Rarely can you call food that costs five bucks delicate, but that's the word to use regarding Shanghai Asian Cuisine's rice cakes. After a number of punch-in-the-mouth flavor-bomb meals at Mission Chinese Food, I've found myself looking for a Chinese lunch that's a little more subtle, and the stir fried pork and preserved cabbage rice cakes ($5.25) certainly qualify.
Don't expect smoky wok hei flavors here; instead look for light, tender, slightly sweet rice cakes fragrant with mild pickled cabbage and punctuated by quiet bites of pork and mushroom. The sauce is little more than the hot pickled cabbage juice and oil, just enough to tie everything together but unlikely to overwhelm any of the components.
None of this is to say the dish is boring, but sometimes you just want a hot plate of soft starch with some stuff in it, perhaps with a pot of tea to wash it all down. This is quite worthy of that lunch need. The rice cakes may not be the best in Chinatown, but they're sweeter and more tender than most. The "stuff" gives the textural contrast and slight flavor boost you want, but let the starch take the lead. Kudos to any restaurant that can make a plate of pasta, pork, and oil taste restorative.
Shanghai Asian Cuisine
14 Elizabeth Street, New York NY 10013 (map) 212-964-5640
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