Tag: Chinatown

Year of the Rat

Thursday, February 7th, 2008 | All Things, Events

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year, family and friends!

Today marked the beginning of Year 4705 by the Chinese calendar — the start of a 15-day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival on the night of the first full moon.

The year of the Rat is the first in the sequence of twelve Chinese zodiac animals, familiar to many via those brightly printed paper placemats in Chinese restaurants of yore: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. (Once so popular, I can’t recall the last time I saw one.)

The related children’s story goes that the Jade Emperor wanted to designate a dozen animals for the calendar, and announced a race through a river to determine their order. The cat and the rat, being the worst swimmers, devised a plan to cross the river on the back of the naive and agreeable ox. On the day of the race, though, the competitive rat pushed the cat off into the river, and rode the ox’s horn to victory himself, jumping off at the opposite bank to reach the finish line first. (“You dirty rat!”) As a result of the rat’s betrayal, the cat came in dead last — 13th — and did not get a year named in his honor. Swearing vengeance, the cat has chased the rat for all eternity… and has hated water ever since.

We had plans to check out the new year’s festivities going on in Chinatown this afternoon. I could hear the building din on my approach from the subway on Canal. Here, the madness on Mott. Drums! Lions! Second time in a week I was showered in confetti.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Seemed like a fun idea at the time, but in practice… not so much, after a while. “The crazy secret about New York is that many locals can’t stand crowds.” Word. We hastily decamped to the relative calm of Baxter Street a few blocks away, where we opted instead for a lunch of Vietnamese food that thankfully, did not include rats.

Well, not that we know of, anyway.

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Super Duper Fat Tuesday

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Is it still only Tuesday? So far this week, there’s already been song and dance, thrilling victory and joyous celebration… and tonight, coinciding with Super Duper Tuesday and the traditional excess associated with Mardi Gras, our long-planned, pre-Chinese New Year feast at Chinatown’s Amazing 66.

A dozen friends, new and old, gathered in the restaurant’s lower level. Early in, it was established that we would place ourselves (willingly, happily) in SL’s capable ordering hands, and just eat whatever food was placed before us this evening. So began the parade of deliciousness — off and on the menu. A platter of batter-fried seafood, sauteed pea shoots, pan-fried noodles with seafood, braised E-Fu noodles with black mushroom (for longevity), and this, the first of two restaurant specialties that required advance ordering: Short Rib Beef in a Pumpkin. Yes: that’s short rib beef! In a pumpkin! Was ever there more a delightful combination of words spoken? The dish was brought out to the table in one glorious piece, with chunks of steaming, lightly curry-spiced meat exploding tantalizingly out the top of the hollowed out squash. Our glossy-tressed waiter, brandishing a large chef’s knife, made quick work of the soft, pumpkin flesh before our eyes.

Short Rib Beef in a Pumpkin

Salad Walnut Prawns — a classic dish made up of the seemingly strange combination of deep-fried jumbo prawns, slathered in a sweet mayonnaise, and laid over a bed of dressed mixed fruits, broccoli and candied walnuts. Tasty, though.

Walnut Shrimp

And the second show-stopper of the evening: the House Special Crispy Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice. Essentially, a whole chicken, deboned and de-…fleshed(?), crammed with a combination of sausage-studded sticky rice, and then deep-fried and meticulously reassembled into the general shape a chicken, albeit a rather flat one. Head included, of course — to symbolize wholeness and togetherness.

House Special Crispy Chicken

There were more dishes, selected for their symbolic auspiciousness: another chicken, roasted, and topped with preserved vegetables. A whole steamed flounder; the Chinese word for “fish” is a homonym for “abundance”. And an oyster casserole, to bring in “good things” for the coming year.

Amazing 66 spread

We ate our fill — or perhaps just beyond — and finished with a round of orange wedges (for wealth) and bowls of red bean tong shui (sweet dessert soup). How a few of us still managed after all that to squeeze in a post-dinner trip to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory can best be attributed to a new year’s miracle.

Though when it comes to such temptations, I align myself with New York‘s Insatiable Critic Gael Greene, who declares quite rightly: “I shall never trust anyone who doesn’t love ice cream.

Chinese New Year dragons

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A very good place to start

Thursday, January 24th, 2008 | All Things, Eats

After that first visit to Amazing 66 on Mott, I could hardly wait a week before coming back to sample more of their $4.95 lunch menu.

But where to begin? With item #1: Pork Chop with Chili & Spiced Salt.

Salt and pepper pork

The dish was expertly prepared: half a dozen lightly battered pieces of pork on the bone, topped with crunchy fried bits of minced garlic, and slices of scallions and jalapeños. I ended up finishing only about half of this platter. As I was pondering whether to have the leftovers wrapped, the harried waiter swiftly spirited our plates away, rendering my decision moot. No matter, these fried dishes tend not to hold up so well over time anyway.

And, because my friend had a craving: a plate of fried dumplings. I didn’t even see these on the menu, but ask, and ye shall receive.

Fried dumplings

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