Mei Li Wah Bakery Marries the Rolls

The happy coupling.
The happy coupling.
Victoria Bekiempis

Sometimes, two perfectly normal people get hitched and have a kid, who -- unlike his or her very vanilla parents -- ends up becoming a rock star, or an astrophysicist, or a supermodel, or an inventor, or whatever-cool-gig-your-guidance-counselor-advised-you-against-pursuing. Unexpected badassery can have humble roots. This same principle applies to food, too.

Mei Li Wah Bakery brings together vegetarian spring and rice noodle rolls -- two common Chinatown staples -- in a glorious matrimony of tastes and textures.

Nestled within a simple, chewy, dumpling-esque wrapper are hefty, fried spring rolls, 
which somehow stay crunchy despite their moist, doughy covering. This fun mouthfeel reminds you, somewhat, of dried bonito flakes on takoyaki -- that playfulness resulting from a meeting of crisp and dense.

And, unlike many a restaurant, the bakery seems to use homemade spring rolls, rather than the ubiquitous frozen variety found around town. The filling -- a shredded blend of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, and cabbage -- has somewhat of a nutty, forest-y flavor, rather than that anonymous mushy vibe that so often necessitates flavor-boosting dips.

Because the interior roll is fried, the plate doesn't lack richness, the way steamed and boiled vegetarian dumplings sometimes do. Mei Li Wah, a fave of boba-swilling school kids and seniors snacking on sweet buns, has earned serious street cred in the savory department with this dish. And at $3.25, this offering easily makes for a cheap, delectable, meat-free lunch.

Mei Li Wah Bakery 62-64 Bayard Street 212-966-7866

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