but not great.  The pork belly should be really tender and while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t as melt in your mouth tender as it should be.  The sauce was good although I prefer the sauce to be slightly sweet and this wasn’t sweet at all.  Also, I screwed up because it tastes a lot better with white rice and I got the fried rice. 7/10

Beef with Oyster Sauce (Hao You Niu Rou):

This is a pretty simple dish of sliced beef sautéed with asparagus and snap peas in a light oyster sauce.  The beef was cooked nicely and was quite tender and the sauce compliments it well.  I liked this dish because I grew up eating stuff like this, but I think some people might find it a little light on flavor as it’s not salty at all and the oyster sauce is a subtle flavor. 7.5/10

Sauteed Pea Shoots (Qing Chao Dou Miao):

This was a typical preparation of sautéed pea shoots in some oil and garlic.  It was cooked nicely and tasted good. 7.75/10

Golden Fried Rice:

This is one of the house specialties.  It’s fried rice with salted fish, egg and scallions.  It’s pretty simple, but the combination of flavors works very nicely together.  The only knock on it is that it’s not as fluffy as it should be, but it is still quite tasty overall.  I’d also recommend getting some chili sauce with it as I think that kicks it up a notch.  8/10

Garlic Crab (Bi Feng Tang Chao Xie):

This is the crab I referred to earlier and is another house specialty.  The crab is fried in a salty batter and topped with a bed of fried garlic and scallions. The flavors are delicious and go very well with crab.  The crab meat is very soft after being fried and it also makes the shells easier to break through.  I really like the fried garlic and scallions and I like to take some and mix it in with my fried rice.  The only thing about the crab is that sometimes I’ve found it to be a little on the oily side, but it’s sort of been luck of the draw on whether it’s too oily or not.  8/10

Overall, I like Canton Gourmet and it’s one of the better Cantonese restaurants in NY.  I find most of their food to be good and their specialty dishes are definitely worth trying out.

3808 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 886-9288

New Chiu Chow (Formerly New Chao Chow) – Another Taste of Chao Zhou Cuisine


In my post on Bo Ky, I mentioned that there are only 3 places in NYC that serve Teo Chew food (潮州, Chao Zhou, Chiu Chow) cuisine and New Chiu Chow is one of them.  I gave some background on Chiu Chow cuisine in my Bo Ky post which you can see here.

I also mentioned that I generally like New Chiu Chow a little better than I like Bo Ky although both are pretty decent.  That is generally still true although I think New Chiu Chow changed chefs as the food was a little different on my latest visit.  Although this was the first time I’ve ever eaten there on a Sunday night so it’s possible it’s just a different chef on Sunday nights.  I plan on going back soon to see if that is the case or not.

The restaurant is typical Chinatown décor that is there is no décor to speak of.  The waiters are reasonably nice, but the service is standard brisk Chinatown service.  They do speak English and the menu is in English so you will have no problems if you don’t speak Chinese.  I believe one or two of the older waiters are Teo Chew, but most of the waiters are Cantonese.  They have Vietnamese writing all over the menu and the restaurant, so it’s possible the original owners / waiters are Teo Chew people from Vietnam like Bo Ky.

Anyhow, on to the food:

Chili Oil:

Formerly, I would’ve said that New Chiu Chow had the best chili oil in Chinatown, but it seems to have changed a little bit and I’d actually give the edge to Bo Ky now as there isn’t as much shrimp paste in it, so it was a little less flavorful although still quite good. 7.75/10

Chao Chow Style Duck (Chao Zhou Lu Shui Ya):

As mentioned in my Bo Ky post this is a type of soy sauce braised duck.  The meat is tender and has great flavor from the braising, the skin is delicious and the vinegar sauce they give you really cuts through the fat nicely.  This is my favorite dish here and is definitely better than Bo Ky’s version. 8.25/10

Wonton Noodle Soup (Chao Zhou Yun Dun Mian):

