From Duck to Dumplings on the Edge of Chinatown

Of the uncounted soy-braised ducks that hang in the windows of Chinatown, the best by far can be found at Cheung Wong Kitchen, says jonkyo. This busy Cantonese-owned spot on the neighborhood's eastern edge cooks duck (as well as chicken, pork, or assorted offal) in well-seasoned soy sauce, lu wei–style—a Chiu Chow specialty that's become popular in Hong Kong and elsewhere. vinouspleasure tried it and was rewarded with delicious meat permeated with its braising seasonings, "resulting in a nice perfume and an incredible depth of flavor."

The long menu includes noodles, pan-fried or in soup; various congees and clay-pot casseroles; and several dozen rice plates. But it doesn't mention lu wei duck. jonkyo advises the Chinese-challenged to ask for it at the counter, where customers are more likely to find English-speaking staff. "Just say 'one plate of duck ... half or quarter.'" Or, for variety, "'one mixed plate with pork, chicken, and duck.' They have awesome pig's feet too." When dining solo, jonkyo typically orders a quarter duck for under $7 plus a plate of pan-fried noodles, much of which he ends up taking home. A half or whole duck, noodles, and a vegetable dish should easily feed a party of two or three. Keep in mind that Cheung Wong gets slammed with locals at lunchtime. Go at an off-hour, before 11:30 a.m. or after 2 p.m., for a more relaxed meal.

A couple of blocks up Allen Street, jonkyo has turned up even cheaper eats at the aptly named Inexpensive Delicacies. This cozy shop succeeded Fried Dumpling, one of New York's first five-for-a-buck dumpling joints. Some hounds thought the food had slipped badly in the months before Fried Dumpling closed in 2009. In its new incarnation, jonkyo says, things are looking up. Fried or boiled pork dumplings (now an outrageous four for a buck) are worth a try, and the hot-and-sour soup is one of the best he's had around town.

jonkyo adds that this place is a worthy challenger to Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge, a perennial favorite in the city's ongoing dollar-dumpling derby. "The menu is almost the same as Prosperity's but has more," he notes, "and at about the same price." And Inexpensive Delicacies has something that Prosperity, a hole in the wall with just a counter and a handful of stools, does not: a small but comfortable dining room with tables, where "one can relax and enjoy a meal in a clean and well-kept place."

Cheung Wong Kitchen [Chinatown]
38 Allen Street (at Hester Street), Manhattan
212-343-2373

Inexpensive Delicacies [Chinatown]
99 Allen Street (between Delancey and Broome streets), Manhattan
212-925-2625

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