Chinatown Finds: Casseroles, Cured Meats, Epic Cukes

Bo zai fan is a potful of Cantonese soul, a comforting casserole of rice cooked with meat, vegetables, and other toppings. The best version in Chinatown can be found at Noodle Village, Lau declares in a recent Chowhound discussion. "Hot pot rice," as the menu calls it, comes with beef, chicken, Chinese sausage, minced pork, spare rib, or salted fish, among other things. clareandromeda, who singles out the sausage bo zai fan, loves the ample layer of crunchy burnt rice at the bottom of the pot—the best part of this dish, for many. Other good bets at Noodle Village, Lau adds, include congee, pan-fried dumplings, spicy fish balls, and noodle soups with brisket or excellent house-made cuttlefish balls.

Chinatown hounds have also been swapping grocery-shopping tips. For cured meats, fourunder has found a go-to spot in Sun Ming Jan on Hester Street. The wares are first-rate and competitively priced: bacon or Chinese sausage at $5.95 a pound, whole salt-cured ducks at $13.75 apiece. And jumpingmonk shares an exotic discovery at the neighborhood's greengrocers: giant Poona Kheera-type cucumbers (pictured), big as a loaf of bread and clad in yellowish-brown skin with cantaloupe crackling. Similar in taste to regular cucumbers, they also offer a slight melony flavor. They've been spotted at Ken Hing on Grand Street and Hung Lee on Bayard.

Noodle Village [Chinatown]
13 Mott Street (between Mosco and Worth streets), Manhattan
212-233-0788

Sun Ming Jan [Chinatown]
111 Hester Street (between Forsyth and Eldridge streets), Manhattan
212-965-8833

Ken Hing Food Market [Chinatown]
247 Grand Street (between Bowery and Chrystie Street), Manhattan
212-431-3103

Hung Lee [Chinatown]
79 Bayard Street (between Mott and Mulberry streets), Manhattan
212-962-5351

Discuss: Bo zai faan (casserole) in Chinatown
Sun Ming Jan, Inc. for Lop Cheong/Chinese Sausage and Zhongzi/Joong
Chinatown Fruit Report-2012

Cucumber photo by jumpingmonk