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Jan 18, 2010 12:42 PM

Northern Chinese / Taiwanese Breakfast in MANHATTAN

I hate going all the way to Flushing when I'm craving a Northern Chinese breakfast. By NORTHERN, I mean non-Cantonese dimsum dishes. Like salty silken beancurd soup (shien dofu nao), sesame pancakes w/ crullers (sau bing you tiao), five-spice beef wrapped in scallion pancakes (niu rou jia bing), and daikon radish pastries (lou buh su bing). I usually go to Nan Bei He on 40th Street in Flushing to satisfy this craving. For years, I've been searching for a place in Manhattan where I could get this food that I grew up on. Anyone have any ideas?

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  1. its not available in chinatown, ive searched many a times

    in fact the only place ive ever had it in the city is at China Fun on the UES

    they offer it on the weekends, its a strange place in that it generally caters to UES people looking for americanized chinese food and they offer sushi as well i believe. However, they have a menu on the weekends only with dim sum and northern chinese / taiwanese breakfast items. they've got all the staples you mentioned plus some more. its okay breakfast, certainly not awesome or anything, it will be passable if you really want breakfast in the city. for me id rather just go to flushing

    8 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      what makes you think that because someone lives on the UES they somehow only look for "americanized" chinese food? what a ridiculous assertion.

      1. re: thew

        i'm not asserting that at all

        what i am saying is there are two clienteles there clearly. If you go there you will see what I mean, there are clientele looking for americanized chinese food and a small subset on the weekends that is there specifically for their breakfast / dim sum menu. Nothing wrong with wanting americanized chinese food btw.

        What is weird is that you have a restaurant serving a) americanized chinese food b) sushi and c) something as uncommon (for manhattan) as northern chinese / taiwanese breakfast

        1. re: Lau

          what is weird is that you think you can tell which menu someone prefers just by looking at them

          1. re: thew

            uhh i'm not looking at them and deciding you are going to order X, i'm just looking at what they actually ordered...if you ordered general tso's chicken and beef and broccoli you are clearly there are americanized chinese food...if you ordered salty soy bean milk and a crueller you are clearly there for their northern chinese breakfast. I don't think it gets more clear cut than that

            at most chinese restaurants you're going to find it only really serves one or the other either a) everyone is there for americanized chinese food or b) everyone is there for actual chinese food....china fun is trying to offer everything (and sushi)

        2. re: thew

          Well, if there were a great demand for un-Americanized Chinese food on the UWS or UES you'd see more restaurants catering to people with those tastes. Obviously, as posts on this board make clear, there are many non-Chinese diners who appreciate more "authentic" or "traditional" Chinese fare. But on the continuum of non-Chinese diners who patronize Chinese restaurants, they're probably in the fifth percentile, at best. (Don't believe me--poke into any of the highly regarded Chinese restaurants in Flushing at any point in time and you'll be lucky to see any non-Asian diners). Consequently, while there clearly are UES residents who appreciate authentic Chinese food, it is patently obvious that the large majority do not.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            its a ridiculous assumption, as i eat in both "authentic" and sino-american places, so to assume because i'm in one i don;t like the other is just nonsense. WHat i like it quality and taste - that supercedes "authenticity" for me. So i can love a great szechuan dish laden w/ szechuan peppers and i vcan enjoy a well done beef w/ broccoli; my eating one says nothing about my overall preference, it only speaks to what i was in the mood for at that moment.

            furthermore - it is ridiculous to think that the number of asians in a place ensure quality, or that more "authentic" means tastes better. If people of a culture only appreciated the best of what that culture has to offer there would be no mcdonalds to be found. And i have eaten plenty of attrocious authentic food over the years.

            finally, on the UES more and more such places are opening all the time. there are szechuan (in fact one of NYC's 1st szechuan restaurants was on 1st ave in the 70's) there are shanghai places, etc.

            1. re: thew

              Those 1970s Szechwan places that sprouted up in Manhattan are now referred to as "faux Szechwan" cuisine as they bore no resemblence to food found back then in Szechwan, and more recently the authentic Sichuan style restaurants which only came to the US perhaps a decade ago. Consequently they don't fall at all on the authentic side. I wish more non-Chinese were appreciative of authentic Chinese food like you are. Likewise, I don't mind going to an Americanized Chinese restaurant now and then for a good dish of orange chicken or fried rice.

