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.

Address:
G/F, Spring Garden Mansion, 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai
灣仔春園街41號春園大廈地下
Phone: 2572 0526

Leaf Dessert – A Great Old School Dai Pai Dong Chinese Dessert Specialist in Central, Hong Kong

Leaf Dessert 玉葉甜品 is an old school dai pai dong in Central, Hong Kong.  Supposedly its 100 years old and this is the fourth generation to run this dai pai dong!

A dai pai dong is an open air stall that is basically somewhere in between street food and a restaurant.  There used to be lots of them in Hong Kong, but the government changed the laws and it’s impossible to open one now and the ones that are still around are grandfathered in.  I’ve been trying to eat at more of them when I come to Hong Kong because they are slowly dying and once they’re gone they’re not coming back.  According to this Wikipedia article there are only 28 left in Hong Kong! So I’ve actually been to a reasonable percentage of them! Almost all of them in either Central or Sham Shui Po.

While they have regular food, Leaf Dessert specializes in old school Cantonese desserts and that’s what they’re really known for.  The dai pai dong is located on Elgin Street on a hill; several of Central’s dai pai dongs are on or just off Elgin.   The menu is only written in Chinese, so I’ve included all of the characters you’ll need to order and I doubt they speak much English as this is certainly not tourist food.  The lady was pretty gruff, but I was expecting old school mean service because I feel like that’s how a lot of dai pai dong people are.

Here’s what I got:

Cold Green Bean Soup With Seaweed (Leng Hai Dai Liu Dou Tang 冷海帶綠豆湯):

This was sweet green bean soup that had barley in it (yi mi 薏米) and it’s also flavored with stinky grass (chou cao 臭草), which contrary to name is not stinky at all and adds a very slight herbal flavor to the dish.  You had the option to get it cold (leng 冷) or hot (re 熱); I got it cold.  You also had the option to add seaweed (hai dai 海帶) as well.  The soup was really nice as it was flavorful and not too watery; a lot places make this way too watery and it just tastes like green beans in water.  I also liked the added flavor and texture from the barley. The seaweed sounded kind of weird even for me, but I decided to try it and I’m glad I did.  It was that thick kind of seaweed and I liked the extra texture that it gave the soup.  This was very refreshing on a hot and muggy day in Hong Kong and was probably one of the best renditions I’ve tried.  8.5/10

Glutinous Rice Balls with Sugar, Sesame and Coconut Topping (Tang Bu Shuai 糖不甩):

I have no idea why they call it 糖不甩, which translate to “sugar thrown off”, anyone know why they call it this?  Anyhow, it was four hot glutinous rice balls that were topped with a mixture of sugar, coconut and sesame seeds.  The glutinous rice balls had great texture; very soft and chewy.  The topping tastes like it sounds although the coconut flavor was not very strong.  It all went together really well and I enjoyed this dish a lot.  I’d highly recommend trying this dish. 9/10

I really enjoyed this place a lot although I’m a big fan of Chinese desserts and my girlfriend often say I like old people desserts and this is definitely Chinese old people food, so I’m not sure everyone will enjoy this as much as me, but I’d definitely recommend it anyhow.

Address:
2 Elgin Street, SOHO, Central
中環蘇豪伊利近街2號
Phone: 2544 3795

Hung’s Delicacies – One-Michelin Starred Chiu Chow Braised Meat Specialist in North Point, Hong Kong

Hung’s Delicacies 阿鴻小吃 is a well heralded Chiu Chow braised meat specialist restaurant. It’s probably one of the most praised restaurants that I’ve been to in Hong Kong and has received a Michelin Star three years in a row, which is kind of weird considering you don’t associated Michelin Stars with tiny shop specializing in braised meats, which is very middle class type food. The chef-owner, Ah Hung 阿鴻, was a high-level chef for many years at well-known Cantonese restaurants such as Yung Kee and Maxim and finally decided to strike out on his own to create this restaurant.

The restaurant is located far from the main areas of Hong Kong in North Point, which is a mainly residential area. It’s located on a non-descript street that has a lot of restaurants on it. The restaurant is tiny and probably sits 20-25 people. The restaurant walls are plastered with pictures of Ah Hung with various celebrities and awards he’s won.

The wife works as a server and hostess. I’d heard she was mean, but she was pretty nice to me and was telling me what was good. The menu is completely translated into English and while I didn’t hear any English spoken, I’d assume they can speak at least a little bit of English. Also, they are only open Wednesday through Sunday from 1pm to 10pm (I almost made the mistake of going there on a Tuesday but luckily I called). I got there at 12:55pm and there was already a line of 5-6 people and there was probably a line of 10-12 people when I left.

Here’s what I tried:

Braised Goose (Lu Shui E Pian 鹵水鵝片):

This was the reason I came here. Braised meats are a staple of Chiu Chow cuisine; the braising style is called lu wei 鹵味, but Hong Kong they refer to it as lu shui 鹵水. This technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up). Ah Hung is famous for his master stock and their menu even shows you some of the main ingredients he uses. It was one of the lightest and cleanest tasting master stocks I’ve ever tried. It’s slightly sweet and salty and has this really excellent flavor to it. The goose meat was good, most of the pieces were nicely tender although I thought a few were a little drier than I would like as goose breast can be a little dry since it’s less fatty than other parts of the goose. The vinegar compliments it well and helps cut the fat from the meat. It also comes with fried tofu which also tasted good in the master stock. Overall, I thought it was very good although I’d give a slight nod to Tak Kee because the meat was more tender, but his master stock deserves its praise. Also, if I went again I’d get a mix of this and “marinated goose chopped in pieces” as that was a fattier cut which looked really good (the table next to me ordered it). 8.75/10

Chua Lam Noodles (Cai Lan Lao Mian 蔡瀾撈麵):

Chua Lam is a celebrity food critic personality in Hong Kong, I think he’s been referred to as the Anthony Bourdain of Hong Kong for his pretty liberal views. Ah Hung named this noodle after him because apparently Chua Lam was one of his early fans. Its thin egg noodles stir fried in a mixture of soy sauce and lard with bean sprouts, sesame seeds and green onions. Clearly not something you’re eating for your health. It wasn’t nearly as oily as it sounds, but still had a lot of flavor. The soy sauce they used was slightly sweet and the lard and wok hay from stir frying gave it a really nice flavor. The noodles were really QQ (springy) and cooked perfectly. It came with a small bowl of soup that was quite good. Overall, this was really nice and I’d definitely recommend ordering this. 8.75/10

Chili Oil:

The chili oil here is amazing. It’s the Chiu Chow style with ground up dried shrimp, but they also added whole tiny fish as well. It’s definitely one of the best chili oils I’ve ever had and was really good with the Chua Lam noodles. 9.25/10

Overall, it was very good although my expectations may have been too high given the amount of praise sung about it. That said this is an excellent restaurant and I’d like to come back to try more dishes as I saw a lot of stuff that I would go back to try and I’d also really love to do that private dinner they offer, which you can see here.

Address:

Shop 4, G/F, Ngan Fai Building, 84-94 Wharf Road, North Point
北角和富道84-94號銀輝大廈地下4號舖

Phone:

2570 1108 https://www.hungsdelicacies.com/indexen.html

Tak Kee Chiu Chou Restaurant – Excellent Chiu Chow Food in Western District, Hong Kong

Tak Kee Chiu Chou Restaurant 德記潮州菜館 is a popular Chiu Chow (Teochew / Chao Zhou) restaurant in Western. It is a full family style restaurant as opposed to the Chiu Chow noodle soup and braised meat specialists that are very common in Hong Kong.

As I’ve stated several times on this blog, Chiu Chow food is one of my favorite types of Chinese food. It’s known for relying on the freshness of ingredients and tends to rely on lighter methods of cooking like steaming and braising. It’s one of the Chinese cuisines that would be easy to eat daily.

The restaurant is located in Kennedy Town in Western District; Kennedy Town is located fairly far away from the more mainstream areas of Hong Kong Island such Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and isn’t easily accessible via MTR (subway), so the restaurant is very “local” with few if any tourists.

The restaurant is a reasonably large room that while not having particularly exciting décor is very clean and isn’t a dive. The restaurant’s walls are lined with multi-colored banners that list various specials and there is also a display area showcasing their various cold dishes such as fish, crabs and braised meats; this is a common sight in Chiu Chow restaurants and I love seeing all the stuff they have to offer. I didn’t see an English menu, but I read that they do have an English menu. Any which way, I wrote the Chinese characters so you could order what I ordered easily.


Here’s what we got:

Tofu and Pickled Vegetable:

This was served as a complementary dish at the beginning of the meal. It was pickled cabbage (suan cai) and tiny pieces of fried tofu in a sweet chili sauce that was very slightly spicy. The combo of sour flavor pickled cabbage and the sweetness of the sauce was really nice together. Also the texture from the crunch of the cabbage and the fried tofu was great. While very simple, I thought this was really good. 8.75/10


Vinegar Smoked Anchovies (Chen Cu Xun Feng Wei Yu 陳醋燻鳳尾魚):

These were whole fried anchovies in aged vinegar (chen cu 陳醋) served at room temperature. The aged vinegar is fairly sweet with a thick consistency somewhere in between water and syrup. The fish is eaten whole and you don’t notice the bones at all. The texture is jerky-like, which makes me think they smoked then fried the fish. These were pretty tasty although a bit on the sweet side for me. 8.25/10

Braised Goose (Lu Shui E 鹵水鵝):

Braised meats are a staple of Chiu Chow cuisine; the braising style is called lu wei 鹵味, but Hong Kong they refer to it as lu shui 鹵水. This technique uses a master stock that is constantly re-used (i.e. they keep filling it up). I didn’t have any expectations of this, but it turned out to be some of the best braised goose I’ve ever had. The cut I got is the breast and it’s a fairly lean cut, so sometimes I find it can be a bit too dry, but here it was really tender and juicy with slight pieces of fat that were great. The braising sauce was outstanding; it was light with a good balance between being salty and having a slight sweetness to it. The vinegar cuts the fat from the meat perfectly. I actually thought it was better than the version I had at Hung’s Delicacies, which is a one star Michelin restaurant known for this dish. 9/10

Baked Fish in Plum Sauce (Mei Zi Shao Wu Tou 梅子燒烏頭):

I was going to order a steamed fish since that is traditional Chiu Chow style fish, but the waitress told me that the baked fish is one of their specialties. They took a fish called wu tou 烏頭 (crow head) and baked it in foil in a sweet plum sauce. The result was excellent; the fish was really nice and tender and not fishy whatsoever. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but still tasted good with the fish. Overall, this was a solid dish. 8.5/10

Oyster Congee (Hao Zai Zhou 蠔仔粥):

Chiu chow style congee is very different than Cantonese style congee. It’s very watery as opposed to Cantonese congee which is very thick. I believe Chiu Chow people say something about it being like mountains and oceans because of the rice popping out from the surface of the water. Also, unlike Cantonese they don’t call it zhou 粥, they call it mi 糜 (mue in Chiu Chow). The version here had oysters, pork and pickled vegetables in it. The ingredients were excellent; the oysters were fresh and clean tasting, the pork was tender and the pickled vegetables gave it a nice sour flavor. This was a very good version, but I prefer Cantonese style congee as I find it much more flavorful and like the texture better as Chiu Chow congee just feels like rice with too much water in it. 8/10

Fried Oyster Pancake (Zha Hao Bing 炸蠔餅):

This was another dish the restaurant was known for. It’s a fried oyster pancake with lots of chives in it. It looked really oily, but it was surprisingly not oily and was more airy than dense. The oysters they use here are very fresh and don’t taste fishy at all. It was served with vinegar that was similar to the vinegar for the goose; it was a nice complement as it didn’t over power the flavor of the pancake, but cut the oil from frying. Overall, I thought it was pretty good although it was a little lighter in flavor than I was expecting. 8.25/10

This was an enjoyable meal and probably one of the better Chiu Chow restaurants I’ve been to in Hong Kong, definitely recommend checking it out.

