Mission Chinese Food, which opened in 2012, serves spicy Sichuan-inspired cuisine; the restaurant has had lines out the door pretty much since opening.
And then in 2013, the restaurant was shut down due to sanitation issues.
But it’s been a while since then, so I cautiously ventured down to the Lower East Side with a friend to indulge in some chili-doused chicken wings. We hadn’t made a reservation, and at first it seemed we would have to wait. But there was an area in the front where they serve the whole menu, and we’re not picky sitters.
Since it’s Sichuan-inspired cuisine (Sichuan is the province with the spiciest cuisine in China), we figured we had to order several spicy dishes, and balance it out with a couple of milder dishes.
The first dish we got was the green tea noodles. This was probably my favorite of the things we ordered; the bitterness of the matcha contrasts spectacularly with the savory noodles and sweet hoisin sauce. The crunch of the thinly sliced radish adds a textural contrast in comparison to the soft ramen.
Mission Chinese seems to have textural components of their food down. Chewy, starchy rice cakes, crunchy cucumber, fatty, soft bacon; all doused in a super-spicy, umami, garlicky sauce. Top it with raw scallions and cilantro and you have a winner.
The chicken wings were so good, but they were far too spicy for me. I had one; my friend had five. Imagine: delicious chicken wings, with a nice crispy skin; then imagine dumping an entire container of chili flakes on them. Wonderful, but dangerous.
If pork belly is on a menu, I can’t not order it. This was the other non-spicy dish; I thought the mint didn’t go so well with the pork belly and radish, but besides that the dish was excellent. A light, sweet sauce cut was with the slight bitterness of greens. The pork belly was soft, and the radishes added a nice crunch.
And then—a complimentary treat!
These were not spicy, and they were a perfect bite at the end of the meal. Spinach, egg, and (I think) tapioca. An interesting combination, but it worked.
The bathroom is in the basement. One must walk past the kitchen in order to get to it. The kitchen was filled with shouts of “hot!” “order in!” and “yes, chef!”
There’s nothing like a fast-paced, energetic kitchen to get the blood pumping and get a diner looking forward to a meal. Go to Mission Chinese. Even if there’s a wait. You won’t regret it—though your mouth might after a couple of chicken wings.
171 E Broadway
Atmosphere: Young, hip, upbeat.
Noise Level: Loud.
Recommended Dishes: green tea noodles, pork belly and radishes
Soup dumpling is a type of mini-steamed-buns originally from Shanghai, and it is quickly gaining popularity in New York. Its Chinese name Xiaolongbao has the meaning “small” “steaming basket” – which explains how it is cooked.
Since many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. are based on Cantonese cuisine, soup dumplings were introduced as a dim sum dish among other Cantonese dim sums. In New York, one can often order soup dumplings in dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. But if you’re looking for authentic soup dumplings, your best bet would be elsewhere.
Joe’s Shanghai was among the first Shanghai-style restaurants in the city, with its first store opened back in 1995. While the brand is well-established, the taste of the soup dumpling is not as special as one might expect. The dumplings are too big – when presented, they look like they have collapsed in the basket.
Carla Asian Tapas, on the other hand, serve great soup dumplings that outshine any other soup dumpling places I have tried in New York. Located at 38 Carmine Street, the chic Asian tapas serves contemporary Chinese food “with Western flare”, as its owner Luguang said, who is now a longtime New Yorker with a long time dream of opening a restaurant of Asian cuisine.
The restaurant is decorated with a modern flare – a full bar, two main dining rooms with the inner one often used as a venue hosting art and cultural events, and a garden decorated with string lights.
Upon looking at the restaurant’s succinct menu, names such as “Peking Duck Tacos” and “Panko Crusted Lobster Roll” immediately jump out. They are original dishes that truly make an effort to combine flavors from the East and the West.
