PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Jennifer 8. Lee” (& Book Giveaway!)

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. Today I’m excited to have Jennifer 8. Lee, journalist and author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”,  my new favorite book for anybody who loves Chinese food (Americanized and/or “authentic”).  It answers every question I’ve ever had about my favorite kind of food, like… What the hell is Chow Mein?  Where did fortune cookies come from? (Spoiler: They’re actually Japanese)  Who is General Tso? What is the best Chinese food restaurant in the World?  And of course… Why do Jews love Chinese food so much???  It’s an amazingly interesting book about how food from China has evolved over the years, most specifically into what people consider “Chinese” food here in the United States.  The book comes out in a week, but we have a few copies to give away today, after Jenny gives her Midtown Lunch’ing recommendations…

 Name: Jenny

Age:
31

Occupation:
Journalist, blogger, and Author of the new book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles“)

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
The New York Times

Favorite Kind of Food:
Anything ethnic, more specifically Asian ethnic. So Vietnamese pho and banh mi sandwiches, dumplings with thick skin (no gyoza please), creative sushi rolls (the bigger the better), Korean cold noodles(spicy and non), Malaysian roti canai, anything the Indians do with cauliflower.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Anything French and creamy. Blah.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: I love Koreatown, so Woorijip (32nd btw. B’way+5th) which is a late night Korean deli that has a buffet and take away meal packages. I love their bulgolgi, their kim bop (beef and tuna good, but I still find the American cheese ones a bit weird), their pajun pancakes, the japchae noodles, and their little pickled vegetables of all sorts: eggplant, radish, and mountain root vegetable (whatever that is). I will grab $50 worth of boxed lunches as a time and bring them home to consume. Also Todai on 32nd btw. Mad+5th. I like their extensive super buffet because they have a good selection of vegetable-based dishes, so very vegetarian and low carb friendly even if you are not into their sushi.  Cafe Zaiya on 41st between Madison and 5th for its Japanese fast food for Japanese expats. I love their rice/nori triangles. And interesting interpretation of “mini pizzas.” They have curry rices and odd sandwiches and pastries. Thank god, there is also an in-store Beard Papa for cream puffs (love green tea ones!) I love the fact you can buy sweet Japanese milk tea in bottles there. During summers you can get a great cool noodle dish whose name now escapes me.  And I like Ustav(46th/47th btw. 6+7th) for nice Indian food. It’s a bit pricier for their lunch buffet compared to the standard $9.99 fare, but it has a beautiful upscale environment to go with it. So it’s nicer for those times when you want a slower paced meal. Of course, I also like grabbing any one of those lamb/chicken meals from the Halal carts that are scattered around Midtown and going back to my desk.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: I like Havana Central on 46th between 6th and 7th, for good, quick, reasonably priced Cuban in a colorful spacious bright restaurant. Turkey cuban sandwich (are there Turkeys in Cuba?), and ropa vieja. I would love to like their chocolate empanadas, but the crust was too hard. Avoid nights if you like conversation. They like to play their music LOUD.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Dubai… Dubai is a city of 85 expats, so there is no native palate to cater to. The ethnic restaurants therefore are generally for the immigrants/temp workers/expats from that region. So you can see the difference between Syrian, Kuwaiti and Iraqi cuisines instead of the”Middle Eastern” we see here. And you can get not just Indian cuisine,but Goan Indian cuisine! It has great street food in many respects but also glistening five star restaurants. One of the top Chinese restaurants in the world, Zheng He, a contemporary take on traditional Chinese cuisine is there. It is a dynamic food culture.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? What’s your favorite Chinese food dish in Midtown?  (Americanized Chinese or Chinese Chinese)

To enter to win the book, just post your favorite Chinese food dish (and Midtown location) in the comments… and don’t be afraid to go with orange chicken!  One of the themes of the book I found so interesting is how it tackles the idea of “authenticity”.  All cuisine has been affected by outside influences, even things that we may consider “authentic” by today’s standards.  So hundreds of years from now, Americanized Chinese food may be looked upon with the same reverence that we look at Dim Sum.

