dumplings

New York Press' Gut Instinct: Dim Sum of My Parts

Dim sum = yum yum! Photo: Flickr/hilabean

Now that I'm a newly engaged man, I must come to terms with my fiancée's shortcomings: namely, her disgust for dim sum.

"I'm not going to eat dim sum with you. It's so greasy," she says, wrinkling her nose in a manner I might find cute if her words weren't so hurtful. "Not all dim sum is greasy," I rebut, extolling the pleasures of feather-light cheung fan rice rolls and steamed, shrimp-stuffed har gow. But her eyes glaze like a Krispy Kreme cruller, another a.m. eat she shuns for Kashi cereal—gerbil feed, as far as I'm concerned. "I'd rather you make me poached eggs," she suggests instead. "How about that?" Mmm… no. Nothing elevates my serotonin like a Saturday spent at Sunset Park's Pacificana (813 55th St., at 8th Ave., Brooklyn, 718-871-2880) or Chinatown's Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St., betw. Bayard & Canal Sts., 212- 964-5256), snatching willy-nilly steamer baskets stuffed with translucent dumplings and fluffy buns packed with roast pork. Dim sum is a communal experience that's part spectacle, part uncertainty: What edible mysteries are those cart-pushing ladies peddling? What do they cost? And will I save enough space to have a second round of steamed spare ribs?

Like a solitary pervert popping into a peepshow, I must get my dim sum jollies by my lonesome. I take my pleasures on Fridays. That's when I toil at my magazine copyediting gig in Midtown, ensuring that celeb names are properly spelled. Trust me, Hayden Panettiere is hardly an easy stroll through the alphabet. Since I toil near Rockefeller Center, my preferred trains are the B or the D. Traveling from Brooklyn, the first Manhattan stop is Grand Street. This quadrant of Chinatown, far from the whispering salesman hawking knockoff Gucci, is my culinary playground. Within a five-block radius, I can stuff my craw with Far East eats tailored to my mood.

If I'm head-crushingly hungover, I'll hit Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food (77 Chrystie St., betw. Hester & Grand Sts., no phone). Less than three bucks buys a palm-size aluminum container bursting with rice, cabbage and enough caramelized, jerky-like roast pork to make me oink all afternoon. For a soothing start to my morn, I'll decamp to the northwest corner of Elizabeth Street and Hester Street. Till 2 p.m. daily, two friendly ladies man a cart vending madeto-order steamed rice noodles. A wide, shallow tray is filled with rice-flour batter, topped with your preferred ingredients (shrimp, pork and, my choice, eggs) then steamed to squiggly perfection. Several squirts of thick soy sauce seal the $1.75 deal. For a quick bun pick-me-up, there's nothing finer than the fluffy porkand-veggie specimens sold at narrow, helter-skelter Deluxe Food Market (79 Elizabeth St., betw. Grand & Hester Sts., 212-925-5766). If I crave a fleshfree bun, then I'll cut a rug to Queen Bakery (150 Mott St., betw. Grand & Broome Sts., 212-966-8998) for one freighted with mushrooms and nubs of mock meat. It equally pleases my taxed arteries and stomach.

Despite these eateries' gut-stuffing glories, I count myself lucky to have recently discovered Lucky King Bakery (280 Grand St., betw. Forsyth & Eldridge Sts., 212-219-8434). Like similar establishments lining Grand Street, the bakery welcomes a steady clip of wizened men, who enter empty-handed and toddle off toting cups of milky coffee and flaky pastries. For years, I slunk past the shop without so much as sampling one morsel. Pressed for gotta-get-to-work time, I typically beeline to my roster of favorite restaurants. But a few weeks ago, I found myself with a few extra minutes to explore. That's when I spotted the wispily mustachioed man leaving Lucky King, his mouth wrapped around a cloud-like bun spilling out roast pork. My stomach grumbled. I was tractorbeamed inside.

I first encountered glistening baked goods stuffed and topped with frosting— not my jam. I tiptoed deeper into Lucky, past tables filled with patrons perusing the newspaper, and gasped. There was a towering steamer brimming with buns and all manner of dim sum delights: scallion pancakes, spare ribs, rolled bean curd skin crammed with mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Nothing cost more than a couple bucks. Chinatown: The land where cheapskates go to heaven every day.