New Chiu Chow makes a decent wonton noodle soup, it’s not going to blow your mind away, but it’s certainly most of the places in Chinatown.  7.25/10

Combination Rice Stick Soup On The Side:

This is mee pok ta / bak chor mee, which I talked about in my Bo Ky post.  The version at New Chiu Chow is a little better than Bo Ky although it’s not as good as before.  The noodles were good, nice and al dente.  All of the ingredients tasted fresh and good (pork, shrimp, liver, squid, scallions, fried onions and bean sprouts); I think they are a little better than Bo Ky.  The reason I say that it was not as good as before is that the soup broth used to be really fragrant and nice and this time it wasn’t as fragrant and was a little too salty although still good overall.  7.75/10

Chao Fried Prawn Balls Shrimp (Chao Zhou Xia Su):

This is another Chao Zhou dish that as far as I know you can only get at New Chiu Chow.  It’s called hae chor in Teo Chew.  For some reason their version went from mediocre to being pretty decent.  For Taiwanese people, it will remind you of a chicken roll (ji juan雞卷).  It is pork and shrimp paste, seasoned with five spice powder, wrapped and rolled in a beancurd skin and deep-fried.  It is served with a sweet orange sauce that is reminiscent of duck sauce you find out in take-out Chinese restaurants. The outside was nice and crispy, but not oily and the inside was tender and flavorful.  I don’t know why, but these just got a lot better than what I had here in the past. 8/10

Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce:

This was a pretty standard rendition, but it was good.  The vegetables were cooked perfectly and the oyster sauce tasted good with it. 7.5/10

Overall, I still enjoy New Chiu Chow even though the food seems to have changed a bit (some for the better, some for the worst).  I’d recommend trying out New Chiu Chow to get a taste of a cuisine that is rare to find in NY.

111 Mott St
New York, NY 10079
(212) 226-2590

Corner 28 – Peking Duck Buns, Why Has Someone Not Done This in Manhattan??

Corner 28 is a Cantonese restaurant that has a lot of things going on.  It has a big section serving shao la (Cantonese BBQ), it has another section serving si cai yi tang (4 dishes + 1 soup) and it has an upstairs that is a full service Cantonese restaurant.  For today’s post, I don’t really care about all that, what I do care about is the part of the restaurant that is on the outside serving people on the street.  The outside section is located on one of the busiest corners in Flushing.  It has two sides, one side serves fresh cheung fan (steamed rice crepe) and skewers and the other side serves Peking duck buns.

There are two types of Peking duck in my mind.  There is real Peking duck from Beijing where they cook it a certain way by pumping air into it and then roasting in an oven.  It’s served with thin pancakes and usually has several accompanying dishes using the rest of the duck (it’s delicious if done right).  However, there is a Cantonese version of Peking duck that is actually a roast duck served in a mantou (white sweet fluffy buns) with plum sauce and spring onions.  I am very partial to Cantonese style Peking duck because I grew up eating it. At Corner 28, you’re going to get a Cantonese style Peking duck.

Normally, you need to buy a whole or half duck to get it served to you.  However, at Corner 28 they serve individual portions for $1 per bun. The bun is fluffy and fresh, the meat is tender, the skin is nice and crispy and the condiments go really well with everything.  I think that a large part of why it tastes so good is that even though it’s a street stand, they have very high turnover that you’re constantly getting a fresh duck. I definitely recommend stopping here even if you’re going to another restaurant.  It will take about 2 minutes of your time, $1 out of your wallet and won’t ruin your appetite at all. 7.75/10

A good question was brought up by my friend when we stopped here last weekend, which is why has someone not done this in Manhattan? This place kills it in Flushing and I’m pretty sure that this is a dish that would be universally loved by all Americans.  So if anyone is listening please open something like this in Manhattan.