Address:

G/F, No 3 Belcher’s Street
Kennedy Town, Western District, Hong Kong
西環堅尼地城卑路乍街3號G益豐大廈地下

Phone:

2819 5568

Chiu Yuen Chiu Chow Noodle – Delicious Chiu Chow Style Beef Patty and Fish Ball Noodle Soup in Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Chiu Yuen Chiu Chow Noodle潮苑正宗潮州粉麵 is a chiu chow (teochew / chao zhou) style noodle soup restaurant.  While there are tons of chiu chow style noodle soup restaurants in Hong Kong, Chiu Yuen is a little different because they specialize in a beef patty that I haven’t really seen at other places and they also advertise how everything is handmade.  The restaurant is pretty well heralded as you will see by many newspaper and blog articles they have pasted on their window when you walk in.

It’s located on Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai.  Wan Chai generally has a lot of great restaurants and within Wan Chai, Spring Garden Lane has a concentration of good local style food (i.e. you won’t find a lot of non-Chinese at these restaurants).  I actually wasn’t planning on going to this place even though I knew about it, but I was at Kam Fung and decided to try it since it was next door.

The restaurant is a narrow restaurant with typical décor for a local place (i.e. there isn’t much) that said it was very clean and wasn’t rushed and crazy like a lot of local spots.  The servers were also quite nice.  I have no idea whether or not anyone speaks any English, but nothing was written in English.

Beef Patty and Fish Ball Noodle Soup:

This is their signature dish.  You have a choice of three noodles and I got the he fen, which is medium thickness rice noodle.  The broth was very good.  I was expecting a broth that was going to be clean, but light in flavor.  However, while it was light, it was slightly tangy and sour, which I thought was a nice touch.  The noodles were good rice noodles cooked perfectly.  The fish balls were amazing, some of the best fish balls I’ve ever had.  They had a good clean flavor and the texture was outstanding, softer than factory made fish balls, but not mushy.  The beef patty was different than what I was expecting; I was expecting them to be very tender, but instead they were pretty springy.  They had a good flavor and weren’t too beefy in flavor.  The condiments were diced green onions served in a spoon and I also added fried garlic and chili oil, which went very well with it.  Their chili oil was excellent chiu chow style chili oil, which has ground up dried shrimp in it and was surprisingly kind of spicy, which is weird since Hong Kong people aren’t too big on spicy food.  I’m not sure if they have an English menu or not, but in case they don’t I took a picture of the menu and it’s the third dish down (the first one just has fish balls and the second one just has beef patty, but the third one is the combo).  8.5/10 (9/10 for fish balls, 8.25/10 for beef patty, 8.5/10 for broth, 8.5/10 for noodles)

Overall, while I don’t think this will be a revelation, it is quite good and it’s the type of dish I could eat on a regular basis as it’s not too heavy, but still delicious.  Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Address:
G/F 37 Spring Garden Lane
Wan Chai 灣仔春園街37號地下
Phone: 2892 2322

Liang’s Kitchen – A Delicious Taiwanese Import from Los Angeles

When I heard that Liang’s Kitchen opened in Flushing, I almost immediately went there.  Liang’s Kitchen is originally from the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, which is where most good Chinese food in LA is located.  However, over time they expanded and have several branches in LA, a branch in Irvine and a couple branches in Northern California.  I’ve eaten at the one in San Gabriel and the one in Irvine, which is fairly close to where my family lives.  It’s generally been good dependable Taiwanese food, so I was quite excited to hear they had opened a branch in Flushing as good Taiwanese food has become somewhat difficult to find here.

Liang’s Kitchen actually isn’t straight up Taiwanese food; it’s supposed to be a take on the food that came from the migration of mainland Chinese to Taiwan.  Many of these Chinese were military families who were part of the Kuomintang, some of whom intentionally moved to Taiwan in the 40s and some of whom fled to Taiwan in 1949 when the KMT lost against the Communists.  Taiwanese food traditionally is southern Fujian food, but you will also find a lot of northern Chinese, Sichuan and other Chinese regional dishes as well.  This is partially a function of the influence these military families had on Taiwan’s food culture.  Last time I was in Taiwan I watched a documentary about these communities that surrounded or were on military bases where Chinese from a given province would all live together and then cook their regional food as part of community gatherings; the one I watched was about group of 30-40 families from Hunan that had kept cooking traditional Hunan dishes even generations after the original immigrants came.

The restaurant is located in the basement of the Best Western Hotel.  It’s a brand new space; quite clean and reasonably nice.  The walls have blown up pictures of their food, old pictures of Taiwanese military families and pictures of the chef and Liang family.  This location isn’t on their website yet, but they have pictures of the CEO (Ivan Liang) and the new head chef, so I’m pretty sure that it’s an authentic location.  The servers were reasonably nice and they speak English, so you shouldn’t have a problem if you don’t speak Chinese.  However, certain appetizers and the entire main dish menu are only written in Chinese, so that will be sort of an issue.  I’m going to write the characters of dishes we ordered that were on the Chinese only menu so that you can order them.

Here’s what we got:

Stewed Tofu (Lu Dou Fu Gan Si):

Lu wei is a type of Chinese cooking common in southern China, where you braise meats or tofu in a master stock made up of soy sauce, spices and other ingredients.  This is actually smoked tofu that is stewed in a lu wei sauce.  The version here was just okay, I didn’t think the lu wei sauce they used was flavorful enough, so while it tasted alright it was nothing to write home about.  7/10

Seaweed (Liang Ban Hai Dai Si):

This is a cold dish of long thin strips of seaweed tossed in sesame oil and mashed garlic.  It tastes exactly how it sounds.  The version here was decent, but not great.  7/10

Stir Fried Corn and Shrimp (Yu Mi Xia Ren 玉米蝦仁):

This is a very Taiwanese home cooking type of dish.  It’s a simple dish with corn, shrimp and diced peppers stir fried with sesame oil and salt.  The corn and shrimp were both very fresh and they were also generous with the amount of shrimp they gave.  This version was quite good and I enjoyed it. 8/10

Beef Tendon Noodle Soup (Hong Shao Niu Jin Mian):

Hong shao is another type of braising that is common in Chinese cuisine and it’s very common for the beef to be stewed in this manner for beef noodle soup in Taiwan, which is actually the national dish of Taiwan.  This dish is pretty hard to get right as the beef and broth require a lot of skill and hard work to get right.  The beef tendon was surprisingly good; it was very tender and flavorful, definitely the best beef tendon I’ve had in NY beef noodle soup (although the rest have generally been pretty bad).  Unfortunately, the noodles were overcooked so they were kind of mushy although they tasted fine.  The broth was decent; I wouldn’t say it was great or anything, but it had decent beef flavor and the pickled vegetable tasted good.  Overall, it’s probably one of the better Taiwanese style beef noodle soups in NY although just decent on an absolute basis.  7.25/10 (8/10 for the beef tendon, 6.5/10 for the noodles and 7.25/10 for the broth)

Beef Pancake (Niu Rou Jia Bing):

This is a scallion pancake that is lathered with hoisin sauce then thinly sliced beef and cucumbers are layered on top and it’s wrapped into a burrito.  I love this dish and Liang’s Kitchen is known for it.  The scallion pancake was good; it was freshly fried and not oily although I do prefer it to be a little thinner.  The beef was pretty decent and tasted nice with the hoisin sauce.  Overall, the version here was pretty good.  8/10

Wontons in Hot Oil (Hong You Chao Shou):

This is an example of that military influence as this is a Sichuan dish that you can find at any Sichuan restaurant in NY.  The sauce was nice; it had good tasting hot oil and a slight sweetness to it.  However, it’s less spicy than any of the Sichuan places.  The wontons were good as well with very thin skins and nice filling.  The only problem was that if you leave the wontons in the sauce for too long they start to fall apart because the skins are so thin.  The wontons are definitely better than most of the Sichuan places and the sauce was quite good, but it depends on whether you want it to be as spicy as the Sichuan places or not.  8/10

Shacha Beef with Water Spinach (Sha Cha Niu Rou Kong Xin Cai 沙茶牛肉空心菜):

Sha cha is a sauce that is made of soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, dried fish and dried shrimp.  The dish consists of sliced beef sautéed in a sha cha sauce put over boiled water spinach (kong xin cai). I thought it was pretty good although could’ve used a little more salt. 7.5/10

Five Flavor Steamed Pork (Wu Wei Bai Qie Rou 五味白切肉):

This is steamed thin slices of pork served with thinly julienned ginger and a sweet bean and garlic sauce.  This turned out to be the best dish and the surprise of the night.  The pork slices were very tender and they tasted really good with the ginger and bean sauce.  I definitely recommend ordering this. 8.5/10

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞):

This is a very typical Taiwanese dish consisting of chicken on the bone cooked in a sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil (hence the three cups) and it also has sugar, basil and ginger in it.  The version here was a little different because it’s not sweet at all, but the sauce still tasted pretty good.  The problem was that there was not enough meat, it was mainly bones.  I have no issue with the meat being on the bone (some people don’t like that), but there was so little chicken that the dish ended up being very small even though it looks big. I think Gu Xiang’s version is better than this one.  7.5/10 (could’ve been higher if they gave more chicken meat)

Pork Chop Rice (Pai Gu Fan):

I got this to go for my girlfriend.  Taiwanese pork chop rice is a staple dish in Taiwan; it’s a pork chop that has been pounded thin and is fried in a sweet potato flour batter and five spice (wu xiang fen).  It’s usually served with condiments of lu rou (stewed ground pork sauce), suan cai (pickled mustard greens) and lu dan (stewed hard boiled eggs).  However, here they only gave a very small amount of lu rou, no suan cai and instead gave another pickled cabbage that had red chilis and Chinese sausage in it and also pickled daikon.  The pork chop was excellent maybe the best version I’ve had in NY or at least on par with 66 Lu’s next door which most people consider the best (although I think their quality has gone downhill a bit).  It was tender, crispy, wasn’t oily and had good five spice flavor.  The pickled vegetables and lu dan were good as well.  The only problem was they gave you no lu rou, which I love.  It also came with a nice light seaweed soup that was pretty good as well.  8.25/10

Overall, I enjoyed my meal here and this is definitively some of the best Taiwanese food in New York now.  I hope that the quality stays good as Chinese restaurants in NY have this tendency to start strong and then fade.

