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A few underreported cheap thrills in Manhattan's Chinatown


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A few underreported cheap thrills in Manhattan's Chinatown

cimui | | Nov 3, 2009 12:54 PM

1. On the northeastern corner of Mott and Hester in the early afternoon on weekdays, there's a zhong zhi (aka "Chinese tamale") vendor who sells some pretty decent zhong zhi. She doesn't speak English or Mandarin, but sometimes there's a very cute, assertive little girl (about ten years old) who translates for her. Get the fatty pork, hard boiled egg and boiled peanut kind. Rice is tender and very fragrant, fillings are very nicely proportioned. She usually also has a fatty pork and mung bean variety, which I don't think is as good. Price: $1.50. (But I'd tip an extra 50 cents for translation services if you get 'em.) If her translator is not around, point and you have a 50/50 chance of getting the pork and peanut variety -- or buy one of each. :)

2. Almost directly across from Bahn Mi Saigon Bakery on Mott St., there's a place that sells huge steamed buns filled with a mixture of pork, Chinese sausage, cabbage / greens and hard boiled egg. The filling may not be to everyone's taste, but if it is to yours, they buns are well made and very nice straight out of the steamer. A pack of four is $3.75. It's a good way to tide you over if you have to wait an hour for your bahn mi at Saigon.

3. Nam Son, just down the street from the Grand/Chystie St. subway stop, has surprisingly good, balanced broth for pho. I was surprised to discover that it's as good as Xe Lua some days. You only get the standard Thai basil, bean sprouts and lime with the pho, but it's very fresh. I hadn't been to Nam Son for a good, long while and remember it being far less delicious than this. A bowl of pho will cost you between $5 and $6.

4. There's an interesting Taiwanese-style roll (slightly sweeter than Japanese style) that the sushi vendor by the registers in Hong Kong Supermarket sells that I'm pretty enamoured with. It's filled with wakame, tamago, julienned carrots and cucumber, kani kama. It's prepared a bit in advance and suffers all the implications of this, but the rice is short grained and not hardened by refrigeration, the combination of fillings is very nice. It's $4 and about 1000x better than the glop they sell at places like Trader Joes. I personally would not try this vendor's fish-based maki and nigiri, though.

Xe Lua
86 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

Nam Son
245 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

Trader Joe's
142 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

Hong Kong Supermarket
157 Hester St, New York, NY 10013

Hong Kong
78 5th Ave, New York, NY 10011