40-28 Main St (Corner of 40th Rd & Main St)
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 886-6628

Poon Kee – Delicious Hong Kong Snacks in Chinatown

Poon Kee is a tiny restaurant located on Monroe Street in the southern outskirts of Chinatown far away from the hustle and bustle of the main part of Chinatown. It specializes in Hong Kong style snacks such as steamed rice noodles and fish balls. I found it by accident walking around Chinatown when I noticed a long line coming out of Poon Kee I figured it must be good if there was a long line coming out of some random place that is far from the main part of Chinatown.

The restaurant has about 3 stools to sit on and most of their business is take out. There is no decor to speak of and there is a fairly consistent line coming out of the place with basically 100% Chinatown locals. The place reminds me of the type of old school places you might find in Mong Kok in Hong Kong, which is a busy district in Hong Kong that has places like this. I recommend coming here before 1pm because if you don’t they start to run out of their most popular dishes. The ladies are pretty nice actually, but they’re usually so busy that they don’t have much time to talk.

On to the food:


This is honeycomb tripe and radishes stewed in a broth that has star anise (ba jiao) and five spice (wu xiang fen). The tripe is very clean tasting and has a good chewy, but soft texture. The radish is very tender and soft. The broth they stew it in gives it a great flavor and they top it with a sriracha sauce which definitely kicks it up a notch. This was really good, it tastes very similar to the type of thing you would get in Hong Kong. Assuming you like tripe, I highly recommend this. 8/10

Fish Balls:

I’m pretty sure these are homemade because they have the good texture that you don’t get when you have frozen processed fish balls. Fish balls in and of themselves are fairly plain tasting, but with the sauces they are very flavorful. They top them with sesame sauce, a light sweet soy sauce, sriracha sauce, a little oil and sesame seeds. These are also very good and taste like what you can get in Hong Kong. 8/10

Dry Shrimp Rice Noodle:

This seems to be their most popular dish. It is rolled up steamed rice noodles topped with sesame sauce, a light sweet soy sauce, sriracha sauce, a little oil and sesame seeds. While they aren’t cooked to order like Sunlight Bakery, I think they are actually better and probably some of the best steamed rice noodles I’ve had in New York. I noticed some people ask for them with fish balls and they put them all in the same container. These are also really good. 8/10

Overall, I really like Poon Kee and it’s probably one of the more interesting and authentic restaurants in Chinatown. I highly recommend checking this place out.

39 Monroe St (between Catherine St & Market St)
New York, NY 10002

Nom Wah Tea Parlor – Surprisingly Good Dim Sum at One of Chinatown’s Oldest Restaurants

Nom Wah is one of Chinatown’s oldest restaurants; in fact it may be the oldest restaurant in Chinatown as it opened in 1920 (91 years old!!). This was the first time I’ve eaten here as I’d always heard it was more of a nostalgia type of place and the food was just so so.  I’m not much for nostalgia if the food isn’t good, but I recently read this article that discusses how the nephew of the owner had taken over the restaurant and revamped it.  A friend had also recently told me that the food is now good, so I decided it was time to try it out.

The décor is literally a throwback to a different time.  It’s got old school red booths, red and white checkered table clothes, really old school looking counters and pictures on the wall from ages ago.  It doesn’t look like a Chinatown place at all, but I liked the décor and it is nice and clean.  It also happens to be on Doyers Street, which is one of the cooler looking streets in Chinatown.  The service was very good and the owner was a nice guy.  They do speak English very well here and it’s probably among the most English friendly places in Chinatown.

One thing that I really liked about the place is that everything is cooked to order as opposed to having carts.  Very few good dim sum places in Hong Kong have carts anymore as the dim sum is just so much fresher when you cook to order.  They also kept their menu pretty short, which I think is great because the downfall of so many restaurants in Chinatown is that they try to offer everything under the sun, which is something you rarely see in Asia, but for some reason is very prevalent in NY.

