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Mar 12, 2013 09:33 AM

Bouhaus Owner's New Memoir and the value of Ethnic Hole in the Walls

Having spent several years in Taiwan, in the south of the island, I am quite familiar with much of what inspired Eddie in his restaurant creation.

I have never visited his establishment, but must say the review by Melanie Rehak in Bookforum (feb/mar volume 19, Issue 5) of his new memoir was entertaining to read.

The memoir is entitled 'Fresh Off The Boat'. Either he has internalized a certain earlier racial stereotype of Asians or is playing with this, tongue in cheek?

The article did inspire me to thought, not on 台灣的黑社會 (Taiwan black society or organized crime) of which his father had been a part of, but of street food, or food that is indicative of the every day meals in the life of laborers or peasant, or commoners.

There is certainly a market for this type of street food, one that puts it differently from its origins, where ever the street food is originating from, while calling it 'street food'. That is the catch, or the market ploy.

This is especially so in NYC, with such a diversity of people from other places, developing and underdeveloped, and they have popped up in varying places.

Thus stated, equally a fine experience can be found within the context of the food's origin. These places, ethnic hole in the walls, if they represent those who have migrated to NYC, are often somewhat exclusive, ethnically, and language may be a problem. Perhaps some 30 years ago, one could find a Taiwan hole in the wall somewhere in NYC. These days they may all be gone, so I suppose Eddie knows what he is doing, by filling the void.

I have charting out some of these ethnic hole in the walls, and there are plenty, some no English. The determining factor is demographic and economic, whether they exist or not that is.

Anyway, check out Eddie's new memoir. If you take to his stylish cuisine, his words may also be appetizing.

I am wondering if the translation to Bouhaus, a take on the German school of design, would be 包房子.

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  1. I'd be very interested in seeing this "chart" you speak of.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jdg5005

      I used the word 'chart' as a verb, though meant to type "have been" charting out".

      Disclosures and or revelations of such charting out might defy the boundaries of the Manhattan Board of Chowhound.

      I could highlight what is applicable to the Manhattan Board, so stay tuned after the Rocky and Bullwinkle segment.

      Just to mention, in the Heights, Restaurant Y Pupuseria, El Guanaco, is a rebel hideout from the Reagan Era.....just kidding.

      Located at 4195 Broadway, this El Salvadorian restaurant is quite quintessentially El Salvadorian.

      The food is very nicely presented on the plates, after it comes from the tiny kitchen in the rear of this very narrow eating establishment.

      The Papusa pancakes, are delicious and affordable, and compete with another slightly larger El Salvadorian space just a block south on the same side of the street.

      Variations of what most may be familiar with from Mexican Cuisine are indicative of this region's own style.

      Pork and beef, fish, as well as seafood feature on the menu, and are presented in a manner that is easy to read. The waitress may or may not know English, but I have never found this a problem anywhere, and I know no Spanish.

      Supreme or Supremo is just one of the delicious beers from El Salvador. All beer is only 3.50 for 12 ounce bottle.

      The place down the street, Americano Restauranto...or something to that affect (do not have menu), is a nice place too, and highly recommend it.

      The narrow El Guanaco is a bit dark and comfortable in the interior, and nice dining for couples, but fine for others. The place down the block is not the darkened interior, but just as comfortable, with soccer (football) on the TV, and more seating.

      Los Hermanos and other Salvadorian music bands feature on the juke box. El Guanaco has a separate section for the El Salvadorian tunes. It is lacking in Tito Puente, and the other has much Tito, though both offer a wide selection of latin tunes.

      These are not exactly hole in the walls, but they do cater mainly to local people from El Salvador and neighboring countries, but the delicious taste of the Pupusa does not discriminate, nor do the people who eat them.

      1. re: jonkyo


        the pancakes, with meat, fish, beans or cheese (or combinations) inside are not PAPUSA but "pupusa".

        They are delicious, and cost 1.50 per pancake to 2.50 or 3.00. Three is about what the avarage Salvadorian female or male eats, though variations on the number an individual eats do take place dependent on a multitude of variables.

        They come with a communal jar of pickled cabbage or what might be something between pickeled cabbage and slaw without mayo, but sour elements. You help yourself to the portion you prefer from the communal jar.

        Suprema and not Supremo is the name of just one of the few Salvadorian beers on offer at both places.

        They have a few domestic names like Coors, as well as Dominican Presidente and several Mexican beers, all for 3.50, though at Centro American Restaurant south of El Guanaco, I have always been charged a flat 3.00 for the beer.

        You could google image "pupusa", or just head over to 175 on the 'a', just south of Wash Bridge Bus Station, look for John's Fried Fish and there is a Delgado Travel near ...on the west side of Broadway.

        1. re: jonkyo

          pupusa are very common Salvadoran food and they're delicious

          when im at home in CA i always eat at the pupusarias bc there are tons of them in CA

    2. You might want to give Baohaus a try before putting too much stake in his cultural or culinary perspectives. It ranges from pretty darn good to fast food sloppy. You might find the concepts at Mission Chinese or Momofuko more interesting instead.

      As for the "Fresh off the boat" title, it's not uncommon for young Asians to use the phrase with a mix of pride, self deprecation, or just acknowledgement of that generation's story.

      18 Replies
      1. re: sugartoof

        -1 on Mission, awfully sorry.

        You might squeeze Eddy for the good stuff: he has both a big ego and the taste to match that ego :-) But you can't squeeze water from the rock, do you?

