Sidewalk kitchens in Chinatown


Kitchens on wheels are not an infrequent sight in Chinatown. Those bulky, silvery masses holding all kinds of secrets usually make me a little squeamish but on Sunday I finally got over my fears.

It may have had something to do with the egg being cracked into what looked like a drawer to a jewelry box. The cook whisked the egg around and then added some other things, pork I guessed, and then he slid the drawer back into a slot with three other identical drawers. As I watched I considered the cooking method, steam I guessed. Then I waited, I mean I had to keep watching. While I waited the man's wife, or partner, or sous chef, rustled around organizing the plastic to-go containers and then, when a customer came up, opened up a lid to another area of the roaming kitchen and began ladling fish balls into a Styrofoam container. For three dollars they got half a dozen balls. Seemed like a good deal to me. I continued to wait for the drawer to open back up.

Finally, the man slid it open and, with a plastic-handled scraper, pushed back what looked like a milky white, slightly gelatinous mixture. Scrape, push and fold the man spanned the drawer and folded the contents into some kind of long crepe-like food item. Then he used the scraper to cut it up into wedges and then folded the whole mix into a square container. His partner doused it with a brown sauce and through on some scallions.

After watching him complete the performance I decided I was ready for my own. The dish was great. Rice noodles with egg, pork and green onions. Soft and pliable and salty it was a light dish with none of the frying that you usually see in Chinatown. The only thing missing was Sriracha. Want to know where to find it? Walk along Grand Street.