Bo Ky is my cure-all restaurant spot. The ultimate Chinatown lunch haven for solo diners. In the summer, I stick to their lighter soups and rice dishes, then transition to the eggplant and chicken curry noodles come fall. In the winter lunch, begins with their Shrimp Roll ($6.75). Ground shrimp paste is wrapped with bean curd sheets, deep fried, and served with a sweet and spicy sauce. The paper-thin sheets give way with a delicate crunch and the inside is steamy, borderline creamy, the shrimp paste blended with green onions and plenty of white pepper.
For a smaller lunch I pair the shrimp roll with a clean order of the Wonton Mein. For $3.75, I daresay this is the best sit-down, full-service lunch deal in the area. Pick your noodles—I prefer the thicker, curly egg noodles, pronounced chou mein in Cantonese, in place of the usual thin, straight egg noodles. The wontons come five to a bowl (on lucky days, I'm rewarded with up to eight!), and though they're nothing to write home about, the wontons are reliable, filled tight with shrimp and pork in a skin that's just slightly too thick. But that's only if you must find something to complain about.
The two-condiment jars on the side of your table includes one filled with a chunky red sauce. It's their house secret. Ground peanuts, peppers, and hot oil are the main players, but there's much more to it than meets the eye. You want a big spoonful of that in your soup, and then put some on the side as a dipping sauce for your wontons. The sauce is so popular Bo Ky sells it by the jar.
On cold days, consider the Satay Noodles ($6.50), served "dry" with a bowl of soup on the side (same broth as the Wonton Mein). As for the noodles, the dish goes best with ho funn, thick and flat wide noodles, or those same chou mein. The satay is heavy, so you need a noodle that can stand up to it without breaking easily. Bo Ky's satay sauce is nutty, on the mild side, appropriately oily and speckled with whole sesame seeds. Give it a good mix to unveil thin pork slices tucked underneath, tangled with sliced onions and cilantro. It's a glorious stick-to-your ribs sort of winter meal that demands many cups of hot tea to wash down the fat.
82 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013 (map) 212-406-2292