Pizza Guru Shares Chinatown Turkey Tradition

Desperately seeking last minute inspiration for your traditional Thanksgiving feast? Oddly enough, there’s no need to look any further than Mark Bello, the mastermind behind Grand Street’s Pizza a Casa.  It turns out the guy obsessed with teaching people how to make a perfect pie at home, also is pretty ingenious when it comes to turkey.

You see, for the last three years, Bello’s holiday guests have been raving about his Chinese-style roasted bird.  Crispy on the outside — juicy and flavorful on the inside — this turkey has it all. Best of all, it doesn’t require any fussing around in the kitchen. Bello simply takes his turkey into the Chinese restaurant on the corner of Catherine and Henry streets (a few doors away from his apartment) and they take care of everything else.

As a kid growing up in New Jersey, Bello remembers coming to the Lower East Side to eat dim sum with his grandfather, Hyman Brechner, who also happened to make a delicious peking duck. So this new tradition felt very natural.

Not long after he moved to Chinatown, Bello became a regular at Noddle King (formerly J.M. Family Noodle), on Henry Street.  And he became fast friends with Gilbert, a friendly waiter at the restaurant, which specializes in Cantonese style noodle soups and barbecued meats. One day Bello asked Gilbert if they’d be willing to prepare his Thanksgiving turkey. The answer was an emphatic yes (there was actually a Chinese sign in the window advertising this service).

Intrigued, we picked up a turkey of our own last week and took it to Noodle King.

They hung the turkey up to dry in the kitchen before placing it in a large roasting oven.

Two days later, Gilbert led us down to the cellar, where the turkey had just finished roasting in two different ovens (one of them equipped with a rotisserie). Navigating past six whole pigs hanging from the ceiling, we inspected the bird, which featured a golden crust, very much like a Chinese-style roasted duck. We asked Noodle King’s cook about the marinade. He told us (in vague terms) that it included soy sauce, wine and Chinese spices, but was not very forthcoming with any other details (a secret recipe, he told us).

The turkey was just as tasty as Bello told us it would be. The dark meat, in particular, was very flavorful, almost smokey. This year, he’s having Noodle King prepare two birds for his Thanksgiving gathering.

If this idea sounds appealing, you’ll have to act quickly. The restaurant needs your turkey no later than tomorrow (Tuesday) in order to have it ready by Thursday. It doesn’t matter whether you bring them a fresh or a frozen bird. They charge around $2/pound.

Noodle King is located at 19 Henry Street. Phone: 212-571-2440.

  • Janccrc

    Wonderful “only on the L.E.S.” story ! What a great melding of Chinese and American culinary traditions. we’re lucky to have you highlight the “inside scoop” on some of the greatness that is Chinatown. Awesome pics!

  • ed

    Thanks! We’re getting another turkey for Thanksgiving. Our guests are very excited.

  • Susan

    What a fabulous idea!