              That having been said, having eaten at over 5,000 Chinese restaurants in the US and Canada, including two thirds of the Chinese restaurants in Manhattan Chinatown, almost every authentic Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, and every Chinese restaurant in SF and LA Chinatown, I think I am qualified to make some observations. Authentic Chinese food is vastly superior to Americanized Chinese food and for good reason. Chinese live to eat (the oft cited example is that Chinese greeting each other do not say "How are you?", but literally say "Have you eaten yet.)?" The cuisine is continually evolving to delicious new heights. A Chinese restaurant in any of our Chinese communities that has been open more than 15 years is probably not in the running for being on the "A" list because the culinary scene has passed them by. On the other hand, Americanized Chinese food is static and boring, and like the rest of the food in this country (including other styles of ethnic food), any change is incremental, not evolutionary. You're right that a high proportion of Asians in a Chinese restaurant does not necessarily represent quality--in some parts of town it merely means the food is plentiful or cheap. But that's the exception--given the Chinese love for food and the race between restauranteurs to provide the latest and best product, a Chinese restaurant full of Chinese diners is a very good sign. Likewise, a Chinese restaurant full of non-Asians is the number one sign that the place should be avoided. (Exception: Chinatown Brasserie, probably due to the pricing.) While there are non-Chinese like you who do appreciate the authentic style of food, this is a proportionately small group, and the chances of large numbers of them dining simultaneously at the same Chinese restaurant is generally small. Indeed, on the LA Chowhound board there are large numbers of non-Chinese posters highly familiar with the best authentic Chinese food in the area. But walking into any of the leading Chinese eateries, non-Asian faces are few and far between, which is a shame.

            2. re: Chandavkl

              I live in the UES and wish that I didn't have to go to Flushing or NJ to satisfy my Chinese cravings. I too have wondered why an authentic Chinese joint isn't around. Even the double menu system doesn't quite work around here (ordering off menu). It's sad. But it's not just Chinese cuisine--there's no great Korean place either, and the Thai/Vietnamese situation is also really limited. However, Italian and Japanese are both pretty solid, so I can't quite figure it out.

        3. Jobee on Howard is Taiwanese but they only open for lunch and dinner. Obviously the demographics of Manhattan Chinatown and Flushing are completely different. Chinatown is Fujianese and Cantonese, while Flushing is Taiwanese and other mainlanders (note term "mainlanders" excludes Cantonese even though not geographically correct).

          1. China Fun on the UWS has:

            shien dofu nao
            sau bing you tiao (congee with thousand year eggs also available)
            sau bing stuffed with sliced roast pork
            glutinous rice rolls filled with rou sung

            They don't have niu rou jia bing or lou buh su bing. Saint's Alp Teahouse has lou buh su bing, I think.

            Like Lau said of the UES location, the UWS China Fun is just fair, not actively good. But it's nice if you can't get out to Flushing.

            1. I've also been waiting for a good restaurant to offer Taiwanese breakfast in Manhattan! Still nothing :( I'm afraid to even try China Fun. I'll probably be too disappointed. Plus, I'm sure it'll cost me an arm and a leg to have a meal there!

              2 Replies
              1. re: teresa

                Yes, at $4.50 for a scallion pancake I can imagine. But you have to hand it to them for menu items that other places don't have. Even in their regular dim sum I see they have sweet peanut butter pancakes which you don't see very often.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  its sort of weird b/c on the weekends they have a chinese speaking clientele that is there specifically for breakfast and dim sum, i think its probably chinese people that live up its sorta like they have two menus type of thing

                  i mean its not chinatown cheap, but its also not all that expensive in the scheme of manhattan prices

              2. If you are an early riser and get to China Fun when it opens on the weekend, it can smell a bit too strongly of cleaning spray and toilet cleaner. I love dimsum, but I need the atmosphere--the big tables, the crowding, the carts, the people, the noise...this place just makes me sad and wish I had gone to Flushing.