Here’s what we got:


They’ve got an interesting tea list, we got the chrysanthemum tea and it was standard, but good.

Parsley and Scallion Rice Roll:

This was regular cheung fan (steamed Chinese rice crepe) with chopped parsley and scallions then covered in a lighter sweet soy sauce.  The rice crepe was fresh and had good texture.  The flavor of the parsley (tastes like cilantro, I think they’re basically the same thing) and scallion with the soy sauce were great.  Overall, this was quite good.  7.5/10

Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao):

There are four items on the menu that are circled in red and these are the house specialties.  The cha siu bao is one of those specialties.  The bun was excellent, very fluffy with a nice slightly sweet flavor, definitely among the best buns in Chinatown. The filling was pretty decent as it wasn’t too sweet and I don’t like the really sweet filling that is common among Chinatown places.  However, the bun to filling ratio was way off as there was way too much bun and barely any filling.  If they changed that this could be one of the better cha siu bao in the city.  7.25/10

Shrimp and Snow Pea Dumplings:

These were steamed dumplings with chopped shrimp and snow pea leaves. The skins were nice as they weren’t too thick, were freshly steamed and had good texture. The shrimp was very fresh and the snow pea leaves were a nice addition.  Overall, these were surprisingly good.  7.5/10

Stuffed Green Peppers:

These were green bell peppers stuffed with a minced shrimp cake and covered in a black bean sauce.  The shrimp cake was quite good, nice fresh minced shrimp.  The green bell pepper was good, but the slight downfall of the dish was the black bean sauce while not gloppy was quite bland flavor-wise. I also prefer it in the spicy green peppers.  Decent, but not amazing. 6.75/10

Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce:

This was a very standard, but well prepared version of this dish.  Simple boiled Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, not much more to it than that.  The vegetables were cooked well, so they retained their crunch without being over cooked.  7.5/10

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at Nom Wah, it probably has some of the better dim sum in Chinatown right now and the environment is definitely very unique in Chinatown.  I’d recommend checking it out.

13 Doyers St (between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-6047

New Kim Tuong / Kien Tuong – Hard to Find Singaporean / Teochew “Carrot Cake” in NY

I noticed New Kim Tuong walking through Chinatown and thought it might be interesting because of it’s got a Vietnamese name even though it was clearly a Chinese restaurant. I thought it might be Chinese people from Vietnam like Bo Ky and New Chao Chow that serve some Teochow (Chiu Chow / Chao Zhou) dishes.

I went home, did some research on yelp and menupages and low and behold it does have a few Teochew dishes, but what was more interesting was this post on yelp that mentioned they serve chai tow kway (菜頭粿 / cai tou guo). Chai tow kway is translated to “carrot cake” in Singapore, so I decided I had to try this place as soon as possible (more on this dish later in the post).

The restaurant is a typical low end Chinatown restaurant with zero ambiance.  The place seems to have a pretty bustling take-out business with locals who seem to be pretty friendly with the staff. The service was quick and the servers are quite nice.  It is also exceptionally cheap ($3.50 for a bowl of noodle soup)

On to the food:

Complimentary Soup:

They gave us complimentary bowls of a pork bone soup with barley in it. It was actually quite good, clean flavor, not too salty and with reasonably good flavor. 7.25/10

Minced Beef Congee (Rice Porridge):

This was interesting.  The consistency wasn’t like normal Cantonese-style congee as it wasn’t nearly as thick rather the consistency was in between Cantonese-style congee and Teochew-style congee which is very watery, so much so that you can still make out the grains of rice.  It was pretty decent although not amazing. The you tiao (fried crueller) was pretty standard, but good. 6.75/10

“Pi Pa” Duck:

This is a type of roast duck called pi pa ya (琵琶鸭). Pi pa is actually a type of Chinese musical instrument. It’s called this because it’s a pressed roast duck, so it’s sort of flat like the instrument. I’m not sure whether it’s Cantonese or Teochew because I’ve only had it a few times.  It is listed in english as “pi pa duck” on the menu.  The meat was tender, juicy and had good flavor and the skin was nice and crispy. They gave you a red vinegar chili sauce that was quite good and helped cut the fat. It was pretty good if you like fattier meats although I prefer the duck at New Chao Chow or Bo Ky.  7.25/10

Chou Chiu Style Noodle Soup:

This was a typical Teochew noodle soup with rice noodles, cha siu (roast pork), sliced chicken, fish balls, beef balls, cabbage and scallions. The soup was just okay, it wasn’t too salty, but it lacked complexity.  The condiments all tasted fine, but none were particularly outstanding. Overall, I thought it was okay, but you can get a much better bowl at New Chao Chow or Bo Ky. 6.25/10

Fried Rice Flour Cake (Qian Dan Gao):

Chai tow kway is extremely hard to find outside Singapore, Malaysia and Chao Zhou (although I’ve never been to Chao Zhou). Even though it is translated to “carrot cake”, it actually has no carrots in it.  It’s cakes made of rice flour and minced radish similar to Cantonese lo bak go (蘿蔔糕 / luo bo gao) that you get at dim sum except that instead of big rectangle squares its cut into much smaller pieces that are pan fried with a sweet minced preserved radish, egg, garlic, dried shrimp, fish sauce and spring onions are sprinkled on top. Although at New Kim Tuong they do serve it as rectangles instead of smaller pieces. It’s a very popular dish at hawker centers in Singapore. The radish cakes were perfectly crispy on the outside, perfectly minced and soft on the inside. The condiments went really well with it and I particularly like the sweet minced preserved radish. It was a pretty good rendition although I would prefer if they cut it into smaller pieces.  I also wish they had a good chili sauce like at Bo Ky or New Chao Chow as that would definitely kick it up a notch.  I definitely recommend trying this dish out as it’s very hard to find. 7.75/10

Overall, this is definitely an interesting place and while some of the dishes were just okay, it’s definitely worth trying for the carrot cake.

83 Chrystie St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 966-2878

Hsin Wong – Good Cantonese BBQ and Peking Duck in Chinatown


Hsin Wong is another shao la (Cantonese BBQ) and congee restaurant in Chinatown.  The most well-known places are Great NY Noodletown and Big Wong King and they are also generally considered to be the best.  However, I think Hsin Wong is on par with them.

Although I’ve been to Hsin Wong in the past it’s been quite a while since I’ve been there and their advertisement for Peking duck caught my eye because I’ve been looking for a good Cantonese-style Peking duck for a while.  So, I decided to have a Chinese New Year’s dinner with some friends and write a review about it.

The place looks like a typical Chinatown BBQ place.  It’s got a large counter up front with BBQ meats hanging in the windows.  There are several large round tables and then smaller square tables along the walls.  They advertise various specials on the walls in Chinese.  The service is pretty decent and the waiters are surprisingly very nice.

Here’s what we got:

Roast Pig (Huo Rou):

This is the gigantic whole pig with golden crispy skin you see hanging in the windows of Cantonese BBQ spots. This is one of my favorite types of BBQ. The version here is quite good especially if you happen to get it when it comes out fresh (I got lucky one of the times and it came out fresh).  The skin is beautifully crispy, but the meat is still tender and flavorful. You dip the meat in oyster sauce and it tastes great.  8/10

 Wonton Noodle Soup With Roast Pork (Cha Shao Hun Dun Tang Mian):

This was surprisingly good, I have low expectations for wonton noodle soup in NY because it’s just not made with the same care and ingredients you find in Hong Kong (HK vendors are very passionate about wonton noodle soup, it’s somewhat analogous to ramen in Japan), but we’re not in HK so I keep trying it anyhow. The soup broth was pretty decent, flavorful and not overly salty. The wontons were plump and the shrimp tasted fresh.  The noodles were pretty decent as well and were cooked al dente. The cha siu (roast pork) was fresh out of the oven, so it was actually quite good, very flavorful and tender.  Overall, I think this was actually better than the last few times I had it at NY Noodletown, which is generally the best one in ctown. 7.5/10

