As at the now-departed New Chao Chow Restaurant, Vietnamese items crowd the menu. The dishes at Bo Ky that most deserve your attention, however, hail from the southern Chinese city of Chaozhou, also rendered Chao Chow, Chiu Chow, and Teo Chew.
Turnip and water chestnut cakes (50 cents each). The first, which didn't have many add-ins (compare the superior version at Fong Inn Too), I bought mainly as a savory counterpoint to the second, which had the appearance, consistency, and sweetness of a Jell-O salad. Here and there in various Chinatowns I've come across similar items other flavors, almost always on weekend mornings. Sleep in and you'll miss them.
New Great Bakery 303 Grand St. (Eldridge-Allen Sts.), Manhattan 212-966-3318
The dumpling-makers were hard at work behind the counter, but on a Saturday morning the most popular breakfast items were warm, oily chive pancakes (two for $1.50) also filled with glass noodles and, perhaps, a very few bits of egg. For one couple dining in, the full breakfast set included a half-pint each of warm soy milk, drunk directly from a plastic takeout container.
North Dumpling 27 Essex St. (Hester-Grand Sts.), Manhattan 212-529-2700
If the French name "With Spices" and the bouillabaisse-like abundance of this Malaysian soup aren't clues enough, the menu tells the tale: Aux Epices is the reincarnation of Franklin Station Cafe. That Tribeca establishment (1993-2008) served a seafood laksa that was surprisingly delicious, considering the recorded strains of accordion music on the afternoon of my visit, seven years ago.
My latest laksa (sans accordion, $12.95) might have been even better: Salmon, shellfish, and thick, square-cut noodles were generously heaped in an excellent spicy-coconutty gravy. Serious Eats, for whom this is a local hangout, has sampled additional entrees.
Also shown: bobo cha cha ($3). Like my favorite version from overseas, this dessert was not overly sweet. The coconut-milk base was laden with taro, sweet potato, tapioca, and more.
Aux Epices 221 Baxter St. (Hester-Canal Sts.), Manhattan 212-274-8585
The chef at this month-old restaurant comes from Kuala Lumpur, but the fried rice-noodle dishes called chow kueh teow are modeled after the style of the owner's previous home, in Penang. This house special version ($7.95) conceals a fried goose egg. Renditions I've sampled in Malaysia usually make the egg more apparent, and the add-in comes from a chicken or, in deluxe cases, a duck.
Duck or goose, laid on top or hidden below, the egg was fine by me just as is. Another time, however, I'll cajole the staff into adding more chili paste while stir-frying — hot sauce on the side just isn't the same — and turning up the flame a bit, too.
CM Malaysian Restaurant 21 Division St. (Market St.-Bowery), Manhattan 212-226-8998
The relevant characters in the company name denote "dried meat," but "jerky" is more a translation of convenience. Whether cut into strips or small chunks, the meat used to make jerky is typically salted while being dried, and the resulting product is often firm if not outright tough and dry.
Malaysian-style bak kwa, Ling Kee's stock in trade, is nothing of the sort. Whether beef, or pork, or shrimp (shown, $4.75 per quarter-pound), the protein of choice is minced, seasoned (sugar, light soy sauce, rice wine, and five-spice powder are common), colored (red is propitious), and pressed into thin sheets, which are cut into squares.
At Ling Kee, the squares are then fanned along the outside edge of a colander, which is set in a shallow pan filled with water; the whole assembly is then seated atop a charcoal grill. Stop by at the right time — I never have — and you can watch this stage of the operation through the window.
The resulting bak kwa is very limber, as you can see. Ling Kee's is sweeter than many, and very oily; to clean up after my three squares of bak kwa, three napkins didn't quite do the job.
In retrospect, what the Revere, Massachusetts Angkor Watt Market translated as "beef jerky" was probably a Cambodian variant on bak kwa. It was easy to tear and a little sweet, I noted at the time. I might be able to confirm it on my next visit, if only I were willing to learn Khmer script.
Hanging above the doorway of this Fujianese "99 cents and up" store are a number of posters offering nutritional guidance. One, illustrated with postage-stamp-sized photos, outlines the merits of 40-some fruits and vegetables. Another, shown here in detail, employs a variation on the international "no" sign to warn against possibly dangerous food pairings.
