See? I went out of my way to google "Sweet Home Alabama" in chinese. I hope that you're happy and that this is actually correct. Why this sudden language change? I'll tell you why. It's because I took a trip down to Chinatown on Saturday.
Now, I haven't been to Chinatown in years. It seems unusual because just about everyone else I know goes zipping around the city on a daily basis. From Long Island to the Upper West Side, Brooklyn to Little Italy, Staten Island to the Bronx, and pit stops everywhere in between. I don't have to travel far, because my basic daily commutes are in the same general area: church, school, theatre, etc. In short, I simply haven't been to Chinatown in a long time.
After trying food from the heart of Shanghai, at Ollie's--note the sarcasm--I was itching for good, authentic chinese food. So where else better to go than Chinatown? ... Except for China.
So a hop, skip, and an avenue away, the D train took us down to Grand street, which led to streets that seemed vaguely familiar to me. After a short walk, courtesy of an iPad-direction experience, we came to a literal hole-in-the-wall place called Shanghai Kitchen. Dad had gone there before acting as a tour guide for a group of high school students on a disease-ridden trip to NYC. (That's the story of the Doughnut Plant, see earlier post)
If one had seen Shanghai Kitchen without having eaten there, one would have just walked by. From outside, and maybe even from the inside, too, one would probably have guessed that the food was of average take-out style. One would be wrong.
Throw out all your takeout menus and call these people up. I'm dead serious, this food is amazing. My family got several things to share. We got fried pork dumplings, steamed pork and shrimp dumplings, the classic General Tso's chicken, and a chicken with cashews dish.
First, I'll describe the dumplings. They had a thin layer of dough, a lot of meat, and a simple/burst of taste. Dumplings, by personal definition, are supposed to be quietly amazing. They should not be a ball of dough with a tiny meatball inside. Dumplings are about the taste of the meat, with a thin, crisp layer (depending on if they're fried or steamed) of dough on the outside, keeping the meat together. And the sauce was to die for. It was tangy and flavorful, and had little shreds of something in it as well, for flavor. Amazement and happiness are probably the best two words for the pork dumplings. The pork and shrimp were equally good, but with only a few differences: first, these dumplings were steamed, and the shape of a dumpling was slightly different. While the fried dumplings were sealed, in the shape of a clam, or a ravioli style, the steamed dumplings were pinched together at the top, and held together with a pinch of orange caviar. It was like a little purse; the folds of which would shift slightly, but not break, when it moved. But the texture did not hinder the taste, which was, as I have said earlier, quietly amazing.
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of spicy food, but I do like General Tso's chicken. My dad's the biggest fan of it in the family. It is safe to say that the majority of the plate of chicken was eaten primarily by him. Chinese takeout places that have General Tso's chicken tend to lean toward the saucier version of popcorn chicken. This spicy dish focused on the peppers on the side, and the tasty sauce that drenched the chicken. The small pieces of chicken resembled--but just in texture--baby back ribs rather than popcorn chicken. Still, they were exceptionally good. We made sure to stay away from the long black peppers that whispered, "so...hot...so...very...hot..."
Then came the dish called, "Chicken with Cashews" Guess what it was? Turkey breast. Just kidding. It was chicken with cashews. And peppers. It was nothing breath taking, earth shattering, or heaven opening. But it was good. I enjoyed the contrasts of texture and flavor. (My media teacher would be proud of that sentence. I included two new words that we're learning about.) I liked the softness of the chicken compared to the hardness of the cashews, and the crunch of the peppers. I also liked the pepper's spice, the cashew nutty-with-a-hint-of-something-sweet taste, and the chicken-y chicken. A very good Thursday-night/leftover meal. In general, I thought it was great. Too bad we didn't have any leftovers.
After our meal at Shanghai Kitchen, we went to an ice cream place called The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Now, this place is already famous and bustling with people. TOCICF has the typical flavors, such as chocolate, oreo, strawberry, pistachio, and rocky road. They also have sorbets, and more exotic flavors like black sesame, taro, zen butter, and ginger. I had one that was called Egg Cream. And it was absolutely delicious. What I like about ice cream is that every place has a different flavor. Italian gelatos (gelati?) are rich and flavorful, Ben and Jerry's is homey and sweet, and Chinese ice cream is flavorful, but in a quiet way. And they give you a lot for one scoop. It is definitely worth the money.
After a day of genuinely good food, I was happy to say I dozed for a few minutes on the train back up. It was a good, and quietly amazing day.
Here's to Chinatown, dumplings, and quietly amazing things,
And for more information on Shanghai Kitchen and The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, here are their information: (I would give you the takeout menus, but I kind of need those)
Shanghai Kitchen is located on 67 Bayard Street, between Mott and Elizabeth street. Telephone is (212) 513-1788 or (212) 513- 1766
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is also on 65 Bayard street. Telephone is (212) 608-4170. go to www.chinatownicecreamfactory.com for more info.