Peking Duck (Bei Jing Kao Ya):

This was the reason I came here. Cantonese-style Peking duck is different from real Peking duck because it’s not cooked the same way and actually is just a roast duck and is served in mantou (steamed white buns) as opposed to the thin pancakes. I’ve been looking for a good version for a while, but I haven’t been able to find one since Nice Restaurant closed. However, the version here is quite good.  The skin was crispy and flavorful. The meat was juicy and succulent. They sliced up the duck for you and put the meat, skin, plum sauce, spring onions and carrots (I’m not sure why they put carrots in it, I took them out). Overall, this is probably the best Cantonese-style Peking duck I’ve had in the city. 8/10

Steak With Chinese Broccoli Stems:

This was a special, it was supposed to be with asparagus, but they ran out, so the lady said they could replace it with Chinese broccoli stems. It was a t-bone steak cooked in brown sauce covered in Chinese broccoli stems and some other vegetables. The steak was tender and flavorful and went well with the vegetables. Not much more to it than that, but it was quite good. 7.5/10

Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):

This looked pretty, but it wasn’t nearly as good as South China Garden or NY Noodletown. The squid was a little on the chewy side and the batter didn’t have enough salt in it, so it was a little bland. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that great either. 6/10

Sauteed String Beans (Chao Si Ji Dou):

This was simply sautéed string beans with garlic. I thought the dish was decent, but it wasn’t flavored a lot, so I felt it was a bit bland and I also though the string beans could have been cooked for a little bit longer. Overall, it was decent, but nothing to write home about. 6.5/10

Pork with Peppers:

I didn’t order this, actually no one was quite sure who ordered this, so we think it might have been a mix up and ended up at our table as the restaurant was busy that night.  It was sautéed sliced pork, green peppers, string beans, onions, baby corn, snap peas and basil in a brown sauce. It was okay, but nothing to write home about. 6/10

Lobster Sauteed With Scallions and Ginger (Cong Jiang Chao Long Xia):

This was surprisingly good as the lobster was fresh tasting, the meat was cooked nicely and it was just generally tasty. I generally find scallion and ginger preparation to be a little too plain for lobster and crab, but this still tasted good although I think South China Garden’s preparation is better although the quality of the lobster itself is basically the same. Overall though, this was a nice dish. 7.5/10

Sauteed Pea Shoots (Qing Chao Dou Miao):

This was a simple preparation of pea shoots sautéed with some garlic and oil. This was a standard preparation and it was cooked well. 7.25/10

Pan Fried Flounder:

Another classic Cantonese preparation of flounder. The skin was crispy, the meat was tender and the soy sauce was nice. Pretty self-explanatory, but this was quite good. 7.5/10

Clams in Black Bean Sauce:

The sauce here was good as it was flavorful and not overly gloppy. However, the clams were just decent.  It was a decent, but not amazing. 6.5/10

Red Bean Soup:

Pretty standard, but it was good as it wasn’t overly watery and I prefer mine on the thick side, so I liked this. 7.5/10

Overall, I liked the food here and I’d definitely recommend coming here for Cantonese BBQ and Cantonese-style Peking duck.

72 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-6526

Noodle Village – Good Hong Kong Style Food in Chinatown

Noodle Village serves Hong Kong style Cantonese food.  I’m not quite sure how I can describe the difference between Hong Kong style Cantonese food versus Cantonese food in the rest of Guang Dong (the province that Cantonese food comes from) as I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the rest of Guang Dong, so it’s possible it’s like this everywhere, but from my understanding HK definitely has its’ own style of food.  Many of the dishes that are served at Noodle Village are very emblematic of the types of dishes you find at a lot of casual small restaurants in HK.

