Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Wong King and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

I am perpetually on the search for good Chinese food. Because in my house, like any secular Jewish household, Chinese is a food group on its own. Good Chinese food makes me feel at home, and while I’ve had some great meals in the city, I’ve still been on the lookout for that one place. You know, the one place you always order from, that always has a good menu, that always has consistently delicious food. No frills, just good eatin’.

It is perhaps fitting, then, that after almost two years in New York such a place should be showed to me by none other than TBW. TBW has consistently found and/or shown me some excellent eats, and we have embarked upon several culinary adventures in the past (which reminds me, please try the white Bolognese at Sauced on the Lower East Side if you haven’t, as well as the tequila ices at Cascabel on the Upper East Side—though the latter is best for full-fledged summer).

One evening in particular, though, we were in search of sticky rice in Chinatown, having just come from a meeting in SoHo. But sticky rice was not to be found. TBW didn’t miss a beat, though, and he knew exactly where we were heading next.

On 67 Mott Street near Bayard Street, there is a gleaming yellow sign that says Big Wong King. It’s one of those places you might not know to go to unless someone else has taken you there, or you have really good luck with just falling into awesome restaurants by accident. Luckily, TBW was my guide. He has been going to Big Wong King since he was just a small TBW. Right after his mom would take him to the doctor they’d go for lunch there, he told me. It felt cool to be in his place.

We were quickly ushered in and seated next to some people we didn’t know, as I’ve learned is typical in Chinatown. I realized I had only $6.50 in my wallet. No problem, TBW said. That’ll probably be more than enough. I raised my eyebrows. Child, what now? We are not at Gray’s Papaya. How could we possibly have a full dinner on less than $7 each?

TBW ordered us some congee, which I had never tried before, as well as a spinach-like construction and wontons. The congee, a porridge-like substance, was spotted with some kind of orb. I asked TBW what it was. Duck eggs, he said. I raised my eyebrows again. Is that okay? he said, offering me a challenge. I accepted said challenge with an affirmative response and tried the duck eggs which were actually better than regular eggs, as TBW said they would be. The spinach-like object was drizzled with yummy, brown, tangy oyster sauce, and then there were the wontons. Never have I had such a perfect wonton. Sweet, not too much wrapping, a nice amount of filling, in a sweet and salty broth. I was happy. I had found my Chinese restaurant. Or, rather, TBW gave it to me as a gift.

And then the bill came. Fourteen dollars total, for two people. TBW did have to spot me some cash, but still—less than $10 per person, for a truly scrumptious and simple meal. I would be back, maybe even by myself!


Our next stop was The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory because the following exchange happened:

TBW: Have you ever been to Chinatown Ice Cream?
MM: No.
MM: No... 
TBW: We're going to Chinatown Ice Cream.

Opened in 1978, the place actually has a cult following--with over 3,000 fans on Facebook, it’s consistently written up for being awesome. All of the ice cream is homemade (and all of the signs are delightfully hand drawn), and comes in tame flavors like vanilla or wild ones like wasabi! TBW and I split a black sesame ice cream, which tasted kind of like a nuttier Oreo. Like the love child of almonds and Oreos, actually. It was le yum. We walked through Chinatown to our trains eating the deliciousness, happy the night was not too cold for ice cream.