New York Foodies Crown the City’s Best Asian Restaurants at Taste Asia Food Fest

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
June 26, 2015 11:44 pm Last Updated: June 29, 2015 8:17 am

NEW YORK—Asian cuisine is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. From kimchi to sriracha sauce, famous chefs are incorporating Asian flavors and ingredients into their dishes. Food lovers are now hungry for Asian dishes that were once only eaten by immigrants.

Watch a replay of Taste Asia live broadcast here.

On June 26, the best of New York City’s Asian culinary scene came together at Taste Asia Asian Food Fest, a food and cultural festival hosted by Epoch Times and its sister media company, New Tang Dynasty Television. Now in its second year, the festival at Times Square on June 26 and 27, features cultural performances, cooking demonstrations by master chefs, and a Chinese cuisine cooking competition featuring contestants from around the world. 

Sounds of Korea percussion and dance group perfoms at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Sounds of Korea percussion and dance group perfoms at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

This year, Taste Asia also enlisted the public to vote online for their favorite Asian restaurants in the city. Called the Voter’s Choice Best Asian NYC Restaurants contest, nearly 400 restaurants from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens vied for New Yorkers’ love.

Categories included major Asian cuisines—Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Southeast Asian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indian, and Asian fusion—and also specific dishes like best sushi, best Thai red curry, best dim sum, and best kimchi.

About 15,000 votes came through during the voting period from June 1 to 20, according to Seth Holehouse, the contest’s director.

(L-R) New Tang Dynasty TV host Kean Wong, Chef Pitipong Bowornneeranart of The Nuaa restaurant, Mr. Sittha of HopHap restaurant, the Hon. Pornpong Kanittanon, the Consul General of Royal Thai Consulate General in New York, an New Tang Dynasty TV representative for SriPraPhai restaurant and an Epoch Times representative for Kin Shop restaurant pose with their Best Asian Restaurant Contest awards at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)
(L–R) New Tang Dynasty TV host Kean Wong, Chef Pitipong Bowornneeranart of The Nuaa restaurant, Mr. Sittha of HopHap restaurant, the Hon. Pornpong Kanittanon, the Consul General of Royal Thai Consulate General in New York, and New Tang Dynasty TV representative for SriPraPhai restaurant and an Epoch Times representative for Kin Shop restaurant pose with their Best Asian Restaurant Contest awards at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

Andrew Ding, owner of the Best Chinese Restaurant, The Handpulled Noodle located in Harlem, was shocked that his several-months-old noodle shop bested other, more well-established Chinese restaurants in the city. He attributes the result to his devoted staff who made sure to spread the word about the contest.

“I’m a little scared by it [the award], to be honest,” Ding said, who opened his restaurant in February. “There are so great restaurants in New York. We’re obviously very honored.”

Ding was born in Xinjiang, China, a city in the country’s northwestern region that borrows culinary flavors from its neighbors in Central Asia.

“I grew up with this really, really, wholesome, rustic, flavor-filled food. When I came to New York, I was very disappointed that I couldn’t find it. I really felt that there was a void,” Ding said.

Andrew Ding (right), owner of The Handpulled Noodle in Harlem, New York City, receives the award for Best Chinese Restaurant, in Taste Asia's Voter's Choice Best Asian NYC Restaurants contest. (Edward Dai/Epoch Times)
Andrew Ding (right), owner of The Handpulled Noodle in Harlem, New York City, receives the award for Best Chinese Restaurant, in Taste Asia’s Voter’s Choice Best Asian NYC Restaurants contest. (Edward Dai/Epoch Times)

So four and a half years ago, he quit his career as a classical violist to pursue his love for cooking.

Ding’s restaurant specializes in food from his hometown, such as cumin lamb sliders and “ding ding” noodles, a type of chopped noodle that he says can’t be found anywhere else on the East Coast.

Ding hopes more Asian restaurants can focus on regional cuisines and excelling at cooking a particular type of food, instead of “feeling as if they have to offer everything on their menu.”

“I feel the New York diner is sophisticated enough to appreciate differences [in cuisines],” Ding said.

Spicy Lanka (Queens) was another dark horse candidate, who won for Best Sri Lankan Restaurant.

Prat Selvachandran, co-owner of Spicy Lanka restaurant, with his son as he holds the Best Asian Restaurant Contest award for the Best Sri Lankan Restaurant at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Prat Selvachandran, co-owner of Spicy Lanka restaurant, with his son as he holds the Best Asian Restaurant Contest award for the Best Sri Lankan Restaurant at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)Owner Pratheepan Selvachandran also opened his restaurant after he noticed a dearth of places that offered the kind of food he ate at home.

Sri Lanka’s unique mixture of Chinese, Indian, and Dutch influences makes its food “a culinary playground,” Selvachandran said.

“You get the taste of sweet, sour, spice: everything in one taste. It literally lifts up your tastebuds.”

He explains that Sri Lankan food uses Chinese flavorings like soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chili sauce, as well as Indian spices like turmeric, cumin, and mustard seed.

He is hopeful that Sri Lankan cuisine will one day become popular with a broader audience, as many of the spices and ingredients have nutritional benefits fit for health-conscious New Yorkers.

Best Japanese Restaurant went to Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s namesake, Morimoto, while Best Korean went to BCD Tofu House, a Korean American chain. Chinatown mainstay, Jing Fong Restaurant, was awarded Best Dim Sum.

(L-R) Deuki Hong winner of The Best Asain BBQ contest for Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, Joseph Ko, and Mark Lee of Spot Dessert Bar for the Best Dessert restaurant, at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
(L–R) Deuki Hong winner of The Best Asian BBQ contest for Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, Joseph Ko, and Mark Lee of Spot Dessert Bar for the Best Dessert restaurant, at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that the popular Spot Dessert Bar won Best Dessert Menu. Its specialty is serving classical Western desserts with an Asian flair, such as its signature Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake, served with green tea ganache and a scoop of green tea ice cream.

All the dishes are created by Ian Kittichai, a top chef in Thailand. His travels around the world inspire creative takes on Western desserts, using Asian ingredients like Japanese yuzu (a citrus fruit), Thai tea, and condensed milk.

Managing partner, Mark Lee said participating in Taste Asia allows Spot to share in the diverse tastes spread throughout Asian countries. He added that Spot is hoping to expand beyond its Manhattan locations to other U.S. states and eventually to Asia.

Sounds of Korea percussion and dance group perfoms at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Sounds of Korea percussion and dance group perfoms at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

 

The Golden Rooster performance group sings on stage at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
The Golden Rooster performance group sings on stage at the 2015 Taste Asia Food Festival on Times Square in New York on June 26, 2015. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)