Outstanding Chinese (Cantonese) BBQ houses in Manhattan (long)
- agraham Dec 21, 2006 03:48 PM
Okay, I admit I've only lived in NYC for a year and a half, but I just can't find the same type of Cantonese BBQ here that I grew up with in Toronto. In Cantonese, I believe these restaurants are referred to as "siek SUE-yeh" -- meaning "late-night BBQ"; the type of place you can go for a quick, cheap, informal meal that -- depending on whether or not you order from the BBQ counter -- is served within seconds, at any time of day or night.
I refer to Toronto's Cantonese BBQ scene as it's my gold-standard for this cuisine. There are a number of dishes that are readily available here but I don't consider of the same quality or flavour as I have found at home. I've experienced BBQ houses in HK and Guangzhou, I find Toronto comparable, sometimes even better. I'm not sure why.
Soy-chicken (SIeu-guy) at home is juicy, tender, not too salty, and is served with a side of that amazing green onion/ginger/vinegar garnish. Here, it is tough and the chickens are just too big, so an order ends up being only one or two pieces, as opposed to a smaller half-bird. And nobody seems to know what I'm talking about when I ask for the onion/ginger garnish.
BBQ pork (cha-sieu) here is overcooked, not fatty enough and TOO DAMNED RED. It's like every restaurant goes crazy with the red food dye. As far as I'm concerned, cha-sieu should be deep reddish BROWN, and should be served straight from the tub of this reddish brown sauce, with the occasional one hanging in the window, still dripping. I'm not sure what gives the sauce its dark hue, it looks to be a mollases or brown-sugar type of addition (the sauce, however, has only the slightest hint of sweet).
Roast suckling pig (yuu-juu, I think) is, I admit, a rare item that is only served for special occasions (or if you order in advance), but I haven't found a place for it yet. There are a number of places in Toronto that -- if they're having a busy lunch-hour -- will come around with plates of yuu-juu, offering it as a 'special'.
You can find regular roast pig (sieu-yhok, I think) easily, but I'd like to find a place with high enough turnover that you can order from a dried-out pig that hasn't been hanging in the window all day.
And don't get me started on green-vegetables (choi). I ordered "shun-yeong gai lan" (Chinese broccoli with garlic) and the waiter brought me a plate of freaking BROCCOLI with garlic. I asked him "don't you have any gai-lan?" to which he replied "oh, you have to go to Chinatown to get that". Admittedly, I was in Chelsea at the time.
So, I guess I'm asking this: can someone recommend a Cantonese BBQ restaurant in Manhattan with:
- a good selection of fresh, window-hung BBQ;
- good broth for noodle-in-soup (tong mien);
- a choice of Chinese greens (dau-mieu/gai-lan/choi-sum)
- an authentic Hong Kong BBQ house feel
I know it's out there, I just haven't found it yet. Suggestions?
Thanks for the kind words, I'm flattered!
From what I've learned (not being Chinese but having lots of Chinese friends), BBQ houses are viewed as kind of like after-the-bar-and-club food, open late (or even 24 hours). In HK, you and your buddies look at each other at the end of the night and say "siek SUE-yeh!" and everyone nods their heads madly in agreement and tears off to their favourite BBQ house, which always have large communal tables so you can go with 10 people and easily get a table without waiting.
kenito799's reply is intersting, as noodle houses usually specialize in noodles, BBQ houses in, well, BBQ. It sounds painfully obvious, but usually you can't have the best of both worlds in one restaurant. I was reading some of the 'best noodle' postings, I'm curious if some of these places with house-made noodles serve great BBQ too.
Broth is a big factor. Some people don't go to a particular restaurant simply because they don't like their broth. Broth is a tricky balance, as you have to keep it steaming all day. If you don't add enough water throughout the day it gets too salty, if you add too much it's like dishwater, and if you don't skim enough it gets too fatty (or if you skim too much you lose flavour). And time of day is important, because by the end of the day it's been worked on for hours and hours and is probably at its tastiest and richest state (which is how I like it). A good noodle house can keep their broth consistent throughout the day, but that means that either one guy has to work it for the entire shift, or everyone who mans the 'tong-station' has to work the soup the same way.
Damn, I'm hungry now.
it's just called noodletown--it's not a noodle restaurant. I don't know why it is called that. it is open till 4am, as are many spots in Chinatown and Flushing. You might find the late night BBQ you seek by seeing what's open at 3am some night on a walk through Chinatown. I have been to various Cantonese restaurants in Flushing and Manhattan with Cantonese-heritage friends but I don't know enough about the scene to know which place will most closely match the Hong Kong-via-Canada style you are looking for.
Styles of Chinese food and restaurants adapt to the communities they arise in...the Cantonese places in Toronto may very well represent a style that was developed there by people who came from southern China or Hong Kong 100 years ago, or 50, or 10. The Cantonese population of Manhattan Chinatown has been established for over 100 years. Recent immigrants to Chinatown have tended to be from Fujian. In Flushing, there are lots of people from Taiwan as well as other parts of China. The most authentic Chinese places in Flushing, serving recent immigrants food in non-English speaking settings, don't serve Cantonese BBQ as you describe it...check out some of the Outer Borough threads on the amazing Chinese food experiences out there.
I can't recall the names of most places I've been (I know, if I want to be a chowhound I have to start keeping track), but I've been to a few in Chinatown and Chinatown-East (the non-touristy Chinatown), Soho, LES and of course that one in Chelsea.
