While we wait for Bo Lings in the River Market, we taste-test a White Fungus Bird Nest soda.

China Feats 

While we wait for Bo Lings in the River Market, we taste-test a White Fungus Bird Nest soda.

R estaurateur Richard Ng might not want tassel-festooned paper lanterns in his new Bo Lings (see review), but for those who can't eat take-out Triple Delight or orange beef without them, the lanterns — and just about anything else — are on sale at the Chinatown Food Market (202 Grand). It has moved across the street, north of the City Market, where Ng is overseeing the construction of his sixth restaurant in the spot last occupied by the Oriental Market.

The kaleidoscope of wares in the Chinatown Food Market reminds me of Barbra Streisand's 1963 recording "Come to the Supermarket (In Old Peking)": They have bird-nest soup, seaweed soup, noodle soup, poodle soup ...

I didn't see bird-nest soup, but I did find a chilled can of Wonderfarm brand White Fungus Bird Nest soda, which has pale slivers of white fungus floating in a liquid that tastes vaguely like cream soda mixed with melted tapioca pudding. It's not bad for washing down a handful of black-pepper chicken Pop Pop crackers and a couple of Ego Swiss Pies (Twinkie-like mounds filled with blueberry cream that looks somewhat radioactive).

I nearly bought some frozen mochi bonbons from the freezer case and a couple of live blue crabs and flash-frozen squid bits. But instead, I bought a lottery ticket and a packet of coconut-cream wafers.

Then, for lunch, I impulsively decided to drive through China Feast at 200 Linwood. I have a friend who swears by the place (he's notoriously cheap) and insists that it's one of the few Chinese-American spots in the city that still serves the delicacy known as Springfield cashew chicken: chicken bits, heavily breaded, deep-fried and drenched in a brown sauce sprinkled with scallions and cashews.

It wasn't the best version I'd ever tasted, but at $4.99 (including rice and a soggy crab rangoon), it was one of the cheapest. I had to call the restaurant later to ask what was in the fried egg rolls; I'd bitten into a bland stuffing that was completely unrecognizable. "It's chicken and cabbage," said the voice on the phone.

But it needed something. White fungus, maybe?

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