The restaurant is reasonably nice and clean, better than most restaurants in Chinatown.  The service was fine.  They also claim that they don’t use any MSG, I don’t know if that is true or not, but I didn’t taste any in my food.

Here’s what we got:

Spicy Fried Fish Ball (La La Yu Dan Chuan): These were fried fish balls on skewers that were covered with a dried shrimp paste, chili oil, diced scallions and bits of fried garlic. I think they may make their own fish balls as they had good flavor and texture and didn’t taste like frozen ones. The shrimp paste was awesome and other condiments really went well with everything. These were really good, similar to the type of thing you get in HK. 8.5/10

Braised Beef Brisket Noodle Soup HK Style (Niu Nan Wang Tang Mian): The broth was light and not salty.  It was pretty decent, but I thought it was a little bit on the bland side; it didn’t have the deeper flavor you get with really good broth.  That said it was better than most of the broths you get in most noodle shops in ctown. The brisket was tender and had good flavor although it was a bit on the fatty side.  It also had tripe which was pretty good as well.  I got it with he fen (thick white rice noodle), which were good as well. Overall, it was pretty decent. 7.5/10

Chinese Broccoli & Yau Choy with Oyster Sauce (Hao You Shuang Cai): This was pretty standard, but good.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasted good with the oyster sauce.  8/10

Pork with Salted Fish Clay Pot Rice (Xian Yu Rou Bing Bao Zai Fan): The claypot they use is a little smaller and wider than normal, but this kind of turned out to be good because there was a lot of the crusty rice at the bottom which I like a lot. The pork patty was pretty decent although it was a little too salty.  The soy sauce they use is okay, but it’s not home-made and was a lot saltier than at good places.  Overall, this was good, it’s not as good as A-Wah was at its peak , but it’s better than A-Wah is currently. 7.75/10

Clay Pot Rice with Sausage, Bacon and Spare Ribs: Same description as the other, but I didn’t like this this one as much as the other one because a lot of the toppings were a little on the dry side. 7/10

Fried Buns with Condensed Milk (Zha Man Tou): These are hard to screw up, I thought they were a little over fried, but they were still tasty. 7.75/10

Overall, it was quite good.  I was pretty happy with the preparation of the food as it was lighter than most food in Chinatown.  I’ll definitely be returning and writing more about it.

13 Mott St (between Chatham Sq & Mosco Street)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 233-0788

Sea Harbour – Still the Best Dim Sum in LA

To caveat the title of this post, Elite maybe of similar quality, but it’s been a while since I’ve been there.

Sea Harbour 海港 has been my favorite dim sum place in LA for a long time and it is probably the best dim sum I’ve had in the US.  For reference in Hong Kong I think it would be considered a pretty decent dim sum place.  Sea Harbour’s dim sum is similar in style to what you find in Hong Kong these days in that you order off the menu so the dim sum is much fresher than the old school carts, the preparation tastes much lighter and less oily than old school places and there are a lot of new types of dim sum that you won’t see in old school cart type places.  I much prefer Sea Harbour’s more modern dim sum to old school cart type places.

The restaurant is a large open room with a few smaller more private rooms along the sides.  It has tanks in the back with various live fish and seafood in them.  It is actually very clean and nicely laid out.  We sat in the small room in the back left.  I’m not used to nice and clean Chinese restaurants because I’ve been living in NY for so long where most restaurants are generally rundown and old looking, so it was a nice change of pace.  The service was good and attentive especially considering it was for dim sum when the service is normally non-existent.

