Sunday, January 08, 2017

New York City: Skyscrapers and Everything.

Loeser's Deli, the Bronx. I'm home!

Happy New Year from New York City! I'm back! I'm home! It  seems like only a bit over six months since we were last here, and yet so much has changed. Most of the people - heck, all of the people I know are numb in shock over the "election" of a narcissist con-man to the US presidency, coupled with a year that seems to have reaped the souls of everybody who ever had a 1980s radio hit song. And Princess Leia, who at least inspired one of Paul Simon's albums. Personally, I dealt with the election results by watching cute kitten videos for two straight weeks, and no, I am not sucking it up and accepting Putin's Choice. But if you want political rants, you have to buy me a drink in person.

Obligatory Rockefeller Center Tree visit.
I will be in New York throughout the winter, hanging with my folks and friends. Lots of folks to see, lots of things to do, but my favorite activity is to simply wander the city, especially the older remnant neighborhoods of Old New York, and the resilient outlying zones of the Bronx and Brooklyn. New Yorkers always complain that the city is "not the same." It is what makes them New Yorkers.

$1 roast pork bun at Mei Li Wah
New York isn't a cheap place to visit, but if you know the ground, grew up in it, or even do a bit of homework, you can find something to eat that is both cheap and good, often world class. A fun day in the city for me consists of knowing where these places are and walking a few miles between them, working up an appetite and dropping in bookstores and guitar repair shops along the way. Chinatown abounds in treasures, such as the Mei Li Wah bakery Yes, they bake things there, such as the amazing, huge meat stuffed $1 baked or steamed pork buns, but basically Mei Li Wah is an a la carte dim sum house, perfect if you want cheap Cantonese snacks without the crowds and portions of a full blast dim sum restaurant.

Shrimp rice noodle roll and shiu mai.

The walls are covered with photos of obscure Guangzhou comfort foods and your wait staff probably doesn't speak a word of English: just point and wait. New York has several Chinatown neighborhoods, and the old one in Manhattan doesn't have a great food reputation compared to Flushing or Brooklyn Chinatowns, but it still serves the community as an important Grandma Shopping magnet. Where else can you get supermarket standards like this:
Now with zombie fungus extract!

I get the herbal medicinal soup angle of it, but with added cordyceps? The parasitic fungus that eats the brains of  wasps into them into zombie wasps? Is this something the Republican Party has been working on for years to foist on the American Working Class? Nothing is too bizarre in the world we live in today. According to the wikipedia link the target audience for medicinal zombie fungus is "Elderly populations, improved sexual drive and virility." Because the mushroom part of it looks kind of like a... penis, shall we say? Why are Chinese medicines always so literal?

Viet and French!

Around 30 years ago Manhattan's Chinatown expanded north and west of the original area around Mott Street, with the arrival of Fujianese taking over the east Broadway area and more Southeast Asian and Viet towads the Lower East side. Flushing is now the prime Chinatown for the city, with more mainland Chinese and less Cantonese influence than in Manhattan. I had arrived a bit early in the day so I had a banh mi for breakfast at the Paris Sandwich shop on Grand Street. Paris Sandwich may not have the best possible, absolutely perfect Banh mi in the city, but they do bake the light, crusty baguette, the sweet and tart Vietnamese salad toppings are great, and at $5.50 a meal, its a satisfying breakfast.

Roast Pork and Vietnamese pate. Questionably Kosher.
This far along, I had still to try two more things I had pined for in East Europe... a bowl of good Hong Kong style wonton noodle soup and, if I could find a place, an order of clay pot rice casserole. The legendary hole in the wall A-Wah has been closed down by the NYC health department (when will the Health Dept accept that mouse droppings are where the flavor comes from!) and I need to find a replacement for my favorite Teochow comfort dish closer than Brooklyn. And yet, deep in my reptilian brain, something said "Enough for the day." And so, having spent a total of about ten dollars on two meals, I called le fooding to a halt and spent the rest of the day walking it off. Did I find the best banh mi and Chinese breakfast nook in the city? Tell me in the comments...