Posts Tagged ‘Dim Sum’

Jing Fong

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by virginia

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about Jing Fong, the ginormous dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, considering that it’s a place that has a lot of meaning for me and Josh. It’s been our go-to place for dim sum ever since we moved into the city, and was where we ate right before Josh proposed. It is also where we held our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, a banquet style dinner that resulted in a lot of people eating jellyfish, accidentally mistaking the long chewy strands for noodles (we didn’t tell them what it was until after they ate it and enjoyed it). As with most of our favorite Chinatown destinations, since we’ve moved uptown, we just haven’t been around as often. Josh had a coworker in town one Sunday who wanted to try dim sum, so we knew exactly where to take him.

Dim sum at Jing Fong on the weekend is pretty crazy. If you don’t get there early enough, there’s a huge line, which is impressive considering how BIG the place is. Luckily we got there in time and were seated right away. There was a pretty long wait by the time we left though. Once you get up the escalator, it’s just a massive space packed to the brim with tables, all of which are full. If you have a small group (ie., 2-3 people), you generally end up having to share a table with other people. It’s not too awkward, the tables are big and you can either talk to your table-mates or not. We’ve experienced it both ways.

Huge line of people waiting to get in when we left

Ideally you want to sit near the kitchen (the right side of the long room, parallel to where the escalators are) because the carts that come out there have the freshest food and are stocked with more items. When you end up in the far corner away from the kitchen, usually you’re options are mostly just tripe and chicken feet, which isn’t bad if you like those items. Otherwise, you have to go with the aggressive route, which is taking your “scorecard” and waiting with a bunch of other people outside the kitchen, waiting to pounce at the carts as soon as they come out. Then you just have to carry your steaming baskets back to your table. There’s also a long table set up in the middle of the room, by the back wall, where they have prepared foods such as sauteed chinese broccoli or steamed clams in black bean sauce that you can pick up. Just remember to take your card with you!

We were a group of five so we wound up with our own table, in the right hand corner just opposite the kitchen. It was a pretty good spot, and there were lots of carts coming around. We basically just pointed at whatever looked good, keeping in mind that one person in our group was a pescetarian, so we got a lot of shrimp and/or veggie items. Here’s a rundown of what we got:

Steamed sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf - one of Josh's favorites. The rice is filled with bits of pork and dried shrimp, and has a nice chewy texture

Pork and shrimp shumai

Steamed soup dumplings - just meh, not enough soup inside, decent pork flavor

Shrimp and chive dumplings

Shrimp and pea dumplings

Crystal shrimp dumplings - a classic dim sum dish and one of my favorites

Crab and vegetable dumplings

Pan fried vegetable dumplings (that also looked like they had bits of shrimp in them)

Baked pork buns - the bread is sweet and the filling is bbq pork

Steamed rice crepe wrapped around a fried cruller topped with cilantro and a sweet soy sauce

Steamed rice crepe filled with shrimp

Pan fried dumpling wrapped in tofu skin

Dessert: deep fried sesame balls - the inside is chewy mochi filled with sweet lotus or bean paste

We actually got a few orders of each dish so we were pretty stuffed by the end of our meal. I was actually hoping to get some tripe, which they prepare very well at Jing Fong, but sadly it never came around. We did see and pass on chicken feet though. I also wanted some egg tarts for dessert but all the dessert carts were pretty bare by the time they got to us, so we settled for the sesame balls.

The ladies who push around the dim sum carts don’t speak a lot of english, but we managed to get by with a mix of english and my mangled mandarin. When you pick out the stuff that you want from the cart, they put stamps on your scorecard indicating the number and the size of the dish you picked. I don’t know how much each dish is, but our bill for all the food was ridiculously tiny. After tax and tip, I think we each paid about $12. Service is a bit brusque but efficient. They kept our teapot filled and gave us a pitcher of ice water for the table when they saw how thirsty we were. They also cleared our table of empty steamer baskets frequently.

There are lots of dim sum places in the city with varying reviews and we haven’t tried them all.  Jing Fong, though, is always a great experience. When we take people there who have never been, they are always shocked by the size of the restaurant and by the number of people packed in. There’s always lots of variety, and the food is usually fresh because of the high volume and turnover. If you’re patient, you can usually get the dishes you want. The key is to show some restraint initially, and not just pick out a million things from the first cart you see simply because you’re hungry. The carts come by frequently, and each lady usually has different items on her cart. While there may be other dim sum parlors we want to try in Chinatown, we’ll always come back to Jing Fong. Not only is the food good, the restaurant has sentimental meaning for us. Maybe that makes us a bit partial, but just give it a try if you’ve never been – it’s always a fun time.