Both the pork soup dumplings and the crab soup dumplings here are extremely well made and taste like the ones I used to have in the popular Taiwanese brand Din Tai Fung – the chain has become so popular that it has opened several U.S. locations in recent years . Indeed, the head chef James Yang at Carma came directly from Taiwan and had worked as the Executive Chef at Din Tai Fung. While at Din Tai Fung, Chef Yang trained chefs for the chain’s international locations such as Tokyo and most recently, Dubai.
The delicate crab soup dumplings has a subtle crab meat flavor and is not overly oily. Both types of soup dumplings have tender and thin outer skin, wrapping around just the right proportion of filling inside. Out of the two, I prefer the pork soup dumpling ($10 for 6pc) as I find that the flavor of the pork meat truly phenomenal.
A note on the etiquette of eating soup dumplings: when eaten hot – which is always preferred – one should dip the dumpling in vinegar, cut a little opening on the top of the dumpling using their mouth, drink the soup first, then eat the dumpling. This procedure is to prevent the soup from filling and your mouth from getting burnt. The dumplings tend to get cold very quickly. When they are at room temperature, these dumplings can be eaten as a whole at once.
Vegetable dishes and appetizer dishes here also did not disappoint. Cold appetizer dishes developed by the chef were full of flavors and different textures.
What I find special about Carma is that while it draws from Taiwanese, Shanghai-style Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, the finished results are always delicate. The menu strikes the perfect balance of playful experimenting and staying true to authentic flavors.
One of the most exciting items on the menu, the Peking Duck Tacos, however, turned out to be different from what I had expected. Peking Duck served in Beijing restaurants has a combination of extremely crispy skin and savory, chewy duck meat. The tacos however, feature only the duck meat. Nevertheless, for taco lovers, it is a creative take to combine guacamole, crispy taco shells, and duck meat.
While creating new dishes, Carma Asian Tapas also offers Chinese classics that have truly authentic flavors.
This past summer I was lucky enough to spend a month in China between Shanghai and Beijing. Food was a highlight of my trip, but I also loved the Chinese culture and people that I encountered. I felt so welcomed and happy there that I want to go back to continue to explore other parts of the country. China is a huge country with so many different provinces each with their own ethnic group and culture. This diversity is also translated into their cuisine. Each region of China uses different flavors and cooking methods to prepare their meals. The first week of school, I passed by the Chinese food carts on Broadway and 118th and immediately was reminded of my amazing time this past summer. Every since then, I have been wanting to try them and writing this blog presented the perfect opportunity.
There are “eight culinary cuisines” of China: Hunan, Cantonese, Anhui, Shandong, Fujian, Szechuan, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. The differences between them are a result of availability and accessibility to certain resources affected by climate, geography, and history. This allowed for individual cooking styles (and also lifestyles) to emerge among the Chinese in different regions. The foods of different regions of China have their own flavors and textures. But, despite the differences in the cuisines, each meal includes a staple food, which can be rice, noodles, or bun and cooking methods that rely on preservation (drying, pickling, salting, and fermentation).
I cannot admit to be an expert on each kind of Chinese cuisine, but it is only fair that I acknowledge the variety. This being said, I am sure that the food at these carts is not representative for all Chinese food, but it is more authentic than any Chinese takeout I could get. So I knew I had to try the dishes offered.
There are always long lines outside of the carts and my reluctance to wait has kept me from going in the past. However, I have learned this is not a legitimate enough reason. There is practically no waiting time once you order and the food is worth the wait. It is not difficult to notice that the majority of the people on line are foreign students from China who are probably even more nostalgic than I was for authentic version of their national food. Knowing that they are probably much more knowledgeable about what to order, I really enjoyed (and I suggest that any first timers do the same) striking up conversations with them about their favorite dish. A general consensus was that everything is good and there is such variety that many of them try different things each time they go. One girl I spoke with suggested I get a combination plate with eggs and tomato, a dish that every Chinese family makes at home according to her. So to get the full selection, I made sure to stop at a majority of the carts and order a meal from each of them. Most of the things on the menu are the same, so my tip is to go to any cart. I would say go to the one where the line is the longest since I figure that the one with the highest demand must be the best. But, this method is not always true. I asked each person I spoke to which cart was their favorite, and, to my surprise, someone told me they just go to whichever has the shortest line. So, I think it is fair to conclude that there are not huge differences in the food (certainly not in the selection, but not in the taste or freshness either). So go wherever your heart desires. Don’t let the abundance of carts and food options overwhelm you (like it did for me). Just go! They are there for you to try and you will have a good meal! Oh, and before I forget, the portions are large and the prices are amazing! College students need a break from the dining halls without breaking their bank account, and this will do the trick.
