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Advice for walking/noshing through Chinatown

b
bdachow Apr 19, 2011 01:03 PM

Was hoping to get some advice on eating through Chinatown this weekend. I'm looking to walk and eat at the same time so looking for portable food. I've got either Prosperity or Vanessa's for dumplings. Was thinking of hitting Xian Famous Foods but need some recs on what to eat? Hoping to throw in a banh mi somewhere in the vicinity and some grocery shopping, I normally hit Kam Man but that seems to be off to the other side of Bowery and I'm not sure my partner in crime will be as accomodating on wandering all over Chinatown.

Anything else that I should be looking for?

Thanks for the advice!

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Kam Man
200 Canal St, New York, NY 10013

  1. b
    bdachow Apr 29, 2011 09:22 AM

    Hi everyone, wanted to say thanks for all the tips and advice. I ended up grabbing my friend and splitting the “tour” into 2 days of eating and walking.

    Saturday we started out with dim sum at Nam Wah which I won’t get into here. We stopped at Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry and picked up fried pork and chive dumplings for 4 for $1. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon so not sure if that affects the freshness of the dumplings as we found that the bottoms weren’t crisp anymore. The skin is the thicker type which I like, am not a big fan of the gyoza like skins. The filling was very juicy, with my jacket taking a hit for the team, and was nice and porky but I didn’t find the chive flavour particularly standing out.

    We then made a pass over to Ka Wah bakery which had been recommended for the "old wives" cakes and picked up one of those and some mini egg tarts. Old wives cake...pass. No comparison to HK or Vancouver version, see comments above. However, the mini egg tarts were a perfect little one biter. Nice flaky pastry (as opposed to the other ones with the “TenderFlake pie pastry”) and a good eggy flavour. And at 30 cents each, a nice little treat as they were nice and warm still.

    My friend is a huge fan of “pineapple buns” with custard filling inside so we stopped in at Natalie Bakery on Grand and picked one up. Unfortunately, the custard was a bit too firm, not creamy enough.

    Sunday turned into a very nice day for walking and eating. Based on SomeRandomIdiot’s comments, our first stop was the New Wing Wah Bakery. The old wives cakes was a big thumbs down with a dry overly thick pastry and a very thin layer of winter melon paste only. However, the pineapple bun with custard was AWESOME! Warm out of the oven, the custard was nice and creamy, with a good bun to filling ratio and a nice crisp topping. Big hit!

    Next stop was Xian Famous Foods, having read about this place for so long, I really wanted to try it out. We ordered the Liang Pei noodles (aka “cold skin” noodles) and the cumin lamb burger. I originally wanted the stir fried noodles but as it was pretty warm outside, the lady convinced me to get the cold ones. It's basically hand pulled noodles tossed with cucumber, cilantro and gluten strips in a spicy chili oil. It was a massive plate for $4. I didn't really like the texture of the noodles and expected it to be a little less smooth so that it could hold the spicy oil a bit better but it was refreshing with the cucumbers, cilantro and gluten strips. The burger was excellent for $3. A massive bun filled with very strongly cumin scented lamb shreds and bits of onions. There were bits of fat and a little gristle but all the yummier for me. I love cumin so this was a hit. The bun itself was ok for me as I found it a bit heavier but it was a good holder for the juices oozing off the lamb.

    Next up, we stopped by Prosperity Dumpling for more dumplings and a slice of sesame pancake. We waited a while as I wanted it fresh and they were still making the sesame pancake, all for $2. The bottoms didn't get crisp enough and because they were hot off the stove, the skin broke on the first couple because they were still too wet. However, the filling was really good. Juicy again and nice big chunks of visible chive which I thought was nice. Thinner skin than I like but I think the filling was extremely flavourful. The sesame pancake was delicious fresh out of the fryer. It was bready like the deep fried rolls you get in Shanghai restaurants but laced with bits of green onions and then sprinkled on the outside with a good coating of sesame seeds. Warm and delicious and it was a huge wedge for $1.

    I’ve previously been to Saigon Banh Mi on Broome and thought it was ok. Thought I’d give it another shot, ordered the pate one, spicy with extra vegetables. And again, it was only ok for me. I find that the baguette is too wide so you can’t get a good bite with everything in it and I don’t find the veggies with quite enough of a nice sour vinegar bite to it to help contrast with the salty and creaminess of the pate. Total cost $4.50 which I think is on the high side, but I admit I’m biased from having them in Vancouver for $3.50. Darned high rent in NYC!

    And no tour would be complete without dessert of course, hence a visit to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. The line was out the door as the weather was warm that day but don’t be deterred. It moves pretty quickly. I found it amusing that chocolate and vanilla and such was listed under the “Exotic” ice cream section while black sesame and pandan were regular. Sadly, they were out of pandan flavour so I settled for black sesame and my friend settled for almond cookie. Really great flavours, nice roasted sesame with flecks of it in it and the almond cookie tasted like it should, unlike almond milk teas which have that harsh bitter chemical flavouring to them.

    And to round out the tour, something to wash it all down. And there’s nothing more fun than a bubble tea at Quickly. It was quick and easy but both the lychee slush and passionfruit slush were pretty sweet and I had forgotten how firm the pearls get in slush drinks. But super nice on a warm day.

    Overall a great day and thanks to ScoopG for the inspiration for the walk and everyone for their suggestions of places. Can’t wait to come back for another trip around.

