Instagram Post 2/21-24/2020 and 3/16-22/2020
It seems to me that authentic Cantonese cuisine is often overlooked in favor of other, less subtle, regional Chinese fare. That may be because Chinese-American food, a poor excuse for gastronomy IMO but a stepping stone for the totally uninitiated I guess, has its roots in Guangdong.
Our group recently visited Wu’s Wonton King at 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown and came away more than pleased – so much so that I brought another group there a few weeks later! Here’s a compilation of everything both groups enjoyed.
(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)
You’ve probably had mediocre wonton soup with nondescript flaccid dumplings in Chinese restaurants so many times that you don’t even bother to order it. It seems to be ubiquitous. But I urge you to try Wu’s New York Number 1 Wonton Soup. The sturdy dumplings packed with shrimp, pork, and watercress are bathed in a bone broth soup, cloudy, flavorful, and rich with collagen. A great starter for which they are justly famous.
The inner workings.
Here are two dumpling orders from the Dim Sum section of the menu. Pan Fried Shrimp with Green Chives, just what it sounds like and totally delicious…
…and Steamed Chaozhou dumplings, halved so you could see the filling (and yeah, so we could share). Peanuts provide the crunch in these classic pouches in addition to an ample complement of carrots, peas, shiitake mushrooms, ground pork, and dried shrimp. Love these.
I was especially keen to try their take on a dish I’ve had elsewhere that features osmanthus clam/mussel. My “clam/mussel” equivocation stems from the fact that the seafood in question is actually neither. Rather, it is an internal component of the sea cucumber, an echinoderm that inhabits the ocean’s floor.
If you’re unenthusiastic when it comes to even reading about innards, skip to the next paragraph. Now. Sea cucumbers have a soft, sausage-shaped body with no solid appendages and don’t even have a proper brain, so one might reason that they wouldn’t be particularly adept at self-defense against predators – but for one saving grace. From Wikipedia: “Some species of coral-reef sea cucumbers…can defend themselves by expelling their sticky cuvierian tubules to entangle potential predators…in an autotomic process known as evisceration.” [I’ve heard the term “stomach eversion”. Simply put, they literally puke their guts out.] “Replacement tubules grow back in one and a half to five weeks, depending on the species.” The tubules look very much like squid tentacles which is how they appear on the plate. Here’s a photo in vivo.
That having been said, the name of this absolutely delicious dish is 脆奶拼雙蚌, #10 on the Seafood section of the menu; its English name is Sautéed Clam with Fried Milk (although the menu uses a different word for “fried”).
As presented: there are king oyster mushrooms and sautéed asparagus beneath the Chinese chives and clams. It’s pricier than some other menu items, but I thought it was excellent.
Post-bite close-up of the crispy, sweet, creamy fried milk; these could be a snack by themselves. So good.
Close-up of a clam; its flavor and appearance are similar to that of a razor clam but perhaps a bit more slippery and chewy. Now here’s where I need some help from the cognoscenti among you. Is that red bit (which tasted completely different from the other part, brinier and spicier for sure) part of the clam, or something different? TIA for the info!
Our foray into the real deal at Wu’s Wonton King was rewarded with this bowl of Pan Fried Noodles with Seafood.
Revealing the crispy noodles beneath that are the raison d’être of this dish.
They say that timing is everything and that’s surely the case with this presentation. Mix well: if you start crunching before the sauce has a chance to permeate the noodles, you’re missing the point; wait too long and the rich seafood mélange will have saturated and drowned them into a submission of sogginess. Nope. There is a window of culinary opportunity in which the noodles still have crunch but have absorbed enough of the sauce to be flavorful – and that’s what you’re going for.
This may very well be the best rendition of Cantonese pan fried noodles with you-name-it I’ve ever had.
You’ve probably gazed at the awesome roasted/BBQ meats (and sometimes cuttlefish if you’re lucky) hanging in the windows at Cantonese restaurants: roast pork, roast pig, soy sauce chicken, and so many more. The collective term for these favorites is siu mei (燒味), not to be confused with the popular dim sum dumpling, shu mai (燒賣). But if you’d like a change from roast duck, give this marinated braised duck, beautifully rare and perfectly succulent, a try.
I’ve worked my way through most of the duck options on the menu from roast to marinated braised. This one is Honey Roast Duck; gotta love that sweet and shiny skin protecting the succulent meat within.
Check out the framed posters on the wall and you’ll spot “Dried Squid Sautéed Fried with Silver Anchovy”; it was that photo that tempted us and it proved to be another outstanding choice. (It’s “Dried Squid Stir Fry”, #16 on the Seafood section of the menu, if you don’t see it on the wall.) Tender squid contrasted with the crispy little fish, but don’t envision European salted anchovies packed in oil like you might find on a pizza; these are half a world apart. Literally. I’ll be returning with a different group very soon, and this dish is at the top of our gotta-do-this-again list.
If you’ve never tried a Chinese casserole you should add it to your repertoire. The cooking vessel is a clay pot and the variety of recipes and ingredients seems limitless. Often a rice dish with a crispy bottom layer, this one is a rich home style stew featuring chunks of lamb and bean curd sticks – another example of bean curd skin’s many guises (see this recent post).
To me, this dish is Sichuan comfort food: the menu calls it Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, the commonly used descriptor. The Chinese characters are 鱼香肉丝, literally fish flavor (or fragrance) shredded pork, but don’t infer that it tastes like (or contains) fish from the phrase “fish flavor”; it simply refers to a method often used for cooking fish, and it’s delicious. A little sweet, a little sour from vinegar, accented by the omnipresent garlic and ginger, it’s chili sauce based – and it’s the kind of chili sauce that tastes a bit like ketchup. (As a matter of fact, one theory holds that the word ketchup comes from the Cantonese words “keh jap”, literally tomato sauce, but there are others of course.) Etymology notwithstanding, the dish is classic.
This is Snow Pea Sprout with Dried Scallop. The dish as presented has the appearance of an ocean of sauce with a school of shredded dried scallops swimming just beneath the surface.
Only by parting the sea are the snow pea shoots revealed. Subtle and delectable.
Chinese Broccoli (gai lan), stripped of its leaves, included here to dispel the myth that I tend to overlook vegetables. 😉
Complimentary mango jelly for dessert.
Wu’s Wonton King is located at 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown.