When my friend, cookbook author Corinne Trang, offered to take me on a lunchtime jaunt around Chinatown, she didn't tell me where we were going. I just trusted her to show me something tasty that I hadn't eaten before. "Have you had the meat jerky from that shop on Elizabeth Street?" she asked as we walked down from Soho. With no meat jerky in my past, we made our first stop at Malaysia Beef Jerky, which, despite the name, does much more than beef jerky.
There are ten types in all—beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and pork, spicy or not, "sliced" or not. In the front window you can watch a woman cooking the jerky by constantly flipping the meat flaps that blanket the grill to attain a light char and avoid undesirable burning.
Most of the jerky are unlike any American version: thin, tender, moist, red flaps of sweetened meat. The sliced versions are more like American meat jerky: drier, chewier, with long meat fibers. I prefer the moist, tender version, even if it leaves a grease slick on every surface it touches (that is, my hands). The spicy versions have just a hint of hotness, which may be disappointing if you like pain with your spiciness. Although you can eat the jerky by itself like candy, I feel like it would go nicely in a sandwich. Unfortunately, I have yet to test this idea.
The jerky is $17 or $18 a pound, or about $1.50 per piece. Most pieces are 3.5-by-3.5 inches square, which may not look like much, but eat more than that and everything will start to taste the same—like sweet, charred meat. Not that that's a bad flavor. Since the jerky is freshly made and doesn't contain any preservatives, it requires refrigeration and won't keep indefinitely.
Malaysia Beef Jerky
95A Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013 (b/n Grand and Hester; map)