Address:

133-51 39th Ave

Flushing, NY 11354

(347) 506-0115

https://www.liangskitchen.com/

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

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**

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.

Address:

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.

Address:

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.

Address:

14 Elizabeth Street (between Bayard St & Canal St)

New York, NY 10013

(212) 619-0085

https://www.orientalgardenny.com

Fu Zhou Cuisine – Excellent Dumplings and Good Fujian Snacks

As a preface to this post, here’s a short lesson on the demographics of Chinatown. China is a huge place and has many different provinces with dialects as unintelligible to each other as English and Spanish. Manhattan’s Chinatown primarily has two different types of Chinese people: Cantonese people from Guangdong province and Fujian people mainly the city of Fuzhou in the Fujian province. Originally Manhattan’s Chinatown like most other Chinatown’s in North America was almost solely Cantonese, but overtime it’s slowly being taken over by Fujian people, which is quite unique among Chinatowns. The heart of the Fujian part of Chinatown is on Eldridge Street and parts of East Broadway.

Fu Zhou Cuisine is a typical Fujian restaurant on Eldridge in that it is a hole-in-the-wall that serves cheap Fujian xiao chi (literally translates to “small eats”). These restaurants line Eldridge and East Broadway and they all serve fairly similar dishes such as fish balls, noodles and dumplings among other things.

I’ve tried several of these places and generally have been a little underwhelmed by them, but I happened to try Fu Zhou Cuisine recently and decided it was definitely worth noting. The restaurant has about zero décor as it’s just a bunch of tables with an open kitchen. While there isn’t much service since you order at the counter and then sit down, one of the ladies who runs the place is really nice. This is a pleasant surprise because at most of these Fujian places the people are very gruff and the atmosphere is sort of serious even if you speak Chinese.

They’ve totally translated the menu into English, so you will have no issues with language. I’ve included a picture of the menu, the one dish that is not translated says yu tang, which means fish soup.

Here’s what we got:

Wheat Noodles with Peanut Sauce (Ban Mian): This is a very typical Fujian xiao chi dish. It’s a simple dish consisting of peanut sauce, soy sauce and diced scallions over wheat noodles. It tastes similar to sesame noodles you may have tried before. It’s a pretty tasty dish assuming you like peanut sauce. 7.5/10

Dumplings (Shui Jiao): This is why most people come here. These are steamed dumplings stuffed with pork and scallions and served with a semi sweet chili soy sauce. These are made very well, the skins are excellent not too thick or thin and the pork and scallion stuffing is quite flavorful and I like the sweet sauce they give you. These are some of the best dumplings in Chinatown. 8.5/10

Fish Balls (Yu Wan): Fujian fishballs are unique in that they stuff them with pork. The version here is pretty decent as they didn’t have the commercial rubbery texture that you get from factory made fish balls. However, the flavor is a little more bland than really good fishballs, which I think is a function of how Fujian fishballs are made rather than Fu Zhou Cuisine’s fishballs being lesser quality. Overall, these are pretty decent, but not amazing. 7.25/10

Wonton Soup (Bian Rou): The Fujian refer to these very thin delicate wontons as bian rou, which means “flat meat” in Chinese. It’s wontons with very thin skins in a light soup. There is a Fujian dish where they pound pork until it becomes very thin and use that as the wonton wrappers and I’m honestly not sure if these are them or not as the wrappers are very delicate and the name would suggest they are, but I should ask them next time. Anyhow, the wontons here are really good, they really delicate and tasty, but the soup has been inconsistent as it can be too salty. Overall, it’s worth trying if you’re there. 7.75/10 (8.5/10 for wontons, 7.25/10 for the soup, could’ve been a higher rating if the soup was a little less salty)

Overall, this is a place worth checking out if you happen to be in Chinatown and want some dumplings as these are definitely some of the best dumplings in Chinatown.

Address:
118 Eldridge St (between Grand St & Broome St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 625-2532

Yao’s Dragon Beard Candy – A Hard to Find Chinese Candy in Chinatown

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED (OR MOVED)**

Dragon beard candy is a fairly rare Chinese candy that surprisingly is found here in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  A while back I’d seen this cart around a couple of times, but I figured that it went out of business because I only saw it a few times and it’s not really a Cantonese or Fujian candy, so I figured it just never got any traction.  However, that seems to not be the case as it seems to be permanently located in a fish and vegetable market on Grand between Chrystie and Bowery.

Dragon Beard Candy:

Dragon beard candy looks like a bunch of white cocoons.  Typically, it’s one of those things that I’ve found to be more of a novelty than something I craved, but I can respect someone who knows how to make it since I think it’s sort of a pain to make and has a very short shelf life. It’s made up of sugar, maltose syrup, ground peanuts and coconut.  The sugar and maltose syrup is melted and pulled into fine strands, which is sort of similar to cotton candy, but finer.  The interior is filled with a mixture of ground peanuts and coconut shavings.  I found Yao’s version to be quite good, actually better than most other versions I’ve had.  The strands are delicate and very fine and I liked the ground mixture in the inside.  I enjoyed them enough to buy them more than once.  Here’s a Wikipedia article about them.  Overall, it’s pretty good and definitely worth a try. 8/10

If you’re in Chinatown, I’d suggest dropping in and giving it a try as it’s definitely not very easy to find even in Asia and it’s pretty tasty.

Address:

Grand Street between Chrystie and Bowery (located inside the market on the corner of Grand and Chrystie)

New York, NY

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.

Address:

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.

Address:

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 Chowhound.com (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.

Address:

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.

Address:

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.

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

M&T Restaurant – Interesting Qingdao Cuisine in Flushing

**NOTE THIS RESTAURANT CHANGED OWNERSHIP AND HAS A NEW NAME**

M&T is a restaurant in Flushing that specializes in Qingdao cuisine.  The restaurant that has been fairly extensively covered by most of the major food websites such as Chowhound, Yelp and Serious Eats.  After reading lots of glowing reports, I finally made it out here to try it out.

Qingdao is a port city that is located in the Shandong province in China, which is located a little to the southeast of Beijing and Tianjin.  In America, it’s probably most well known for their beer brand Tsingtao. Qingdao cuisine is part of Shandong cuisine, but I believe it is fairly heavily weighted towards seafood given its location as a port city.  I don’t know that much about Shandong / Qingdao cuisine as it’s not something I grew up eating and it’s not very common in the Chinese areas of Asia that I normally travel to, which are further south.  So this was an interesting experience for me as it’s something I’m not too familiar with.

The restaurant is tiny, it can probably fit about 20-25 people in total.  It’s doesn’t have much in the way of décor, but it has a wall that is covered with pictures of their specials.  The lady who ran the place was pretty nice and the service was fine.  I’m not sure if they speak English, but the menu is completely translated into English and there are lots of pictures, so you shouldn’t have any problem just pointing.

Here’s what we got:

Spicy Potato Strips:

This was given to us as a complementary appetizer.  It was thinly sliced potato strips in a ma la sauce (ma = numbing sensation, la = spicy).  This was quite good, the flavors were clean and the potato strips had a good soft texture.  8/10

 

Peanuts and Dried Fish:

They have a display case where you can see various cold appetizers and I saw this dish and it looked good, so I ordered it.  It’s very simple roasted peanuts and tiny dried fish.  The peanuts tastes like typical salted peanuts and the tiny fish have a nice flavor that isn’t too fishy and tasted good with the salty peanuts.  It’s kind of beer drinking type food, but I enjoy this type of thing.  8/10

Eel:

I asked the lady for a fish recommendation and she said that she liked the eel, so we ordered this. It was sliced eel with green peppers and onions in a slightly spicy and sweet sauce.  The sauce was excellent, it had good flavor and wasn’t gloppy or overly sweet.  The peppers and onions tasted great.  The eel was pretty good, but it was a bit hard to eat because of the way they cut it, you ended up having to try to eat around the bones and it also made some pieces a bit on the chewy side.  If they cut the eel a different way to allow people to easier eat the meat it’d be better, but it was a pretty decent dish overall. 8/10

Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves:

The lady also recommended this as a vegetable dish.  This is a fairly ubiquitous dish that many different regional Chinese cuisines serve.  It’s simply dou miao (snow pea leaves) sautéed with oil, salt and garlic.  The dou miao was cooked well, but they put too much salt in it.  7.25/10

Salt and Pepper Ginseng:

This was ginseng battered it in a salt and pepper batter similar to the typical Cantonese preparation that many people in the US have probably tried.  When I ordered it the lady almost tried to dissuade me from ordering it as she said it’s quite bitter, but I was very curious about it, so I ordered it anyhow.  Normally, you see ginseng used in some herbal soups and things like that, but I’d never seen it cooked in this manner.  The batter was quite oily and heavy although it had decent flavor.  The pieces of ginseng had the consistency of a root like lotus root and had a slightly bitter flavor, but not nearly as bitter as the lady made it out to be.  I thought it was okay, but the batter was way too oily and heavy.  7/10

Fried Pork Chop in Shrimp Sauce:

This was another dish I was quite curious about.  It was pork chops that are covered in a fermented shrimp sauce and then deep fried.  The pork chops were excellent; they were tender and not oily at all.  The batter had a good texture as it was nice and crispy without being overly oily.  The shrimp sauce was interesting.  It had a very fermented flavor and tasted similar to Korean tenjang (fermented bean sauce).  The flavor wasn’t off-putting, but I didn’t really love it either. However, I could tell this dish was well prepared because of the texture of the meat and the light-handed nature of the batter, but the flavoring just didn’t really match my palate.  Overall, I thought the dish was decent, but probably not something I’d get again.  7.5/10

Hot and Spicy Prawns:

The lady also recommended these, so we gave them a try.  These were whole prawns lightly battered and fried with chili salt and green peppers.  The prawns were nicely fresh and the meat had a good firm texture and was sweet.  The frying technique was good as well as they were crispy without being overly oily.  While they looked like they were going to have a lot of flavor, I actually found the seasoning to be too light handed.  They tasted like they barely had any salt on them and didn’t have much spice either.  It was a decent dish, but I don’t think I’d order it again.  7.5/10

Overall, while I thought it was good, I don’t think the flavors really matched my palate and it was more of a novelty for me than a “must try” destination, but that said I think it’s great that Flushing is getting more and more unique regional Chinese cuisines that were unavailable only a few years ago and I hope more places like M&T keep popping up.