Now, onto the feast… My menu consisted of pan-seared pork buns, a pork sandwich, a combo platter (including tomato and eggs over rice, green vegetables, and kong po chicken), another tomato and egg plate (for comparison), a wonton soup, a beef noodle soup, and soybean milk. Each dish was from a different cart, and there was not one that was bad.
This was my first time having pan-seared buns. They have a nice crunch to the outside, but are still fluffy on the inside with a juicy filling. These are bready and some find the filling to bun ratio too small, but I enjoy the softness of the bread (which is also good to dip in soup broth). The filling of the pork sandwich was delicious, very fatty, with parsley, celery, garlic, and ginger, but the bread was a little tough in my opinion, which made it difficult to eat.
My favorite thing that I ordered was the combo platter. Tomato and egg is such a great combination. I had it many times while I was in China. It is the perfect balance of savory and sweet (sugar is added). The texture has the potential to turn some off since it can be a bit watery, but this is soaked up when it is over rice. The kong po chicken is spicy and nutty and the slight bitterness from the vegetables counters the oiliness from the chicken really well.
The soups do take a bit longer to make, but still not long compared to any restaurant. The broth of the soups is quite bland unless spice is added. But the filling, whether it was beef and noodles or wonton, is really good. The wontons were my least favorite. The soup was only dumplings and broth (with very little parsley garnish). All the other dishes were bursting with flavors and ingredients, but this dish was not.
This food is quick, delicious, and cheap – the perfect trio. The only thing to be warned is that the food can be a bit greasy and salty, but as long as you prepare yourself for that, there should be no reason not to enjoy any food bought at these Chinese food carts.
You are in for a treat this week! Flor de Mayo is one of my favorite restaurants around Columbia, located on Broadway between 100 and 101. The food is delicious and interesting. It is a Peruvian-Chinese (Chino-Latino) restaurant. These two cuisines seem be a strange mix at first, but there is a history that bridges the two. The earliest Chinese traveled to the Latin world as slaves or contracted laborers. Later, Chinese ventured to Peru in order to escape communism or anti-Chinese sentiment in their settled countries. Thus, Chinese culture and cuisine has become popular in Peru. Peru ‘s population is 5% from Asian background, which is the largest of any Latin American country.
It was not until going to Flor de Mayo that I learned about this heterogeneous masterpiece. The dishes at Flor de Mayo do not portray a mix of Chinese and Peruvian flavors. Rather, there are Chinese and Peruvian dishes that are served alongside one another and, surprisingly, balance each other perfectly. The menu is even split in two, with one portion representing ‘Spanish Food’ and the other representing ‘Chinese Food.’
Among the Peruvian specialties is their pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), which is beyond delicious. It is so simple, yet so flavorful and juicy. Their other great meat dish is the broiled pork chop, which comes out piping hot and crispy, yet moist. Both of these meat dishes are always cooked to perfection, with a golden outside, but never too dry.
The cilantro rice compliments the chicken perfectly. The cilantro is subtle and gives the rice a refreshing taste. It is delicious to have a bite alone whilst eating all of the other abundantly flavored dishes. Another great Peruvian side dish is the plantain, which comes in sweet and green varieties. The green plantains are fried and mashed flat. They come with a pungent, garlic sauce, which goes well on everything. I love the strong garlic flavor so much that I tend to pour it over everything I serve myself.
The Peruvian dishes on their own are enough to make anyone want to eat here, but there are other great Chinese dishes. The crispy shrimps are one of my favorites. They are shrimp cooked with the shell on (to maintain the flavor and texture) and scallions in a brown, ginger sauce. The Chinese fried rice is just like any that you could get at other restaurants, but it mixes with the food so well, that it is worth ordering .Who doesn’t like fried rice?
These are only a few among the incredible variety that Flor de Mayo offers, and I can confidently say that the majority of their dishes are delicious, because all of the ones I have tried are! I have never had a bad meal here, and I always leave excited for the next meal I’ll enjoy at Flor de Mayo.
In the spirit of the recent Lunar New Year, this week’s column takes us to Chinatown for a legendary late night bargain stop. Wo Hop is open nearly 24 hours, from 10 AM to 7 AM, to serve hungry customers all over Manhattan at any time of day. The place gives off a divey diner vibe, with the walls covered in photos and celebrity autographs. There weren’t too many people when we were seated, so the service was very quick and the wait staff very friendly.
After being seated at a diner booth, we were given water and a VERY welcome cup of hot tea after walking several minutes from the subway stop in freezing weather. The menu consisted of pretty standard “Chinese” food (Chow Mein, Beef and Broccoli, Fried Rice, Dumplings, etc.) so we decided to go with some common choices: Beef Lo Mein, Pork Fried Rice, Orange Chicken, and Szechuan Chicken. Disappointingly, white rice on the side cost extra, an added cost a broke boy like myself frowned at. That being said, the portion sizes of each dish just about made up for it.
The pork fried rice was by far the highlight of the meal, with just the right meat-to-rice-to-vegetable ratio to keep a hungry crew happy. The massive, steaming plate vanished very quickly as it took center stage against some solid contenders. The orange chicken came out topped with fresh orange slices and provided a crispy complement to the bolder Szechuan chicken, both covered in incredible sauces. Both dishes had large pieces of batter fried chicken and stir-fried vegetables to dream about. Finally, the beef lo mein contained a tantalizing blend of noodles, crisp veggies, and big slices of flavorful beef. The sauce went perfectly with the beef in the noodles and made the plate into a beautiful work of midnight munchies art.
Overall, Wo Hop provides a killer amount of quality Chinese food for a reasonable price at most hours of the day (and night). Your meal shouldn’t cost more than maybe $10 a person to guarantee that all walk out full and satisfied. The funky décor of the place makes it into a destination for late-night diners who find themselves downtown and hungry with some spare cash. Wo Hop gets four fried dumplings out of five from me.
If there’s one thing I was determined to do in London this semester it was to have high tea. What’s not to love? Small sandwiches, scones, sweets—this is the stuff of dreams. I imagined my first high tea would be at the Ritz or some other venerable institution with frilly white tablecloths, three-tiered trays, and waiters in suits. As it turns out, that’s also how everyone else imagines their tea experience, so I wasn’t able to get a spot at Claridge’s, a London institution, until mid-February. After searching through many Buzzfeed posts and “Top 10” articles in local papers, I found an intriguing spot that could seat me and a friend within a few days. Enter Teanamu.
Located in a residential area of Notting Hill, Teanamu is easily missed among its neighboring houses. This restaurant offers a Chinese twist on the classic British experience. You still get your tea, sandwiches, scone, and dessert, but with variations representative of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
I decided on a jasmine tea, which the tea master approved of. Apparently jasmine tea, which is actually a white and not green tea, is perfect for a relaxing afternoon get-together. Green tea, he advised, is far too “frisky” for such an occasion. Unusually, the more times you steep jasmine tea, the stronger the tea becomes. It’s meant to be drunk lukewarm, not hot. The actual process of steeping the tea was a bit complicated. Boiling water from a kettle had to be mixed with cold water from a pot, at which point it was then poured into another pot to steep, poured back into the first container, and then each mouthful of tea poured individually into the smallest china cup I have ever seen. I’ll admit, I’m not the best at pouring and transferring hot liquid from one pot to another, but luckily there was a sort of basin at the center of the table with a grated top. As long as you poured over that, it didn’t matter how messy you were about it.
