Chinatown, NY – Appearances may be deceiving. It took me a while to learn this. When I first arrived in NY and the cab driver dropped me off from the airport at this rundown decrepit neighborhood, I immediately wanted to turn around and go home. However, after over a year and a half of living here (once you get past the weird fish smell and the ignorant Chinese derelicts that roam the streets) you find out that it’s not that bad of a place after all.
The first couple of months in this part of the city; I found myself heading to Subway everyday. Getting the same thing, day after day. Oven Roasted Chicken Breast on Wheat, please. It soon became redundant and tasteless, I had to start eating something else. But would I resort to eating the disgustingly unsanitary food that they offer around me? I had no choice.
I soon discovered, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, the food around me was marvelous. The $5 foot long was dead. Now, long live $5 Chinatown. Almost everything could be had for roughly $5 or less. It’s a miracle how some of these restaurant survive at such low prices. This new series will illustrate what I mean by $5 Chinatown.
Now instead of something that I eat all the time, I opted to start with a restaurant that I’ve never been to and to be honest, never even seen in my life until today. Xi’An Famous Foods. I have a brief recollection of seeing something on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, but never took it to heart. I decided to give this place a go after I read an interesting article on SeriousEats – NY.
What the heck? It was right across the street from me? (Shows how much I love my neighborhood). A tiny little hole in the wall restaurant (I use the term restaurant very loosely, it’s more like a stand). One thing that I do love about the restaurant, is that they have their whole entire menu in picture form. Which is a good thing for terrible Asian Americans like myself that are wary that they’re going to order something with goat testicles or frog gonads. I point to the picture, and I know what I’m getting (or at least I hope).
What’s funny is that they treat Anthony Bourdain as a demi-god at this restaurant. His picture is posted everywhere and there’s even the clip of No Reservations playing on a TV screen in the front window. Bypassing the Bourdain shrine, I place my order with the lady, and she asks me “For Stay or To Go?” I look around, and ask to myself “Are you serious? there’s not even a place for me to stand. How can it be for stay?” “To go” I tell the crazy woman.
The Pork Stewed Burger – this thing is beyond amazing! At only $2 it’s a New York outrage. The bun is toasted perfectly while still having a pillowy soft texture. However, the meat was a true gift from the porcine gods themselves. Ultra Tender, Ultra Juicy, Ultra Delicious. I felt like I had just robbed the stand, because there’s no way that something so well put together could only cost a mere $2. I’m still bedazzled. In fact, I’m going to post this on Slickdeals to inform the nation.
Before you guys get your panties in a bunch, let me talk about another offering at the stand. Buckwheat Cold Noodles. After having the Pork Stewed Burger, and desperately wanting more, I quickly remembered that I had ordered some noodles as well. I thought I was in for a treat, but boy was I let down. At $4.50, The Buckwheat Cold Noodles come with a heaping serving of bean sprouts, cilantro, and cucumber. They even package it with this hot oil sauce (that I had no idea what to do with). So being adventurous, (Actually, it was because of the poor packaging and the inability to just put in a little); I poured the whole thing into the noodles. BIG MISTAKE! They were not cold noodles anymore! The noodles had completely mutated into something hot and spicy, but what’s weird is that I never would have thought the words bland and spicy could be used together to describe a single dish. However, that’s exactly what the noodles were, boringly bland yet uncomfortably spicy. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.
Next time, I’m just going to buy 3 Stewed Pork Burgers. To Go. Thanks.
Xi’An Famous Foods Scores: