Hawkers: Southeast Asian Food in New York City

Hawkers, located between 2nd and 3rd Avenues on 14th Street in Manhattan, is a restaurant that serves Southeast Asian food.  I’ve passed by this place almost every day for over a year, but I’ve never gone in because I assumed it was just a bar, and judging from the layout, serving alcohol is its primary function.

Hawker's Bar

The restaurant seating is laid out as one long bar that covers the center of the space from front to back.  It’s simple, but functional.  The layout maximizes space, but sacrifices comfort.  The seats aren’t exactly something you’d want to spend a lot of time sitting on, so don’t plan on spending a lot of time enjoying your meal.

Small porcelain jar of warm sake and two metal shot cups

The food itself is excellent.

Satay and peanut sauce

The satay tasted authentic.  The peanut dip was a little off from what I remember, though it could just be a difference between recipes.  The only satay I have to compare this to was satay my wife and I ate in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I’d go back to Hawkers just for this, if nothing else.  It’s simple, but satisfyingly tasty.

Green curry

The green curry was really, really spicy and completely awesome!

Popiah

The popiah was ok, but not something I’d order again.

Grilled eggplant lunchbox

My wife cleaned her plate, so I guess the grilled eggplant “lunchbox” must have been delicious!

The bill for what you see in the photos (including a gratuity they helpfully add to your bill for you) added up to about 74 dollars.  That’s a little on the high side for me for a two person meal, though it was quite a bit of food. In fact, it was too much food for two people.  The only reason we went with this option was because of a Groupon deal.  When we go back, we’re going to stick to the lunch menu, or whatever they have for smaller portions.

The last two things I’d like to mention about this place is that its empty in the photos because we went early on a Monday afternoon, and the service was really great.  The girl that served us is from Thailand and we chatted with her about our trip to Phuket, Thailand in 2008 I think it was.

A Celebration of Buddha and Asian Culture

Last Sunday, on my way to the Barnes & Noble by Union Square, I was passing through the park and saw an event celebrating Buddhism called The Lotus Lantern Festival.

Lotus Lantern Festiva, Union Square, 2011.

A Buddha statue at the Lotus Lantern Festival, Union Square, 2011.

Buddhist statue with an elephant and Buddha.

I’m not really clear on the significance of the above statue, but people would step up to it, bow, and then use the dipper (you can just see the handle protruding from the bowl above the elephant) to scoop water from the bowl and pour it over the head of what I assume, by the lotus he’s standing on and the extended earlobes, to be a representation of Buddha.

A woman singing at the Lotus Lantern Festival, Union Square, 2011.

When I first walked up, a woman was singing. I don’t know what it was, or what it was about, because I missed the intro, but it sounded interesting, so I hung around for a while to see what else might happen.  After she sang, there was a demonstration of a traditional Korean dance.  I forget exactly what was said about it, but it was a celebratory dance related to successful agriculture, I think.

After I watched that, I walked through the park and just as I was getting to the other side, I started to hear Japanese pop music.  When I turned the corner, I saw there was a stage, with a live performance by a girl named Reni.

Reni onstage at the Annual Asian Culture celebration at Union Square, 2011.

On one side of the park was the solemnity of Buddhism, and on the other side of the park was Japanese pop culture, complete with cosplay and peace signs.  Weird combination.  Anyhow, I recorded one of her songs…

And then moved on past her booth…

Annual Asian Culture celebration at Union Square, 2011.

The Reni booth at the Annual Asian Culture celebration at Union Square, 2011.

…and happened to catch the tail end of a Chinese dragon dance and a martial arts display.

 

A martial arts display at Union Square Park during the Annual Asian Culture celebration, 2011.

I think it was called Wishun but I could be mistaken.

Japanese flag hanging in Union Square Park during the Annual Asian Culture Celebration, 2011.

I’m already looking forward to what I might see at the park this coming weekend.

Asian Shower Design (Much Different From American)

There are some things that you just somehow expect to be commonplace, regardless of where you go in the world, one of which is showers.  Well, that’s how it was for me anyway.  I’ve spent my whole life, up until I came to Singapore, believing that all showers were created equal.  What I mean is that the shower or shower / tub combo are definitively separated from the rest of the bathroom, so that the water stays in the shower area and the rest of the bathroom stays dry.  The water drain is located in the bottom of the shower or in the tub and the water doesn’t flow across the floor.

Water and drains on the floor?  Wondering what I’m talking about?  Check this out:

This is a bathroom in Singapore.  As you can see, there’s no real distinction between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom, other than a slight depression in the floor.  There wasn’t even a shower curtain in this one.  Now that I think about it, two of the three places I’ve stayed in Singapore haven’t had shower curtains or curtain rods.  The hose on the wall in this picture goes up to a wall mounted (or optionally hand held) shower head.

Yup.  That’s it!

The downside to this is that whenever you take a shower, the whole bathroom generally gets wet from spraying water.  The drains for the water are set into the floor, but oftentimes, for no apparent reason, the drains are on the opposite side of the bathroom from where the shower is.  Also, the buildings have sometimes settled and are no longer level, so the water winds up pooling before it runs to the drain.

On top of that, spraying your butt with water rather than using toilet paper is a common practice in Singapore from what I’ve seen, which leads to this sort of problem:

Every time you go to the bathroom and you want to sit on the seat you have to wipe it down.  Honestly I should be wiping it down with a disinfectant each time too, because that’s not just water.  That’s someone else’s butt water.

You expect to miss things when you move abroad, but a dry bathroom and toilet seat just weren’t on my list of things I thought I would be missing.