I really wanted the food at No Pork – cabbie Laskar Korshed‘s favorite spot for halal Chinese in Brooklyn – to knock it out of the park.
Not only because I dragged four hungry New Yorkers there to try the taxi driver’s recommended restaurant, but also because the place brings together Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths, thanks to a strict halal-kosher menu.
No Pork isn’t the only place in New York that’s home to this kind of convergence, but it impressed me to listen to a Jewish mother who keeps kosher tell me it was her family’s favorite restaurant while I watched women in headscarves wait for food to go.
No Pork manager Ahmad Ali told me that the restaurant has been serving halal Chinese food on this Boerum Hill corner for over 20 years. All of the meat comes from a kosher market in Brooklyn, and his customers come from all over New York (read: all over the world).
Thursday night, Laura L., Annie W., Lucia L. and Elushika W. and I gathered around two of its three formica tables and sampled four of its 150-plus dishes. Unfortunately, the cabbie hadn’t recommended any favorites. According to Laskar, “everything is good” at No Pork.
While we waited for the busy kitchen to cook our feast, a slew of hungry customers crowded in front of the sliding Plexiglas order window, telling Ahmad they wanted their food to go. Between the close quarters, the fluorescence and the blasts of winter air that ripped through the place every time someone opened the door, we could understand why they chose not to linger.
By the time Ahmad handed us our food in a brown bag, we were hungry and hopeful. By the time we’d finished taking pictures of it (as food bloggers must), the Arctic breeze had extinguished most of its heat.
I think the chill had a lot to do with our disappointment in the salt and pepper shrimp ($8.95, bottom right). Garlic and scallions did their aromatic thing, but the salt and pepper breading and the shrimp themselves were almost soggy. Every time I took I bite, I expected heat and crunch – what I got was cold and chewy.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t figure out where the metallic overtones were coming from in the tofu with mixed vegetables ($5.00, bottom left), and I kept wishing they’d fade. Hot or cold, there was no escape from the bitterness.
The chill couldn’t have been responsible for the overcooked noodles in our Szechuan noodles with beef ($5.75, top right) or for the missing hot peppers. Of all the dishes we ordered, I expected this one to generate an explosion. The brown sauce was fairly flavorful, but it hit a dead end in the absence of any sort of chili fire.
Chicken curry with onion ($5.25) was the clear winner of the four dishes we tried. Though it still wasn’t spicy (despite the chili pepper symbol on the menu), the chicken was tender, the yellow curry pungent, the vegetables crisp. If I went back to No Pork, this is probably the only thing I’d order again.
The bright side of the dinner? The five of us ate for $25 total. That and the fact that our meal unfolded in a place where food trumps differences in faith, where tradition persists though borders have shifted, made me think it was still worth following up on Laskar’s recommendation.
No Pork Halal Kitchen
50 4th Avenue, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Open: Mon-Sat, 11am-12am; Sun 11.30am-12am