Behind the Scenes of Stephanie Shih’s Sunset Park Chinatown Tour

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Behind the Scenes of Stephanie Shih’s Sunset Park Chinatown Tour

On a sunny fall afternoon, Stephanie H. Shih took us on a tour of one of her favorite neighborhoods: Sunset Park’s Chinatown.

Though not a resident, the Brooklyn-based artist drops by whenever she can, whether for groceries, hard-to-find Chinese and Taiwanese specialties, or for takeout when she’s hosting her monthly mahjong night.

The following are her go-to haunts and regular spots. If you live close by, you’re in for a treat. And if you don’t, remember that traveling for great food is one of New York City’s greatest pleasures.

Read the full story here.

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When we meet Stephanie Shih, Sunset Park’s 8th Avenue is bustling with grocery shoppers.

Photo by Mike Grippi

The first stop is Roast 28, a classic Cantonese roast meat stall. Here, Shih and her friend Jasper Lin sit at one of the few outdoor tables.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih’s regular order at Roast 28 is the soy sauce chicken over rice, which always comes with a complimentary cup of pork broth.

Photo by Mike Grippi

As Shih sets off to the next stop, we navigate through street vendors spilling onto the streets and locals shopping for groceries.

Photo by Mike Grippi

It’s still blue crab season, and buckets of the live crustaceans line the sidewalk.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih picks up a handmade zongzi on the way: stuffed sticky rice tightly wrapped in a bamboo leaf. “I call them rice tamales,” she says.

Photo by Mike Grippi

She opens it up, and takes a bite. “I have no idea what this is.” She turns to her friend. “Jasper, Facetime your mom!” This zongzi is inexplicably sweet, and Shih acknowledges she prefers the savory Shanghainese style with pork.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih does a lot of her own cooking, and prefers to grocery shop in Chinatowns when she can. CM Seafood, on the corner of 58th Street and 8th Avenue, is her preferred fishmonger.

Photo by Mike Grippi

When picking out fish, you want the eyes to be really clear as opposed to milk, Shih explains. Pompano is her fish of choice.

Photo by Mike Grippi

At a neighboring fruit stand, Shih stops in front of the pomelos: They’re in season. “I like one that’s heavy, that feels like it’s juicier,” she says.

Photo by Mike Grippi

After picking out a plump one, Shih explains that pomelos are a traditional Mid-Autumn Festival food. “Jasper, give me your keys.” She proceeds to dig her way into the shell using Lin’s keys, and rips the ripe fruit open.

Photo by Mike Grippi

To her, pomelos are like oversized grapefruits — but infinitely better.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Next on the tour: Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, Shih’s preferred spot for bubble tea.

Photo by Mike Grippi

At this popular Taiwanese chain, Shih always gets the pineapple green tea or the brown sugar pearl tea latte. (Also, Shih reminds us, bubble tea comes from Taiwan. A lot of New Yorkers get confused about this.)

Photo by Mike Grippi

The last stop on our 8th Avenue stretch is a rice noodle roll cart that’s stood firmly on the southwest corner of 61st Street and 8th Avenue for the past 10 years.

Photo by Mike Grippi

The owner, who arrived from Guangdong 15 years ago, wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to make the rice slurry, before setting up his cart everyday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Today, he and his daughter are helming the stand, quickly spreading thin layers of rice slurry in a tray before loading it with whatever the customers desire.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih fires off her order: pork, corn, and watercress. The “watercress” is the only bit that's easy to pick out amid their cheery Mandarin chatter.

Photo by Mike Grippi

The jiggly rice rolls are piled into a takeout container, and best eaten hot and on-the-spot.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Lin and Shih share a bite.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Over on 7th Avenue is Lucky Jade Bakery, where Shih gets her absolute favorite egg tarts. But go early, before 2 p.m.: Lucky Jade sells out quickly.

Photo by Mike Grippi

“Hands down, the best banh mi in the city,” Shih raves. “By far.” We’ve arrived at Thanh Da, a Vietnamese shop known for its baguette sandwiches and bowls of pho.

Photo by Mike Grippi

The #1 House Special banh mi combo at Thanh Da.

Photo by Mike Grippi

At Taiwan Station, Shih’s shirt matches the awning.

Photo by Mike Grippi

We’ve come to Taiwan Station for one thing and one thing only: popcorn chicken, Taiwan’s unmissable night market staple.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih likes hers with simple salt and pepper seasoning.

Photo by Mike Grippi

We’ve come to our final stop, across from Taiwan Kitchen: Chuan Tian Xia, which translates to “Under the Sichuan sky,” and which boasts abundant outdoor seating.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Shih orders Sichuan dishes for the table as we snack on the complimentary roasted chili-dusted peanuts. First up: Thin slivers of pork and cucumber in a cold chili garlic sauce.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Next are the griddled shredded cabbage and okra, which arrive sizzling. Shih explains that this type of smoky griddled flavor isn’t often found at other Sichuan establishments.

Photo by Mike Grippi

It’s the end of the tour: Shih leaves Chuan Tian Xia with plenty of takeout.

Photo by Mike Grippi

Chinatown USA

Behind the Scenes of Stephanie Shih’s Sunset Park Chinatown Tour

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