Perry, the founder of New York Street Food, brings you his latest review on New York City street food.
The Kaya Cart spends most of its time downtown and in Brooklyn, but they decided to try the environs of Broadway at 55th St recently, right by our office.
Kaya specializes in bao, which are the Chinese equivalent of tacos, but with a soft, fluffy “bread” to hold the fillings instead of a tortilla. We tried Kaya about a year and a half ago, and were curious to see if the menu has changed at all.
There were several lunch specials, which we like, because bao by themselves are on the small side. We got 2 baos and 3 spring rolls for $8.50. They also have 2 baos and popcorn chicken for $9.50 or 3 baos and a drink for $10.50.
Kaya Cart serves five different kinds of bao: chicken, beef, pork belly, duck and tofu. We got the red curry chicken and “cow bao” (beef, obviously).
The red curry chicken bao had shredded chicken, crushed peanuts, fresh cilantro and a spicy red curry sauce. To regular readers of this column, it wasn’t as spicy as the jerk beef last week, but still had a decent amount of heat. The cilantro flavor was also prominent, but the bao could have used more crushed peanuts.
In between the bao, we tried the spring rolls. They were nice and crispy on the outside, with the usual spring roll fillings inside of mainly cabbage and carrots. A sweet and spicy chili sauce was provided in which to dunk the spring rolls that we definitely enjoyed. We didn’t really need three spring rolls, two would have sufficed, but of course we ate all three. You know us!
The cow bao came out different than it was described on the menu. The beef was very tender and appeared to have been braised (not stir-fried). The beef was topped with a spicy mayo sauce (not bbq sauce) and the veggies were basically cole slaw (not onions and greens). Even though the beef bao was not as advertised, we liked it. Cole slaw is one of our favorite sides, and putting it on top of tasty beef was right up our alley.
Both bao were stuffed with enough meat and other ingredients to make a filling lunch, especially when you factor in three spring rolls.
We don’t know if the Kaya Cart will be returning to Broadway and 55th St. That depends on whether business was better here or at their previous Tuesday spot, but the best way to find them is on Twitter here or on their website here.
For those of you working at CBS New York’s office on Hudson St, the Kaya Cart parks at Varick and Charlton St one day a week. We suggest giving them a try, if you haven’t already.