Editor's note: Here's SE contributor Madison Priest, who'll be checking in each week with a look at one of New York's street carts. This week, an old (in street food years) favorite: Kim's Aunt.
Kim's Aunt Kitchen Cart is the smallest on a block filled with purveyors of street food, from the lurid turquoise Street Sweets truck that dominates the southeast corner of 46th and 6th to Moshe's Falafel, demure only by comparison. Of these, Kim's Aunt is both the least and most ostentatious: a basic steel cart with minimal writing, but a powerful scent—a hard-to-define smell of fish and fried things that manages to beckon from a good thirty paces away.
The story of Kim's Aunt and the cart is similarly hard to pin down. No one seems to know who Kim or that aunt is, and it's hardly worth asking; I was told simply that Kim was a Korean name. And the slogan "food is love"? "It's true, isn't it?" I was asked. (Well, yes.) I was able to glean only the basics: the food cart started two years ago, after its restaurant antecedent closed. And by now, they have too many loyal customers to count. It helps that they abide by a central tenet of the street food credo: lots of food for a truly low price.
The whiting sandwich defies the usual physics of sandwich-making, overflowing with two slabs of fried fish, lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce—for four measly dollars. You really couldn't ask for a better price. The mild, flaky white fish worked wonderfully in this context, nicely browned with breading that's substantial without being overwhelming. The tartar sauce is all you want with it. Yum.
The shrimp, by contrast, is just as much breading as shrimp. Given that the breading (much like the rest of Kim's Aunt's offerings) is a straightforward affair, its dominance here was unnecessary to say the least. The tartar sauce wasn't enough to punch it up this time. But again, you won't hear me complain about the quantity: five bulging shrimp made their way onto my combination platter. $8.00 will buy you any two of the of the platter offerings—chicken, beef, shrimp, whiting and flounder—plus sides. They're nothing to rave about (limp, unsalted fries and a truly sad salad), but make for a lunch sufficient to feed a platoon of small children.
I chose the bulgoki as the second component. This Korean-style beef had much of what you'd want from street meat: it's chewy without being dry, seasoned with a slightly sweet sauce. And again, there was so much! I kept finding extra pieces hiding in the Styrofoam's nooks and crannies.
Though I may not have found the story of Kim's Aunt Kitchen Cart's name or slogan, both seem apt. The food is comforting—hearty, tasty, and fried—like something a bustling family member drops onto the table without a whole lot of to-do. And the family discount prices don't hurt either.
Kim's Aunt Kitchen Cart
46th Street and 6th Avenue, New York NY (map) Open Monday-Friday, 11-4