Heads Up on Chinatown Bargains

The best chow deal in town can be found at the roasted-meat kitchens of Chinatown, says fourunder. It’s the head of a roasted pig, clad in a surprising amount of crispy skin and meat, including the delectable cheeks. Scavenge what you can, or throw the whole thing into a pot for a great, rich stock that could anchor a superb congee. It’ll set you back $2 or $3.

fourunder isn’t singling out any one place—“To be honest, I never met a Chinese roast suckling pig I did not like”—but other Chowhounds’ go-to spots for pig heads and other roasted pig parts include Hsin Wong, the affiliated Yee Li, Great New York Noodletown, Sun Say Kai, OK 218, A A Food Market, and Deluxe Food Market (at Deluxe, the block-long grocery-deli-bakery-takeout shop, roasted pig is the only prepared food worth getting, kobetobiko warns).

Just to be clear, we’re talking about roasted whole pig, not barbecued pork, the sweet red meat that can turn up minced, sauced, and stuffed into steamed or baked buns. But if you’re in the mood for buns, for HEAVEN888’s money, the best baked char siu bao right now is made by Manna 2 on E. Broadway. It achieves just the right balance of filling and bread, sugar and salt—better, to HEAVEN’s taste, than the sweeter buns at Chatham Restaurant or the original Manna on Catherine Street.

Pork-bun-lovers with a sweet tooth might want to try Golden Steamer. This newcomer on Mott Street makes baked and steamed buns with a filling that’s “only for sweet bbq lovers,” wew reports, “so it was fine for me.” Yet it was the bun, not the meat, that really got his attention. At other shops, wew writes, “after I’ve finished the pork I’m tempted to toss away the bread, which is often dull and lifeless. Here that thought didn’t cross my mind.” (Beyond bao, he adds, Golden Steamer is hit-or-miss. Egg tarts, though tiny and cute, have a sweet cookie-dough-ish crust, and are no match for the nice flaky ones at Orange Tea House down the block.)

Just up Mott, at Pho Bang, the pork comes Vietnamese style: grilled belly meat, served with mint and lettuce on shrimp chips. windycity says it’s “crazy good.”

And if you’ve left room for dessert, consider the deep-fried banana at Mei Li Wah, lightly breaded, then battered, and served with peanut sauce that’s not bad but not necessary. “Elvis meets Hong Kong,” as Polecat puts it. “Outstanding.”

Hsin Wong [Chinatown]
72 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth streets), Manhattan
212-925-6526

Yee Li [Chinatown]
1 Elizabeth Street (at Bayard Street), Manhattan
212-219-3686

Great New York Noodletown [Chinatown]
28 Bowery (at Bayard Street), Manhattan
212-349-0923

Sun Say Kai [Chinatown]
220 Canal Street (at Baxter Street), Manhattan
212-964-7256

OK 218 [Chinatown]
218 Grand Street (between Elizabeth and Mott streets), Manhattan
212-226-8039

A A Food Market [Chinatown]
288 Grand Street (at Eldridge Street), Manhattan
212-334-8429

Deluxe Food Market [Chinatown]
79 Elizabeth Street (between Hester and Grand streets), Manhattan
212-925-5766

Manna 2 [Chinatown]
87 E. Broadway (between Market and Pike streets), Manhattan
212-267-6200

Golden Steamer [Chinatown]
143 Mott Street (between Grand and Hester streets), Manhattan
212-226-1886

Orange Tea House [Chinatown]
121 Mott Street (between Hester and Grand streets), Manhattan
212-625-8888

Pho Bang [Chinatown]
157 Mott Street (between Grand and Broome streets), Manhattan
212-966-3797

Mei Li Wah [Chinatown]
64 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth streets), Manhattan
212-966-7866

Board Links: Roast Meats Chinatown Problem
Chinese Roast Meats for Take Away
The Great Char Siu Bao Debate
Golden Steamer Bakery on Mott St.
dishes they are not known for but delicious
Mei Li Wah: The Deep-Fried Banana