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New York Food Tours: Chinatown

by Meghann on September 5, 2010

Word of advice….

When in Chinatown be aware of what people hand you to try.

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Be afraid…. be very afraid. ๐Ÿ˜‰

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from New York Food Tours inviting me on one of their highly recommended tours of the city. Turns out the summer intern was a big fan of the blog and saw I was heading to the city for a weekend away. How could I say no?

I immediately accepted and invited Ashley, Bo, and Derek along for the ride.

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Now the question came, which tour should we choose? Each one sounded better than the last. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Original East Village Food Tasting and Cultural Tour

The Original East Village Food and Drinks Tasting and Cultural Tour

Taste of China Town

Exotic Southeast Asian and Chinese Food Tour

The Ultimate New York Food & Culture Tour

Asian Vegetarian Food & Culture Tour

Gourmet and Fusion Dessert Tasting & Culture Tour

Everything Chocolate

The First Multicultural Bar Hopping Tour

The Freakiest and Funniest Food Tour

Which would you choose? Personally it was all Chinatown for us.

Chinatown is a busy, overwhelming area of New York City that has always been a mystery to the four of us. We all usually walk around in awe of all the delicious looking exotic fruit and entrees, but never know where to go to the get the best of the best or what all the local swear by.

This tour was our chance to learn it all. ๐Ÿ™‚

We met our tour guide, Candy, around 2:45 and were handed maps of Chinatown and provided a brief history of the area. One of my favorite part of any food tour tour (and what I loved most about the Chicago tour last month) is the in depth history you are provided throughout the tour. I learned more on the tour than I would through any guidebook or internet site. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our 3 hour tour included 7 separate stops to sample various Chinese cuisine and culture. We got to try a little of this and a little of that while figuring out what this whole Chinatown thing was really about.

Our first stop was a little fruit stand where we were offered samples of Lychee.

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I’ve sampled Lychee martinis and Lychee Fro Yo, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had lychee straight up before.

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The flavor was very sweet and slimy. It’s something I believe would enjoy on a regular basis, but as a one time sample it wasn’t bad.

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Next up, Tasty Dumpling.

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Where we learned the difference between a dumpling and a wonton is the difference in shape, thickness of skin, and dough.

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We sampled Pork & Cabbage Dumplings and a Pork and Chive Dumpling.

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I preferred the Pork & Chive combo due to the extra kick the chive provided in each bite. Basically it had a little somethin’, somethin’ the pork and cabbage was missing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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New Beef King

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for Chinese Beef Jerky

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We learned the cooking method for Chinese Beef Jerky is a bit different then the cooking process for the beef jerky we know in the U.S. The slower, multi-step cooking process results in a tenderer, juicier jerky that is easy to chew and big on flavor.

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It was delicious. If they had accepted credit card I would have easily picked some up to bring home for my Dad to enjoy. I think he really would have liked it!

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I was pretty excited our next was – Nice Green Bo – considering I had ate there when I was here in February… ironically due to a suggestion from Ashley.

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Scallion Pancakes were on the menu and though I’ve heard the term a million times before, I’ve honestly never tried one myself.

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Can’t forget the special sauce.

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Loved it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it tasted like a spiced flatbread of sorts.

IMG_7805.JPG Our first bakery shop was Mei Li Wah.

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I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Chinese pastries or baked goods. They have interesting textures and are usually pretty far out there. Just skimming the menu I knew finding something that would make me fall in love would not be easy.

Our tour guide distributed Steamed Roast Pork Buns to the group and -even though this would not have been my first choice – I decided to give it a shot.

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Interesting…

The bun was soft and sweet while the pork was savory and warm. It was an odd juxtoposition of flavors that strangely worked in this dish. I wouldn’t order it again, but when in Rome?

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I like our second option much better – a deep fried piece of dough that was coated with honey and cinnamon sugar.

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An optional side trip was encouraged to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

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Tour guide: “It’s a landmark because well… American’s like Ice Cream”

True enough.

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There was an odd assortment of exotic flavors to choose from, but I went with the highly recommended Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream.

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It had an odd nut butter taste to it. I had high hopes for this flavor, but am not sure I could finish a whole serving of it.

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Fong Inn Too Inc.

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Tofu Pudding?

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Yeah, we weren’t fans.

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I should have took a video of Derek trying it. It took him a good minute or two to work up the courage to actually taste it and then he immediately started gagging and spit it out. The silky, airy texture was a bit much for him. And did I mention it was warm and sweet?

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Mango Cake aka Marriage Cake

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The Chinese are big fans of soft textures. Me? I prefer a crunchy and chewy. The flavor was right, but the texture was just too weird.

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We had a little fin at Aji Ichiban. Apparently the chain is HUGE in Hong Kong and is well known for it’s fun candy and snacks as well as their endless amounts of free samples they offer of everything.

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Things got a little crazy with wasabi fish and dried squid, but we survived.

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I <3 hilarious restaurant names

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Pork & Seafood Won Ton with BBq Duck and Rice

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Tea time!!

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We tried 4 or 5 samples and I ended up walking our withe a quarter pound of green tea and some sample tea bags.