"What do you want?" asked a young counter girl wearing a smock and a smile.

"Everything," I moaned in my bedroom voice. Her smile froze as if she were spritzed with liquid nitrogen. "Sorry," I said, composing myself and placing my order: siu mai dumplings constructed with shrimp, shiitakes and pork; a porkand-vegetable bao; spare ribs; and the aforementioned bean curd. I brought my treasures to an empty table, near a Chinese grandpa wearing New Balance sneakers. He gave me and my gluttonous repast the ol' hairy eyeball.

"You like dim sum?" he asked. "I love dim sum," I said, popping the bao between my full, expectant lips and biting into bliss.

Read—and vote for—the original article at the New York Press website!

New York Press' Gut Instinct: The Great Dumpling Dupe

Yup, that's Bernie Kosar. And dumplings. Bonus points if you know who Bernie Kosar is.

For years, I’ve kept my dumpling addiction in check by dint of my dwelling: I live in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, a heavily Caribbean ’hood featuring gobs of jerk chicken, ox tail and curried shrimp. To get my twice-weekly dumpling fix, I travel to Sunset Park or Chinatown, where one buck buys four or five crisp, pork-and-chive pot stickers at huts such as Prosperity or Dumpling House.

In my poorer, more idealistic youth, dollar dumplings were my go-to meal. I will not feign that this was healthy fare—greasy pork has yet to take its rightful place in the food pyramid—but few culinary pleasures are finer than a pot sticker pulled from a pan: crunchy, steamy and dripping with juice that I licked from my fingers as if it were precious nectar.

Despite being done on the cheap, these thin-skinned dumplings are textbook pot stickers. They’re a quality product sold cheaply and in great quantity, which is the Chinatown business model to a T. That’s why I’m philosophically opposed to paying more than a couple dollars for dumplings, even if they include hoity-toity ingredients such as Peking duck or kimchi and beef. (I’m looking at you, Rickshaw Dumpling, and your $6-for-six namesakes.)

But then came news of dumplingslinging Eton’s October arrival on Prospect Heights’ Vanderbilt Avenue, a 10-minute walk from my home. It was as if a liquor store and a bar serving dollar beers opened up beside a recovering alcoholic’s apartment. Willpower, will you leave me?

Since opening in Carroll Gardens a couple years ago, Eton (run by former Café Gray toque Eton Chan) has cornered central Brooklyn’s slightly upscale dumpling market. His made-to-order dumplings, including pork-beef-cabbage and chicken-mushroom, are so snappy and succulent that I happily fork over $4 for five without complaint. When I had no time to dash to Chinatown, Eton sated my dumpling craving.

“With Eton so close, will you eat anything besides dumplings?” my girlfriend asked one eve. “That’s a distinct possibility. Let’s take the restaurant for a test drive,” I replied, rubbing my stomach as if it were a crystal ball, searching for a delicious future. She sighed. We met at Eton on Vanderbilt (635 Vanderbilt Ave., betw. Prospect & St. Marks Aves., Brooklyn, 347-787-4335), finding a cheerful, wood-paneled restaurant split in half. In the front, there’s a counter for ordering, while the bright rear is reserved for a smattering of tables and the dumpling makers, who stuff and crimp dough wrappers behind a glass pane.

After ordering at the counter (there’s no waiter service), we took a table and cracked a brown-bagged Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Eton is BYOB, one of the sweetest acronyms in the English language. “Dumplings and beer. You’re a happy boy, aren’t you?” my girlfriend asked, grabbing my hand. “There are worse ways to spend an evening,” I replied, words that soon proved prophetic.

The pot stickers arrived as soft, indiscriminate lumps of greasy dough. The pork-beef was indistinguishable from the veggie-lentil version or the chicken, a huge problem when your sweetheart doesn’t eat meat. I bit into each one, distinguishing flesh from vegetable. This would normally be a pleasant undertaking, but these dumplings were greasy and soft, with their wrappers partly blown out. Sloppy presentation, sloppy cooking, bland filling.

