Asian food takes over Manhattan

Since I first moved to New York City in June 2008, it’s clear that Asian food, whether it’s Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese and beyond, has really been taking over neighborhoods one by one throughout Manhattan. Once upon a time, each kind of food kind of had its own area: Chinese food had multiple Chinatowns ranging from Manhattan Chinatown, Brooklyn Chinatown, Elmhurst “Chinatown” along Broadway, Flushing (obviously); Vietnamese food had certain blocks occupied in Manhattan Chinatown. Japanese food had the 40s on the east side of Manhattan with a sprinkling of places throughout the East Village. Korean food had “Korea Way” on 32nd between Broadway and 5th Avenue. Since then, Koreatown has spread so that Korean restaurants have gone all the east along 32nd Street to Madison, and even a little north to 33rd-35th Streets. East Village has become a haven for many Asian cuisines, including a number of ramen and xiao long bao (soup dumpling) spots. Even more high-end, Michelin rated Japanese restaurants are spread throughout the island of Manhattan that I cannot even keep track of them anymore. And Chinese food, well, it has no boundaries whatsoever. You can even find authentic, western Chinese food up in Harlem/Sugar Hill.

Today, we went to the Sugar Hill area of Manhattan up north and of many places, tried The Handpulled Noodle, which has been on my list for over two years. The noodles are a bit flatter and thicker than the traditional and well known Lanzhou, Gansu-style hand-pulled noodle that tends to dominate hand-pulled noodle shops in Chinatowns around the country. Some of the noodles are more like pulled and flattened small rectangles and squares that are quite toothy. We shared a bowl of their stir-fried cumin-beef flat and pounded pull noodles, and according to Chris, I was totally addicted. We nearly inhaled that bowl of noodles; the noodles were super al dente and chewy, totally mesmerizing. The sauce had a good amount of fresh cumin spice, not to mention a hint of heat from the chilies. And the meat was light and shredded. If that place were near our apartment, I’d likely have them on speed dial for takeout on the regular. Unfortunately, they don’t deliver to our area since we’re too far south from them, but maybe that’s actually a good thing for our waist lines.

So much delicious food is out there to explore and try, even in cuisines that we think we are familiar and well-versed in. I’m always discovering new Chinese and Vietnamese food despite them being the cultures I grew up in. It just feels boundless what you can discover and taste.

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