I Love Chinatown

IMG_1101Where we live on the Lower East Side it’s hard to tell where Chinatown starts and the Lower East Side ends.  We live on Grand street and I only have to walk 2 blocks before I am in the heart of one of the most vibrant Asian grocery store areas downtown.  Besides having some of the best prices in town they always have some of the most interesting produce I have ever seen, often things actually I have never seen and this selection changes seasonally.  Produce is not the only thing that is hard to keep up with in this ever-changing neighborhood: food shops and restaurants are constantly opening and closing.  Of the two places I have recently discovered one has been there for a while (a very long while from the looks of it) and the other is recently opened.

Lam Zhou in a small hole in the wall on East Broadway just a few doors down from the post office.  I’ve walked by it many, many time and never really noticed it. Maybe you can tell from this picture why…IMG_1103

IMG_1104It was starting to get cold out, the first real cold of the season, I had rushed by Lam Zhou on my way to the Post Office to try to get there before it closed.  Turns out it closes at 5:30 not 6 so I was left on East Broadway hungry and in a hurry to get to my appointment in Tribeca when something in my brain said: Didn’t that sign post say duck soup?  So I went to investigate.IMG_1099The place was packed but I was lucky enough to find one seat at a large table occupied by a group of young Asian men (teenagers I would guess) most of whom were waiting for large plates of fried dumplings, the guy in my left was slurping his soup which confirmed for me that soup was the way to go.  I looked around and didn’t really see a waitress, at the end of the small dingy room was an open door way, on the left was this guy (above) making hand-made noodles and a bunch of other people busy frying dumplings and attending to steaming pots of broth and boiling noodles…the menu was posted on the wall.IMG_1097It didn’t take long for me to decide that Ox Tail was the way to go.  I figured for $5.50 even if it was awful it wasn’t much of a risk.  I went up to where the guy making the noodles was and someone else from the kitchen looked up at me expectantly so I told him Ox Tail Soup and returned to my seat just as several plates of fried dumplings arrived at the table to feed the hungry youth I had joined for dinner.   They smelled so good I began questioning my choice, but I could never eat dumplings and soup it would be way too much food.  Black Vinegar, Hot Sauce, a few other condiments I didn’t know what they were and utensils are all on the table.IMG_1095The utensils included small, really useless plastic spoons, which I quickly realized where a concession to Western dinners, as the young man next to me picked up his bowl after he has finished his noodles and drank the hot tasty broth directly from the bowl.  Much more efficient than the plastic spoons.  When my soup came it was steamy hot and delicious. The noodles were the perfect combination of chewy and soft; perfect for slurping.  When I left the place which had been packed had emptied out.  I vowed to return, this place may not have much going for it in the way of decor, but it offers one of the best bowls of soup I’ve had in a long while, for a great price.  I have to go back with friends so I try the Duck soup with noodles and try out the dumplings.IMG_1102On the same walk through Chinatown to get to tribeca I came across: Beautiful Memory Dessert.IMG_1106 First off c’mon how could you not want to eat at a place called Beautiful Memory Desserts? This place looked brand spanking new and had photos of their desserts along with their names.IMG_1109Sticky rice and mango is a classic Thai dessert, I’m guessing that the Vanilla sauce is made with a coconut milk base? Or that the chef is getting all fusion on our asses 😉IMG_1108 IMG_1107 I didn’t go in because I was running late, but I will be back, in a world filled with fancy Chinese sponge cake and fruit pastries or bubble tea shops this Dessert place looked very unique with a Southeast Asian twist that really appeals.  Turns out after some research that Beautiful Memory Desserts started in Flushing Queens…and this is their expansion into Manhattan.

Finally to make me feel like I had indeed been transported to Asia there was an endless array of produce. An entire block that seemed to be taken over by sugar caneIMG_0946 IMG_0948 IMG_0945Pineapple peeled and cut like they do in Bangkok – this is the first time I have ever seen this here in NYC – I was so thrilled by it I actually bought some pineapple.IMG_1105And finally the elderly gentleman whose famous food cart makes “yummy cakes” which are very simple lite white cakes the size of a donut hole that smell and taste so good….15 for a buck.  If you haven’t been for a walk through Chinatown in a while I think it’s time. Each time I go I discover something new and wonderful.  I love it.IMG_2379


About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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1 Response to I Love Chinatown

  1. Pingback: The Story of Chef Andy Ricker of The Pok Pok Thai Empire | Urbanfoodguy

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