Friday, September 23, 2011

This Town Was Made For Us: The Lower East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy (Not So Much)

I am a liar, I apologize, but I have a REALLY good reason! I had all good intentions to write about Kyedong, but then I realized I wouldn’t really be doing it justice. Sure, we had some chicken and fries, and yes, they were amazing. 

I think though, that this experience would be even more awesome with, what else, but beer. Specifically Killians, because it’s either that or Coors or something like that. Besides, everyone knows redheads are a ticket to a blast of a time! So, I think Kyedong deserves a second trip, and once that happens, I will certainly have more to write on.

But I digress, and offer something even better, I hope. A long-awaited trip to the Lower East Side and  Chinatown/Little Italy. So the first cool thing about NYC, and one of the many reasons why I love calling this place home, are all the little enclaves of different ethnic groups. Probably the most well known ones in NYC are Chinatown and Little Italy (although we have two Chinatowns in Queens, Elmhurst and Flushing, and one in Brooklyn, and there are some very Italian areas of NYC, like the Rockaways and Staten Island. Jersey Shore much?)

I run into one of my fav celebrities, and even though I was trying not to be a fan girl, I totally had to get a picture! 

 I also love how the two are next to each other and intertwine, much like The Fisherman and I, awww <3 You’ll see an Italian deli, then across the street, a Chinese produce shop., It makes me feel a bit like something is good, something is right, with The Fisherman and I being together. You don't think it makes sense but it does, like Wendy's fries and a Frosty. When it comes to this part of Manhattan, the sign says it all.

Anyway, we wandered around, hit up the original Doughnut Plant on Grand Street on the Lower East Side. While it was cool to see the original Mmmmm Mecca, I like the Chelsea one more because there’s actually room to sit, enjoy, breathe. I don’t want to go too far off the beaten path, but we got some doughnuts, peach, banana nut, blackout (chocoliciousfantasorgasmic), and tres leches, our fav, also known to me as Luscious Lecheliciousness! Remember kids, don’t pay for air in your doughnuts. Go for the dense, yumminess of cake doughnuts. You’ll thank me. 


So after a breakfast of champions, we wander around Chinatown, The Fisherman's old stomping grounds. Good thing one of us knows where to go, because I would just wander until I got lost, then hope I find Canal Street. After walking we find Noodletown, The Fisherman's fav noodle place. I now know why.

As I explained to him, for Americans, broth plays second fiddle to the noodles, veg, meat, etc. in a soup. I mean come on, we are boullion freaks, Lipton reigns supreme, our broth is basically salt and MSG. Broth elsewhere, like in China, is a big deal, it's the reason to have soup. Sure, they get help from MSG too, but not in the same way (MSG is also is great at setting off my migraines, boo MSG, for getting between me and dim sum!!) 

One word of caution: some people can taste this, like The Fisherman and I, but not everyone can. The noodles being used in our soup here, and in other Asian fooderies are processed in some kind of way that involves using an alkaline solution to create a firmer texture. Eggs used to be used for this purpose, but when eggs got too expensive, the alkaline process became the norm. If the noodles aren't washed enough, it'll have a very, very faint aroma of ammonia. When I first encountered it I was a bit concerned. It is well worth the trip, and most people don't even notice it, I'd say give it a shot.

I also got to try my first good Chinese doughnut or youtiao, or yau ja gwai in Cantonese. It's actually a misnomer because while it is a doughnut, it's savory, not sweet. It's usually eaten for breakfast with congee or juk as a textural contrast. Congee, or juk in Chinese, is a rice porridge, similar to farina, oatmeals, grits, etc. And here's a cool fact about youtiao that The Fisherman told me, as confirmed by Wikipedia: 

"The Cantonese name yàu hja gwái literally means "oil-fried devil" and, according to folklore, is an act of protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui, who is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese culture. It is said that the food, originally in the shape of two human-shaped pieces of dough but later evolved into two pieces joined in the middle, represents Qin Hui and his wife, both having a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general's demise. Thus the youtiao is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. In keeping with the legend, youtiao are often made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife.[6]

Neat!! Anyway, the yau ja gwai was really good, anything fried is good fresh, and this was awesome!

After Noodletown we wandered around a bit more (sadly our trip was a bit short since I was dealing with a three-day migraine, boo! Hence our Little Italy side of things didn't happen, double triple boo!!!), but we did run into something I read about on the interwebz, dragon beard candy. This guy was selling them from a cart, like many fine comestibles here and around the city. 

I was so excited! The Fisherman's mom loves these, so I was trying very hard to let her have some first before we nommed the whole container. 

I was feeling quite spiffy with my dragon beard candy.

Quite, indeed, monocle!

Next, I wanted to do a run through of my first Mooncake Festival, this year in early September. Now I see what the fuss is about, although it is a bit interesting. Until then, mangia!

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