“Well, maybe the sliders will be better,” my girlfriend said optimistically, passing me a steamed bun wrapped around a wad of pulled pork. The pork’s five-spice seasoning overwhelmed the chewy meat, which was made salty by the BBQ sauce. More successful was the seitan slider, a fine vegetarian repast.

But salt, damned salt, doomed the rest of the meal. We had high hopes for the veggie saiman, a sort of Hawaiianstyle ramen finished with seaweed, bean sprouts, bok choy, fish cakes, pickled radishes and scallions, but the broth was as saline as the tears of the Morton Salt girl. Even the rice plate left us wanting, thanks to a salty wad of braised shredded chicken and seaweed, which lent an off-putting oceanic note to the dish.

“I feel like all the moisture is being sucked out of me,” my girlfriend whispered, pushing her broth aside. I felt like my happiness had been sucked out. I wanted to love Eton. It would’ve been so simple to make me a repeat customer. If the kitchen turned out a top-notch dumpling, I could easily overlook the so-so saiman and rice-meat plate. But to fail at dumplings is unforgivable, given the other branch’s quality pot-sticking product. Something was lost in translation, just as easily as Eton lost the business of this dumpling buff.

Read--and vote for--the original column at the New York Press' website.

The Season's Best New Beers - and Other Such Articles

Photo: Brent Rostad/Flickr

Hey, I've been in France for the last week, turning myself into a roly-poly on far too much cheese and wine and sausage. Mmm...sausage. But in a fevered bit of blog-cleaning, here's a few of the stories that have hit newsstands and the Inter-nerd in the last week.

"The Season's Best New Beers," published in Time Out.

"Lion Stout — Beer of the Week," published on Slashfood.

"Sunset Park $1 Eating Walk," published in Time Out.

Gut Instinct: Down in the Dumps

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Ooh, someone's feeling saucy!

"You can them in your mouth or put them in water, but if anyone vomits,” the cute Chinese event coordinator chirped, pointing to trashcans lined with I HEART NEW YORK bags, “they’re disqualified. Anyone have any questions?” Just one: Why did I enter Chef One’s sixth annual dumpling-eating contest? Answer: A little bit of hubris, a lot of jet lag and, naturally, no common sense.

By now, I’ve chronicled my dumpling adoration to death. Whether it’s crispy, juicy pork-and-chive pot stickers at dumpy Prosperity Dumpling (46 Eldridge St. betw. Canal and Hester Sts., 212-343-0683) or rich, slurp-friendly pork-and-crab soup dumplings at Flushing’s Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (38-12 Prince St. at 38th Ave., 718-321-3838; Queens), I’m a bona fide fiend.

Fanaticism, though, does not trump the laws governing my stomach. I can only devour a dozen, maybe 15 dumplings before my belly tosses up a roadblock, issuing incoming pot stickers a stern warning:

“Come closer, and we’ll be forced to puke.”

My corporal defense mechanism keeps me from entering competitive-eating competitions, a “sport” that ranks several rungs beneath curling. There’s nothing exceptional about consuming your weekly caloric allotment in a couple minutes. Do you cheer on tubs of lard scooping up fifths at the Chinese buffet? Obesity doesn’t warrant a round of applause.

Naturally, I fell off my high chair of gluttonous hypocrisy during an October trip to China. I spent ample time in the eastern coastal province of Shandong. In the region, boiled dumplings—pork, minced greens or shrimp—are king. There they lose their appetizer status, served as a main course or a meal’s closing dish, arriving even after dessert.While visiting seaport town Yantai, I consumed dozens of plump beauties, my stomach growing as round and white as dumplings themselves. “You are a very hungry man,” my translator Lynn said as I polished a plate of 30. I’d bested my gag reflex.

How could I test my newfound talent? By entering Chef One’s competition, featuring a glittering $1,000 prize. It certainly pays to pig-out.

My flight home landed 18 hours before the event, leaving me with wickedly disorienting jet lag. “Are you sure you’re up for eating dumplings?” my girlfriend asked. My eyes were donut-glazed, my skin as clammy and damp as rotten fish’s.

