Just got back from a short but filling & productive walk through Manhattan’s Chinatown searching for ingredients and inspiration for tomorrow’s Filipino cooking class. My dear brother-in-law was kind enough to walk around earlier this week, providing me with a list of shops by name, address, and specialty – that was kinda like cheating, but in a good way!
Like most of my Chinatown excursions, today started at Tung Woo Co., basically a garage door to nowhere at 232 Grand Street near Bowery. In front of this open garage door you will find two pots of hot, fresh tofu (tau fu fa) that you can purchase by the pint (served with a simple, sweet sauce) for only $1.00… hands down the cheapest aphrodisiac food in NYC! This warm, slippery, nutty, sweet, savory treat is well worth the nervous pointing, and fumbling through the long line of surly little Asian women to get the goods! Today, the lady behind the counter was hoarding a stash of handmade dumplings that she was showing off to some of her regulars – I managed to get her to sell me 3 for $1.25… The surprise treat was tender chewy and stuffed with pork, fresh water chestnuts, and shitake mushrooms. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Next door to one of the grocery stores we visited is the Century Cafe at 123 Bowery, just off Grand Street. This place was packed and only had a few obligatory signed in English; otherwise, we were on our own to point and hope for something delicious. We scored again! Taro bun, coconut bun, a flossy pork meal-in-a-bun… Oh my! So far a lunch buffet for two has not exceeded $10! I’ll be back to this place – they have a chicken feet bun that is calling my name! (Really!)
Last stop on the feeding frenzy was Fried Dumplings at 106 Mosco Street… 5 fried pork dumplings for $1.00, sitting at a counter with a bottle of black vinegar, a bottle of siracha, and a view of 2 Chinese grandmothers making dumplings by hand – Priceless! (No photos, at their request)
Walking back to FCI, weighed down with several types of vinegar and soy sauces, frozen produce that is not available fresh in this country, and nearly a full container of tau fu fa, I made a fateful (and fairly expensive) discovery at one of the million produce markets… fresh, perfect texture, beautiful mangosteens! One bag cost more than everything else we ate all day, but so worth every penny! Memories taste so good!