Address:
44-09 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 539-4100

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.

Address:
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.

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

Hunan Manor – Excellent Hunan Food in Manhattan and Maybe One of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the New York

Hunan Manor is owned by the same family that owns the much-heralded Hunan House Restaurant in Flushing.   As the name would suggest they specialize in Hunan cuisine.  Hunan is a province in China that’s known for its’ spicy food.  Its’ cuisine is quite popular in China and probably one of the most well known cuisines.  However, despite the fact that you often see Hunan listed on the menus of various Americanized Chinese food places, actual Hunan food is not common in the US.

While it’s tempting to make the analogy that Hunan food is very similar to Sichuan food because it is spicy, I find their food to be quite a bit different.  Their food while spicy (“la”) doesn’t have the “ma”, which is the numbing quality that is synonymous with Sichuan food due to the use of Sichuan peppercorns.  I also find their food to be on the salty side (in a good way) and there tends to be a lot of cured meats compared to other Chinese cuisines.  It is definitely one of my favorite styles of Chinese cooking.

The restaurant is located in the area that seems to be the new mecca for Sichuan cuisines in Manhattan (Murray Hill / Kip’s Bay / Koreatown area) with restaurants such as Szechuan Gourmet, Lan Sheng, Mapo Tofu, Great Sichuan and Grand Sichuan all in this area.

The restaurant is fairly simple with white walls, dark wood furnishings and various Chinese tapestries hanging on the walls.  The service is nice and reasonably fast.  The owners are very nice and everyone can speak English, however you won’t hear much English as most of the clientele is mainland Chinese.

Here’s what we got:

Sliced Fish with Pickle Cabbage Soup:

This was a soup that had sliced white fish with pickled vegetables in it. I was expecting something much heavier in seasoning and flavor, but instead it was quite light.  The broth was a nice fish stock, the fish was fresh and cooked perfectly and the pickled vegetables added a really nice dimension to the soup with the slightly sour flavor.  This was excellent. 8.25/10

Sour String Bean Noodles in Soup:

This was a rice noodle soup dish with a topping that consisted of diced sour string beans, chopped scallions, ginger, red chili and minced pork.  The soup broth was slightly spicy and sour.  The topping was tasty with sourness from the sour string beans, heat from the chili and saltiness from the other toppings.  The rice noodles were decent, but a bit overcooked.  Overall, it was a good dish.  7.75/10 (7.25/10 for noodles, 8.25/10 for everything else)

Cold Cucumber Salad:

This was a simple dish with cold diced cucumbers, minced garlic and red chili in a light sweet soy sauce.  I’m a big fan of this style of cold cucumber and they did a nice job here. 8.25/10

Pumpkin Pancake:

This was mashed pumpkin that had been breaded in a panko type crust.  The pumpkin was perfectly mashed and sweet and the outside was nicely crispy.  The only issue was it was a little too oily, if it has been less oily this would’ve gone from good to excellent.  7.75/10

Steamed Eggplant with Salty Duck Egg:

This was steamed purple eggplant in a light slightly sweet soy sauce topped with minced pork, ground up salted duck yolk, diced scallions and red chili.  While it looked heavy it was actually quite light.  The eggplant was very tender from being steamed and the slight sweetness of the sauce and the saltiness of the toppings all came together very nicely.  This was a very good dish. 8.75/10

Braised Sliced Beef with Chili Sauce:

This was sliced braised beef topped with diced scallions and red chilis in a spicy black bean sauce.  The beef was perfectly tender and the sauce was really good, it was salty from the black beans and spicy from the chili oil.  The toppings were salty, but in a really good way and tasted wonderful with white rice. 8.5/10

Braised Winter Melon:

This dish was “hong shao” braised winter melon.  “Hong shao” preparation involves braising meat or vegetables in a combo of ginger, garlic, chilis, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and other spices.  This was a strange preparation for me because growing up I always had winter melon either in soup or as part of a dessert, so having it as a braised dish was something quite new to me.  The winder melon was cut up into cubes and was very tender. The sauce was very nice, slightly sweet and slightly spicy.  I enjoyed this dish a lot. 8.25/10

Sautéed Preserved Beef with White Chili:

This was one of the cured meat dishes I wrote about earlier in the post that I’ve found to be common in Hunan cuisine.  The meat was good; it was salty and dry from being cured, but dry in a good way.  It had interesting dried white chili topped on it, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten these before.  I liked it, but I didn’t think the white chilis did much for the dish although overall it was good.  7.75/10

Sautéed Pork Stomach with Smoked Bamboo:

I surprised everyone by ordering this and not telling them what it was, but they all ended up liking it a lot though.  This was sliced pork stomach with slices of bamboo shoots with chilis and scallions.  It was actually really hard to tell which pieces were stomach versus which were bamboo until you bit into them.  The stomach was very tender and the bamboo was slightly crunchy and the sauce was a simple soy sauce.  While it was a simple dish, it was really good especially with some rice.  8.5/10

Chairman Mao`s Red-Braised Pork:

This was another “hong shao” dish except this one was with pork belly.  The reason it’s called Chairman Mao’s is because Mao was from Hunan and supposedly this was one of his favorite dishes.  This was really nice, the sauce was great and the pork belly was nicely tender.  I will say it wasn’t quite as flavorful as a really good pork belly dish, but nonetheless this was still quite good.  8.25/10

Cumin Flavored Beef on Toothpicks:

This was beef on toothpicks that had been seasoned with cumin and it was topped with a green vegetable I couldn’t identify, chilis and scallions.  It is very different than other preparations I’ve had; it was much lighter in cumin flavor and it was actually slightly sweet.  The meat was really tender and I liked the flavoring a lot.  This was definitely a pleasant surprise.  8.5/10

Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chiles:

This was a big steamed fish head topped with chilis and scallions in a slightly spicy soy sauce.  I tried this dish at the Flushing branch as well and I actually liked it better here.  The sauce was quite nice as were the toppings.  The fish was clean tasting although there wasn’t that much meat and the meat wasn’t quite as tender as I’d like.  It was a good, but not great dish. 7.75/10

Hunan Style Blue Crab:

This was blue crabs cooked in a slightly spicy sauce.  The shells were so soft that I actually just ate the shell in most cases.  I tried this dish twice and one of the times the shells had a lot of crab roe which was a nice touch.  This was a good dish. 8/10

Green Bean Soup:

This was given to us on the house.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very good; it was too watery and not sweet enough. 6.25/10

Sesame Sticky Rice Ball Soup:

This was tang yuan which are sticky rice dough balls filled with black sesame paste in a soup with egg white and fermented rice.  Tang yuan is one of my favorite Chinese desserts and I thought this was excellent.  It is a very Chinese style dessert, so I’m not sure if everyone will enjoy this as much as I do, but if you like Chinese desserts you will like this. 8.5/10

Overall, I’ve been very impressed by the level of cooking that is going on at Hunan Manor and this is a “must try” type of restaurant as it’s definitely a notch above most Chinese restaurants in NY.  I highly recommend coming here.

Address:
339 Lexington Ave (between 39th St & 40th St)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 682-2883

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

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED, BUT YOU CAN FIND THESE MOONCAKES AT OTHER MALAY RESTAURANTS IN NY**

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.

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

Sol Hyang Lee – Amazing Korean-Chinese BBQ Skewers at One of the Most Unique Restaurants in Flushing

Sol Hyang Lee is one of the many northeast Chinese restaurants that have been popping up in Flushing.  These restaurants are either run by Chinese who live near the border of Korea and can speak Korean or by ethnic Koreans who live in China and can speak both languages as well.  Sol Hyang Lee is run by the later.  Sol Hyang Lee’s specialty is BBQ skewers which you cook at yourself.  My friend’s family (who is Korean) eats here fairly regularly and she was the one who told me about this place.

The restaurant is a longer narrow restaurant that is lined with light wooden booths with white walls that also have exposed brick.  The restaurant looks much more like a Korean restaurant than a Chinese restaurant.  Each booth has a metal box in the middle of the table where they put the hot wood charcoal that you use to grill the skewers.

The customer mix was probably half Chinese and half Korean.  I’m not sure whether the staff speaks English or not, but the menu is fully translated into English, so pointing should be no problem in case they don’t speak English.  They do speak fluent Mandarin and Korean; it’s pretty cool to watch them go back and forth between languages depending on which customers they are speaking to.  They seemed to be pretty nice, but my friend spoke with them in Korean, so I had no idea what was being said.

Just like a normal Korean restaurant they served ban chan (small dishes) at the beginning of the meal, which were similar to normal Korean ban chan, but you could tell there were some differences in the way they spiced them.

Pickled Cabbage and Daikon Radish:

This was pickled cabbage and daikon radish in a very light slightly sweet and tangy soy sauce.  It was pretty good.  7.5/10

Bean Sprouts:

This was a typical Korean preparation of bean sprouts with green onions and sliced carrots in sesame oil.  The bean sprouts tasted fresh and the sesame oil was nice.  7.75/10

Liver:

This was an interesting ban chan as I’ve never had it before.  It was sliced liver with celery in a slightly spicy and salty sauce.  The liver was cooked nicely and was not metallic tasting or weird tasting at all as badly prepared liver can be.  In fact it wasn’t liver-y tasting whatsoever.  I thought it was pretty decent.  7.25/10

Sweet Pickled Radish Strips:

This was another typical Korean preparation of sliced pickled radish strips in a sweet chili sauce.  Although typical in flavoring it was done well.  7.75/10

Cucumber Kimchi:

This was just a normal cucumber kimchi, however I don’t think they normally give it as a ban chan I believe it needs to ordered separately.  They gave it to us gratis because the girl had forgotten our beer and apologized and then brought this out to us to make up for it.  As it turned out it was excellent.  The cucumbers were crispy and not mushy, the seasoning was nicely spicy and sweet, but not too sweet.  8/10

Here’s a picture of the metal BBQ in the middle of the table:

Cumin Spice:

They give you a bowl of slightly spicy cumin powder to dip your skewers in.  It’s really delicious and I was basically dousing all my skewers in it. 8.5/10

Here’s a picture of the skewers when they are brought to the table raw:

Here’s a picture of skewers on the BBQ:

Beef Skewer:

The beef was delicious, it was tender and had a good clean flavor and was kicked up a notch with the cumin spice. 8/10

Lamb Chunk Skewer:

My friend recommended this one and I’m glad she did.  This was definitely my favorite skewer.  It was slightly fatty chunks of lamb that were already marinated in a slightly sweet soy sauce.  The meat was very tender and was melt in your mouth good.  The flavoring of the sauce was really good, so you didn’t need any cumin or other seasonings.  It wasn’t gamey at all and even my girlfriend who doesn’t like lamb thought it was delicious.  8.5/10

Pork Heart:

This was slices of pork heart.  Heart is a muscle with basically no fat, so it has a firm texture, but it’s also a pretty clean tasting meat.  The version here was good, a little chewy and salty and great with cumin.  7.75/10

Chicken Gizzard:

Chicken gizzard is very Korean; it is pretty common in Korea probably more so than any other place I’ve ever been to, so it was no surprise that it was on the menu.  It’s similar to heart in texture and taste.  The version here was quite good.  7.75/10

Squid:

This was just squid with a little chili oil on it. I wasn’t sure if BBQ’ing squid would make it too chewy, but as it turned the squid was actually quite tender.  I was pleasantly surprised by this. 8/10

Sauteed Shredded Pork in Sweet Bean Sauce (Jing Jiang Rou Si 京酱肉丝):

This is a typical northern Chinese dish consisting of shredded pork in a slightly sweet bean sauce that is served with shredded leek, sliced cucumber, cilantro and tofu wrappers.  You then take the meat put it in the wrapper with the condiments and eat it as a wrap.  I have a feeling that this dish might be the basis for the “moo shu pork” you see at Americanized Chinese take-out places.  I thought it was pretty good, the pork was tender and the sauce was reasonably good although I would’ve liked it slightly sweeter as it the sauce was fairly mild tasting.  I liked the condiments a lot in particular the shredded leek.  The tofu wrapper was decent, but a little plain.  Personally, I’d prefer it in a mantou bun (steamed white bun), but overall it was a pretty decent dish.  7.5/10

Quail with Chili:

The waitress recommended this.  It was quail in a sweet and spicy soy sauce with chilis.  The meat was tender and the sauce was very delicious.  It’s kind of like eating buffalo wings.  Also, it tasted best when it was hot; it wasn’t as good once it got colder, so I’d recommend eating it when it first comes out. 8/10

Neung Myun:

We ordered this at the end of the meal because we wanted something cool and light to finish the meal.  It looked quite a bit different than the regular Korean neung myun.  It also tasted different to as it was sweeter, spicier and more tangy than the typical preparation.  The noodles were decent, but not great.  My girlfriend didn’t like it that much as she thought it was too sweet, but the rest of us thought it was decent although I’ve definitely had better bowls of neung myun.  6.75/10

Overall, this was one of the more exciting restaurants I’ve found in Flushing.  Not only was it quite unique, but the food was very good.  I highly recommend trying it out.

Also, my friend said that the place next door which is also is a Korean Chinese place has better dishes, but the BBQ skewers is why you come here as the restaurant next door isn’t a skewer restaurant.  I’m looking forward to trying the place next door soon.

Address:
13673 41st Ave
Flushing, NY 11355
(347) 732-0350

Xie Family Foods – Delicious Cold Dishes from Tianjin at the Golden Mall

Xia Family Foods is a stall located in the Golden Mall in Flushing, which specializes in cuisine from Tianjian and seems to offer two types of food: xiao chi (small snacks) and dumplings / buns.

Tianjin is a northern port city in China that is located a little southeast of Bejing.  I’m far from an expert in their cuisine and a lot of it is as foreign to me as it is to someone who has never eaten Chinese food as this was not what I grew up eating.  I know a few of their famous dishes, but I really don’t know too much about their food so I was quite interested to try it.

We came here after as a last stop on a mini food crawl through Flushing.  The stall was actually featured on Anthony Bourdain’s episode about the outer boroughs.  I believe he had some head cheese when he came.  The stall has several cold dishes laid out which you can choose from and also has dumplings and various buns you can order to be made fresh.  We were too full to try any of the dumplings or buns, but we did try several of the cold dishes.

Here’s what we got:

Smoked Tofu in Chili Oil (Dou Gan):

Dou gan is a type of smoked tofu that has a much more firm texture than normal tofu; it almost reminds me of a cheese in terms of texture.  It had a nice smoky flavor and it was covered in spicy chili oil.  It’s a fairly typical Chinese preparation, but it was done very nicely here and the flavors went very well together, I thought this was excellent. 8.25/10

Pickled Potato Strips:

This is thinly julienned pieces of potato that are pickled in a vinegar sauce.  This is not uncommon in Chinese cooking, but it’s not my favorite dish; I mainly ordered it for someone else.  It tastes just like it sounds and while the version here was prepared well, it’s just generally not a dish I’m in love with.  7/10

Spicy Pig Ear (Er Duo):

Pig ears sound really weird to most people, but they are delicious.  They have a firm texture and a very mild flavor and basically taste like whatever sauce you put them in.  Here they are prepared in spicy chili oil with little pieces of cilantro that go really well with the pig ears.  These were great and were the best version that I’ve had in NY besides Nan Xiang which is on par although prepared slightly differently.  8.25/10

Wood Ear Mushroom (Mu Er):

I like wood ear mushrooms a lot, they almost taste more like seaweed than a mushroom and they look a lot more like seaweed than a mushroom.  The version here was prepared in a tangy vinegary sauce.  This was the one preparation I wasn’t so keen on; the sauce was just too tangy and overpowered the mushrooms.  6.75/10

Beef Tendon (Niu Jin):

This was beef tendon that I believe was preserved in a mixture of soy sauce, five spice and star anise.  You could really taste the flavors of all of them.  Because it was served room temperature it had a somewhat waxy texture, but not in a bad way.  I thought this was pretty tasty and sort of reminds me of a beef jerky.  7.75/10

Overall, I liked the food here and if you’re going to the Golden Mall I’d definitely recommend coming and trying some of the interesting and delicious cold dishes at Xie Family Foods.

Address:
41-28 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355

Soy Bean Chan – Awesome Salty Silky Tofu (Xian Dou Fu)

Soy Bean Chan is a place I love, I basically always stop here when I’m in Flushing.  It specializes in soy bean products such as soy milk (dou jiang) and silky tofu (dou hua).  They have a few other offerings, but the main reason to come here is for their soy bean products.

The “store” is a stand that is set up on the side of a flower shop.  The story goes that a long time ago it was just a stand, but it was so popular and did so well that eventually the owners made enough money to open the flower shop.  However, they kept the stand as their customers loved their products.  I am certainly glad they kept the stand open.

On my latest trip though, I came for one reason which was because I really wanted to report on their xian dou hua (salty silky tofu), I’ve had it a couple of times before, but it had been a long time since I’d had it and I thought it was something people should know about as it’s difficult to find anywhere in the US.

Xian Dou Hua (Salty Silky Tofu):

Tofu comes in various grades based on its consistency ranging anywhere from silky to very firm.  This tofu is silky meaning it’s very delicate and soft to the point where if you simply press on it with a spoon it falls apart.  The quality of the tofu at Soy Bean Chan is excellent, it has great consistency and the flavor is very clean tasting.  It is prepared here by putting it in a small plastic container and then topping it with a mixture of soy sauce, pickled vegetables, chilis and scallions.  The saltiness of the soy sauce, the slight spice of the chilis and the crunch and slightly sour flavor of the pickled vegetables goes so well with the tofu.  I really liked this and I would highly recommend trying this.  8.75/10

Tian Dou Jiang (Sweet Soy Bean Milk):

This is their regular sweet soy bean milk.  We got it cold because it was hot out although I do like it better hot as you can taste the soy bean flavor better when it’s hot.  The soy bean milk was good as always, very clean tasting, not chalky at all and you can actually taste the flavor of the soy beans; far superior to most of the soy bean milk you get in NY.  Make sure to specify whether you want a) it hot or cold and b) sweet (they won’t make it sweet unless you specify it).  Also, make sure to mix up the soy bean milk once they put the sweet syrup in otherwise you’ll end up with part that is very sweet and part that is completely not sweet.  8.25/10

I love specialist who make a few things really good and stick to that.  I always complain that the US Chinese restaurants don’t have enough of these specialists like they do in Asia, so it makes me happy to have a place like Soy Bean Chan that does things just right.  I highly recommend stopping in.

Address:
13526 Roosevelt Ave (bet Prince and Main Street)
Flushing, NY 11354

White Bear – My Favorite Dumplings in NY

White Bear is a no frills dumpling restaurant in Flushing.  There isn’t a whole lot to say about the place other than they’ve got some very good dumplings.

They advertise about having Shan Dong style dumplings; Shan Dong is a province in China and one of the things they are known for is having good dumplings.

The place is basically a tiny rundown white room with about 4 tables and you can maybe fit 8 people in it.  Most of their business is take out or people eating quickly.  I generally get mine to go and eat at the park down the block.

There is a husband and wife team running the place.  I don’t know if they speak English, but everything is written in English, so you’ll be fine by pointing.  The woman can be a little surly sometimes, but is generally fine.

On to the food:

Wontons in Hot Oil:

This is the reason I come here.  These are boiled wontons filled with pork and minced cabbage.  They are topped with spicy red chili oil that I believe is homemade, pickled vegetables and diced scallions.  Since they are boiled they won’t be as oily as most dumplings you get at $1 dumpling type places.  The skins are reasonably delicate and the filling is always very good, perfectly minced with no odd pieces in it.  The toppings are what really make these great; the combo of chili oil and the salty and sour flavor of the pickled vegetables go really well with the dumplings.  These are comparable to the type of thing you can get in Asia.  I highly recommend trying these.  8.5/10

Frozen Dumplings:

When I’m in Flushing I almost always big up a bag of 25 or 50 frozen dumplings at White Bear.  They cook up great either fried or boiled.  I usually eat them with soy sauce mixed with spicy sesame oil.  These are a great snack at home.  8/10

I highly recommend trying this place out if you happen to be in Flushing and have some room in your stomach.  I really think they turn out one of the better quality products in Flushing.

Address:
135-02 Roosevelt Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 961-2322

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.

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

LTO (Limited Time Only) – Dinner by Chef Eddie Huang

LTO is a “pop up” restaurant showcasing a specific chefs’ tasting menu in the space that used to be Broadway East (B East).  I got an email from the LTO listserv and I was excited to see Eddie Huang as I obviously love Chinese and Chinese influenced food.

The restaurant looks exactly the same as it used to.  It’s a sort of cavern-esk room with exposed white brick walls with red booths and wooden tables.  I generally liked the décor.  Although it was probably only 25% full of customers, so it felt a bit empty.

The service was a little disjointed as we had multiple servers and it was hard to get the waiters attention.  The servers were nice though.