Here’s what we got:

Pork Dumplings with Shrimp and Roe (Yu Zi Shao Mai Huang):

These were good, they were steamed perfectly, the pork was tender and flavorful, the shrimps tasted fresh and they were just generally of good quality.  8.25/10

Crystal Chive Dumplings (Xian Xia Jiu Cai Jiao):

These are generally not my favorite type of dumplings as I’m not a huge fan of the gelatinous skins, but some of my family likes these, so I ordered them.  The skins were good and the filling was nice with the chives and shrimp.  They’re still not my thing, but these were a good rendition.  7.5/10

Beef Rice Noodle (Niu Rou Shou La Chang): 

This is a classic dim sum dish done well.  The rice noodles was thin and cooked perfectly, the beef was perfectly minced and well spiced and the soy sauce was light.  It wasn’t remotely oily or heavy and was very good.  8.5/10

Shrimp Rice Noodle (Xian Xia Shou La Chang):

Ditto my review for the beef rice noodle except with perfectly cooked shrimp.  8.25/10

Lotus Paste Bun (Feng Huang Jin Sha Bao):

These were very good.  The buns were steamed perfectly, the ratio of filling to bun was good and the lotus paste was smooth and not too sweet.  8/10

Snow Buns (Hai Gang Xue Shan Bao):

Wow I haven’t had these in a long time and these were so good.  The outside is a bit salty and the inside has an egg white custard that is light and sweet, but too sweet.  I really liked these, they were so good I actually tried to order some to go, but the guy told me they are the most popular dish and they had run out by the time I had ordered them. This was my favorite dish of the day. 8.75/10

Steamed Pork Bun (Hao Huang Cha Shao Bao):

These were good, the bun was fresh, the bun to meat ratio was good and the pork (cha shao) itself was good, no weird parts and not overly fatty.  The only thing is that they use the sweeter red sauce and I prefer the more savory brown sauce, but it was still good.  8/10

Beef Tendon and Tripe Rice Noodle Bowl (Niu Nan Chang Fen Bao): 

I hadn’t tried this before.  It was stewed beef tendon and tripe over rolled up rice noodle in a metal pot.  The beef tendon and tripe has been stewed in a broth with star anise and five spice powder.  The meat was very tender and flavorful.  The rice noodle was cooked well as well.  I liked the flavor although I thought it could’ve used a little more sauce, but it was good.  7.75/10

Fried Tofu in Abalone Sauce (Bao Shi Pa Dou Fu):

This was silky tofu that had been fried and they covered in a light brown abalone sauce.  The tofu was fried nicely and the sauce was very light and also pretty light in flavor.  I liked this although I think it’s pretty Chinese, so I’m not sure everyone would appreciate it as it’s quite subtle.  7.75/10

Fried Taro Cake (Jian Jiao Yu Tou Gao): 

This is the one dish I thought was just decent.  It was fried on the outside nicely, but I thought the inside was a little dry and a bit bland.  Oyster sauce made it a lot better.  7/10

Radish Cake with XO Sauce (XO Jiang Luo Bo Gao):

This was interesting as I hadn’t had this before.  It was cubes of pan fried minced radish cake tossed in an XO sauce then covered in scallions and bean sprouts.  I liked it although I thought it could have used more XO sauce as it was a bit on the plain side. 7.5/10

Egg Custard (Su Pi Dan Ta):

These were quite good.  The custard had a good egg-y flavor and it had a nice crust.  I just wish they had the Portuguese version which is burnt on top, but these were still good nonetheless. 7.75/10

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Chu Zhuo Jie Lan):

This was standard, but good.  The broccoli was cooked well and tasted good with the oyster sauce.  7.75/10

Baked Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao):

They were bringing these around and asking if we wanted them.  My family really likes these although I prefer the steamed version.  However, these turned out to be really good.  The bread was great, the sweet stuff they brush on the top wasn’t overly sweet and the meat inside tasted great. 8.25/10

Overall, I was really pleased the quality of the food, it was so much better than any place in NY.  I also really want to try it for dinner after reading Exilekiss’s review of dinner there, alas it will probably have to wait until my next trip back home as I’m back in NY now.

3939 Rosemead Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 288-3939