After a particularly delicious plate of mapo tofu from our favorite Chinese delivery place on Saturday night, we were both inspired to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon wandering around Chinatown.
Whenever we go to Chinatown, we skip the tourists and the crowds of Canal Street and head west of the Bowery, where the jam-packed shops and overly Americanized Chinese restaurants give way to seedy storefronts with nary a letter of English in sight.
Unlike the crowded streets near Canal, this little cranny of the neighborhood actually has room on the sidewalk to stop and look at the beautiful old buildings surrounding you.
You’ll be able to discover (sans a Zagat guide) which stores have great food or fun things to play with. And if you happen to wander into a building and ascend its stairs, you just might discover that it’s not a specialty food store, but in fact a video game parlor or even a gambling den.
Ryan has written about the great market under the Manhattan Bridge, so after exploring the streets for a bit, we headed toward the market, where we stocked up on Chinese candies and fermented black beans at the market before grabbing a boba tea at one of the shops inside.
Ryan usually opts for a green tea with tapioca bubbles, but this time, at the urging of a friendly counter girl, he tried a strawberry slush with bubbles, which had the same fruity taste as the green tea, but better blended and perfect for summer weather. Boba teas in hand, we grabbed a skewer of fish balls ($1!) from a street vendor and went on our way.
While not as tucked away as some of our other favorite Chinatown spots, the famous Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge Street is certainly one of the best values. The fried pork and chive dumplings are just $1 for five large dumplings, a tasty treat that can easily serve as a meal.
After enjoying our dumplings, we were even too full to visit one of our other favorite spots, Mei Li Wah Bakery, where a steaming hot pork bun will set you back just 80 cents. Even with just a little bit of change in your pocket, you’ll never go hungry in Chinatown.
– Laura and Ryan