Tag Archives: Chinatown

Seven Things To Eat In New York City Over Spring Break

With spring break looming over the horizon—for Columbia students, all mayhem commences tomorrow—I’ve received a number of queries along similar lines:

“I’m going to be in New York over spring break. Where should I eat?”  Continue reading


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Notes from Best Fuzhou, Unabridged

Due to space constraints and certain so-called copy ‘rules,’ my latest column for the Spectator appeared in abridged form. Here, I am publishing the full version. It is not that the Spectator version is inferior—some may find it infinitely more enjoyable—but rather that it is different, both in aesthetic effect and implicit meaning. You will notice that in the Spectator version, all quoted source material has been excised. In this unabridged version, the quotations remain in their original, unattributed form. If you are interested in finding out where the quotes come from, I’m happy to answer any and all queries. Click here for the abridged version.

The tongue is a lean muscle. It swims through linguistic fluid, writhes over benthic riddles, stiffens and retreats like a sea slug crawling across strange corals. Like a pig’s tongue—snuffling tree roots or extended in squeals—the human lingua, from to root to apex, is a fleshy, muscular organ “divided into lateral halves by a median fibrous septum which extends throughout its entire length and is fixed below to the hyoid bone.” Without the tongue, we could neither taste nor speak—the essential consumptive and expulsive functions of the oral cavity would be rendered pleasureless. I feel sorry for the pig who gave his tongue for our dinner at Best Fuzhou. What a dull and inarticulate life! But if the mouth of the righteous is sodden with wisdom, the perverted tongue will be excised. I have personally performed a glossectomy of necessary and delicious ends. Cooked in soy sauce and chilled until dense and gelatinous, my pig’s tongue tastes like curses and corned beef. Continue reading

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Eat Piglet, Eat Rabbit

“The photographs are not illustrative. They, and the text, are co-equal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative.” James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, xi.

Piglet is squealing.

Mark Ladner, chef at Del Posto, wears square granny glasses and blue latex gloves. With a practiced snap to check for fit, Ladner bends over the cutting board.

Pig: Sus scrofa domesticus: child-like. Its hairy and pink skin reflexes upon palpitation; it snuffles to the human touch. Cradled in the arms of a pubescent girl, its heart beats in languid, muffled, contented ka-thumps. It avoids cold, wet, and windy weather, preferring the safe habitations of a straw-lined litter. In the bluster of a kitchen, the pig peeks its pointed head between open oven doors, inquires into burbling pots, and trips, nervous, as though made uncomfortable by the warm voices far overhead. They speak of dinner and death. Continue reading

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Things To Do In Flushing When You’re Dead

I’m in Chengdu Heaven.

There’s a plate of pig ear chopped in thin chunks, absolutely drenched in chili oil and Sichuan peppercorn and covered with something green that tastes like scallion, and I’m stuffing my face. The chopsticks won’t stop careening from styrofoam plate to mouth; I want to stop and my tongue buzzes but my hands involuntary swipe at more ear, rubbery and crunchy like giant pale rubber bands. “This is some pretty good pig ear,” I say, in between bites, and Chef (who’s worked at all sorts of Michelin starred and otherwise applauded restaurants) just nods, his mouth full of dan dan noodles or tripe slathered in more of that ma la concoction, I can’t really tell because he’s really shoveling it in vigorously and enjoying it. Frankie From Seattle is taking a break from the tripe (which also comes with tongue) and is capable of agreeing with me in no uncertain terms: “The best ear I’ve ever eaten.” Continue reading

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Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad

October on Bayard Street tastes sharp like radish and blue zinc; Chinese mothers carrying cucumbers and mackerel quicken their step, bundled in black cloaks against the cold; schoolboys slurp hot and milky tea in Taiwanese snack shops; the rare tourist pauses and studies his subway map in confusion, for he has wandered far from Canal Street and needs a woman, clutched like a chicken foot, to guide him West. Against the current of the crowd sweeping over the sidewalk, flowing between lampposts and parked bicycles, pushing from Mott to Mulberry, head buried and burrowing on, a fruit stand is set. Its lights shine on tangerines and the season’s last grapes, shrunken and timid and priceless. Swimming against the mob I grab a jackfruit for dear life and poke my head above water, breathing in the light before surrendering myself to another block before dinner.

Inside Xi’an Famous Foods, I ordered spicy and tingly lamb face salad at the cash register. The morning had been a matter of anticipation, the afternoon an exercise in agonizing delay. Lunch: peanut butter and jelly on English muffins. Milquetoast fare for cubicle living. At long last, I had found the center of my office maze and escaped the gray and white and leapt free from plate glass up, out, over Midtown, across Hell’s Kitchen (sneaking peeks into ramen noodle houses and peep shows), down the West Side Highway and East, due East, into Chinatown. After changing my twenty and taking a seat, I listened to the call, “28, order 28,” and then “29,” and then, mercifully passing over the next number, “31, lamb face salad.”

I am watching Anthony Bourdain eat off my plate, fending off his pernicious fingers with a pair of chopsticks. Continue reading

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Summer in the City: How to Save Money on Dumplings and Spend It All on Gelato

Ever since corny Americana regained a glimmer of hipness, overcharging—on the basis of sheer cool and social status—for otherwise inexpensive food has become a predictable annoyance in the New York restaurant experience. Consider the fried chicken and biscuit: a meal that should come cheap, and in fact tastes better when gotten for a fistful of dirty dollar bills, now calls for AmEx cards of the gold variety. Of course, for a certain class of young and well-moneyed urbanite, spending more increases a dinner’s overall pleasure; however, when hedonism is contingent on expense, the luster and value of original pleasures—like the unpretentious and familial communities once rooted in Sylvia’s and long-lost soul food hideaways—disappear. What replaces the site of native enjoyment is a touristic fascination with “experiencing” “how the other half lives” in terms of the other-other half. Casting theory and phalse philosophizing aside, the cheaper varieties often just taste better than their ritzy relatives. Continue reading

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Summer in the City: Sheng Wang

New York is a city that has been overmapped and over-recorded; few corners remain that have not been passed over by some historian’s gaze. Within the collectively known city, however, a personal city slumbers: the individual worlds we construct that fit into the broader sense of a place: the individual cartographies we draw that trace our physical and social movements through the urban space. So even though New York City has been digitally archived and preserved, it remains possible to  walk outside the margins of the mapped world.

Canal Street dips low into the underbelly of Chinatown. Past the Manhattan Bridge and its triumphal arch, Canal leaves behind the touristed Chinatown alleys. By the corner of Eldridge Street, exposed brick shines through chipping paint; a luncheonette sign swings on its hinges, lazy in the late afternoon sun. For it is still afternoon at 6’oclock on Friday, when working men start heading for dinner. At 27 Eldridge, Sheng Wang swallows up a few lonely workers; they stop in for Fujian noodles, either hand-pulled or peeled off a block of dough. Cysts form in Chinatown around which the rest of the city blithely expands. Sheng Wang occupies one such pocket, suspended in a field of dense fluid: it bathes in its own special soup, a broth that tastes more like animal than any one particular animal species. It is a battered, happy place that has been left behind. Continue reading

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