NY eats: Chinatown
Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever been to New York’s Chinatown before!
It shouldn’t even be called a “town,” given how spread out it is. What I saw: lots of old-fashioned characters, a woman selling zhong zi (sticky rice in bamboo leaves) on the street, and a lot of internet cafes. And restaurants, of course.
Honestly, I don’t remember what the name of the restaurant we went to was called, but we ended up having some really tasty Shanghai eats. Just in case you’re unclear, Shanghai food is known for being mild and sweet, with fresh vegetables and seafood. They are particularly known for their xiao long bao, or soup dumplings (Actually translated as “Little Dragon Dumplings”). I MISS THESE. You’re meant to eat them on a spoon so that when you bite into the outside, hot, savory broth leaks out and you immediately slurp it, and the entire dumpling, into your mouth. Actually, the “soup” is actually a kind of gelatin, or basically solidified pork broth that melts when steamed. I suppose that makes it sound kind of unnappealing, but they’re amazing. They also sometimes contain crab as well as pork.
We ordered pretty light food, and my favorite Shanghai dishes.
Tofu-vegetable soup– Unfortunately, this was chicken soup! Not even broth… just a rich, golden soup that was VERY obviously chicken. I had one accidental sip.
A dish of fish in wine dregs– the fish fillets were sweet, with a thick, gloopy sauce. I’m not sure if this is thick because of cornstarch or the fish itself, but this is a dish that I would have no idea how to make… because we don’t have wine dregs (which seem to be similar to lees, or what is left over after fermentation). They contribute a unique flavor that I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on if I didn’t know they were there.
Soy beans with a kind of pickled greens and tofu skins– I love this dish. It probably couldn’t be any healthier. The tofu skins aren’t fried either, but have the texture of rough, thin, noodles. Because the vegetables were pickled, it isn’t bland either. I personally love soupy food, and all these dishes had a lot of sauce that was great spooned over rice.
They also ordered lamb with chestnuts– apparently this was good, but not great.
AND OF COURSE, soup dumplings:
I’m jealous, since we only have one Shanghainese restaurant in our Chinatown, and it just so happens to be owned by the owner of the best Sichuanese restaurant, so I’m not sure how authentic this is. This, on the other hand, tasted just like what I ate in China (Beijing, not Shangai, but still).