Day: February 15th, 2007

Wonton soup for the soul

Thursday, February 15th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

Another Thursday lunch in Chinatown. Earlier this month, New York magazine named New Chao Chow on Mott Street as one of the best places to go for “slurping down some wontons” as part of a larger feature on all things Chinatown. Chaozhou (or “Chiu Chow” as it is known in Cantonese) is a city in eastern Guangdong province, 150 miles northeast of Hong Kong. Chaozhou refers to the dialect of Chinese and to the cultural group. Over the centuries, Chaozhou emigrated to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, forming their own distinct communities in each country. While the decades immediately following the 1950s were ones of generally restricted or controlled migration from mainland China, there was a notable exodus by those fleeing the communist rule into Hong Kong. Refugees from Chaozhou, in particular, converged and settled into their own enclaves among the Cantonese in the British colony.

The dialect may be different, but “chiu chow” cuisine is rather similar to Cantonese, and is notable for its delicacy, fresh ingredients and piquant flavors, particularly in its seafood and vegetarian dishes. New Chao Chao specializes in the cuisine of this region. Another chiu chow restaurant I like is Chao Zhou in Flushing — across the street from the Queens Borough Public Library, and immediately identifiable by the immense red bowl on its roof.

In his New York Times piece on the city’s best chicken soups, Ed Levine named New Chao Chow’s “the greatest wonton soup that I’ve had in New York,” citing its “amazing golden broth” which “doesn’t need either its fabulous wontons or its fresh cilantro and scallion garnishes to enter the Chicken Soup Hall of Fame on the first ballot.” On his site, he declares the soup one of the best eating bargains around the country; I paid $4 for a large bowl of the house wonton noodles soup.

Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice dubbed New Chao Chow the place for “Choicest Chiu Chow” in his 2004 roundup.

The wontons, to my taste, were just fine — not much better or worse than most one would encounter at any of the long-standing noodle shops in Chinatown. (But that’s pretty good indeed.) I agree with those who noted that the broth is what distinguishes this bowl above some of the others — light and immensely flavorful, and tasty enough to stand on its own.

New Chao Chow wontons

Special delivery — perhaps for the Lunar New Year Flower Market in Columbus Park (February 16-17)? Maybe next year.

Chinatown flowers

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