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Our last stop… I was getting very full by this point.

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Time for some Dim Sum

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We ate A LOT. We walked alot, we learned a lot, and we had a great time!

I would highly recommend the Chinatown food tour to anyone really looked to experience all the delicious food the Chinese culture has to offer. We had a small, welcoming group, our tour guide was hilarious and we honestly had a great time.

THanks to the wonderful people at New York Food Tours for inviting me along! We all enjoyed it and can’t wait to test out all of the other highly reccommended places one the list! ๐Ÿ™‚

1 Allie (Live Laugh Eat) September 5, 2010 at 12:43 am

I’m TOTALLY going on a food tour next time I’m in NYC. I probably won’t do Chinatown since I’ve tried most of the food already but the 3902483 others sound like a blast. Samples of food are totally my thing.

2 tropicaleats September 5, 2010 at 12:55 am

i LOVE all of your funny faces you guys made trying everything! That tofu pudding does sound really scary. Looks like an awesome tour though!!!

3 Sana September 5, 2010 at 1:03 am

Heheheh! I love your expressions as you tried different things! How awesome!!

4 suki @ [Super Duper Fantastic] September 5, 2010 at 2:17 am

Now you know why I can eat anything. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Growing up on all this stuff, the strange textures that you encountered are all normal to me. The warm tofu “pudding” is just silken tofu in a ginger syrup.

5 maria @ Chasing the Now September 5, 2010 at 2:19 am

Honestly, from someone living in Japan, it seems you got a pretty accurate view of Asian cuisine from this tour. The gyoza (dumplings) are one of my favorite things about living in Japan. But I agree with you on the sweets… they just are very different from American taste in dessert… not nearly as much sugar and usually strange.

6 Bridget September 5, 2010 at 2:25 am

I chuckled a lot reading this post! I eat tofu pudding often, and the black sesame ice cream is my favorite! The dried squid is something that I will eat if I am in the mood.:-P At least I know where I can get those things when I return stateside! Nonetheless, glad that you enjoyed the tour!

7 britchickruns September 5, 2010 at 2:33 am

What a fascinating tour! I think the gross tofu pudding thing sounds lovely though! Great photos ๐Ÿ™‚

8 Kristy @ KristyRuns.com September 5, 2010 at 8:17 am

Oh, man! You and Derek have the best faces in this post! Classic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Look like a ton a fun and a LOT of food. I kept scrolling down thinking, “they’re STILL eating?!?!?” You guys are champs!

9 christina cadden September 5, 2010 at 8:31 am

That is so cool. Looks like a great time to try new things!

10 shelly@campinggirlchronicals September 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

What a great way to see a portion of New York! I just found out that my city also has food tours, I cna’t wait to take one.

11 Evan Thomas September 5, 2010 at 8:52 am

Wow, monster post. I love tofu and all, but warm and sweet does not do it for me.

12 maren September 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

Fun tour! I actually LOVE the bakeries in NYC Chinatown! They should’ve taken you to better bakeries though! There’s a delicious green tea waffle (belgian style) at Paris Sandwich for $1! And I LOVE the Steamed Pumpkin Buns at Golden Steamer. Or the Baked Chestnut Buns and Sweet Potato Buns at Fay Da Bakery. Those seem much more up your alley ๐Ÿ™‚

13 jessica September 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

What are you tasting in that first picture?

14 Faith September 5, 2010 at 10:34 am

I frackin LOVED eating in Chinatown! My coworkers dragged me to some uber-authentic place where there were literally chickens hanging from the windows…but it was the best Buddhist’s Delight I’ve ever had! The fruit stands were amazing too, and the produce was SO cheap! Girl, you’re really making me miss NYC! I need to go back!!!

15 gingerbreadcake September 5, 2010 at 11:08 am

That looks like so much fun. Haha, I love the faces you and Derek are making. So hilarious! ๐Ÿ™‚

16 runningwithsass September 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

I am stuffed just reading about all that food! sounds super fun though!

17 Tammy September 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

When I lived in China I loved the steamed pork buns (bao tze)…they also had these wrap-like dough things that had a sauce in the middle that tasted like peanut butter and were served warm. My roomate and I treated ourselves to one every sunday morning! The one thing that was pretty popular that i couldn’t get myself to try was the pea ice cream…YUCK!

18 theprocessofhealing September 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

How fun!!! And what a perfect city for a food tour!

19 Jillian @reshapeyourlife September 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

You are WAY more adventurous with food than I am… Looks like you had fun though!! And the dim sum looks really good!

20 Katie September 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Woah so many pictures, I love it!! Looks like Chinatown was funnn!!

21 Nicci@NiftyEats September 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Now, that looks like a fun tour to do!

22 Carly (Swim, Run, Om) September 5, 2010 at 3:36 pm

All of those tours look great! I would have had a tough time choosing.

I read once that Asian countries are more focused on presenting the different textures in foods than in flavors.

23 Courtney September 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

So many picture! looks like you guys had lots of fun trying all that interesting food! next time do the chocolate tour… that sounds sooo yummy ๐Ÿ˜€

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