“I’m gonna dominate! I’m the dumpling king!” I shouted. “That’s right, you’re the king, hon,” she soothed, folding me into a subway bound for Manhattan. Upon arriving at Sara D. Roosevelt Park’s Dumpling Festival, I checked in and sat in the holding pen. The contestants—40 males, 16 females—were split into two camps: the steely-eyed pros (“My technique is to get on my knees and not swallow,” said one amply bellied dude) and in-over-their heads amateurs.

“My only goal is to not vomit,” confided a contestant wearing sunglasses. Behind me, a student wearing a Karate Kid headband popped pills that recalled caterpillar cocoons. “Want a fat blocker?” he asked.

“I would rather not have undigested fat leak from my derriere,” I said, aghast.

“I have a high cholesterol,” he explained sheepishly. Then perhaps you shouldn’t be in a competitive-eating competition, I thought, as I climbed the stage. I was in the first batch of 10 male contestants, ranging from a short Mexican man to a bro with his hat spun backward. We lined up before bowls of 20 whole-wheat chicken dumplings—thick as a thumb, long as a middle finger—and planned our methods of attack.

The competitor to my right baptized his dumplings with water. The competitor to my left mumbled a prayer. I surveyed the deep, empty bin by my feet and, at the horn, inserted a lukewarm dumpling into my mouth. I chewed twice and swallowed hard. It went down like medicine. I paused and watched another contestant shove fistfuls of waterlogged dumplings into his hunger hole, smearing his face like a toddler, snorting like a bull. Half a bowl vanished in one messy bite, alongside a sizable chunk of his self-respect. Despite my China training, I knew I wasn’t in it to win it; I was in it to have lunch.

I leisurely popped dumplings into my mouth, one by one, masticating the doughy meat to delicious, digestible goo. In two minutes I devoured 13 dumplings. Winner “Gentleman” Joe Menchetti inhaled 53. His victory may have been sweet, but defeat tasted excellent too.

Gut Instinct: Carnal Pleasures

“Will you be good?” my girlfriend wondered, filling her luggage with frilly garments and bulky cameras. She was departing to a Delaware wedding; I wasn’t invited. No skin off my braces-straightened teeth—since committing to monogamy, nuptials have lost their luster. Wedding booziness is wasted if you’re barred from bridesmaid flirtations.

“Remember: inside voices,” she said.

“Just wait until you’re a bridesmaid.”

“You are such the romantic.”

“I try.”

“Not quite,” she said, smooching me good-bye. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do this weekend.”

Readers, that was a challenge. Removing the girlfriend shackles means rebellion. But a revolt requires repression. What’s my constraint complaint? I frequent bikini bars and often crawl home like—and possessing the verbal prowess of—a toothless toddler.

“Itsh fer work,” I’ll mumble, before crumpling to the floor like a dirty tissue.

My pie-eyed antics are permitted. Instead, she’s bothered by my love of flesh. She’s a staunch vegetarian. Despite my carnivorous leanings, I’ve long loved the meat-averse ladies. My first was an ecstasy-popping raver. We’d spend evenings munching Tofutti Cuties—dairy-free “ice cream” sandwiches—and discussing factory-slaughtered cows.

“Meat is murder,” she’d coo, seemingly auditioning for a Smiths cover band. “Killing creatures for food is wrong.”

I’d nod, pretending to agree with beliefs as phony as the ice cream.

“Read these,” she’d say earnestly, passing me PETA literature. “They’ll open your eyes.” Translation: To get in my pants, you won’t eat cheeseburgers or wear leather shoes.

Thankfully, my current girlfriend prefers a more laissez-faire meat stance. “It’s your heart attack,” she’s fond of saying, as I stuff down another avocado-crowned pork torta at Rico’s Tacos.

“At least I’ll die having known true bliss,” I reply, pointing at her wan vegetable tacos, loaded with limp lettuce and tomatoes the color of chewed gum.

Meat. No meat. It’s our culinary Mason-Dixon Line. But boundaries were busted last weekend, as I adventured deep into Caribbean Flatbush. At just-opened Jamaican bakery Tastee Pattee (3122 Church Ave. betw. Fairview & Raleigh Pls., B’klyn; 718-342-7670), I discovered flaky patties stuffed with chubby chunks of savory Angus beef and wild salmon, a welcome departure from the typical baby-food filling.