In the example at hand, combining the two ingredients "can lead to poisoning, in severe cases, fatal" (my loose translation). If you secure a particularly nice bunch of enokitake from the farmers market, the poster implies, that would not be the time to scour the local butcher shops for fresh donkey meat.
Fu Jun Hao 217 Madison St. (Rutgers-Jefferson Sts.), Manhattan
Years back, a supermarket in my neighborhood sold "crabmeat" that posed as the real thing but was impossibly cheap, rubbery in texture, and oddly, artificially sweet. This was a product manufactured from pulverized fish, of course, and nowadays on similar packages the word "imitation" is stamped on the label, too. (I couldn't tell you if the taste has improved.)
For refreshment after a leisurely stroll through the celebrated West Side park, you'd need to hike another two-plus miles, south and east, to reach this deli in the Fujianese heart of Chinatown. A second, possible inspiration for the Highline name is the hulking Manhattan Bridge; as you exit the deli's front door, it looms beyond the noodle-and-dumpling joints on Eldridge St. The bridge is walkable but, since pedestrians must share the span with bicycles, cars, trucks, and several subway lines, not nearly as tranquil.
Highline Deli 83 Canal St. (at Eldridge St.), Manhattan 212-226-3811
Poon Kee's menu of Hong Kong-style snacks is even more terse than when this takeout joint was championed by Lauhound. Though the tiny crustaceans in dried shrimp cheung fun ($1.75) were nowhere in sight, it's possible they were simply lost in a swamp of hot, sesame, and soy sauces. The noodles themselves were very fresh-tasting, as were the fish balls ($1.75). These seemed so springy that they might have bounced, if I'd been willing to part with one for the experiment.
Poon Kee 39 Monroe St. (Catherine-Market Sts.), Manhattan 212-267-7977
The glutinous wrapper of this dumpling ($1) was dyed green, perhaps by mugwort, and the filling might have been shredded daikon, though it had been sweetened beyond easy recognition. A set of nearly identical green dumplings from the same table, filled with sticky rice, each sported a red dot; the dumpling shown here in biteaway view was unmarked. Both types of dumplings may belong to a broad category of Hakka snacks called aiban. Can any Eating In Translation reader tell us more?
There's a Fujianese talent to eating periwinkles — capture a single shell with chopsticks, hold it to the lips, gently extract the snail meat, separate the callous-like operculum, and use chopsticks to set both shell and operculum on a side plate — that I haven't acquired. As at Prima, where, I believe, the periwinkles are simply poached, I relied on toothpicks to twist free the meat. Since I mimicked another table and ordered "any style with snail" ($9.95) slathered in black bean sauce, at Food World I needed not only multiple toothpicks but many napkins, too.
Food World Restaurant 19 Eldridge St. (Canal-Division Sts.), Manhattan 212-219-0006
This unlabeled item ($1) is a cousin to the chak-chak of Central Asia, supplemented with peanuts, green slivers of what might be scallion, and pink bits of who-knows-what. It's prescored in two for easy sharing; there's only just so much unleavened deep-fried dough, sparingly cemented with honey, that a fellow can eat at one go.
Fuzhou Supermarket 148 Henry St. (at Rutgers St.), Manhattan 212-528-5916
From their translucent shimmer it's plain that these cold skin noodles ($4) — advertised days earlier by a handwritten, English-only sign — aren't identical to the liang pi at Xi'an Famous Foods. Though most of Panda's staff are Fujianese, the mustached fellow doing much of the prep work comes from Northeast China.
His very slippery Dongbei la pi, made from mung beans, are dressed with carrot, cucumber, vinegar, garlic, and chili. Liang fen, similar noodles also made from mung beans, are often cut much thicker, as in this spicy dish at Lan Sheng.
Panda Dumpling House 107 Hester St. (at Eldridge St.), Manhattan 212-625-1115
Four choices, with white rice and thin soup ($4): fried shrimp, tripe and celery, crimson-stained (and odd-tasting) bamboo, and superb (if largely hidden) sauteed flowering chives. Choosing between Golden Bowl and its mirror-image neighbor, Yi Mei Gourmet Food, is a toss-up; have a gander at the windows and see what looks good.
New Golden Bowl Restaurant 51 Division St. (Near Market St.), Manhattan 347-804-0066 Open through early evening