But onto the food! The first two “courses” were dim sum. The first was a lo mai fan lotus leaf rice parcel. It was my favorite dish of the meal. Sticky rice filled with a red bean curd and braised mushrooms, it oozed a sweet fragrance. I had a bit of difficulty eating it with chopsticks, but that has more to do with my chopstick handling abilities than with the food itself. The second dim sum plate were vegetarian dumplings with sze chuan chili oil. The dumplings were filled with a mushroom mixture, so even though they were vegetarian they still seemed nice and meaty. The tangy sauce contrasted beautifully with the umami flavor.
The next course was a take on the finger sandwich. Instead of a traditional egg salad there was an egg mayonnaise sandwich covered in chili-soaked bamboo shoots. Cucumber and cream cheese was replaced with a more flavorful garlic miso-pickled cream cheese (tangy and a little spicy) with thinly shaved cucumbers and schichimi pepper. The “cheese sandwich” was an extremely bold clash of a sweet and spicy ginger and plum preserve with a creamy and salty mature white cheddar. All of the sandwiches were served open-faced on thick slices of wakame seaweed brown bread.
The final course was a dessert tray featuring snow skin marzipan with guava, sze chuan peppercorn and peanut honeycomb (a new addition to the menu), chocolate hazelnut truffles covered in coconut shavings, mango seed cake, and what our waiter somewhat ruefully referred to as “the obligatory scone,” which came with clotted cream and rose petal jam. I don’t much like coconut shavings but everything else was very good. Each item had a unique and interesting flavor profile with subtle hints of Chinese flavors. The marzipan had a texture similar to mochi and the honeycomb smelled of spices when you brought it close to your mouth. By the end of the meal I understood why the scone was only there out of obligation; it was the most boring part of the entire experience, although still a melt-in-your-mouth, biscuit-like beauty.
I left feeling incredibly satiated. Everything about the experience, from the small wooden tables to the wafts of incense and tea had taken a quintessential British experience and turned it into a more lazy afternoon full of chatting, laughing, and of course, good food.
Peking duck. Most of my other carnivorous indulgences are classics like barbeque or burgers, but Peking duck–this is my favorite. For my 20th birthday, I took a group of my friends, most of whom were unfamiliar with Peking duck, to indulge in what is supposed to be some of the city’s best peking duck. This mecca is more commonly known as The Peking Duck House. It is a nicely decorated and small spot on Mott Street in Chinatown.
Now, for those of you who have never had Peking duck, it is the best. Someone even told me once that it is globally known as the most balanced meal. You have your protein, the duck, your greens, the scallions, and your carbs, the pancakes. Ok, the most balanced meal may be a bit of an exaggeration or just wishful thinking, but it is pretty damn good. The dish is composed of a thin, crepe-like pancake filled with plum sauce, duck, and sliced scallions and then rolled up like a burrito.
Peking Duck House, of course, specializes in this Chinese treat. Almost everyone at the restaurant had ordered at least one duck. However, in addition to the duck, they provide all of the classic Chinatown treats like dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.
The dinner began with a slew of appetizers, including steamed pork buns, chicken dumplings, barbecue spare ribs, vegetable dumplings for the vegan at the table, and spring rolls. My favorites were the steamed pork buns. They are no Joe’s Shanghai, and the dumpling dough is a little too thick, but they sufficed for my pork fix. The little barbeque spare ribs were even better. While all of this was good, we weren’t there for dumplings, after all, but for the duck.
After the duck has been roasted, the waiters carry it out head and all to the customers for our approval. After giving the go-ahead, the waiters returned with two platters filled with sliced duck and its crunchy skin, huge bowls of plum sauce, bowls of scallions, and a huge pile of pancakes.