“Hungry, huh?” questioned a hair-netted counterwoman, smiling with new-parent pride.

“Hmmph,” I grunt-agreed, brushing yellow crumbs off my grease-stained tee.

Continuing my dietary disobedience, I climbed aboard my bike and pedaled past Utica Avenue’s auto-body shops to Boston Jerk City (1344 Utica Ave. at Foster Ave., B’klyn; 718-629-3002). Outside the corner spot, oil-drum grills spew plumes of fragrant smoke arising from flaming, fall-apart jerk chicken and a rarity: spicy and juicy jerk pork.

“Why eat junk food and feel guilty?” the menu questioned. “Eat right and feel healthy.”

To feel healthy, I ordered a half-pound of pork served in Styrofoam alongside foil-wrapped bread. The fatty-chewy pork is polished brown with racy seasonings, which I licked off my fingers like an enthusiastic puppy.

“No wasting that tasty sauce,” said a fellow diner, likewise engaged in porcine rapture.

“No sir,” I reply, burping for manly measure. He responded in kind. Who needed women? This was living.

The next day, I bid adieu to the Caribbean and traveled to China via Queens. My destination, Flushing Mall (133-31 39th Ave. betw. 138th St. & Main St., Flushing), is a rabbit’s warren of low-rent shops selling $10 tight jeans, Hello Kitty tchotchkes and dubiously legal DVDs. Such down-market merchandise is matched by a superb food court, which slings delicacies ranging from hand-pulled noodle soups to incendiary Sichuan cow tongue.

Not feeling offal, I headed to the sister-run Chinese Korean Noodle and Dumpling stand outfitted with pot-topped stoves, a minced-pork mound and a teensy-weensy counter. CK’s specialty is boiled pork-and-chive dumplings served with crisp kim chi—a mish-mash owing to the ladies’ Korea-bordering Jilin hometown.

“Two,” I said, extending an index finger toward dumplings.

“Two,” a cherubic woman echoed, tacking on a flood of words. I nodded enthusiastically, my catch-all method for dealing with language I’m too lazy to comprehend.

Normally, one indicates an order of four or five dumplings. But at Chinese Korean Noodle, one equaled 18 albino beauties. Steaming before me, plump and oozing greasy glory, sat 36 porky treasures. I’ve oft-boasted of devouring my age in dumplings, but the logistics grow more daunting with each passing year. Concerning dumpling consumption, pleasure becomes pain much easier at 30 than at 18—a lesson that extends to whiskey shots as well.

Instead of crying uncle, I summoned forth my girlfriend’s parting warning: Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Employing my newfound mantra, I separated wooden chopsticks and, one by one, belly distending with each succulent chomp, deliciously disobeyed orders.

Dumplings!

Because sometimes life is awesome, I got to interview the owner of a dumpling factory a few weeks ago. I ate dumplings off the conveyor belt! Yes, it was some super-awesome. Here's my piece from yesterday's New York Daily News.

'We want to make the dumpling as American as the hot dog'

One hundred years ago, Bushwick, Brooklyn, was chocka-block with German immigrants and beer concocted by breweries like the stately brick Edward B. Hittleman.

Though the brewers have vanished, Hittleman's bygone building remains - retrofitted to manufacture a different immigrant-imported delicacy.

"We can make 11,000 dumplings an hour," says Terry Tang, 52, wearing wire-rimmed glasses, a pinstripe shirt, blue blazer, gray slacks - and black bags beneath his eyes, befitting several decades of ceaseless labor.

"I work at least six days a week, sometimes seven," says Tang, who lives in Flushing, Queens, with his wife of 23 years, Anna, and his 90-year-old mom.

Since emigrating from Hong Kong in 1977, Tang's industriousness has propelled him from part-time noodle-maker to co-founder and CEO of TMI Food Corp., headquartered in Hittleman's transformed brewery.

TMI creates Twin Marquis-brand noodles and wonton wrappers, spring rolls, Chef One pot stickers - including all-natural and kosher versions - and even imports bubble tea.

"I'm not a food scientist, but I do like eating," says Tang. "My father was a very good cook."

He calls his dad's stir-fried fatty pork belly "one of the best meals I ever ate."

