Black Seed Bagels’ latest limited edition item is not your average chicken salad sandwich. Simone Tong, chef of Little Tong Noodle House, collaborated with Black Seed to create a fiery bite that will surely be missed after it disappears come October.
Over the past few years, Black Seed has combined its talents with chefs from around the city, incorporating the unique flavors of their different cultural and culinary backgrounds. Past partners include Alex Guarnaschelli, Billy Durney and Danny Bowien, the last being the genius behind a squid-ink bagel with white poppy seeds. These collaborations have been incredibly popular among bagel lovers, and now Black Seed is back with a fresh new list of chefs. Simone Tong kicked it all off with her September bagel invention.
Her establishment, a cozy Chinese restaurant, focuses on the Yunnan region’s rich and savory flavors, with an emphasis on rice noodles. Little Tong was Tong’s first restaurant. Born in Chengdu, China, Tong traveled to the United States for culinary school. She worked under several chefs, such as Masato Shimizu and Wylie Dufresne, before opening up her own restaurant. One of Tong’s specialty dishes is Ghost Chicken, a spicy dish garnished with peppers and herbs. This fan-favorite was converted into chicken salad form for Black Seed’s featured bagel of the month.
The chicken salad was paired with a Szechuan peppercorn bagel, a new Black Seed original made to complement Little Tong’s creation. Sprinkled with chili flakes, the bagel not only had a kick, but also a delightful crispiness. Its texture had many qualities similar to a dense baguette.
The rich orange color of Tong’s chicken salad reflected its spice level. It was refreshingly creamy and smooth to the taste. The heat was not too intense and lightly lingered after the first bite, making the sandwich easy to devour. Its consistency was spot on. Although the ingredients of the chicken salad were finely minced, it did not fall apart or drip out of the sandwich. The only other component was fresh cucumbers, which nicely contrasted its spiciness and brought out the sweetness and tanginess of the mix.
Tong nailed the simplicity of her creation. The acidic notes from the ginger and onion in the chicken salad are perfectly balanced by its creaminess. Any additional toppings, aside from the cucumbers, would have been a distraction to the sweet and savory notes of the meat. Although Black Seed is on the more expensive side for bagels, these creations are worth a try.
A delicious interpretation of a cult favorite dish, the Little Tong bagel cannot be missed. It can be found at both the NoLiTa and East Village Black Seed locations. However, if you want to experience Little Tong Noodle Shop and Black Seed’s Little Tong bagel back to back, go to the East Village, where the two face each other from either side of First Street.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 18 print edition. Email Natalie Chinn at [email protected]