New York Food Diary

Last week, I got a glimpse into the foodie’s paradise that is New York City.

Though there’s still so much left to be discovered, I had some truly fantastic meals from the most unexpected of places, like the food carts that ruled the streets. Beyond that, I had some great food in Chelsea Market, and not one, but two fantastic bowls of ramen.

I’ll be back in New York soon, I’ve promised myself, but for now, here are some highlights from my trip.

Food carts

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Stationed on street corners all around downtown Manhattan, food carts are resilient, while the world around them is constantly moving and changing. And thought food trucks are definitely around to cater to the lunchtime crowd, one-person operated food carts definitely dominate the quick, to-go eating scene here in New York City.

They sell everything from fresh fruit to hot dogs to breakfast foods like bagels and croissants. I caught the fragrant smell of roasted nuts from one cart before I even saw it on the corner.

A great deal of them sell coffee, $1.50 ish a cup, ready in a flash when someone dressed in a suit strides up and says, all in one breath, ‘a small coffee, two creams, no sugar.’

I’ve seen my TV idols, Olivia Benson and Kate Beckett, clutch compact cups of coffee as they assess a crime scene, so to be able to do that for myself was a little surreal. Hold the cups of coffee, not assess a crime scene.

A bagel with schmear is $2, and $5 at a halal cart will get you a very filling portion of chicken over rice! Chopped chicken combined on the stove with bright yellow long grain rice, drizzled with your choice of white sauce and/or hot sauce, with some salad greens. A quick and simple meal that tastes as good as what you’d get in a restaurant for probably $12.

Chelsea Market

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Just as Atlanta has Ponce City Market, LA has Grand Central Market and Boston has Faneuil Hall, New York has Chelsea Market, a shopping center building that hosts dozens of eateries. It draws foodies in with innovative concepts, fusion menus and high-quality grub.

I didn’t get to walk around as much as I wanted to, but I’m confident that there’s something there for everyone.

I stopped by Takumi Taco, a Japanese-Mexican fusion place with humble beginnings. It started as a pop-up stand at Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea but eventually opened up a kiosk in Chelsea Market.

I ordered the bento box option, $12 for 2 taco and a side.

The Japanese curry beef taco was jammed with beef soaked in flavorful juices, the edges sprinkled with cotija cheese. It was all stuffed in a crispy, panini’d gyoza shell. I loved the mix of textures, loose and stringy from the shredded beef, crusty from the shell, and bright and crunchy from the slaw.

The braised shortrib taco was topped with a tangy Japanese mustard sauce and an alluring yuzu avocado crema, sprinkled with sesame seeds and stuffed in two pieces of corn tortilla.

I also opted for the Takumi slaw, as per recommendation by the girl at the counter. It was filled with interesting, unconventional ingredients like radish, edamame and string beans, along with the traditional shredded cabbage and carrot. The whole lot was sprinkled with sesame seeds and tossed in a sesame dressing. It was bright and crunchy, a wonderful compliment to the tacos.

Ramen Misoya

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St. Marks Place is a bustling area in general. Filled with all sorts of bars, restaurants, smoke shops and more, there’s a lot to do and see on this street section. At night time, vendors set up small stands on the streets to sell clothes, pipes and other knick knacks – if you love haggling, you’d love walking around there.

Navin recommended Ramen Misoya, and it turned out to be DELICIOUS.

Though I initially cringed when I saw the $15 price for a bowl with char siu, I knew that I would regret not ordering the BBQ pork just because it was a few extra bucks more.

The hot miso broth left me sweating, and there was a lot going on with bean sprouts, ground pork, preserved bamboo shoots and chopped green onions floating around in the broth. On top of that, the three large pieces of pork were well worth the additional cost, fatty and very flavorful. Douse the large bowl with hot chili oil or togarashi chili flakes, and you’re alllll set.

Totto Ramen

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YES – I had ramen twice while I was in New York.

This hole in the wall, though one of a handful of other locations in New York, Boston and Taipei, is also quite easy to miss if you walk by too quickly. Once you’re inside, however, you’ll be sucked in by the smells of savory ramen broth wafting through the air.

A bowl of ramen comes in at around $12, though it’s common to add an extra topping or two for a few extra bucks. I ordered a bowl of miso paitan ramen with pork, and borrowed a few spoonfuls of hot chili oil from a friend.

Though Totto takes a clever chicken-based perspective on ramen, the pork is still delicious. It was thick and crusy, and the ramen was thick and chewy, cooked perfectly al dente. The broth was nearly opaque with substantial goodness and flavor, which is what the term paitan refers to. The egg had a cool and creamy yolk, which provided a slight cooling contrast to the hot broth.

Though I was starving when we walked in, I still left about 1.5 inches of broths in the large, curved bowl.

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