Is NY Noodletown a BBQ as well as a noodlehouse?
Yeah, dow-mieu is the shiznit when it comes to greens. Insanely overpriced in restaurants, though. I don't know how 50 cents worth of greens can be sold for $8.99. If you want to keep the price down, try ordering choi-sam, which is sort of like gai-lan, only a bit more leafy. It's usually half the price of dow-mieu, for some reason.
I also stay away from oyster sauce, and order it SHUN-yeung, which is simply tossed with oil and (sometimes LOTS of) garlic.
hilarious, and true. I got ripped off at big wong once, I think $13.95 for a platter; it might have been out of season and at least, it was all tender parts so sure, you have to pick through it. but love that choi-sam for sure. Mooncake Foods on Watts St. has a very salty, flavorful preparation, but excellent. when it comes to greens, its either plain garlic, or with fermented bean paste, sometimes called fu-zhu, I think.
I don't know if there are any places in NYC as fine as those you long for in Hong Kong, but I've seen quite a few places with pork etc hanging in the window. I've never tried any of them.
On Bayard St: Noodletown, New Big Wang, and Hsin Wong.
Hoy Wong on Mott near Canal
There is (or was) a place on Henry St near Elizabeth.
213 Grand on Grand St, and OK 218 across the street.
Kim Tuong 83 Chrystie
The NY Times did an article on Chinese barbecue (but not like you described)
re: Brian S
Im not sue if it's Big Wing Wong or Hoy Wong, but there is a bbq place on Mott between Canal and Broadway (closer to Canal) that's half-basement level that has pretty good BBQ pork. You need to tell them that you don't want a piece that's too lean. Apparently, a couple of my friends (who grew up in Chinatown) say that's where the Chinese go to all the time for BBQ pork(not NY Noodletown). Don't think it's a late night joint, though. New York's Chinatown closes quite early compared to Toronto's. Loved going to Swatow at 1 AM.
Golden Gate Supermarket is pretty decent. On canal street for roast pork, duck and roast pig, and assortments of tea eggs, duck wings, tounge, liver, and they use to have sausages which I should put bk the roack on my list to eat again if they have it. This is my favorite place. They use dried orange peel in their sauce and it does give a unique kick. They even sell capon over the holidays but you have to pre-order if you want a big chicken.
If you want the small roast pig you have to pre-order. Kam Man or Golden Gate may do it. I know you can order one at the chinese restaurant next to McDonalds on Canal Street.
Bo Ky has some Tsu Cheow chicken/duck cooked in Master Sauce.
The chicken is sometimes too raw for my taste and I tend to bring it back home to cook a little more.
The restaurant on the corner of Elizabeth and Bayard has a steamed duck that isn't bad.
Big Wong does have good roast pork and they do their bbq well. The have boiled chicken but you have to ask for it because its not always there.
I also agree that Big Wing Wong does it the best, in all three (jook)congee, (fun) soup noodles, and (meen) fried or stir fried lo mein categories. It's not a late night snack place but from what I remember the crew there is the original Big Wong folks before ownership changed hands.
I would avoid Noodle Town, their broth contains too much salt. The noodles and wontons contain too much baking powder resulting in an Ajax related smell.
Yummy Noodles on Bowery/Chinatown Arcade is a reliable late night spot for just the kind of food you're talking about. It's not stellar, but it does some things well and is crowded late at night with young Chinese. I was there at 11pm last night having roast pork noodle soup.
It sounds to me like you've been trying to get real Chinese food out of some random American Chinese places. There are very few Chinese restaurants outside of the various Chinatowns that are worth a visit.
i have no idea about the atmosphere but you could try:
ny noodletown on bowery as mentioned
218 grand on grand st
the large food court/meat/fish market on elizabeth st
the place across the street from 218 grand, whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment
or just go to chinatown and wander around. follow your nose, and other patrons.
oh, and you shouldn't have any trouble getting the amazing green relish at an authentic place.
yummy noodle house is awesome for bo zai fan (clay pot), rest of their food is good, but its the only place i've found in ctown that serves a respectable bo zai fan. they also have tong yuen which is a dessert dish that is awesome (like glutonious dumplings filled with sesame paste)
I still like East Corner Wonton, after trying many of the other choices. It's not as overall good as NY Noodletown as far as dishes that move beyond bbq noodlehouse fare, but for noodle soup with excellent shrimp/pork wontons and bbq meats on rice it's my favorite. The chicken is served with the ginger & scallion sauce described above, and the pork is drizzled with pan drippings. The soup broth isn't as salty as NY Noodletown, either.
East Broadway and Market St., just southwest of the Manhattan Bridge.
There is a new BBQ restaurant that just opened up. Its on Catherine Street between East Broadway and Bowery/Division Street.
I like Hsin Wong -- the char sieu is definitely somewhat red though. I've generally found that taste in char sieu is very personalized... I've eaten tons of the stuff, including great char shieu my grandparents have made and different kinds we've bought from places across Chinatown and NJ places. But even within my family everyone has a different opinion as to the best char sieu. In any event, I like Hsin Wong's. I think we also used to pick up some from the supermarket called Duk Cheung though. I remember it being quite good, and there's a big selection there. I haven't been back to Duk Cheung in a long time though.