Skewer grills and noodle-slingers always line the busy Chinatown corridor of Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, but on the weekends, the crowd multiplies and street food vendors come out of the woodwork to feed it. You might walk by four different peddlers on one block — some offering bamboo-wrapped zongzi out of a shopping cart, others stacking up aluminum containers filled with chicken feet, and still others tending bite-sized eggy cakes that emerge fragrant and golden from the skillet.
On Saturday, Eighth Avenue between 56th and 57th streets was home to a woman offering various skewers and, more interestingly, Taiwanese-style stinky tofu. She grabs four large cubes of the stuff and tosses them in hot oil, where they bubble and hiss until crisp. Then she tosses the tofu with a delicious, vinegary hot sauce that’s reminiscent of Louisiana-style cayenne sauces. The tofu is indeed stinky and tastes intensely funky. An order costs $2.
Though there are many carts where you can get chow mein, a particular fellow distinguishes himself by making cheong fun, or steamed, rolled-up rice noodles, from scratch, to-order. (He may or may not be the same vendor referenced in this Chowhound thread; sounds similar, but the locations are different.) On Saturday, he was making his noodles on Eighth Avenue between 55th and 56th streets.
A giant bucket of opaque white batter sits next to him, and he faces an aluminum steaming cabinet fitted with drawers. He pulls out a drawer, lightly oils it, and puts a ladleful of the batter into it, tipping it around so that the liquid thinly covers the entire surface. Minced pork or dried shrimp gets spooned on top, and he closes the drawer. In a minute, he opens it again, and — presto! — there’s a big, flat rice noodle, which he sprinkles with scallions and scrapes up into a loose roll. A squirt of sweet soy, $1.50, and there you go. The noodles are wonderfully slippery and supple.