Anyhow onto the food:

Fried Oyster Po Boy:

This was the typical Baohaus gua bao type of thing with a steamed bun, fried oysters, pickled aikon and carrot and a pate spread.  I thought this was excellent, the oysters were perfectly fried, the pate spread was a nice addition and the pickled daikon really went with well with it. I hope he introduces this to Baohaus because these were really good. 8.75/10

Cumin Spiced Beef Skewers with Scallions:

This was simply grilled beef skewers flavored with cumin and there was also a side of grilled scallions.  I wasn’t crazy about this, the beef was a little overcooked and the seasoning was a bit bland.  I did like the scallions though. 6.5/10

Icebox Duck Wings:

This was duck wings braised in soy sauce, five spice and maybe a few other things, in Chinese they call this preparation lu wei.  Duck wings don’t have much meat on them, so they are mainly skin.  I’m generally a big fan of lu wei meats and I thought it was pretty decent, but it didn’t blow me away.  7.5/10

Peanuts in Black Vinegar:

These are roasted peanuts in black vinegar with chopped cilantro.  These were great.  The combination of flavors is self explanatory, but all go really well with each other. 8.25/10

137 Fried Gator:

This was gator tail that was battered and fried.  The batter was seasoned with cinnamon.  I wasn’t crazy about this, the cinnamon flavored batter wasn’t my thing and the meat was decent, but I was hoping it would be more tender than it was. 6.75/10

Sesame Liang Pi Salad:

This was a take on Xian Famous Foods signature dish using cold wheat noodles in a spicy sesame sauce.  I thought this was pretty weak though, nowhere near as good as the version at Xian. It wasn’t very spicy and the sauce wasn’t all that flavorful. 6.5/10

FOB Chicken:

This was a roast chicken served with a slightly sweet chili sauce.  This was really good, this was probably one of the best roast chickens I’ve had in a really long time.  The skin was nicely crispy, but not overcooked and the meat was very tender even the chicken breast was really tender.  The sauce went well with the chicken.  I need to give Eddie Huang some serious credit for this, I really liked this. 8.75/10

Salt Cod and Chinese Broccoli Fried Rice:

This was served with the FOB chicken.  I really like salted fish in my fried rice, so I thought this was excellent.  It was a bit oily, but in a good way.  This accompanied the FOB chicken very well. 8/10

DMV Steamed Blue Crab:

This was two different types of blue crab; one was Maryland blue crab seasoned with Old Bay spice and the other was steamed Shanghai blue crab served with a scallion and ginger oil sauce.   Both were excellent, the Maryland blue crab tasted just like the typical Maryland blue crab preparation and the Shanghai blue crab was really nice with good sweet meat, I didn’t even think it needed the scallion and ginger oil sauce although it did go well with it.  This was a big hit at the table. 8.25/10

Hunan Corn Kernels with Leeks and Ham Hock:

This was corn kernels with smoked ham hock and leeks seasoned with a spicy seasoning.  I really like this type of preparation and this version was quite good.  The smoky saltiness of the ham hocks really goes very nicely with the sweetness of the corn and the spicy seasoning brings it all together.  I’m a fan of this dish.  8/10

Hush Puppies:

This was corn hush puppies served with a sweet chili sauce.  They were nicely fried and the chili sauce went well with them. I liked this dish. 7.75/.10

 

 

Soy Caramel Bread Pudding a la Mode:

This was exactly was it sounds like, but surprisingly the ice cream was ginger flavored although it was pretty mild and it had a nice salty caramel sauce on it.  I was very pleasantly surprised by this delicious dessert as it tasted a lot better than it sounded. 8/10

Overall, there were some hits and misses, but the dishes that were good were great.  I enjoyed the meal quite a bit and some of the dishes like the FOB chicken really showcased his skills nicely.  It was of a bit of an overkill from a pure quantity standpoint (we were so full when we left), but whatever that’s a good problem to have and that happens at pretty much every tasting menu.  I’d definitely recommend trying this out if Eddie Huang decides to do another “pop up” type of deal.

Address:
171 East Broadway (between Pike St & Rutgers St)
Manhattan, NY 10002
www.LTONYC.com

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

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**

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.

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

Gu Xiang – Still Serving Good Home Style Taiwanese Food

Gu Xiang is one of my favorite Taiwanese restaurants in Flushing, I’ve written about them twice on chowhound, which you can see here and here.  However, I wanted to do a more full review with pictures as I think they’re worth talking about.

When most people think about Taiwanese food they usually think about street food and while street food is certainly a part of the cuisine, there is a large part of the cuisine that is just as good and maybe better inside the owner’s home.  In fact the best meal I’ve ever had in Taiwan was in a tiny restaurant that was located in their home.  Gu Xiang gives you a small glimpse into that type of Taiwanese cuisine as the food tastes more home style.  You come here for the regular dishes not their street dishes.

The restaurant is pretty small.  The front part sells bian dang food (lunch box) to go and another part of the restaurant sectioned off to the left that sells bao zi (steamed buns) and also has some extra seating.

The service is brisk, but the people are pretty nice.  I’m not really sure how well they speak English, but menu is written in English, so you can always point.  Also, they also have a ridiculously good deal where you get 1 soup + 2 dishes for $15, it’s a ton of food and can easily feed 3 people.

Here’s what we got:

Clam Soup (Ge Li Tang):

This is a light clam soup flavored with ginger, white pepper and scallions.  It’s very simple with the flavors of the ingredients all standing for themselves.  I like this soup as it’s refreshing and is very much the type of thing you could eat at home all the time. 7.75/10

Sliced Lung By The Married Couple (Fu Qi Fei Pian):

This Sichuan dish sounds really weird in English, but it’s delicious.  It’s a cold dish consisting of sliced beef, tripe, tendon and other offal parts in a ma la sauce (spicy and numbing).  The actual pieces of meat were pretty decent, but the sauce was too weak.  It didn’t have enough numbing (ma) or spiciness (la).  You can get better versions at any of the decent Sichuan restaurants in NY. 6.75/10

Oyster Omelette (O Ah Jian):

Although I don’t generally order street dishes at Gu Xiang, a friend wanted this so we ordered it.  O ah jian is a dish that is pretty hit or miss even in Taiwan.  The version here was better than other versions I’ve had in NY as it wasn’t too gooey and was a bit crispy, the oysters tasted fine and the sauce was pretty decent.  Although that’s not saying much as the version I’ve had at other places is just bad.  End of the day the version it doesn’t hold a candle to a good version in Taiwan, but this is better than other versions you find in NY, which are generally pretty bad.  6.5/10

Sauteed Water Spinach (Kong Xin Cai):

Kong xin cai is a great vegetable that is like a better version of regular spinach. We asked for it prepared sautéed with oil, garlic and salt. The vegetable tasted fresh and was not overcooked, this was an excellent version. 8/10

Beef with Spicy Green Peppers (La Jiao Niu Rou):

This is my favorite dish here, the dish is sliced beef stir fried with spicy green peppers.  It has this great flavor you get from cooking it correctly in a wok, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s great.  The beef is tender and the spicy green peppers give it such a good flavor.  This is the exact type of thing you eat at home and they really prepare this dish exceptionally. 8.5/10

Spicy Squid:

This was slices of squid, onions, basil, carrots, mushrooms and red peppers stir fried in a light brown sauce that was slightly sweet and spicy topped with minced cilantro. This almost tasted Thai, but not as spicy as a Thai dish would be.  This dish was pretty self explanatory, but I thought everything went well together and the whole table liked this dish. 7.75/10

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji):

This is a very typical Taiwanese dish consisting of chicken on the bone cooked in a sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil (hence the three cups).  It also has sugar, basil and ginger in it.  This was the first time I’ve ordered it at Gu Xiang, but I’m sorry I didn’t before.  This is hands down the best version I’ve had in NY.  This is pretty similar to what you get in Asia.  The chicken is tender and the sweet and saltiness of the sauce combined with the basil is so good.  I highly recommend this dish.  8.5/10

Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp (Xia Ren Chao Dan):

This is another home style dish consisting of scrambled eggs, shrimp and scallions.  It tastes exactly like what it sounds like although it’s been cooked in a wok, so it’s got a bit of that wok flavor.  This was quite good, the egg was perfectly, the shrimp tasted fresh and the scallions added a nice flavor to the dish.  8/10

Sauteed Corn, Peas and Tomato:

I like these types of dishes although a lot of people at the table complained they could cook this at home in two seconds.  That said it tasted good, it’s simply corn, peas and tomato sautéed with oil and salt.  I liked this, but I think it might be a little too simple for some people. 7/10

Sha Cha Beef with Kong Xin Cai (Sha Cha Niu Rou Kong Xin Cai):

Sha cha is a sauce that is made of soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, dried fish and dried shrimp.  My friend asked for this as it’s not on the menu, it was sliced beef sautéed in a brown sauce that uses sha cha sauce put over kong xin cai. I thought it was pretty good although could’ve used a little more salt. 7.5/10

Tea Smoked Duck:

To caveat this, I don’t like tea smoked duck as a dish.  One of my friends ordered it and I ate some because it was there.  The duck was nice and tender, the skin was nicely crispy as well, but the smoky flavor of the tea leaves and camphor aren’t my favorite flavor although I will eat it if it’s in front of me.  The mantou were a little dried out, but this was a decent version of the dish. 6.75/10

Overall, I really like Gu Xiang for their more home style Taiwanese food and I’d highly recommend trying it out.  When you go, I’d avoid their street food as most of it is just okay.  Stick to a lot of their stir fries and in particular I recommend getting the beef with spicy green peppers and the three cup chicken.

Address:
135-38 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 939-5468

Red Chopsticks 紅筷子 – Tasty Taiwanese in Flushing

I’ve been meaning to try Red Chopsticks 紅筷子 for a long time as it is probably the only Taiwanese restaurant in Flushing I hadn’t tried, so I finally got around to it last weekend.

When most people think about Taiwanese food they instantly think about street food and Taiwanese street food is certainly among the best in the world.  However, there is a lot more to Taiwanese food, in fact the best meal I’ve ever had in Taiwan was not a street meal, but a meal in some tiny family run restaurant that was literally in their house. The menu here is not really about the street food (even though they have it) as no one was ordering street food; the clientele was mainly Taiwanese families ordering more family style dishes, so I tried to order more like them.

It’s a little restaurant with no English sign with signs in Chinese advertising their specialties.  I’m pretty sure that the restaurant used to be a Korean restaurant as the décor does not look Chinese at all with a lot of dark wood.  However, it is a nice change as it’s much nicer than most Chinese restaurants in Flushing.  It has a very nice sort of homey atmosphere, kind of feels like being in Asia.

The service was good and everyone was very nice, I’m not sure how their English is as we never spoke to them in English, but the menu is translated to English so you should be fine no matter what.  Although they do have several specials written only in Chinese on the wall, which I didn’t notice until the end of the meal as another table had a crab sticky rice on their table and I couldn’t find it on the menu then I noticed it on the wall.