Tang left China during the Cultural Revolution when suffocating constraints forced students and intellectuals to flee.

He relocated to England for several years, before moving to New York City in an equally tumultuous time: blackout-riddled 1977. His first home was an itty-bitty West Village apartment, surrounded by strange creatures.

"There were lots of hippies," Tang recalls. He enrolled in St. John's University, laboring at a noodle factory to pay rent. The hard work paid off when he nabbed an accounting degree - and a job at big-shot firm Coopers & Lybrand, which later merged with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Though his head now spun with numbers, his mind still revolved around food. After toiling as an accountant for three years, Tang's father - then living

in the city, along with Tang's brother Joseph - pulled him aside one day.

"Do you want to open a restaurant?" he asked.

Tang thought for a minute. "Yes," he answered with hardly any hesitation.

Tang's Kitchen came to Lindenhurst, L.I., followed by a second location in Islip. "Every day, it was a long commute and even longer hours," Tang says. It was time to diversify, branch out and fill what Tang perceived to be a void in the lo mein and noodle market.

"I knew I could do better," he says. Tang and Joseph devised a business plan for the Twin Marquis (so-called after Joseph's twin sons) noodle factory and found a teensy Canal St. plant.

Before launching in 1989, and to ensure Twin Marquis products were top-shelf, Tang headed overseas to survey and work in Asian noodle factories.

"That's how I learned to cook and make the best noodles," he recalls proudly.

Perhaps he should also thank his covert espionage. "I also requested samples of noodles and wrappers from my competitors," he says, laughing.

Research paid dividends, as his noodles became a hit in East Coast Chinatown grocery stores. "We were even in Chicago," Tang says. "Who could expect that from a little four-person factory?"

The company expanded to Bushwick in 1992. His customers clamored for more. "Every time we'd make a delivery, people would ask, 'Do you have anything else?'" Tang says.

He did. In 1999, Tang and Joseph started Chef One dumplings in another Bushwick space, creating flavors like chicken teriyaki and spicy chicken. Another hit.

Demand increased as Tang sold to cruise ships and casinos like Foxwoods. What could come next? A Chinese counterpart to Nathan's annual hot dog-eating event.

In 2004, Tang launched a competitive dumpling-chomping contest. The record is nothing to shake a set of chopsticks at: For men, it's 60 in two minutes; for women, 43.

"I can probably only do 17 or 18," Tang admits.

Instead of honing his competitiveeating skills, Tang is focusing on community service and do-gooding. He's active within the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsors Queens' annual Dragon Boat Festival and even aids aspiring culinary all-stars.

"It's very important for us to give back," Tang says of his $2,000 "Smart Dumpling" and "Using Your Noodle" scholarships for students at New York City College of Technology.

"Terry and Joseph are extraordinary human beings," says Steve Soiffer, special assistant to the president at the college. "It's very clear that they will never turn their backs on the community. Terry is eager to open his checkbook and put it where his heart is."

Lately, he's had to open his checkbook a little wider.

Expanding into the former brewery in 2007 brought new expenses, compounded by the recent escalation of prices for commodities such as eggs and wheat. Nonetheless, Tang remains optimistically committed to his long-term goal.

"We want," Tang says, clasping his hands together, "to make the dumpling as American as the hot dog."

Dollar Grub: Flushing

I slurp and burp my way through cheapskate heaven, high on buns and dumpling

Forget Manhattan’s Chinatown: Its Flushing counterpart is cheapskate-grub paradise, packed with pork-and-chive dumplings, ma po tofu, hand-pulled noodle soups—and nary a tourist searching for knockoff Louis Vuitton.

Armed with $10 on a balmy afternoon, I bike to Flushing’s bustling thoroughfare, Main Street, and park beside Corner 28 (40-28 Main St. at 40th Road, 718-886-6628). It’s a tiny takeout counter where a gloved woman gleefully rips flesh from a Peking-duck carcass.

She chucks duck chards into a rice wrapper, then adds garlic chives and hoisin sauce. The ersatz duck taco is moist and crisp, sweetened by the hoisin and the 75-cent price tag.

