Dear Food Cop,
It was really nice meeting you in Chelsea a few weeks ago. Right after you left the Market I tried the yogurt flavored gelato and that was really great. Thanks. Then I caught the train to Chinatown because the way you talked about Wo Hop dumplings was so inspiring. I got distracted by some other dumplings that I recognized from my past, though, so ended up bringing some friends back a few nights later and we waited in the long line up the stairs in the sweltering heat to get in. I'm a little confused, though, about The Wo Hop. Our food was very ordinary, so I wonder if I heard you correctly about what exactly I was supposed to order. Since that time we have seen many people wearing Wo Hop shirts, and a guy even told us that when he went away for college, his parents sent him Wo Hop food. So I know you meant well.
Anyway, yesterday my friend Elsa took me on a tour of Chinatown, and I thought I would let you know what we did in case you and your partner-with-the-pen plan to intercept more people in Chelsea and send them to Chinatown for dumplings. I think it's a really good thing that you do (many of my friends practically fell in love with you when I told them about our encounter) but maybe you could use some of her ideas, too. Here is where she took me (the order is very important, Elsa says it's "geographical"):
1. Vietnamese dessert. The green balls in the middle of the salty, sweet coconut milk are the consistency of mochi, which is rice beaten until it's really chewy, and they are filled with mung bean paste and then topped with peanuts and the whole thing is heated up. This reminds me of the banana cake in coconut milk dessert I love at The Tamarind Tree, but this dessert cost only fifty cents. We also had a drink that was ice, coconut milk, long stringy green jelly and more beans. That was good, too, but if I were you, I would suggest the green mochi balls to the people in Chelsea.
2. Humbao: My brother will love what comes next, because he is a humbao freak. These four pork and dried mushroom filled buns were a dollar, and they were perfect...kind of crunchy on the outside and the sweet dough was light around the filling.
3. Doughnut Plant. I would never think to follow buns with doughnuts, but Elsa is worthy of complete trust. Between Chinatown and the Lower East Side resides The Doughnut Plant, and many people swear that these cakes are the best in the world. I am not a fan of doughnuts, but after tasting both the tres leches and the sweet basil varieties, I am really glad that I don't work between Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
4. The Pickle Guys
It may seem rather strange to you (as it did me) when Elsa revealed our next destination. The Pickle Guys are right across the street from the doughnuts, and though Elsa doesn't like pickles, she said we had to go. Look at all of these barrels...we tried okra and red pepper, and of course I tried a sour pickle. It was fantastic, as far as pickles can be fantastic. And New York delis pride themselves on their pickles. Yum...good doughnut chasers!
5. Dumpling House. I bet every New Yorker has his own idea about where the best dumplings are. A few doors down from The Pickle Guys is a place we got four dumplings and two kinds of pancakes: one sesame and one egg batter. All of this cost two dollars, and the dumplings were just as good as my favorite little stand on Mott Street, and much better than Wo Hop dumplings (sorry).
6. Hong Kong Station. By the time we got here, I was full. Being full in New York is such a great disappointment. But when I come back, I will definitely eat here. You choose from about five kinds of noodles ($1.50 each) and all the toppings you want to mix in for $1 each, including beef, fried tofu, egg rolls, etc.
Well, I hope that this list has been helpful. Keep up the good work in Chelsea.
p.s. We were also wondering about all of the head shots covering every wall at the Wo Hop. We had a lot of time to look them all over, and we didn't recognize one single person. Who are all of those people?
P.P.S HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGIE!