Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jing Fong

The groundhog saw his shadow. Sigh. It's officially the dead of winter with countless cold days still ahead. Apparently, Geithner has also seen his shadow along with the rest of the world's. It's the beginning of what may be a very long recession. There is no doubt about it - times are tough. The thought of vacations and exotic getaways may seem like wishful thinking or just a distant memory. I am here to tell you that adventures are still a possibility - even in your own backyard. While you may not get the change in climate you are in desperate need of, you can still soak up a new culture without even heading to the airport.

Pack your purse (lightly) and head down to Chinatown. As soon as you cross Canal St, you just might feel as though you have just stepped off an airplane and onto foreign soil. This past weekend, I ventured down to Jing Fong on Elizabeth Street for a dim sum brunch. It's hard to tell whether it was the smells, the crowds, the spitting, or even the high pitched street music that brought me immediately back to my great journey to China last winter. While unappealing to some, each bold and basically unavoidable reminder brought a smile to my face. I was completely reminiscent and missed my days wandering the streets of Hong Kong and Beijing. What took me a step further into the East was setting foot in Jing Fong and realizing this would be like no other brunch experience in NYC.

After taking a number to get in line and joining the crowds of mainly Chinese and a scattering of Americans, I looked up at the massive escalators and was fairly certain I was standing in the middle of one of the enormous shopping malls in China. Within a hasty 20 minutes, we were granted access to the next level - a dining hall nearly the size of a football field packed with tables and moving carts full of the various shapes and forms of Chinese dim sum. We were seated by 12:30, but apparently, the earlier you arrive, the better. The carts basically cruise around the room until they are empty which means some items may circulate for several hours before being selected. I'll be completely honest in admitting that I couldn't tell the difference. Everything was extremely warm and fresh tasting upon arrival, although we may have had a more limited selection as popular items probably disappeared early on. I guarantee amateurs like myself could never tell the difference.

While carts are full of dumplings, rice, spring rolls, meats, seafood, sweets, and many other unknown items, we mainly stuck to the noodle dishes. We sampled everything from pork to chicken to seafood to vegetable dumplings - as well as various combinations of the ingredients. Eating dim sum is like an art - and perhaps almost like a game of memory. Once you identify a dish you really like, it is fairly tricky tracking down the right cart and basket containing a match. This isn't the biggest worry since most dishes we tried ended up being extremely tasty. Our favorite was the shrimp and pork dumpling photographed above with the pea on top of it. Sadly, we were never able to find its match and only had one helping. After filling up on savory dishes, we figured we had to round out the adventure with a dessert and went for the most colorful looking dish - let's call it a green bean curd surprise. While it was not the highlight of the meal, it did add to the overall experience and was well worth the few dollars that it cost. Again, I was taken straight back to China- where meals are delicious and affordable - but, where it's always best to avoid desserts. This was certainly the cheapest adventure I have taken in awhile - and one that I know I will do again soon. Don't let the recession get you down. You can leave your passport and big bills at home - just head to Chinatown with a little patience, a sense of humor, and adventuresome eaters.

Jing Fong

20 Elizabeth St 2nd Fl
New York, NY 10013-4802
Phone: (212) 964-5256
FOOD RATING (out of 5):


GTS said...

Reminds me of my days in DC in the 70s when my cohorts at the Federal Reserve and I would go to Chinatown for dim sum....can't wait for the NYC adventure.

Bee said...

Great write up as usual, Meg...craving dumplings here in the hinterlands...xx