Monday, February 19, 2007
Happy Year of the Pig! I celebrated it in Philly. I parked off of Walnut, a few blocks away from the Convention Center and Chinatown, and found that it wasn't that far. I've walked from Walnut to the Franklin Institute of Science before (it takes about 20 to 30 minutes), and I need the exercise. Don't we all?
Verity over at American Geisha had offered to get some good spots to eat from her friend in Philly, but I procrastinated (Oops! My bad, Verity). So I just relied on my Philadelphia travel guides. The one I got the most out of was the Philadelphia Access Guide, which gave me lots of good ideas. After much deliberation - Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malaysian - I chose the cheap eatery Sang Kee Peking Duck. Simple food that's a cut above similar establishments, Sang Kee has two locations, one in Chinatown and one very close by, in the massive Reading Terminal Market (pronounced "Redding"). Think our Lexington Market - there's even a photo collage of Lexington Market and other markets around the Western world.
I went to find the Chinatown location and ran into a barely moving mass of people around the sounds of fireworks. I had to go see the celebrations. This was a great way to bask in the Chinese New Year celebration. I took a few photos, but soon gave up. Yes, I did get one or two good shots purely by luck. But I eventually found that I am just not tall enough to see a dragon costume over 500 people! I likewise gave up on finding the restaurant in Chinatown itself, again, because of the massive, stationary throngs of people.
So I headed toward the Reading Terminal Market, which is very close to the Convention Center. In fact, I went to a convention there a few years ago, and only figured this out yesterday. The place, of course, has lots of stalls with fresh meats, fish, produce and sweets, plus cookbooks, pet supplies, and tons of other things (I bought a book of Marshmallow Fluff recipes). It also has stalls of raw oysters, Middle Eastern, Chinese, cheese steaks, soul food, Amish (yes, Amish) food, etc.
The Sang Kee stall was small, unimposing - much of what you'd expect in a typical stall eatery. After much deliberation, I went for (duh) duck. Actually, I went for duck and pork with rice and vegetables. Sounded tasty, all for about $6.85. The person behind me then ordered a "Peking Duck Roll." I wondered: anything like the Aroma duck "fajita" I got in London? It was, but they - not you - wrap up the duck. I didn't get one, but next time I'm up there I just might. It's about $1.50 if you do.
With a Diet Coke for about 75¢, the total came to $7.50. Pretty good for fresh duck, lots of rice and Chinese cabbage, and pork (hey, it is the Year of the Pig). I got my meal and tried to find a place to sit. Most of what was available and not icked over with half-eaten food was cafeteria-style seating. So I chose a corner at one table and opened up the styrofoam container. Prettily laid out, the food hid a large bed of white rice. My first bite was a large, fatty piece of duck with the skin - not a bright idea, mind you, to stuff this into your mouth all at once. After chewing it for a couple seconds, at least a tablespoon of liquid fat had to have gone down my throat. Yuck. But the rest, apart from the small bone pieces (I found myself spitting out more than a few), was pretty good. Even though the pork had been warmed in a microwave, it was still tasty. And the duck was, again, juicy (natch) and delicious, despite the bones. The many, many, small pieces of bone.
Three other people sat at my table - again, nowhere else to sit. We pretty much kept to each other. I was eying their chocolate and white chocolate-dipped pretzels, thinking about getting one of my own.
I didn't, but again there's always next time.