My history with Easter egg hunts is a dark and disappointing one. Though I don’t remember exactly what transpired on those dewy Easter mornings, I recall feelings of endless anxiety and panic. I can vaguely hear cries of “Look! This one has a dollar bill inside!” coming from everyone but me. I’m able to picture opening the eggs I did manage to acquire, most full of those Jelly Beans that run for $.79 a pound at CVS… or shiny pennies that were as worthless back then as they are now. Most of all, I remember tears… lots of them.
So when I contemplated doing my own egg-themed piece for this week’s Sunday in Chinatown, you can imagine my discomfort. I’m 24 years old now, though, and I think I’m ready to face my past. I decided to explore Chinatown and have my own ‘egg’ hunt, one I was going to win (whatever that means). So I set my sights on finding the best egg drop soup in Chinatown.
Unlike the Easters of my youth, I decided to keep this year’s hunt confined to a relatively small area, lest I wander into a part of town without any Egg Drop soup, as I wandered too often into areas of backyards with no colored eggs in sight when I was young. So I chose a part of Chinatown I’ve been to plenty of times before, and set my sights on three restaurants – Hop Kee, Wo Hop, and Shanghai Asian Manor. These restaurants are (literally) on top of each other, and represented a great cross section of what I like most about Chinatown.
You’ll recognize Hop Kee from a previous Sunday in Chinatown piece. Likewise, you may think you recall Wo Hop restaurant from a previous piece as well, though you’d technically be wrong. After all, there are two Wo Hops on the same block. This week, we headed to the underground one. The final restaurant on the list is Shanghai Asian Manor, a spot I’ve been dying to try for a while.
Our task was simple – find the best egg drop soup in Chinatown. For those who don’t know, egg drop soup is a very basic dish, comprised mainly of chicken broth, light seasonings, and beaten eggs. Its beauty, like much of Chinatown, is in its simplicity, and affordability. It’s a dish that sounds like it wouldn’t vary much between restaurants, but you’d be surprised: each order I samples was noticeably different than the last, and had its own unique characteristics.
1. Hop Kee Restaurant
We decided to seek the familiar first – a restaurant I’ve now been to countless times – Hop Kee. Their egg drop soup ($2.50 for a bowl) was the most presentable of the bunch. The egg was wispy, beaten perfectly and dropped carefully into a fairly tasty chicken broth moments before its arrival ar our table. While many egg drop soup dishes in Chinatown are strangely colored (many being… perhaps a bit too yellow), Hop Kee’s looked and tested very natural.
The one main caveat to note here, however, is that Hop Kee requires an $8.00 minimum purchase, and is cash only. If you’re having trouble deciding how to spend that extra $5.50, you’re very fortunate that we’ve got you covered. Overall, Hop Kee’s egg drop set the bar high, but didn’t totally blow us away.
2. Wo Hop Restaurant
Full of egg but ready for more, I continued my underground leg of my journey with Wo Hop, a claustrophobic basement restaurant covered head to toe with autographed photos from people, famous or not, who have eaten here over the years. We grabbed a small bowl of egg drop soup for $2.25. Much larger than Hop Kee’s version, Wo Hop’s egg drop had noticeably more flavor than Hop Kee’s, likely a difference in the chicken broth used. Though its presentation wasn’t as beautiful as Hop Kee’s comparatively artistic version of the dish, we enjoyed Wo Hop’s more (not to mention that we didn’t have to buy $6 worth of extra food to boot).
3. Shanghai Asian Manor
Up to this point, my egg hunt was far and away the most successful I’ve ever had. For the first time in my life, I got everything I wanted out of the eggs I was seeking out, and I hadn’t cried once. Our final stop was Shanghai Asian Manor, a trendy ‘Shanghainese’ spot directly above Hop Kee. Though I was already in the beginning stages of total egg overload, I trusted my body to finish the taste test, with the hope that I wouldn’t get sick from excess until I got home.
Shanghai immediately grabbed my attention (and affection) when I spotted the soup on the menu at $1.25, significantly cheaper than our previous efforts. The soup arrived much ‘yellower’ than the previous spots, an immediate cause for unease. However, my worries were unfounded – Shanghai’s egg drop was delicious… very delicious. Much more concentrated than the others (which may have led to its heightened levels of ‘yellow’) in every way, Shanghai Asian Manor’s soup triumphed without question.
My takeaway from this experience was two-fold. First, I learned that it was a horrible, horrible idea to try to eat three bowls of eggy soup in a one hour period of time. I’ll likely be haunted by it the rest of my life. Second, cheap usually prevails, as it did here. Happy Easter, and happy hunting!