I immediately dug in, ignoring the plates of chicken, lo mein, and rice surrounding me. The duck was delicious. The pancake is a little thicker than I am used to, but it was still perfect. The duck is rich and the skin crisp and fatty. It is complemented perfectly by the tangy plum sauce and the crunch of the scallions. I think I blacked out because of pure joy as I scarfed down one duck-filled pancake after another.
As a palate cleanser, I dug into the delicious and simple vegetable lo mein, again for the vegan, the pork fried rice, and the chicken. Again, every plate was good Chinese food, but I’m sure you could get equally comparable versions at any number of the restaurants surrounding Peking Duck House.
The duck may be a little pricy at $48, but splitting one between four people makes it only $12, so don’t feel bad, just enjoy!
Happy Chinese New Year! This editor is heading downtown to Chinatown to see the parade (Year of the Snake) and invites you to check out Melina’s appropriately themed Hidden Gems article of the week.
With a name like that, who wouldn’t want to give it a try?
That was a rhetorical question, by the way. Maybe (hopefully) Spicy and Tasty sounds better in its original Chinese dialect. Despite its awful name, the restaurant serves food that lives up to the claim.
Spicy and Tasty is located in the heart of my favorite Chinatown. Flushing, Queens is not really called Chinatown, but I would argue that it is more Chinese than the one in Manhattan. Wikipedia seems to agree.
As you walk down the street, you will notice that there is one Chinese restaurant after the other. I lost count.
So if Spicy and Tasty is a restaurant among a handful of similar restaurants, why should you not keep walking to the next place?
Spicy and Tasty offers some American Chinese-food favorites, but has incorporated more traditional dishes onto its menu. I am willing to bet that you would never find Beef Tripe and Pork Liver on the menu at your local take-out joint.
The menu is a little difficult to navigate, which makes it a learning experience too. The dessert is mixed in with the savory dishes on the menu, so you just might glance over it. I suggest you pay attention and save room for something sweet for the end.
My friend and I decided to split an order of beef with scallions. We were worried that it wouldn’t be large enough, but there was no need for that. It had an overly generous amount of beef. The soy-based sauce was rich but not too salty. Even after finishing the plate, I did not feel the need to gulp down water.
The sesame rice balls with rice wine sauce dessert is located in the Szechuan Delicacies section, alongside wonton in chicken soup. See what I mean about the hard-to-navigate menu? All that aside, don’t leave this place until you try this soupy dessert. It is the most interesting and unexpected item I’ve ever ordered. The rice balls are quite gelatin-y. The liquid in which they swim looks like it has cabbage bits. Those shreds are actually egg.
Take the 7 all the way to Main Street. The walk to 39-07 Prince Street shouldn’t take much longer than a few minutes.
Note: Not everything on the menu is spicy. But everything is tasty.
Melina starts off our official fall season schedule with one of her Hidden Gems posts. This week, she investigates what happens when Chinese + Kosher + Vegetarian all come together in one Chinatown gem.
Saying this establishment is atypical would be a severe understatement. Buddha Bodai is a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. That much is typical. I’ll add a few words. It is a Chinese Kosher Vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown. See what I mean?
Normally, the only Kosher restaurant I trust is a delicatessen. Upon researching this place, I could not help but think about how much Chinese flavor would be lost without beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and crab.
From the outside, the place is nothing special. From the inside, the same statement holds true. Despite this, every single item that I tried on the menu (and I sampled at least seven) was worthy of an ode.
1 Trim the excess fat from the roast. Put the meat in a large casserole or Dutch oven with chopped onion, chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, red pepper, and 5-spice powder. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until meat is very tender when pierced, about 3 hours.
2 Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot and put the meat into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear meat into large shreds. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until parts are brown and crispy.
3. While the meat is roasting, skim and discard fat from liquid in the casserole pan. Boil juices, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes.
4 Return the meat to the Dutch oven. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.
5. Pull apart lettuce leaves into small bowl-like servings, try to keep a bit of the white stem portion attached to make for easier eating.
6. Place small fork-full of pork into each lettuce bowl and serve with Mango Salsa!