The two most talked about Chinatowns in the United States are in San Francisco and New York. So when we planned our trip to New York, it was inevitable that we ended up in Chinatown. New York's Chinatown really embraces the energy of the city and at the heart is deep rooted Chinese culture pumping through its veins. We ended up at Lam Zhou as a result of a serious craving for noodles and dumplings. As we walked into the little hole in the wall, all we could see were people packed into a very tight space slurping on noodles and devouring dumplings. It's worth noting that most of the customers appeared to be locals on their lunch break and Mandarin was spoken throughout.
There's no doubt that the place is legit. Above the slurping and chewing was the sound of noodles being slammed against a giant stone table. The chef was pulling and making noodles to order by the kitchen and we were seated right beside him. If chef's tables existed in places like these, that's where we were, right in the action.
Beef noodle soup
For five dollars, I was expecting a pretty small portion with barely any meat, but it was quite a generous bowl of beef and broth with just the right amount of noodles. All the noodles were pulled to order and dropped quickly in boiling water. The long, smooth, uniform and soft noodles had a little bite to them. The noodles got softer as it sat in the broth, which tasted like it had been cooked for days. Although I prefer hand pulled noodles to be slightly firmer, these are the best I've tasted outside of China. The counters were lined with chili sauce, black vinegar and soy sauce so you could tweak the soup to suit you (and make your own dumpling sauce).
Boiled pork and chive dumplings - 12
These dumplings were huge considering it was only three dollars for twelve uniform dumplings filled to the max with ground pork and chive. Soy sauce was used in the mix which gave it a dark color. The filling was not too firm and not too loose, it was just right. The wrapper to filling ratio was perfect, just like how my grandmother used to make it. Remember that scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego takes a bite of the ratatouille and flashes back to his childhood? I had a similar experience after eating the first dumpling. On top of the terrific dumplings, they also had all the condiments that I enjoy with boiled dumplings: chili sauce, black vinegar and soy sauce. It felt great to finally have found a place that makes boiled dumplings that reminds of my grandmother's. Just wish it wasn't on the other side of the country.
Lam Zhou Homemade Noodle
144 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
Another great spot we stumbled upon was Joe's Shanghai. They had the most amazing xialongbao I have tasted outside of Shanghai, China. They were large, filled with an intense pork broth and the wrappers were the perfect consistency to ensure they didn't break. The wait was 45 minutes to an hour and small parties had to share tables. We opted to get an order of xialongbao to go just so we could taste them. Considering how incredible they were to go, I can only imagine how amazing they are fresh. These soup dumplings were one of the culinary highlights of our trip to New York trip. I can still taste that thick gelatinous pork broth.
I can't get over how cheap and delicious the food was. If I lived in New York, I would take the subway to Chinatown at least once a week for lunch. I definitely have to say that the Chinatown in New York has the upper hand over San Gabriel Valley or San Francisco.