        1. re: diprey11

          No idea what your comment means.

          Bauhuas serves mediocre food. It works as drunk food or a fast food snack in a pinch, but there's not much depth beyond the hype.

          I'm not even someone who supports Mission Chinese, I extensively argued my problems with the place, and yet, if you're interested in places influenced by the hole in wall style Asian food, that has to be in the conversation.

          1. re: sugartoof

            What I meant was I had some quite satisfying Tainan food from Eddy, I night not know much\. Not quite important really, as long as there is a novel idea. And you won't hear it again from me, I promise.

            He has such a big mouth, for sure. I am so sorry to hear the only food you got was a drunk food. Fusion? what's that?

            Not really interested in Mission, not after two attempts. as I am spoiled: I happen to live close to Flushing. Maybe just me? looking for a balance? I am sure lots of people would like to comment.

            1. re: diprey11

              Where did you have Huang's Taiwanese food? Aside from Baos, and boiled peanuts, not much is available

              1. re: sugartoof

                he does have other stuff, but they are more like specials and not constantly on the menu, his mains are the baos. His food is "ethnic" in the sense that way he makes his baos are true to the Taiwanese style of making them (as opposed to the ones at like Ipuddo, Momo and basically any Asian influenced restaurant since 2004),

                but I would hardly call it a "ethnic hole in the wall" or at least the way the OP romanticzed it. His food is alright, he knows how to hustle and great with words and i respect him on that.

                1. re: jester99

                  "but I would hardly call it a "ethnic hole in the wall" or at least the way the OP romanticzed it. "

                  Please allow me to make what I meant in the above text more clear:

                  The trend to offer ethnic 'street food' in more fashionable settings has taken root, with a variety of results found in differing parts of Manhattan.

                  On that note, I do believe that equally enchanting experiences can be found at places in Manhattan that offer ethnic 'street food' in a surrounding that is more close to the context that the food is found in, before the migration to the shores and eventual store fronts of Greenwich Village or SOHO.

                  Traveling like most on a budget, is not the reason I have maintained a rule to visit small local and neighborhood establishments or stay eating on the street side. I do that simply to get close to the place I am visiting.

                  Here I have found plenty of places that cater to mostly the locals of the designated country or region, that have not assimilated to certain extents, or simply want to eat like they did in the home country.

                  Some great places of West African cuisine, 26th 27th or 28th west of 6th. They have been mentioned on Chowhound, I think.

                  Also some El Salvador places that are great in Wash Heights, not to mention Roti places in Brooklyn and some Dominican places all over.

                  1. re: jester99

                    Baohaus has specials? When he first opened I recall he did a series of full dinners. Maybe that's what you're referencing?

                    I haven't been in since Summer, but my lasts visits were closer to stopping in to a San Loco.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      They have "specials" in which he will just like, post up on twitter and be like, we have beef noodle soup today only. Not a daily thing, stuff he throws out there once and a while. Though lookin at menu now, he has moved onto rice bowls, though personally I have not tried.

                      1. re: jester99

                        I don't see that. Since last July, he's only mentioned adding a soup, and the rice bowl. He did dumplings for the Hester Street Fair.

                        I guess it shows what a lot of promotion and being on TV can do. It's been years since anyone regularly mentioned Baohaus on CH, and there's a reason why

                  2. re: sugartoof

                    When he opened on 14th, I seem to recall he said he might bring back some of his Xiao Ye dishes once in a while. Not sure whether he followed through on that. Recently he's been in full media blitz mode and probably too busy.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Sometimes. Not consistently. Depends on how much Eddie is around, how busy they are, when you visit, etc.

                  3. re: sugartoof

                    Hole in the Wall Asian food found in places such as Fuzhou spots on East Broadway and Eldridge.

                    I forgo Taiwanese food here, save for the hot pot that is Sichuan, owned by Taiwanren.

                    The Taiwanese really do Sichuan or their rendition of it, to the result that they have their own style. I cannot any of the Hunan or Sichuan restaurants, and go to Hou Yi Hot Pot‎ on Eldridge. That place is a hole in the wall, meaning, no money thrown into its 内部 (neibu) interior.

                    The rule quite speaks for itself. If there is not much care taken in marketing the place to draw people in who don't know the food on offer to begin with, then the food is good and more authentic.

                    Not to say that Baohaus should not be on your list for eating, just to say don't let the decorations or lack of them turn you away from some places.

                    "Give me the peasants and to hell with the gentry." might sum up how I like to take my food......and beer.

                    1. re: jonkyo

                      baohaus's bao are quite good in my opinion.

                      His equivalent to a gua bao is good and quite authentic tasting. also does a good job on the fried chicken bao which the fried chicken tastes very similar to how ji pai tastes in taiwan

                      I will say i thought his food at xiao ye was mediocre from eating there twice

                      i think he's funny though, i like his series on vice alot

                      1. re: Lau

                        I like the fried chicken bao but some of the baos can taste premade, and like they're assembled with ingredients that were sitting around and got reheated one too many times.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          i haven't been to baohaus recently, i never had an issue with them giving me a pre-made bao, but it's totally possible that could happen

                      2. re: jonkyo

                        Not to hijack this discussion or anything, the old and tired Andy's Seafood and Grill in Rego Park now serves the Taiwanese Sichuan food and the chef does quite a good job. You might want to give it a try if you like that kind of food.