Restaurants & Bars

A-Wah - The best bo zai fan (claypot rice) in ctown

Lau | Apr 17, 201006:24 PM     115

I'm way behind on reviews, I've got a ton of reviews to write, but I had such a good meal at A-Wah tonight that I decided to write about it right now.

A-Wah is where the now defunct Roasted Delights was at 5 Catherine Street (bet bowery and e broadway). From the outside it looks like a typical cantonese bbq shop with meats hanging in the window. When you walk in they actually did a reasonably nice renovating the place and its decently nice with some dark wood panels and this green coloring on the walls. They also have a TV going playing chinese music. Makes the place much more bright and friendly feeling than most chinese restaurants.

The staff is actually very friendly and seemed to have alot of regular customers now as they were chatting up with some of them. The clientele was 100% chinese and mainly cantonese with a few mandarin speakers mixed in. They told me how much soy sauce I should put on the rice and asked me how my food was, which by ctown standards is exceptional service. I spoke to them in chinese, but I'm pretty sure they can speak english b/c one of the waitresses came up and originally started talking in english to me (even though I'm chinese, the way i dress, look etc is a dead give away that I'm ABC), so I don't language is an issue. Fyi, the dish I'm talking about usually takes about 20 mins to cook, so don't expect super fast service.

I originally came in thinking it was just another bbq place and my plan was to try a few different types of bbq meats and see how it was. I quickly nixed that plan when I looked at the menu and it said in chinese that its a bo zai fan (claypot rice) restaurant and I looked around and every person had bo zai fan in front of them.

For those of you who don't know, bo zai fan is a hong kong claypot rice where they steam the rice in a clay pot and then put various types of meats that you can choose over them and then you pour soy sauce on it. If you watched Anthony Bourdain's episode where he goes to HK, I think it's like the first thing he gets. It's one of my all time favorite hong kong comfort dishes. Not sure why it doesn't get talked about much on chowhound, but it's probably b/c people don't know what it is.

Here's what I got:
- soup: they gave me a free soup that was very good. Simple light broth (not salty at all) with tender pieces of chicken and greens which I couldn't identify (they were very dark and almost looked like collard greens), but were very tasty.
- peking duck buns (bei jing ya): I noticed this as it was listed as an appetizer. I only ordered it b/c I was thinking maybe they took a page out of Corner 28's playbook, so it could be interesting. You get 3 very small buns in a bamboo steamer. They were decent but not great, the ratio of mantou (steamed bun) to duck was too much (i.e. too much bun not enough duck). The duck itself was fine, but a bit too fatty (this is coming from someone who really likes fatty meats) and there wasn't enough skin. Overall, not bad, but not amazing
- pork and chinese sausage claypot rice (bo zai fan): this is the very first one listed in their claypot section. It's 3 types of meats over the rice, a minced pork patty, chinese sausage (la chang) and a sort of thick cut bacon. You pour a very dark and thick soy sauce over everything and mix it up (you'll see the difference in the soy sauce b/c its not the regular soy sauce you normally see...there are different grades of soy sauce). This was really good in fact its the best version I've had outside HK and its even better than Yummy Noodle who does a very respectable version. The minced pork patty was delicious and tender, the chinese sausage was great (hard to mess up) and the bacon pieces were delicious and tender. It's weird with bo zai fan I find that no matter how much soy sauce I put in it never seems to be too much, the lady even said I put alot in although I told her I like it that way (normally I'm very adverse to oversalting food). It all goes so well together and I love the crispy pieces of rice at the bottom of the claypot. This was so good, I was very pleasantly surprised.
- sesame filled rice dough balls (tang yuan): this is one of my all time favorite chinese desserts (another dessert my gf claims is an old people dessert and hence I like it). It's very tender rice dough balls filled with a sweet black sesame paste served in hot water. They are sort of hard to mess up and these were great. I almost always get this anywhere that serves it.

Anyhow, this place is probably one of the most exciting places to open up in chinatown in a long time. I highly recommend coming here and trying this dish b/c their version would be considered decent in HK that's how good I thought it was.

I forgot to take pictures, but I might go back on weds and if I do I'll take pictures then.

Roasted Delights
5 Catherine St, New York, NY 10038

Yummy Noodles
48 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

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