Chinatown Surprise

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 4.05.19 PMOn the advice of two friends, I wandered one day into Spicy Village, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a restaurant that politeness prevents me from describing as anything other than “modest.” I stopped by a couple of years ago to have the not-at-all-bad $2 pork sandwich, a pile of sloppy-Joe-ish pork served on light, crisp bread baked by the proprietors — Wendy Lian and her husband, Ren Fu Li — but I rarely thought of it again.

This time, however, I ordered, as I’d been instructed by my friends, the No. 7, the Spicy Big Tray Chicken. It arrived on an aluminum tray (you eat it on a foam plate with a plastic fork or chopsticks), a mound of chicken nearly afloat in a bath of dark, spicy sauce that contained star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, chile, garlic, cilantro, a few mystery ingredients and . . . potatoes. This was like no other “Chinese” dish I’d had before.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Chinese


  1. Vera Hilsenrath said...

    I am halfway through reading VB6 and am inspired. Now I am up against the wall, having already invited my kids and grandkids for Thanksgiving.

    Am thinking of adapting Braised Vegetable and Chicken, substituting turkey thighs for the chicken. Any suggestions?

  2. Pauline said...

    Mr. Bittman, I love that you posted this and the accompanying recipe. I work around the corner from Spicy Village and tried their Da Pan Ji when they first opened. I became enamored with Da Pan Ji dish when I lived in China ten years ago, and I too went into the kitchen of my favorite Hui Chinese restaurant to learn how this enchanting dish was made. Spicy Village’s version is a little different from the one in my memory, but I can’t wait to try your recipe –

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