After sampling countless sweets from dozens of bakeries, we've found the best buns, egg tarts, and cakes that Manhattan's Chinatown has to offer.
'Chinatown' on Serious Eats
Chinatown's pulse beats fastest at Canal and Bowery, where the Manhattan Bridge spills traffic onto the island and, nearby, the diesel engines of buses idle. Few people consider the eastern reaches of the neighborhood, between the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, as a dining destination. But that's where Rosette opened at the end of January.
Looking for a "fried egg" made of soy protein with a cheese powder yolk? A whole "lobster" made of yam flour? Vegan "beef stew," wrapped in plastic and ready to eat? Whatever meat substitute you need, you can probably find it here.
I was excited to see the opening of Strings Ramen in Chinatown just a few doors down from The Phoenix Room. I got even more excited when I saw the menu only has four bowls of ramen on it, because I'd rather see a place with a few items it does well rather than a billion things it does a mediocre job with (I'm looking at you, Cheesecake Factory).
By the time the cook is done hand-pulling the dough, he can run his fingers through it, but not before he's played it like an accordion, twisted it like a jump rope, and swung it like a sword.
A couple weeks back, my wife gave me a challenge: entertain her two friends visiting from Colombia with a food tour of Little Italy and Chinatown that lived up to my own standards of good food, catered to their tourist desires for a bit of history and a unique-to-New York feel, and clocked in at under $20 per person.
The menu is always changing InDessert, our favorite Chinese sit-down dessert spot in Chinatown, but this Green Tea Waffle ($6.50) has become one of our standbys. Three waffle quadrants (what happens to the fourth?) hit the plate with a scoop of ice cream, a drizzle of condensed milk, whipped cream, and some strawberries for good measure.
Candy stores are always special places, and ones that fill a specific niche are endlessly interesting and fun to explore. For those of us who love Asian candy and snacks, look no further than Aji Ichiban.
Kam Hing Coffee Shop's classic sponge cake now comes in a chocolate-cinnamon variation.
When Delong Chang, a longtime cook in Chinatown, opened A-Wah, he decided to focus on bo zai fan, a dish that was popular where he grew up in southern China.
Deceptively simple hand-pulled noodles depend on a few ingredients and the hands of a skilled noodle maker to bring everything together—by pulling everything apart. The process brings a natural rhythm to noodle shops like Chinatown's Sheng Wang.
We tried not to write about Noodle Village once again, but hey, sometimes you have to give Chinatown's best wonton soup slinger its due. But this time we're not talking about wontons or soup, but rather noodles with a sweet meat sauce poetically called Pork in Hot Spicy Sauce Lo Mein.
The last place you expect to find seasonal variation is in Chinese restaurants. It does happen, but to the casual observer, it's the same bell peppers and bok choy month in and month out. So I was immediately curious when Cai, a big dim sum hall in Chinatown, had pumpkin congee on its menu.
Vegetarian Dim Sum House specializes in fake meat, which might be an instant turn-off for some, but fine seitan and tofu cookery is a tradition that stretches back centuries in China, and with the right chef and the right dish, it really can be a beautiful thing. For a centerpiece dish you'll have to order off menu for a platter of mock beef in brown sauce baked inside a whole kabocha squash.
It's a cold and lonely walk to Canal and Ludlow, the streets empty and dark and windy. The Lower East Side may be hopping, but not here. So when you show up at Skàl, it'd be nice if a waiter didn't greet you with a look that asked, "What are you doing here?" Trust me, guys, I didn't just stumble in by accident.
If you're hankering for a Sunday morning meal, and you just can't stomach the notion of syrup-soaked griddle cakes, dim sum is the way to go, and in Chicago it doesn't get much better than Cai.
In our office neighborhood of Chinatown, food is front and center. That's more than some good restaurants—streets and businesses here all run to the beat of the buying, selling, cooking, and eating. To capture the incredible color, texture, and movement that so characterizes the neighborhood and its approach to food, we asked photographer Clay Williams to hit the streets from morning until night and document the ways food comes to life here.
Over on Eater, Robert Sietsema brings a camera crew down to Super Taste in Chinatown to produce this video profiling the restaurant's hand-pulled noodles—the first to come to New York, he says, in 2005.
There are plenty of bad wonton soups in Chinatown, but some excellent ones as well. Where should you go for the best? We tasted 23 bowls to find out.
Start your day off right with a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich from one of our favorite diners, Cup and Saucer.