Olympic Eats: Finding Flavors Truly Made in China

Jennifer 8. Lee, Chinese-American city correspondent for the NY Times, recently published The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food—a great piece of culinary anthropology that researches the diaspora of Chinese food across the world. In the book, the numerically-named Lee samples all the oddball iterations of Chinese food (Africa, Europe—she even goes to the Mid-West), and she unearths evidence proving that much of what we know in the US as Chinese food isn’t really Chinese at all (what a shocker). General Tso’s Chicken? Nope. Beef with Broccoli? Nope. Sesame chicken, roast pork lo mein, fried wontons, egg rolls or egg drop soup? Apparently not.

So—now that we’re all possessed by Beijingmania–where can we get some of the real flavors of China? Well, our first advice is to take a quick drive to Flushing to visit the loads Chinese-for-the-Chinese restaurants there. The trip is quick (ish) and really targeted—most of the best Chinese food in NYC is located within a few square blocks. We love Spicy and Tasty for brain melting Sichuan food (especially the dan-dan and jelly noodles), but Julia Moskin’s NY Times piece offers a thoughtful collection of other modestly-priced spots. And just like Moskin, Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice specs a bunch of stalls in those strange subterranean shopping malls that one finds in Flushing—they’re like Food Courts that actually serve great food. Head out to Flushing—it’ll save you a couple grand in airfare.

If this bit of over-the-Whitestone gastro-tourism is still too far, we suggest that you take a short detour to White Plains—to Kam Sen Market and Aberdeen. The trip is short and the parking is ample, unlike in congested Flushing. After sipping bubble tea to the bent-note strains of Taiwanese pop music, perusing, as you stroll, the inky flesh of Taihe black bone chicken and tank after tank of live fish—including those freaky eels—you can duck across the street for gooey, black peppery, deep fried chicken feet. Take our word for it—you’ll emerge ready to face 12 solid hours of gymnastics and ping pong.