Here’s what we got:

Cold Jelly Fish (Liang Ban Hai Zhe):

This was a typical preparation of sliced cold jellyfish tossed in sesame oil and salt and accompanied by sliced sweet pickled radish and carrots.  This was very good, the jellyfish had that good almost crunchy texture and when accompanied with the sesame oil and radish it was just right.  8.5/10

Stinky Tofu (Chou Dou Fu):

I had heard that Red Chopsticks makes the best stinky tofu in NY.  Now that’s not a very high bar as the best I’ve had is mediocre, but I had to give it a try anyhow.  The tofu was the correct texture where it’s crispy on the outside and retained a good interior of being softer although not super soft.  The soy sauce was good and the pickled cabbage on top was very good, it had a good sweet flavor with chilis for spice. The thing that was missing was that it was not stinky enough.  Stinky tofu is like a cheese where it needs a certain level of stinky flavor to give it good flavor.  Overall, it was the best version I’ve had in NY although if you’ve had it in Taiwan this won’t quite get you there.  Also it made it a lot better when you ask for chili paste, which is the normal way I eat it in Taiwan. 7.5/10

Taiwanese Hamburger (Gua Bao):

Gua bao is my all-time favorite Taiwanese street food.  It’s sort of famous now in NY because of people like David Chang (Momofuku) and Eddie Huang (BaoHaus).  It’s a white steamed bun with stewed pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts, pickled vegetable and this brown sweet powder stuff.  I pretty much always have to at least try it everywhere.  However, the version here is pretty mediocre and I wouldn’t recommend ordering it.  The pork belly wasn’t tender enough and wasn’t that flavorful and it didn’t have enough condiments. 6.5/10

Chicken Roll (Ji Juan):

This is not that common of a dish to find in NY.  It’s minced pork and fish paste mixed with various spices wrapped in a thin bean curd sheet that is steamed and then pan fried in oil. You eat it with sweet orange sauce that kind of tastes like a better version of the duck sauce you get in Chinese take-out joints.  They make this really good here, this is pretty much exactly what it tastes like in Asia.  The bean curd skin is super crispy almost like phyllo dough and the inside paste is tender and flavorful.  It goes really well with the sweet sauce.  This was the best dish of the night and I would come back here again just for this.  Btw they list it in English as a “pork roll” on the menu. 8.75/10

Drunken Pork Ribs (Zui Pai Gu):

Most Taiwanese are Hokkien / Min Nan (southern Fujian) and you can really see the Fujian influence in this dish.  I’ve had almost the exact same dish in the Fujian part of Chinatown in Manhattan.  It’s spare ribs and taro that has been lightly battered and fried and then sautéed in a semi-sweet sauce that uses alcohol (I think rice wine) and garlic. I always like sauces like this one.  The rib meat was tender and the taro was cooked nicely.  This was a good dish.  7.75/10

Sticky Rice in Bamboo (You Fan):

They advertise that they have these bamboo rice dishes, where the rice is cooked in hallow bamboo shoot.  This was you fan, which translates to “oil rice”.  It’s basically seasoned glutinous rice with mushrooms and some other vegetables.  The version here was decent, but in Taiwan it’s a lot more flavorful, I thought it was a bit on the bland side.  7/10

Pan Fried Flounder (Gan Jian Long Li):

A lot of tables seemed to be getting seafood, so I decided to get a pan fried flounder. This was a typical preparation where the fish was covered in corn starch and then was pan fried in oil on both sides.  Soy sauce was poured over it with some shallots.  I thought it was pretty good, the meat was tender and clean tasting and the sauce goes great with it.  One of my friends thought that the skin should be crispier, but I liked it and would get this again.  7.75/10

Salt and Pepper Frog (Jiao Yen Tian Ji):

This was salt and pepper battered pieces of frog topped with fried minced garlic and scallions.  The batter was crispy and although it looked kind of heavy / oily, it was actually not that heavy and had a nice salty flavor.  The meat was very tender and good tasting.  A friend of mine described frog meat perfectly as “it tastes like chicken, but has a more tender consistency somewhere between fish and chicken”.  The bones were still in, which is always a little annoying about frog, but other than that it was pretty good.  7.75/10

Razor Clams with Basil:

This was razor clams out of the shell stir fried with onions, basil and peppers in slightly sweet black bean sauce.  My friends thought it almost tasted more like a Thai dish than a Chinese dish as the flavor of the basil was very apparent.  The razor clams were decent and the sauce went decently with it, but overall I didn’t love this dish, it wasn’t bad, just nothing really stood out about it. 7/10

A Vegetable (A Cai):

A cai is a vegetable that literally translates to “A vegetable”, it’s a little like spinach, but has a more firm consistency.  It is very common in Taiwanese cuisine.  It was blanched and quickly stir fried with some oil and garlic.  It was a decent, but not great version. 7.25/10

Egg With Crab:

his was weird and I thought I was ordering a typical Taiwanese dish which is scrambled egg that normally is served with either tomato or shrimp, but in this case it said it was served with crab.  However, what came out was a big egg omelet with scallions and blue crab cut up, but still in the shell. It looked good, but the crab was not really noticeable unless you pulled a piece out and the egg was a little overcooked.  I wouldn’t order this again.  6.25/10

Overall, I enjoyed the meal, it had some hits and misses, but I will definitely come back as I could tell that there are more gems to be found here because some of the dishes we had were quite good.

Address:
136-17 41st Ave
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 661-6655

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao – There is More Than The Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)

When I originally reviewed Nan Xiang I proclaimed it the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in NYC () and I still stick to that claim.  However, on my latest trip I found that they have some cold appetizers that they really excel at and I’d like to highlight some of those in this review as they are really worth trying.

As I wrote in my other review, the décor is fairly simple and it is a little cramped in the restaurant, but everything is clean and fairly new looking.  The service is very brisk, but generally fine.  Be prepared for a wait as there is almost always a wait on a weekend.  I generally think going either early or later in the afternoon is better as the prime time lunch and dinner crowd can be kind of a pain.

Here’s a picture of the cold appetizer station, which was the basis of me writing this review:

Since I described the restaurant in more detail last time, I’ll get straight into the food:

Fried Bean Gluten (Si Xian Kau Fu):

If you’ve never had wheat gluten before it looks similar to fried tofu, the texture is a spongy and by itself it tastes fairly plain.  Here’s a Wikipedia article about wheat gluten (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_gluten_(food)).  At Nan Xiang their preparation is a typical preparation of this cold fried wheat gluten appetizer.  The wheat gluten has been fried and cooked with sliced wood ear mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and onions; all of the ingredients including the wheat gluten have been marinated in a semi-sweet soy sauce.  The result is great, the semi sweet sauce goes really well with everything and it tastes great.  The version here is very good and pretty similar to what you get in Asia. 8/10

Cold Smoked Tofu (Dou Gan Si):

This is another appetizer that is pretty common in places like Shanghai and Taiwan.  It is a smoked tofu that kind of looks like a block of cheese if you didn’t know what it was as it is brown on the outside and a creamy off white color inside.  They slice it into thin slices then toss it with sesame oil, chopped cilantro and some salt.  While it sounds plain, it’s actually delicious and flavorful.   I love the texture and simple flavor of dou gan (smoked tofu).  The version here is done nicely.  7.75/10

Sliced Dried Pig Ear in Red Oil (Er Duo):

While pig ear sounds kind of gross, it’s actually very mild tasting and delicious when done right.  The problem with pig ear is that if you prepare it wrong the texture is too hard and chewy, however they do it correctly at Nan Xiang.  The pig ear is cut into thin slices and then tossed in slightly spicy red oil and chopped cilantro.  The slices have the perfect texture of being somewhat firm, but easy to bite; it’s sort of hard to explain, but if you try it you’ll see what I mean.  This was really good and close to what you’d get in Asia.  This hands down beat any other place in NY for the best version I’ve had in NY.   8.25/10

Spicy Bamboo Shoot:

This is another common cold appetizer dish that is sliced bamboo shoots tossed in slightly spicy red oil.  While not quite as good as the previous appetizers I mentioned it was tasty.  The bamboo was nice and the red oil complimented it nicely. 7.25/10

Noodle With Scallion Sauce (Cong You Ban Mian):

This is a bowl of thin noodles with a sauce made out of soy sauce and scallion oil.  The scallions were browned, fermented and put in the oil.  The noodles were reasonably al dente, they weren’t hand pulled, but they were good and as I said in my former post they remind me of ramen. The sauce is what makes the dish and the scallion oil and soy combination is really good.  7.75/10

Steamed Pork Buns (Xiao Long Bao):

I’ll stick to what my review said last time as they tasted exactly the same.  The skins were much better than any of the other places in NY, normally I’ve found XLB in NY to be too doughy and not tender enough. The filling was what really set them apart from most of the mediocre XLB in NY, all of the other places in NY have overly heavy and greasy filling. Not the case here, the filling was very good, the meat was tender and the soup was very flavorful but not greasy and heavy.  7.75/10

Steamed Crab Meat & Pork Buns (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao):

This was actually almost exactly the same except with a little bit of crab meat and orange crab roe.  I prefer these generally although at Nan Xiang I don’t feel like there is much difference.  7.75/10

Sweet Soy bean Milk (Tian Dou Jiang):

This was cold sweet soy bean milk, it was good, not chalky and clean tasting. It was better than last time I was here and probably on par with the flower shop lady on Roosevelt.  Overall, this was quite good.  7.75/10

I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at this meal especially the four cold appetizers I got.  I’d probably get every single one of their cold appetizers if I was with enough people.  I’d definitely recommend coming here to check it out as it’s probably one of the better restaurants in Flushing Chinatown.

Address:
38-12 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 321-3838

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.

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

Kuma Inn – Asian Fusion That Actually Works, Filipino-Chinese Tapas in the Lower Eastside

Kuma Inn is a popular restaurant that is located in the Lower Eastside.  It’s Asian fusion restaurant that serves a mix of Filipino and Chinese tapas style dishes.

The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of a building on Ludlow Street above Los Feliz.  It feels like you’re walking into someone’s apartment and I actually think that it might have been someone’s apartment at some point in time.  The room is dark, fairly minimalist in terms of decor and feels very low-key, but it is a bit loud because it’s such a small place.  The restaurant fits around 20-25 people.  It has an open kitchen that you see when you walk in.

The service was pretty good although our waiter was kind of hard to understand because she had a very thick Filipino accent, but she was very nice and attentive.