Emboldened, I shuffle past tchotchke vendors and, beneath an LIRR station, discover AA Plaza (40-40 Main St. at 40th Road). Behind a row of smudged windows, a man griddle-cooks $1 scallion pancakes as seriously as a scientist. I order a hot beaut: It’s vellum-thin, the onion’s crunch contrasting the warm dough.

My belly anchored by carbohydrates and grease, I enter multifloor Sunflower Delight (40-46 Main St. at 40th Road, 718-359-6655), which offers 10 percent off roasted meats, tureens of congee and 99-cent “sticky rice chicken.”

“Sticky,” I tell a waif-like woman, who passes me a leaf-wrapped square of rice that’s like sweetened Elmer’s Glue. But like buried treasure, its center contains soft chicken—veiny meat, rubbery skin and inedible cartilage included.

“Chewy,” I say, as my nose leads me around the corner to a cacophonous dumpling stall (41st Ave. between Main St. and College Pt. Blvd.) located across from Starbucks. There’s no English name for the red-awning shack, but a sorta translated menu lists vegetable-pork buns for a paltry 60 cents. The bun’s as big as my fist, and jammed with pink pork, green onion and zingy greens: a trio as addictive as cigarettes.

Know what I’ll never be addicted to? The 99-cent Prunella tea I discover inside Hing Long Supermarket (41-22 Main St. at 41st Road, 718-961-6128), a grocery selling live bullfrogs and mushrooms alike. The herb Prunella treats bleeding ulcers and excessive menstruation. It also tastes like Band-Aids mixed with dirt.

I ditch it and descend to Golden Shopping Mall’s underground food court. I snake past gurgling pots and soup-slurpers and find Dumpling and Noodle House (41-28 Main St. at 41st Road, downstairs, 718-930-6000).

“Hellloooooooo,” says a diminutive lady, resting her arms on a flour-smudged counter.

“Hellloooooooo,” I respond. “Big buns.”

“No big buns,” she says. “Small buns.” She passes me four steamed pork buns ($1), which I coat with chili oil. They’re a juicy, incendiary porcine pleasure.

By contrast, the four-for-a-dollar dumplings tonged from the steam table at closet-size Super Snack (41-28 Main St., on 41st Road, 718-886-2294) are cold and gummy. They’re like meaty Bubble Yum. Trashing them, I investigate Golden Mall’s main entrance.

Past a shoe-repair shop wallpapered with German-shepherd posters, there’s a glassed-in counter (no English name, 41-28 Main St. at 41st Road, main entrance) filled with circular sesame-seed bread ($1). It’s flaky and dense, fatty and desert dry. I’m no fan. Someone is.

“Where’d you get that?” asks a frizzy-haired lady.

I point, and she dashes away like an excited dachshund.

I stumble off like a bloodhound, sniffing out smoky meat at the Tian Shan Shish-Kebob cart (corner of Main St. and Maple Ave.). Charcoal-sizzled skewers—cooked by a mask-wearing woman—of corn, chicken or lamb are $1. I order lamb.

“Spicy?” the woman asks.

I nod. She coats my browned meat with red flecks, scissors off the stabby end and I chomp the lamb like a lollipop. The flesh is gamy and slightly gristly, but miles better than Midtown street meat.

By now, I’ve OD’d on flesh. I need a sweet end. I need Fay Da Bakery (41-60 Main St. at Sanford Ave., 718-886-4568). The squeaky-clean bakery offers inexpensive weirdoes such as corn buns, taro-puree puffs and “green tea sticky balls,” but I’m gaga for sweet, pillowy bread topped with coconut. It’s sliced down the middle and filled with thick ribbons of bone-white cream (80 cents).

I bite greedily and cloud-like cream oozes around my lips, making me appear like a scandalous porn star. I consider napkining off the wayward cream, but I paid good money for this sugary bliss. I lick my lips, then my fingers, trying not to waste a single delicious cent.

Deal Ticket

cheap.jpgHowdy, chickadees: The last month has been all about me being a cheapskate which, now that I think about it, is really no different than the first 29 years of my life. Except now I'm getting paid to be cheap. This week, I crafted a diet for Time Out New York that, for the low price of $19.99, will allow you to eat and get bamboozled for a week. Amazing? Depressing? You decide. Eat it up!