Hey ya’ll! Happy Friday. I have been crazy busy today. This morning I had an interview at the New York City Food Bank for an internship of a lifetime. I really hope I get the opportunity to intern there! It would be amazing. Then I had plans with a friend to go on a free walking tour through Chinatown from a company called Free Tours by Foot. That was probably the greatest foodie adventure I’ve been on since I’ve moved here. It was a food tour, so it was based around the food in Chinatown. We went to a ton of delicious places while learning about the culture of Chinatown and how Chinatown was developed. Lets get to the yummy part, which was the food.
The first stop was a dumpling shop. At the beginning, I just wanted to eat anything because I hadn’t eaten all day because I had been back and forth from my apartment to places. I was excited though we were getting dumplings because who doesn’t love a good fried dumpling. I sort of laughed that the name of the place was Fried Dumpling. It probably said something else in Chinese, but our tour guide had no idea. It smelled so delicious outside. I wanted her to hurry up and explain, so we could get inside and get our nom on.
Get in my belly. The tour guide went on to explain the the pork and chive were the most popular, so I decided why not go ahead and get that. My friend and I ended up splitting a thing of ten dumplings. They were delicious. There was a nice juice inside, the pork was really tender, and the chive wasn’t overwhelming. The dough of the dumpling was perfectly fried and crispy in all the right places. The best part of this place was that 5 dumplings only cost a 1$. Apparently this is a huge thing in Chinatown. I definitely know where I will be heading from now on. I’ll pretty much become a dumpling with prices like these. This was the perfect way to the start the tour. As we enjoyed our dumplings, our tour guide, Meredith, from Free Tours by Foot, went on to explain a little bit about herself and the company.
The next stop on the tour was Xi’an Famous Foods. The funny thing was that I had actually creeped on this place before in one of my many yelp searches for legitimate Chinese food in New York. So when Free Tours by Foot said we were going here, I got a little foodie excited. This store has many locations in the city, which include East Village, Midtown West, and Chinatown. Of course since we were on the Chinatown tour, we obviously were going to the Chinatown shop, but it was nice to learn that there are bunch of shops around the city and much closer to where I live then Chinatown (bc this is so far away from my apartment – oh wait, so is everything that is anything, first world struggles).
My friend and I ended up splitting the Lamb Burger. Lamb at a Chinese shop? Yes, I was a bit weirded out too. The tour guide from Free Tours by Foot said that this was a really popular item and a good snack to go since we were on a walking tour. However I definitely want to go back because she said that they were known for their noodles and soup, which are two things that are not easy to do while walking. This was delicious. The bun was steamed on the outside and the lamb inside was soft and broke apart in your mouth. It was really spicy, which I enjoyed. One lady said she was sweating, which I laughed at because it was 40 degrees outside and it wasn’t THAT spicy. There were onions and peppers packed along with the meat, which was nice. Overall it was definitely a win. You go Free Tours by Foot, you go!
Next stop was ice cream. I know what you are thinking, who eats ice cream in Chinatown and when it is cold outside? It wasn’t that cold actually. Plus my mouth was a little spicy and hot from the lamb burger, so it was nice to cool it off with some ice cream. This place was really interesting. They had a ton of odd Asian flavored ice cream like lychee, sesame, something I can’t even pronounce, almond cookie (apparently this is some Asian treat), and others. It was hard to pick because they all looked so good.
I ended up getting the almond cookie one since it was a traditional Chinese treat that was mashed inside of ice cream. It was really good. The almond flavor wasn’t too overwhelming and I liked the nice surprises of crunch from the smashed cookie inside the ice cream. It was definitely a sweet treat to have. I want to go find those almond cookies and try them by themselves. My friend got this special Chinese one that had butter in it along with an American flavor of cherry vanilla. Of course the tour guide laughed at him for getting an American flavor, but he redeemed himself by getting the butter one too. I was getting full at this point, so definitely my advice on food tours is to always split things!
The next stop was Mei Lai Wah, which was sort of a bakery, but kind of a dim sum shop, which also had random things like rice and noodles. I was so pumped to go here. When Free Tours by Foot had said that we were going to be getting BBQ pork buns on the tour, I was like OMG OMG OMG YESSSSSSSSSSSS. BBQ pork buns are pretty much my thing. I have to always have them at dim sum. My family knows too that this is like my ultimate dish. Anyways food.
This is nirvana. Not even joking. My friend ended up getting the baked BBQ pork bun, which is a sweet version of this classic dish. It is topped with a honey egg glaze. He enjoyed it so much that he went back inside to buy some steamed BBQ pork buns to try. I don’t lie about BBQ pork buns people! The greatest thing about this shop was that the buns were only .80 cents. Ummm yes. And they were huge. I will definitely be coming back here all the time. I got two BBQ steamed buns to go because I knew I would want to enjoy them later. I wouldn’t have minded trying the shrimp dumplings or the rice noodles too, but I didn’t have time to get those or eat them on the walk.
Free Tours by Foot is great because you get to learn historical information while nomming on delicious treats. Our tour guide decided to let our stomachs digest some of the food for a bit, so she took us to a Buddhist temple, which was really interesting. It was really beautiful inside with all the ornate statues. I was happy to sit down. We had been walking for a bit and my legs were getting a little tired. Problems of an old person. Struggle bus. There was an quirky old woman there offering grapes to her relatives that had passed on. We learned that the Buddhist offer food at the alter in order to feed them in heaven. I thought that was pretty cool. Hopefully someone manages it, so that the food doesn’t spoil.
This was our last stop on the tour. I was sad, but at the same time I was looking forward to taking a rest because I was so exhausted. This was a sweet bakery unlike the more savory one we went to in order to get the BBQ pork buns. Apparently I was the only person on the tour, besides the guide, that knew anything about classic Asian dishes. My parents raised me right giving me lots of dim sum and other Asian food.
Once again I had to get the treats to go, and I even got one for the roomie. I know how she loves her egg custard tarts, so I was like yep definitely getting two, so we can enjoy them together when we sit on the couch and vegetate tonight. We are cool like that. I also ended up getting a coconut bun too. I was a bit interested in how it would be, so I can’t wait to see if there is cream or not inside. I love that surprise, unless it is really gross.
Anyways I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed the food tour. Free Tours by Foot will definitely be having my business again. I can’t wait to go on more foodie adventures to places like the Lower East Side or Greenwich. The best idea behind the tour is that you pay what you want for the tour. Some people can either pay nothing while others will tip the guide huge. I think it depends on your experience on the tour, how much you paid for food, and how much money you have in general. Poor college students, like myself, can tip 10$, which I think was fair because I spent a lot of money on food. I definitely recommend this Chinatown tour though!
What is your favorite Chinese dish?
Have you ever been on a food tour?