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    Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
    65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

    Quickly
    237 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

    Tasty Dumpling
    54 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

    Prosperity Dumpling
    46 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

    New Wing Wah
    246 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

    Quickly
    11 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

    Xi'an Famous Foods
    88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

    Natalie Bakery
    271 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

    3 Replies
    1. re: bdachow
      scoopG Apr 29, 2011 11:43 AM

      Thanks for reporting back!

      1. re: bdachow
        loratliff Apr 29, 2011 01:16 PM

        Nice report. I've not had them, but a lot of people love the pineapple buns at Mei Li Wah, although the steamed pork buns are my personal favorite there.

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        Mei Li Wah
        64 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

        1. re: loratliff
          b
          bdachow Apr 30, 2011 01:31 PM

          Thanks for the tip. I must keep it in mind for next time!

      2. b
        bdachow Apr 19, 2011 04:09 PM

        Does anyone have a recommendation for a great bakery that does "Old Wives Cakes" really well? Light flaky, shattering pastry surrounding a tender, slightly chewy, not too sweet filling of winter melon paste? I miss going to Hang Heung in Hong Kong and hoping to get a bit of nostalgia in.

        4 Replies
        1. re: bdachow
          k
          kathryn Apr 19, 2011 04:40 PM

          Lau, an esteemed poster here, has recommend Ka Wah bakery in the past for wife cake:
          http://www.lauhound.com/2010/12/ka-wa...

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          Ka Wah Bakery
          9 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

          1. re: kathryn
            b
            bdachow Apr 20, 2011 12:27 PM

            Thanks for the link!

          2. re: bdachow
            s
            SomeRandomIdiot Apr 20, 2011 01:54 PM

            There's a bakery (sorry I don't remember the name) right at the Grand street B/D station on the corner with the fruit stand and sort of across the street from Nam Son. The outside is flaky and the filling that's inside has that distinctive chewy yet springy texture that a good wife cake should have.

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            Nam Son
            245 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

            New Wing Wah
            246 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

            1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
              b
              bdachow Apr 24, 2011 05:59 AM

              Thanks very much for the advice. I tried Ka Wah yesterday and have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the wife cake there. The pastry just wasn't flaky enough and I found the filling to be a bit more chewy than I like. The mini egg tarts were fabulous though.

          3. n
            nmprisons Apr 19, 2011 03:37 PM

            The best bahn mi in chinatown is on Lafayette a block south of canal on the east side of the street. place has a yellow awning and mostly sells tapes, cds, lotto, and cigarettes. get a number 11. it is awesome.

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            Sau Voi
            101 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013

            1 Reply
            1. re: nmprisons
              MVNYC Apr 19, 2011 06:36 PM

              which one is the #11? I have tried a few other sandwiches there and been unimpressed. Bahn Mi So 1 on Broome is still the king in my book

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              Saigon Banh Mi 1
              369 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

            2. a
              AubWah Apr 19, 2011 02:26 PM

              Xian's act is wearing thin. They use MSG in their soup, and I don't appreciate it. Head to nearby Henan on Forsythe instead and opt for the #1, inhaling the pure lamb goodness in every spoonful. If you want the "pork burger" Henan's got a better version of that too. They call it a pancake

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              He Nan Flavor
              68 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002

              5 Replies
              1. re: AubWah
                b
                bdachow Apr 19, 2011 03:57 PM

                Thanks for the tip about Henan. Looks promising hopefully. Is Banh Mi Saigon the one in the back of a jewelry shop?

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                Banh Mi Saigon
                198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                1. re: AubWah
                  MVNYC Apr 19, 2011 06:29 PM

                  If I were a betting man I would say Henan uses MSG as well.

                  1. re: MVNYC
                    squid kun Apr 20, 2011 12:31 AM

                    Have you had a bad reaction there?

                    1. re: squid kun
                      MVNYC Apr 20, 2011 12:01 PM

                      Not at all, but I would imagine most places use MSG. For the record I fall on the side of believing the MSG reaction to be a myth.

                      1. re: MVNYC
                        h
                        Haricotsv2 Apr 24, 2011 07:07 PM

                        For better or worse, most Chinese, Hmong, and I think Vietnamese restaurants and cooks use MSG. It's a traditional ingredient that enhances flavor. I don't think that reacting to it is a myth, as I am one who does, but I just decide to feel crummy now and then for deliciousness.

                2. k
                  kathryn Apr 19, 2011 02:02 PM

                  I think you want ScoopG's tour:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711661#5661425

                  Some dumplings ideas:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757703

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kathryn
                    a
                    AubWah Apr 19, 2011 02:08 PM

                    I think best dumplings are at Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry. 5 for $1.25

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                    Tasty Dumpling
                    54 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

                    1. re: AubWah
                      d
                      diprey11 Apr 20, 2011 01:54 PM

                      Dumplings at He Nan Flavors may be worth a try, especially boiled dumplings. I ordered from them quite a few times (although at their Queens location) and they were great.

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                      He Nan Flavor
                      68 Forsyth St, New York, NY 10002

                    2. re: kathryn
                      b
                      bdachow Apr 19, 2011 03:58 PM

                      Kathryn, thanks for the link to scoopg's tour, that is perfect. With a few adjustments, it's what I was looking for.

                    3. a
                      AubWah Apr 19, 2011 01:22 PM

                      get your bahn mi at bahn mi saigon on grand. i get a #1 spicy

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