Do you like jerky? I like jerky. And it’s gotten a lot better from the shit you used to buy in the roadside rest area, with a desiccant pack tucked inside. In fact, Asia has taken this red, white, and blue road food to a new level. And, in New York City’s Chinatown, you can find some excellent varieties. Here are three worth visiting:
Lee King Beef Jerky
Located at 42 Canal Street, between Ludlow and Orchard, this pleasant little place serves up Malaysian jerky. This comes in small sheets as opposed to traditional strips, and they are a little thinner.
Since this was my first stop, I started small with a sheet of the chicken and a sheet of the pork. I asked for a sheet of the beef as well, but communication is often a challenge in Chinatown. The good news is that this was the cheapest option, costing about $1.40 per sheet.
Pings Dried Beef
If you are looking for Pings, you are not going to find it. The sign is in Chinese, with no English translation. So just go to 58 Mulberry, just south of Bayard, and walk right in. No, it’s not some guy’s storage bin. You’ll soon spot the giant glass jugs of jerky. There is a $6 minimum, and that will get you a quarter pound, which means the stuff is $24 per pound.
I scored a quarter pound of “happy” pork strips and a quarter pound of sweet beef junior, the latter being smaller squares of thicker jerky as opposed to strips (the senior option). The pork strips were quite good. Very meaty. They did, indeed, make me happy. And the beef chunks were amazing, like quality cuts of beef perfectly seasoned.
By the way, there’s a nice little park across the street. It can get quite busy with the sights and sounds of Chinatown, depending on the time of day. You might even forget you are in the United States.
New Beef King
This had been my personal favorite, located just around the corner from Pings at 88 Bayard. It’s the smallest, cleanest, and nicest of the three. They also offer the widest variety, though I opted for pork and spicy beef strips. Like Pings, they were $6 per quarter pound.
The pork strips were spiced. I’m not sure what the spice is, but it almost overpowered the pork flavor. The beef were better, more of a classic jerky. They had a little heat, but nothing that will make you sweat. Quite addicting, though.
After I had secured all my jerky, I walked over to Bayard and Mott to visit Haagen Dazs’ Chinatown shop. It’s an odd thing to find in that neighborhood, which tends to only feature Chinese brands. But it actually works well after an afternoon of jerky grazing.
The Best Jerky
So what’s the best jerky? As I noted in the Great New York City Doughnut Quest, that’s really a matter of personal taste. For me, I am now leaning towards Pings. While New Beef King is a nicer experience, Pings has a slightly better pork strip and the little beef chunks are definitely tops in my mouth.