Sunday, February 17, 2013

Looking back: All things Chinatown

When the Lunar (Chinese) new year happened this year, I felt nostalgic. I miss just doing the rounds of Chinatown in any city. And tasting a lot of Chinese delicacies. There is something exotic about their food. Of course, I am not too daring to go overboard with their exotic stuff (eels, frogs and the like). But I love some of their seafood variety, fruits and exotic flavored ice creams. And the dragon masks and decorations :-) And I love dumplings. And their herb teas are great for the palate. You know where this is going - I am such a big foodie. Gosh.

I think a fair share of affinity to street style Chinese food comes from my love for Indian dhaba style food. Give me a plate of greasy chowmein, stir fries and lots of sauce and I am good to go. So I was mildly surprised when I saw the real Chinese food taste so different from the Indo-Chinese fast food that's served in India (sort of like Panda Express). A lot of actual Chinese food is broth baised/steamed/lightly cooked.

I am huge fan of dumplings so I made a trip to Prosperity Dumplings in New York's Chinatown. Of course I went alone ;-) I venture out on my own on explore-as-you-go type of food crawls. Because it requires an appetite for patience and handling stomach upsets. And I am not sure how far my company can push. Hence alone.

They are a hole in the wall. But I wasn't too surprised by the long waiting line (and this was on a weekday late noon). They have about a 1000+ reviews on yelp. I have been to some elite Dim Sum places, but they pale in comparison with the dumplings at Prosperity. They are famous for their pork chive fried dumplings - too bad I don't eat pork. So I just went for their steamed veggie dumplings, duck and carrot stuffed sesame pancake (greasiest!) and a noodle soup. Washed it down with a bottle of cold water. All for a total under 10$. Now who could beat that?!

After that I got two scoops of lychee and black sesame ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - their asian flavors are the real deal! I then made my way through a whole alley of souvenir shops (btw   this is where you should buy those "I love NY" shirts. A lot of tourist end up buying them from Times Square. Not done :-)) And then reached the open markets to buy fruits and seafood. Btw, you can't bargain with the Chinese - not only because you don't understand their language but also because they are very relentless. You are better off trying but wouldn't guarantee a discount. Haha. So I didn't push the lady in the picture too much and got a bountiful of dragon fruits, cherries and plums.

Then I headed to the seafood stores. Oh what heaven! Picked up some fresh shrimp and snapper (their seafood deals are a steal!). But careful not to get cheated. They mix in some stale fish with the fresh ones. I also always walk up and down few stores to compare prices.

A word of caution to the vegetarians, some of the sights and smells at a Chinatown can be really hard to take in. Because there will be, invariably gregarious window displays of slaughtered animals for purchase. Yeah, the Chinese are all out about displaying meat and not shy in this case. I have seen the ballsiest of my non-vegetarian friends go dizzy in their stomachs, on such sights.

As for me, I was born to walk around Chinatowns in every city :-)

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