Northern Chinese Food in Manhattan’s Chinatown: Henan Flavor’s Big Tray of Chicken is the Ultimate Bargain

Date November 2, 2011

Henan Flavor

Henan Flavor

Henan Flavor

Henan Flavor

You’re not here for the atmosphere; there is none, though the BYOB policy makes up for that a bit. You’re not here you’re here for the location, a few hundred feet from the traffic heavy entrance to the Manhattan bridge. Don’t waste time with the ordinary pancake with pork and cilantro ($2, 2nd from bottom) or the spicy beef brisket hui mei ($6, bottom), fatty and not very spicy. You’re here for the big tray of chicken ($12, top 2 photos), which isn’t really a tray at all. It’s a wok, and its filled with nuggets of fatty dark meat chicken and potato floating in a pool of fragrant red chili oil redolent of star anise. This is Northern Chinese at its finest; similar to Szechuan but mainly new to New York City. Unlike most Szechuan food, the chili heat is palpable but not overpowering. The wok keeps the entire dish near scalding temperature for an unnaturally long time but the chicken remains mainly tender if not for a few pieces that require some gnawing. It’s for this very reason that I was happy to follow Serious Eats lead and order an extra side of hand pulled noodles ($1) to toss in with the chicken and chili oil. My favorite bites didn’t even include chicken, just the tender, chewy noodles glistening in chili oil. Fortunately I had my fill; the “big tray” was limitless, with enough food to feed three easily. When there was nothing but broth left in the wok, my friend Joe Block, a true Szechuan Chinese food explorer – smartphone replacing telescope – asked for a griddled wheat flour pancake to sop it up. It arrived crisp on the outside, steamy and pillowy on the inside; perfect for chili oil absorption. Like Peter Stuyvesant trading beads for Manhattan, Joe fearlessly led us to Henan Flavor and we departed stuffed for $24. What a steal.

Henan Flavor 68B Forsyth St near Hester Street New York, NY 10002 212-625-8299 Open 10am-Midnight Daily

3 Responses to “Northern Chinese Food in Manhattan’s Chinatown: Henan Flavor’s Big Tray of Chicken is the Ultimate Bargain”

  1. Anonymous said:


    Thank you,


  2. RWordplay said:

    Excellent write up. “Big Tray Chicken and noodles, et al. My only complaint is the excess of cilantro, which the restaurant throws on because its cheap and it hides so many flavors. The chicken should be moist, if not wet inside or something’s wrong. The idea of sopping up the broth with the pancake was inspired. As for the beef, that’s often problematic for me as I’m no fan of stewed meat.

    Working at home today, and eating a tuna fish sandwich, this piece tempted me to toss my papers out the window and head to Chinatown.

  3. Sal said:

    those hand pulled noodles in chili sauce look real tasty food guy, but that picture of the pancakes with the brisket hurts my eyes. we’ve come to expect better photography from you food guy!

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