Jing Fong
20 Elizabeth St. at Canal St.
New York, NY

China Day 1 – Flight and Beijing

Thursday, May 6th, 2010 by virginia

We left for China on Thursday afternoon, flying on Air China from JFK to Beijing. The flight itself was fine, with minimal turbulence, but the amenities on the plane were lacking (no personal tvs and bad movies at random intervals on grainy projection screens). The food was pretty decent though, as far as coach airplane food goes. Nothing spectacular by any means, but definitely edible and relatively flavorful. We ended up having two meals on the way over, dinner and lunch, and while the entrees changed, the sides did not. Both times we were given a tuna salad and a roll on the side, and a pre-packaged mango shortcake for dessert. I had chicken and rice first, which came in a nice black bean sauce.

Chicken in black bean sauce with rice, tuna salad, bread, and mango shortcake

Josh had beef and rice, with chewy beef and blandly steamed broccoli and carrots.

Beef with rice, broccoli, and carrots

For my second meal, I had seafood noodles. The noodles were pretty limp but still had some chewiness to them, and the four accompanying shrimp were fairly edible.

Seafood noodles with shrimp

I don’t remember what Josh had. Pork maybe? It was in a gloppy brown sauce with more bland broccoli. Meh.

Possibly pork with rice and broccoli

We landed in Beijing in the early evening but by the time we got through immigration, got our bags, met up with members of our tour group, and took the hour bus ride from the airport to the city, it was pretty late. We were still hungry though so we ventured out of our hotel, the New Otani, and went in search for food. We wound up at a restaurant on the street behind the hotel that seemed to be the most crowded. The restaurant’s specialty appeared to be seafood (like whole fish in a spicy chili broth), but none of us were in the mood for fish so we ended up picking mostly familiar dishes and a few fun snacks.

The name of the restaurant on the menu

We started out with some beer, of course, one that was local to Beijing. It was pretty light and fairly tasteless, but refreshing enough.

Yanjing beer

Our first dish was sweet and sour deep fried crullers (yeo tiao, or “oil sticks”). These crullers are popular in Taiwan wrapped in sesame pancake and dunked into bowls of hot soy milk, so I was intrigued to see them served in a different way. The sticky sweet and sour sauce was more sweet than sour, and had a subtle maple flavor to it. It went well with the crunchy pieces of cruller. I actually liked this dish a lot, even though I originally thought it would be weird.

Sweet and sour deep fried crullers

We had to order Josh’s favorite dish, shredded pork in garlic sauce. It had a good amount of spice and lots of fresh ginger mixed in. I was only slightly turned off by the weirdly soft texture of the pork, but that was something I would have to learn to deal with over the course of the next week.

Shredded pork in garlic sauce

I was excited to have the marinated duck, since I’ve always found poultry to be better in Asia. This was a bit disappointing because the duck was quite small, and the skin was not rendered and super fatty. Flavor-wise it was good though, with lots of duck flavor shining through.

Marinated duck

The mapo tofu we ordered was SUPER spicy and burned my mouth so much that not even plain rice or beer could calm it down. You can just see how much bright red oil is coming off the dish, though Josh really enjoyed it. I like a little spice, but not when my mouth goes totally numb. The chunks of tofu were good though, a bit firm but still quite silky.

Super spicy mapo tofu

From the snack section of the menu, we ordered baked buns with sesame. They were nicely browned on the outside with a lot of sesame sprinkled on, and the inside was filled with pork.

Baked pork buns with sesame

The bun part was a bit thick, but the pork inside was pretty tasty.

Porky innards

For dessert, we had fried sesame balls with black sesame paste filling. I’ve had similar balls in Chinatown but they’re usually filled with red bean paste. These were also significantly larger than the ones in Chinatown, practically the size of softballs. We asked our waitress to cut them in half so they would be more manageable.

Fried sesame balls filled with black sesame paste

Overall we thought the food at Fei Teng Yu Xiang was quite good. Everything was well seasoned and there was lots of spice involved, as it is a Sichuan restaurant. We weren’t in the mood for seafood but I’ve read that it’s their specialty, so maybe we missed out but I still liked what we had. We definitely ordered way too much food for the four of us but the meal was super cheap – less than US$25 TOTAL, including the beers we had. It’s hard to beat that!

Fei Teng Yu Xiang
Beijing, China