On to the food (sorry for poor quality of some the pics, it’s pretty dark in there and I couldn’t get great pics):

Steamed Edamame With Thai Basil-Lime Oil:

These were interesting, the edamame were boiled just like they would be in any normal Japanese restaurant, but they were flavored with a Thai basil-lime oil.  It was a nice combination as the lime flavor went well with edamame. 7/10

Deep–Fried Pork Belly Lechon Kawali With Atchara:

I love pork belly and I particularly love the contrast of crispy skin and tender pork. I was looking forward to trying this dish as someone else had recommended it to me.  However, it was uneven in quality as some pieces had nice crispy skin and reasonably tender meat, but other pieces were dried out and the skin was overcooked so it was sort of tough.  It is served with a soy sauce with chopped red thai chilis in it. This sauce is commonly served in Cantonese restaurants and other Southern Chinese areas like Singapore. The soy sauce with chilis is good and compliments the meat nicely, but it is quite spicy if you eat the peppers.  Overall, the experience varied heavily depending on which piece you got. (7/10 for the good pieces, 5.5/10 for the bad pieces)

Coconut Rice:

I wanted some rice on the side and the waitress recommended this.  The rice was nice and fluffy and I liked the coconut flavor was nice. Overall, it was pretty good, it reminded me a bit of Hainanese chicken rice, but it was a little heavier and not quite as fluffy. 7/10

Sautéed Chinese Sausage With Thai Chili-Lime Sauce:

This was sautéed Chinese sausage served with a Thai Chili-Lime sauce and sticky rice. The combo of the sweetness of the Chinese sausage and the spicy lime sauce was a perfect combination.  The sticky rice also compliments it very well. This was really good. 8.25/10

Fried Langoustine:

This was an off the menu special.  It was a simple breaded fried langoustine served with a sauce that was similar to a tartar sauce. The breading was nice, crispy and not oily at all.  The meat was fresh and sweet and the heads were delicious.  The tartar sauce went well with the dish. Overall, it was a nice dish. 7/10

Seared Ahi Tuna with Thai Chili Miso Vinaigrette:

The ahi was decent, but not great quality.  The sauce was alright, but I thought it was a little bland and didn’t do much for the dish.  Overall, it was alright, but I don’t think I’d order it again. 6.75/10

Tita Em’s Adobong Pal, Chicken Wings, Rice Vinegar, Garlic And Soy:

These were chicken wings in an adobo sauce, but it was different than most adobo sauce.  The wings were nice and tender and I thought the sauce tasted nice, it was savory and flavorful without being overpowering.  Overall, these were good. 7/10

Grilled Whole Dorado in Soy Sesame Oil Sauce:

This was another off the menu special.  The Dorado looked a little different than most Dorado I’ve seen, my friend asked our waitress where it was from and she said it was from Thailand.  It was cooked decently; the meat was tender and moist although I thought the skin was a bit on the mushy side, I would’ve preferred if it was a little crispier.  The meat was slightly fishy, fishier than most Dorado I’ve had which isn’t fishy at all.  I thought the sauce was okay, but a little on the bland side.  It was a decent dish, but didn’t come together as well as I thought it would have.  6.75/10

Overall, I thought it was a good meal and it’s definitely something a little bit different from the norm in Manhattan.  The Chinese sausage dish alone is totally worth coming for.  I’d recommend trying Kuma Inn out.

Address:
113 Ludlow St (between Delancey St & Rivington St), 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10002
(212) 353-8866
www.kumainn.com/

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:

Tripe:

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.

Address:
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:

Tea:

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.

Address:
13 Doyers St (between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-6047
www.nomwah.com

Saburi – Interesting and Tasty Wafu Chuka (Japanese-Style Chinese Food)

It seems like almost every culture has its’ own version of Chinese food. Wafu Chuka 味風中華 is Japan’s version of Chinese food and to my knowledge Saburi is New York’s only Wafu Chuka restaurant.  While I’m generally not much of a fan of fusion food and I don’t really like American-Chinese food, for some reason I do like certain Japanese-Chinese, Korean-Chinese and Indian-Chinese food, so I was glad to find this place. I’ve actually been going here quite a bit because it’s close to my girlfriend’s apartment. At this point, I’ve probably tried around 60-70% for the menu, but this post is going to be about some of their better dishes.

The head chef and owner’s name is Jun Cui. He trained under Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in Japan and I believe he is ethnically Chinese. I haven’t met him, but some of the chefs are definitely ethnic Chinese who lived in Japan as I’ve heard them come out and speak to people in unaccented Mandarin and then turn around and talk to their staff in unaccented Japanese (quite impressive).

The restaurant is clean and has decent ambiance, but nothing to write home about.  It has off-white walls with pictures of shadow puppets on the walls as the chef is a practitioner of this dying art and if you look around you’ll find a picture of Jun Cui and Chen Kenichi on the wall when they were both much younger. They also have a bar with various sakes, Chinese liquors and some very strong liquor that they infuse with various interesting things (herbs, berries and even snake).

On to the food:

Kaori Chicken:

This is probably my overall favorite dish here. The dish consists of sliced fried chicken over a bed of a salad with a light ponzu-type of sauce that has a lot of minced daikon in it. The chicken is beautifully fried, crispy on the outside, not oily or heavy at all. The sauce and salad complement it perfectly. This is definitely a must get dish here.  8/10

“Peedan” Tofu:

This is always on their special menu. It consists of diced pidan (Chinese preserved egg) over a very soft creamy tofu with a salty sesame oil sauce. I like this dish quite a bit as well. The pidan’s creamy flavor with the tofu and the saltiness of the sesame oil sauce complement each other really well. Another dish I definitely recommend getting here. 7.75/10

Ban Ban Chicken:

This is a cold sliced chicken dish in a thick sesame sauce. The chicken is surprisingly still quite tender and the sesame sauce is thick and flavorful.  If you like thicker sesame sauces then you will like this dish. I think it’s pretty good although my GF is less of a fan of it. 6.75/10

Gomoku Chahan:

Chahan is fried rice and when done correctly, I think Japanese fried rice rivals any good Chinese fried rice.  The wok flavor in Japanese fried rice is exceptional.  Here they serve it with roasted pork and various diced vegetables with some pickled ginger on top.  While it’s not the best version I’ve had, it’s certainly quite tasty and much better than most versions you get in NY. I highly recommend asking for some chili oil as I find that kicks it up a notch. 7.5/10

Kani Tama:

This is an egg omelet with crabmeat, mushrooms and some other vegetables in a light brown oyster sauce. It’s a light dish that goes really well with the fried rice as the flavors are quite subtle. You can taste the oyster sauce flavor but it is very light. 7.25/10

Overall, I like Saburi and there are some good dishes to be had here.  However, you have to be careful as some of their dishes are not very good in particular I’d avoid their ramen. That said it’s definitely worth trying if you’re in the neighborhood or looking to try something new.

Address:
168 Lexington Ave. (between 30th St & 31st St)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 481-7766

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.

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

Hsin Wong – Good Cantonese BBQ and Peking Duck in Chinatown

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**

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.

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

Baohaus – Pretty Decent Monday Special

**Note this restaurant has moved, new address below**

I reviewed Baohaus a while ago on chowhound, which you can see here, I liked it a lot and I go there somewhat frequently to fulfill my cravings for gua bao and I also really like their fried chicken bao because it tastes just like ji pai (Taiwanese fried chicken) you get in Taipei.

I got an email from them (I signed up for their email list) saying they have a Monday Special.  I went in there last Monday and got it to go.  It was pretty good albeit a little on the small side.

Here’s what was in it:

Fish Cake with Smoked Ham Hock: This was a fried fish cake with bits of smoked ham hock in it.  It was freshly fried and the fish cake tasted homemade, it was good although it was a little on the salty side.  7.75/10

Eight Treasure Bao: This was a bao (steamed white bun) filled with a stir fry made of sliced mushrooms, carrots, dried tofu, bamboo shoots and maybe one or two other things.  It was quite good, the bun was fresh tasting and the stir fry had good flavor and wasn’t overly greasy or salty. 7.75/10

Dong Po Rou: Dong po rou is made by pan frying and then braising pork belly in soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and caramelized sugar.  It’s very tender and fatty since its pork belly.  I really like this dish a lot.  The version here was pretty tasty, it was very tender and had pretty decent flavor.  7.75/10

Overall, I thought it was good not mind blowing, but solidly good.  Worth trying if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Address:
238 E 14th St (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(646) 669-8889
www.baohausnyc.com

Baidu Shabu Shabu / Mapo Szechuan – Delicious Hot Pot in Flushing

Typically, I haven’t been the biggest hot pot fan, I generally like it, but I never crave it.  However, for some reason recently I’ve really been craving it; maybe because it’s been so cold, I don’t know.  I asked around and some people recommended Baidu Shabu Shabu in Flushing, so I met up with a friend and stopped in. Fyi, I don’t believe it says Baidu anywhere in English only in Chinese, it says Mapo Szechuan in front.

Baidu is surprisingly upscale for Flushing, its brand new looking, very clean and quite modern looking.  Looks similar to some of the place you get hot pot in Taiwan.  Its two levels with the bottom level having a full bar with a big TV and the upstairs having tables, some of which have TVs playing the Chinese channels (ours did).

The service was fine, not super attentive, but that’s generally how hot pot is anyhow since you’re serving yourself.  There was about a 20 minute wait when we were there as the place is definitely pretty popular.  My friend knows the owners (who weren’t there that day) and it’s actually the same family that owns the Ollie’s chain in Manhattan.

They have a full Sichuan menu and a full hot pot menu, but we only got the hot pot.  I did see some Sichuan dishes on some people’s tables that looked pretty good, but most people seemed to be there for the hot pot.

Here’s what we got:

Kimchi Broth:

You have a variety of choices for broth and you can get the split pot where you get two different broths.  My friend wanted to get the kimchi broth, getting the kimchi broth was against my better judgment (kimchi in a Chinese place), but I was so hungry that I just went with whatever my friend wanted.  Although later I talked to another friend who eats there frequently and she told me that’s actually by far the worst broth and that we should have gotten the duck broth.  The broth was alright, it had a kimchi flavor, but it was a bit weak in flavor.  Honestly though after a little while we had diluted the broth so much by cooking stuff in it and asking for more broth that it had no kimchi flavor at all and I probably wouldn’t have noticed the broth no matter what flavor it was.  6.75/10

Angus Beef:

This was quite good, the beef was clean and fresh tasting unlike a lot of hot pot places I’ve been to in NY where you could tell the beef was old (gray spots, odd looking meat etc).  We actually ended up getting two orders of it because we were so hungry and it was very good.  Beef is always my favorite part of hot pot.  7.75/10

Short Rib:

This was also good as well, clean and fresh tasting again.  The meat was a little fattier, but it tasted great as well.  8/10

Seafood Platter:

I was a little sketched out ordering the seafood platter because typically the seafood I’ve gotten at hot pot places in NY has been pretty bad quality, but again the seafood all tasted pretty fresh and it all came out pretty good when you cooked it.  7.5/10

Mushroom Platter:

This was good as well.  All the mushrooms were fresh and tasted great when you cooked them.  Also, I those seashell looking things are actually fishcakes that taste like Japanese kamaboko if you know what that is.  We were confused as to why they were part of the mushroom platter, but they were good nonetheless.  7.5/10

Vegetable Platter: 

The vegetables were very fresh and tasted great.  8/10

Sauces:

They have a sauce bar where you can make sauces and they also have a rice cooker there as well which is actually really convenient because you can just go get your own rice.  I got ponzu sauce, sha cha sauce (a sauce made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilis, fish, and dried shrimp) and then I mixed a sort sauce of sesame oil, homemade soy sauce, chili oil, minced garlic and cilantro.  All the sauces were good and I particularly liked the sauce I created.  8/10

Overall, I liked it a lot and I’d definitely come back.  It was probably the best non-Sichuan hot pot I’ve had in NY.  Highly recommend.

Address:
37-04 Prince Street
Queens, NY 11354
(718) 939-3808