Friday, August 15, 2014
Joe’s Shanghai – Real Chinese Food by way of a Local
A few weeks ago, my friend Angela promised to take me to Chinatown to sample real Chinese cuisine. I was eager to sample authentic foods from her home country, such as soup dumplings, rice noodles, and various red bean delicacies.
Situated in the heart of Chinatown, Joe's Shanghai rests on Pell street just around the corner from other mainstays such as the Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles. It’s easy to spot it from the outside, as it has a large sign and tons of people constantly going in and out.
Although the restaurant is quite big, it’s very busy, which makes getting there early important in order to score a good seat. Angela and I were prepared to sit at a long communal table and share our space with strangers but ended up at a two-top right by the entrance, which worked out perfectly – especially for a newbie like me.
While you’ll find many non-Chinese folks at Joe Shanghai, I think I was at an advantage with my friend Angela being there who speaks the language. Drawing my attention to the folks who ordered cliché Chinese foods such as the well-known General Tso’s Chicken, Sesame Chicken & Broccoli and the like, Angela was keen to open my eyes to the good stuff.
Ordering quite a few dishes and sharing everything with Angela, I felt that my experience was a fine introduction to real Chinese food, which I’ll no doubt eat again. Also glad to learn about the way in which to eat these foods, I’m glad I won’t stick out like a sore thumb at my next experience.
Soup Dumplings – The first thing Angela asked me before we stepped inside Joe Shanghai is whether I’ve sampled these before. While I was sure I’ve tried them in the past, when they actually arrived, I knew I hadn’t and was in for a treat.
Consisting of fresh, thin dumpling dough stuffed with pork and crab meat, the soup dumpling presents an ingenious way to enjoy carbs, protein and soup in one bite. Angela showed me the amateur way to eat one, which is by biting into it vertically, resulting in a sad spillage of soup, and then the right way, which is to bite off just the top and suck out all the broth. What a dish! Not only is it incredibly fun to devour, the contents inside produce something wonderfully fulfilling and comforting.
Rice Dumplings with Cabbage – Technically I’m not even sure this dish is on the menu, which made it that much more special. Reminding me of the spicy rice dumpling and thrice cooked bacon I had at Mission Chinese, this one was a lot more enjoyable because it featured one of my favorite ingredients, green cabbage. Laced with little chunks of slightly sweet pork, the dish was a total hit and something unexpected to the American palate.
Pork and Bean Noodles – Pork was no doubt the star ingredients of the night and also something prominently featured in this noodle dish. While the deep red broth was flavorful and stuck nicely to the long, thin noodles, I found it to be too salty and couldn’t get through most of it.
Fried Pancakes with Red Bean Paste – Although we were almost ready to call it quits, Angela remembered she ordered this sweet dish at the beginning of our meal. Looking beautifully golden brown with the saucy red bean paste peeking out, it reminded me of a crepe but with a thicker, layered, doughy exterior. The red bean paste was spectacular and while very sweet, it complemented the milder pancake with its jam-like texture and flavor.
Service and Cost:
Because I was in the company of someone who knew her way around a real Chinese menu, we were well taken care of. I’d be curious to see if my experience would differ at all with a non Chinese speaker, but only time will tell when I go back and bring others to try it out.
Costs are affordable and everything is conducive to sharing. Our grand total for all the food I just mentioned was a mere $25, inclusive of tax and tip.
Joe’s Shanghai – 9 Pell Street, New York NY 10013
6 Train to Canal Street