With the announcement yesterday of the 2012 Vendy Cup Finalists, there were a few vendors we were not familiar with. The Vendy folks definitely went far and wide in selecting this year’s group of Vendy Cup Finalists. To learn more about one of the finalists, Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs, we headed down to Chinatown around dinnertime yesterday.
The cart is located on the corner of Forsythe St and Division St, along the base of the Manhattan Bridge. Like many of the vendors in this non-touristy part of Chinatown, the guy at the cart barely spoke English. He had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned the Vendy Awards.
However, the menu on the cart was in both Chinese and English, and it was easy to communicate by pointing at the menu and raising fingers for the number of each I wanted. He did ask if I wanted them “spicy” or “no spicy”. Spicy, of course!
We ordered kebabs of lamb, chicken and fish balls for $1 each, and squid for $2. A few we asked for, such as sweet potato and corn, were not available, but there was no way to find out if they were sold out or they weren’t in stock at all yesterday without speaking Mandarin.
The meat in the kebabs is marinated beforehand, and kept in different containers on the side of the cart. After we ordered, our kebabs were placed over red-hot charcoal and turned to cook evenly.
Three spices, curry, chili powder and salt, were kept on the side and sprinkled on the kebabs (or not) depending on the type of food, and whether you wanted it spicy or mild.
According to the Vendy website, Xin Jiang’s specialty is lamb, and it was also listed first on the menu. We might have detected cumin among the spices, and while the lamb was tasty, it was also a bit saltier than expected. The meat had a deeper flavor than beef, which is one of the pluses of lamb.
We actually liked the chicken more than the lamb. It was thicker than the lamb, which is probably why it was juicier too. The chicken just the right amount of char around the edges too.
The squid was the most visually appealing. It started out in a long, thin rectangle, and in the middle of grilling, the chef cut into the edges of the squid with a scissor. After it was sprinkled with chili powder, the squid kebab reminded me of a Christmas tree.
One problem with squid is the difficulty of having it come out tender. It’s often tough, and while the squid was charred and spicy, it was also on the tough side.
The biggest surprise was the fish balls. Who knew fish had balls, but these were great. There were 4 decent-sized fish balls with a nice sauce on them, and once again, grilled just right.
Fish balls can be quite fishy, but these were not at all. They were delicious, and probably our favorite kebab of the visit, with the chicken a close second.
We look forward to trying Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs at the Vendy Awards next month. With a little luck, our prosperity will start kicking in shortly.