My favorite, after the jump…

If you are talking about sheer numbers, the honest answer (for me) has got to be the Sauteed Udon w/ Pork from Hing Won.  It may not win in a head to head taste test with anything from Szechuan Gourmet (39th btw. 5+6th), or even with a lot of other dishes from Hing Won, but I’ve eaten it more than any other Chinese food dish, anywhere in Midtown.

Post your favorite dish as a comment below, and you’ll be automatically entered to win a copy of Jennifer’s book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”. (Make sure to include your email address in the email field.  Don’t worry, it won’t show up on the site.)  For more info on the book, go to http://www.fortunecookiechronicles.com

And as always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, or you’d like to nominate somebody in your office, email me at zach@midtownlunch.com

61 Comments

  • A second on the Ma Po Tofu at Wu Liang Ye (36 W. 48th)

    Dan Dan Noodles, Eggplant with Chicken and Niu Riu Mien (Beef Noodle Soup) are all excellent.

    There’s a second location on Lexington, between 39th & 40th. However, I think the one on 48th is better (better decor as well).

  • Why has Jenny got calamari around her neck?

  • Fried dumplings from Noodles 36, on 36th just west of 8th Ave. They’re plump and really hit the spot if you’re craving a doughy, thick-skinned dumpling. (I’m vegetarian, so I’ve only had the veg ones, but I’ve been told the meat dumplings are delicious, as well.)

  • roast meat + veggies at Ying Du

    or pork belly and leeks at szechuan gourmet

  • Any of the meats over rice (combos are best) at Hop Won, 45th between Lex/3rd.

  • very simple my fello midtown lunchers…

    Roast Pork Udon Soup with Wontons and an eggroll from Big Bowl Noodles on 6th and between 36 and 37 ( I think. you justt have to look for the big yellow overhead sign. You cant miss it.

  • I used to live on East 55th b/t Lex and Third, the home of both Our Place Shanghai Tea Garden (love the chicken pineapple fried rice) and Shun Lee Palace (nice for a splurge, try the grand marnier prawns). Sadly, I’ve since moved to the UWS, where we’ve got Ollie’s but not many other options.

  • Rudy – obviously you’ve been crafting new material. That was A+ work!

    Shawarma from Olympic Pita, and shrimp cevice from el sabor del rincon.

  • Shredded duck with snow cabbage noodle soup at Hing Won. Once I ate it everyday for 2 months.

  • The sichuan beef brisket noodle soup at Szechuan Gourmet: It comes with a 1/2 inch layer of bright red, viscous chilli oil floating on top. A lake of fire. The steam arising from this hell in a bowl is peppery enough to burn your face off. You have to go fishing for chunks of meat and noodles and pray that they’re not completely drenched in the hot stuff. It’s in Midtown, and I love it, but it’s a bit NSFW, unless it’s normal for your co-workers to see you staring at the monitor, panting and sweating and moaning, with a greasy sheen around your mouth. Best to eat on a Friday, if you know what I mean.

  • Soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai–two servings :)

  • Not Midtown Lunch friendly, but the Peking Duck at Peking Duck House (53rd between 2nd & 3rd) is amazing. The guy who carves the ducks tableside is an artist.

  • Chicken parm from Park Italian!

  • Sesame chicken at Mee Noodle Shop at 53rd and 9th. No idea how authentic it is but it’s damn good.

  • Definitely the “doong-goo yee mein” (mushroom with noodles) at 69 Bayard St. Is anyone aware they’re closing their restaurant TOMORROW???!!! Say it isn’t so. Gonna miss their dollar bills hung throughout walls…

  • We love the Chicken Curry Noodle Soup at Mee’s (9th Ave) Big portions that make even better take-home leftovers! Actually, is that Chinese, or some kind of Malaysian?

  • Hing Won at the Rockefeller Plaza (48th st btwn 5th and 6th) is my favorite. They have something for your All-American co-workers and something for you to order off the “real” chinese menu. YUM!

  • Going lowbrow with this one, and it’s certainly not authentic Chinese, but I love the BBQ Chicken at Yips.

  • Oxtail
    Eggplant
    General Tso’s Chicken
    All from Shih Lee

    Spade’s is pretty bad..I get MSG lips everytime i eat there…

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