Off the Beaten Path: Taking One for the Team at LQQM Kung Fu Bing in Chinatown
"Something I’d try again—if I happened to find myself in the area after smoking a blunt with Snoop Dogg."
Normally when Zak Pelaccio recommends a spot, particularly an Asian one, I’m eager to try it out. But when he told me about LQQM Kung Fu Bing, I wasn’t so sure. He described it as a strange new Chinese fast-food joint down on Division Street under the Manhattan Bridge. I asked him whether it was similar to cong you bing, or scallion pancakes. All he would say was that it was a really weird sandwich type thing with a “ton of MSG.” Nevertheless, I had to try it; I’m a sucker for ethnic fast-food concepts.
Just as Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee has its bee, and Pollo Campero has its chicken, Kung Fu Bing, too, has a mascot—one that bears a suspicious resemblance to the lead character in Kung Fu Panda. Add to that their “KFB” logo, done up in the same font as KFC, and it becomes clear that these folks are looking to franchise Kung Fu Bing. The sign outside with KFB’s franchise hotline number makes it pretty apparent too.
So what exactly is a Kung Fu Bing? It’s a flaky, thin griddled Taiwanese bread that closely resembles a Malaysian roti canai. And that’s where the similarity to anything Asian ends. Rather than filling this bread with something like chives—or, better yet, serving it with a curry dipping sauce—Kung Fu Bing uses it as a wrapper for ten sandwiches with decidedly American ingredients. The namesake variety is simply the hot bread folded around some lettuce and tomatoes. I suppose it’s not such a bad deal for $2.49. I felt like something more substantial, and ponied up $4.49 for a sausage and cheese KFB.
The first the thing that crossed my mind when I picked it up was, “Boy, this thing sure is heavy.” (The second was that I should snap a photo of the psychedelic sandwich sleeve.)
Although the bread was pleasant enough, the first bite tasted like processed cheese and overseasoned sausage patty. A little blast of Sriracha sauce helped liven things up. Munching away, I wondered why a restaurant whose mascot is a chopstick-wielding panda doesn’t serve food that requires chopsticks. It was not one of my best eating experiences (though nor was it the worst thing ever). More like something I’d try again—if I happened to find myself in the area after smoking a blunt with Snoop Dogg.
My curiosity satisfied, I strode out into the rain. As I headed up Division Street toward Canal I decided to give Pelaccio a call. “You didn’t eat the whole thing, did you?,” he asked. “Almost.” I replied. No sooner had I hung up the phone than I started to feel sort of hot and dizzy. I don’t know what to make of the whole MSG thing. I’m sure I go to plenty of places that use it and I never have a problem. All I know is I probably won’t be eating again at Kung Fu Bing any time soon.
Pelaccio sent me his thoughts about da Bing via e-mail this morning.
For under $5 a pop you can consume all the calories you need to run your body for a week! Eat one every morning and you'll wonder why you can no longer get it up for your girlfriend! Get her one every morning too and neither of you will have the energy to even consider sex! Is it just a perverse Asian/Western fast food mistake or is it an insidious government conspiracy to control population growth? I don't know, but that Panda sure is cute!
Thanks again for the tip, Zak.