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Feb 16, 2011 09:00 AM

Help me identify Chinese "small eats" sold by sidewalk vendors

Not long after my latest visit to Singapore, I began to search New York's various Chinatowns for creditable renditions of my favorite Singaporean dishes. One of these, bak chang...

...also goes by many other names and is prepared in many varieties. On Canal St., I came across an elderly lady's sidewalk display...

...where, with the help of a passer-by fluent in both Cantonese and English, I learned that one of the lady's leaf-wrapped bindles contained peanut, pork, and egg, as well as close-packed rice. Fair-priced at $1.25, but nothing to remind me of Singapore.

Looking at my photo afterward, however, I wondered about all the other items the lady had prepared. Other sidewalk vendors, and storefronts, too, offer similar "small eats," but most are total strangers to me. Can you identify them, or point me to an online guide that provides some frame of reference? Thanks in advance.

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  1. Choong (transliterated Cantonese) is a common food item, not limited to Fujianese cuisine by any means. They also have various kinds of fillings - perhaps that NYC lady's version simply did not correspond to the ones with their particular filling that you had in Singapore? Choong is sometimes eaten 'fresh from the 1st time it is steamed', but one commonly buys them from previously-cooked-and-strung-up-in-bundles and eaten as-is, or re-steamed or re-boiled (e.g. at home) then eaten.

    The whitish/grayish trapezoid items [there are several of them] in your flickr photo look like taro/turnip cakes with dried shrimp (har mai) and chopped scallions. That round-shaped whitish item at the top COULD be what I know of as a kind of rice flour steamed/poached (in a multiple-compartment mould) cake-let again with dried shrimp and scallions (yum, I haven't eaten that in a VERY long time).

    1. I can't help you with the names....but that's a nice collection of sweet and savory items At what cross street is this elderly lady on Canal Street? I'd like to seek her out on my next excursion.

      I think I see....

      Zhongzi or Joong
      Rice Noodles with Dried Shrimp
      Various Sugar Puddings?
      Turnip Cakes
      Thousand Year Old Eggs

      1 Reply
      1. re: fourunder

        I should have checked my photographic notes more carefully; I've edited my blog post to give the correct, Grand St. location, between Elizabeth and Bowery. I took my photo shortly after 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

        Thank you both for your help with IDs. In truth, I'm not seriously hoping to find fresh-made bak chang (or choong, joong, zongzi) here in New York. It's more that I'm using my Singaporean experiences as a point of departure for further explorations in New York. Provided I can hit the streets early enough in the day, there's certainly a lot I haven't tried!