Chinatown munchies that are Mott Street Girls approved

Chowing down in Manhattan’s Chinatown? Here are tips and tricks from the Mott Street Girls for whenever you travel south of West Fourth Street.


Aaliya Luthra

Mott Street Girls co-founders Anna Huang (left) and Chloe Chan in Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. They give tours that highlight authentic stories from Chinatown. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

I am a longtime secret admirer of the Mott Street Girls, a group that works to highlight the stories and small businesses of Manhattan’s Chinatown. I’ll scroll through their Instagram between classes, constantly on the lookout for Chinatown’s greatest culinary delights. From Chinese American history lessons to a guide to the best eats in the neighborhood, Mott Street Girls’ content oozes authenticity and makes me want to take route B of the NYU shuttle downtown as soon as possible.

When I sat down with Chloe Chan, co-founder of the Mott Street Girls, the feelings of secret admiration were mutual. To my surprise, Chan is familiar with my food blog, Snack with Sash. Chan graduated from NYU in 2017 and founded the group with her friend Anna Huang after volunteering in Chinatown together. They wanted to stay connected to their neighborhood, which has been greatly affected by the pandemic and the rise in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans.

“When it first started, all of our tours only had maybe one or two guests, or no one booked the tour,” Chan said. “We just kept at it every weekend, and eventually, in May 2021, we got a DM on Instagram from asking us to host tours for them during AAPI Heritage Month. That’s how we got our name out there.”

Mott Street Girls strives to promote the culture and history of Chinatown, and the Chinese diaspora in general, through neighborhood tours led by Chinese Americans. Chan has fond memories of her parents taking her to Chinatown every weekend; however, she was only able to explore it on her own during college. Now that she is on a first-name basis with many of the area’s small restaurants, she gave WSN the inside scoop on some hidden gems NYU students should know about.

“Some places off the top of my head I feel people might not necessarily know about is Kuih Cafe,” Chan said. “Kuih Cafe is a really small Malaysian cafe. They are only open Fridays to Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and they serve Malaysian specialties that you can’t really find anywhere else.”

Chan also recommends Fong On, the oldest tofu shop in New York City, open since 1933. Fong On, previously known as Fong Inn Too, is a business owned by the Eng family. The restaurant briefly shut down in 2017 because of increasing competition, but has recently been revived by Paul Eng, the youngest grandson of one of Fong On’s founders. Eng streamlined the menu and modernized long-standing family recipes.

“That’s a place I’ve always been going to since I was a child,” Chan said.“We would always go to their old location on Mott Street to get fresh soy milk, tofu pudding, and you know, handmade noodles. I take guests here during all of my food tours because a lot of people haven’t necessarily tried freshly made tofu pudding or soy milk.”

When suggesting regional cuisines to try, Chan highlighted the rich Cantonese cuisine and culture from the Guangdong province. Her favorite place to get Cantonese food is Uncle Lou at 73 Mulberry St. Chan thinks they do an amazing job of bringing traditional recipes to life and are also very affordable.

Hak Box is another secret spot. They serve Hakka cuisine, which is usually difficult to find in New York City – and even in mainland China. Hakka cuisine is a highly regionalized type of Cantonese cooking that is specific to the Hakka people, who are ancestrally from the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangxi. Hak Box’s three-item menu features rice rolls, stuffed tofu and dumplings — all Hakka specialties. 

“Their Hakka rice rolls are my favorite — every time my guests try [them], they’re like, ‘Wow, I have never had something like this before,’” Chan said.

When you want a quick bite, Chan recommends street cart vendors. Though they move around, from barbeque skewers on Grand Street to an egg waffle cart on Canal Street, there are plenty of delicious options! For dessert, Kong Sihk Tong is one of Chan’s favorites. Her description of their menu had me salivating and ready to run downtown.

“You must get their Golden Lava French Toast stuffed with salted egg yolk. That’s my favorite!” Chan said.

Kong Sihk Tong is a traditional Hong Kong cafe called Cha Chaan Tengs, a type of restaurant which mimics a Western-style cafe. They serve dishes like macaroni and ham soup, pineapple buns, condensed milk toast, spam, egg and cheese sandwiches and drinks like the classic Hong Kong milk tea.

“If you’ve ever been to those Hong Kong cafes where they have the french toast and the Hong Kong milk tea, [Kong Sihk Tong does] a really great job of that,” Chan said. 

With a sprinkle of the Mott Street Girls’ guide to local favorites, it’s no secret that your wallet and stomach will be pleased when it comes to Chinatown’s delicious dumplings and delectable desserts.

Contact Sasha DuBose at [email protected]