My intersession trip to New York began with a harried rush to the legendary Fung Wah bus. And by legendary, I mean notorious. It’s no surprise that I was a little fearful of the Fung Wah – but the only negative story I personally heard was from a philosophy student I met on the T, who pointed out that one trip, his foot, straying in the aisle, was sprayed with Febreze. And even so, that wasn’t that terrible.
And the bus ride, in reality, wasn’t that terrible either. Granted, I played the role of a “yuppie seeking validation of and legitimacy in his or her life” (aka: the plotline of Love Story) through a cheap bus ride adventure, but really. My only worry was the strict ten minute allotment for the McDonald’s stop; rumor had it that the driver would promptly pull out regardless of missing riders. Whether that happened this time…I don’t know. The bus was fairly speedy in the 4.75-hour trip, but my brother-in-law had to point out to me that the driver almost crashed into a car upon arrival.
In any case, it was around 10:30 pm when we finally sat down at Shanghai Moon House Restaurant (67 Bayard Street/New York, NY 10013/212.766.9399 or 212.766.9098 ), a repeat visit for my sister and brother-in-law. They had been raving about the pork steamed buns (8 for $2.99 – ridiculously cheap by most standards) and the aromatic beef cold noodle ($4.50). We ended up ordering a few other things as well, as the dining and packing schedule had been a little harried to say the least. (I beat my roommate’s packing record – fifteen minutes. Take that.)
The food came quickly, and we started off with appetizers. The pork steamed buns were just as I had expected, and even a little bit larger-sized. A quick note on the buns: the kind that we got weren’t dry or sandwich-y, bread-based buns. Rather, these buns were what are called tang bao, “soup” buns, meaning that they were filled with the same broth used to cook the pork filling. The overarching goal of eating tang bao is to not let the soup leak out, since it’s really the best part of the bun. The way to do this is to use chopsticks to maneuver the bao into a soup spoon, dip the spoon into the gingery vinegar sauce, and to eat the bao in one bite, letting the ingredients soak against your tongue.
We followed this up with a combination of three appetizers ($9.95): sliced aromatic beef, wine chicken (aka drunken chicken) and jelly fish. The sliced beef was thin and had a good proportion of jelly, which added to the meat’s chewy texture. And yes, it was aromatic – but the spices were subtle. The wine chicken tasted like any other drunken chicken, but the chicken meat was a little leaner and there was less fat and skin. The jelly fish, although vinegary, was a little less flavorful. However, a generous portion of it was served, and it was nice and chewy. For those of you who are a little less adventurous with regard to jellyfish: don’t worry, it’s good. And it doesn’t really look like meat; it’s just clear.
The sautéed water spinach came ($7.95), followed by the aromatic beef cold noodle ($4.50). The water spinach’s sell comes from its crunch – it also goes by the name “hollow vegetable” because its stems are indeed hollow. Typically water spinach is drenched in oil and lots of garlic, but Shanghai Moon’s rendition was a little bit more delicate. Yes, there was plenty of oil, but at least it looked like it wasn’t reused oil (a heads-up: if your egg rolls ever look dark-colored, it’s probably because it was the tenth batch to be deep fried in the oil). The fresh flavor of the spinach really stood out, but I wished there was a little more garlic flavor in the dish. The cold noodle (shown above – with close up of the meat) was topped with a creamy, light-color peanut sauce that could have been thicker. Combined with the noodles – which had a wavy, fettucini-like texture – it was really quite tasty.
Finally, the surprise hit of the meal was something I didn’t realize we’d ordered – pork and vegetable strips in garlic sauce (admittedly, I don’t have the price because it was a last-minute order). It consisted of thinly shredded pork with green peppers and water chestnuts, topped up with sliced garlic cloves under a brown gravy. Although it looked out of place in a Shanghai-style restaurant, next to the pork steamed buns, it was my favorite dish of the evening; the flavors were bold and the peppers were sharp.
Knowing the huge quantity of restaurants in Chinatown, you could easily head from one to another for a month without repeats, and during visits to New York, I’ll have more on the list to try. But this one may warrant another trip.