The Kaya Cart Cures Your Taiwanese Cravings

Back in March, I reported seeing a new Asian food cart in Midtown. Since I tweeted them back then, they tweet me nearly weekly to tell me of their whereabouts but it’s taken me this long to give them a try… (and now a few weeks more to write about it…) and they’ve been nominated for a Vendy, which is this Saturday and you should get tickets if you haven’t already. Fellow contributor Brian made a video on them as well!

As for me, what I ate and what I thought, after the jump…

The menus are fairly self-explanatory, though I’m not sure why C1 (2 baos + drink) is listed with “N/A” as the price. If not offered… why mention it? I do like the name “Cow Bao” and “Buddha Bao” (vegetarian) – very cute and lots of fun to say.

I went with C3, 2 baos and popcorn chicken – which I interpreted to mean this type of small, bite-sized Taiwanese chicken that’s fried with basil and pretty fragrant, very awesome when done right. For my baos, pork belly and Peking duck – which carries a 50c upcharge – bringing my total to $9.50.

I really have to apologize for these photos, I don’t know what the heck I was looking at. I know it was really sunny that day, which makes it hard to see my screen, and that it was really windy so my dress kept blowing up and Jinx kept falling down and I was getting really frustrated, so I think I snapped a bunch and assumed it was fine. Plus I was HANGRY.

Here’s an extra photo, artsy as all get out, to help. I know. It doesn’t.

The popcorn chicken was nicely fried, with that unmistakable great, crunchy exterior from corn starch coating (and possibly some rice flour?). It hit the right flavor profiles for what I expected in terms of Taiwanese fried popcorn chicken, and was quite tasty. Big chunks of chicken, and the spicy mayo sauce on the side was nice to dip some into when some of the chicken was slightly too salty for me. Overall, though, I really liked it.

The bao… I thought were pretty good. The pork belly was tender and tasty, and not over-sauced. The Peking duck lacked the super crispy skin I expect from Peking duck and could have, in fact, been regular roast duck – which is still tasty and deserving of a 50c upcharge – but there was a reasonable amount of duck in the bao (even though you can’t see it in my bad pictures), and it tasted good. Just sad about not having crispy skin and instead just pieces of skin, which also the texture may suffer from the duck possibly being cut ahead of time.

While I was standing there, a guy who’d just eaten a singular bao (based on the container he brought up to the window) proceeded to order another single bao. I wanted to ask him “Was it that delicious then??” while I waited for my order, but he seemed very uninterested in talking to anyone based on his body language.

Of note: they need to implement a better ordering system. I lined up and placed my order, which happens to be a very popular one apparently. He took my money and moved on… and a few minutes later, someone came by and took what I think was my order, because he ordered after me. The guy in the cart had no idea, and I probably wound up taking that guy’s order, but when I was about to take it (this time I was smart and stood closer to the cart – but that caused a bit of a jam as people weren’t sure whether or not I’d ordered yet), a guy who had literally just paid tried to take my order. The guy in the cart glanced at me and said apologetically to the customer “oh, it’s a popular order, yours will be ready in a few minutes.”

All they need to do, really, is ask people for their names when they order, so when an order is ready they can shout that person’s name!!

Bonus input from a former profile’d Midtown Luncher, my friend Swan, who visited a few days after I did (though she didn’t know I’d gone):

“It was good. Liked the popcorn chicken and duck bao. The pork belly was meh. Too fatty and it wasn’t Taiwanese style. Not “red” just grilled. I like fat and it was too fatty for me[...] I thought it was grilled because if it were braised, why didn’t they do it red style which is what Taiwanese gua bao should have. I’ll go back, enjoyed the chicken, will try the red curry bao too.”

ML’er locondcoco also checked in here to let us know his thoughts:

“…i gave them a try. had the C3 combo (2 baos + popcorn chicken) and I enjoyed it. Perhaps a little small for larger appetites. The popcorn chicken was delicious and just like others i’ve had. and they do give you a decent amount of it. Had a pork belly bao and a duck one ($.50 upcharge). Both were good and cooked like how i’m used to. Size of the bao is comparable to fun buns. I enjoyed, and would def. have it again if/when they return.”

As you can see, a very solid entry into the Midtown Lunch cart scene. They rotate through Midtown occasionally, so far it seems like 1-2x a week depending on the week. Definitely check them out if you can – if they fix their ordering scheme, you are looking at a solid addition to your lunch rotation, under $10.

Very happy to add Kaya to my weekly lunch rotation!!

Kaya NYC, check twitter for location


  • hey! thanks for the shout.

  • NYC Cravings cures my Taiwanese cravings with their giant fried chicken legs. I tried the baos. They were OK. I got the pork and “cow.” I thought they were both underflavored. The beef was gamey which was fine, but I was hoping there would be more to the buns. Unfortunately they don’t carry the tea eggs any more.

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