We all know about the almond cookies you see in the cookie aisles of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s: the crumbly, yellow-tinted little snickerdoodle-esque cookies with a tiny, sad-looking half of an almond nestled in the center. This is what I usually think of when I think about a Chinese almond cookie, completely mass-produced, not fresh in the slightest…and usually found inside an individual cellophane wrapper. Apart from the one small almond in the middle the cookies are rarely made with real almonds, usually substituting the cheaper imitation almond extract or flavoring (which gives it that unnatural yellow coloring). And the Chinese bakeries lining Canal Street won’t really offer you a traditional Chinese almond cookie on Chinese Almond Cookie Day, preferring to stick to softer sweets like red bean buns and egg custards.
You could head to the Chinese grocery stores in Chinatown for these cookies, but to me, they’re unpalatable and I’d much rather eat freshly-made food than cookies that’ve been sitting in their wrappers on their long freight trip from Hong Kong. But I didn’t have to think very long for an alternative on this national food holiday!
If you’re going in the direction of Chinatown anyway, skip the prepackaged almond cookies and head to the famous Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard Street. The friendly, pudgy dragon gobbling up ice cream has always been a staple in my view of Chinatown, and it never really felt like summer until I waited in their long line for one of their specialty flavors. Even though there’s a Haagen-Dazs right down the street, locals and tourists alike flock to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, the tiny little ice cream joint that makes homemade ice cream in unique, Asian-inspired flavors, like lychee, taro, and red bean. You want to talk about how every Asian restaurant in the country now serves green tea ice cream, this is the place that made it before it became mainstream. Even better, these are considered their “regular” flavors, expected to be on tap (give or take daily availability) every day. Their more exotic flavors are things I haven’t heard about since my last visit, and I’m really interested to try: flavors like avocado, wasabi, and banana are definitely not the normal fare in an ice cream shop!
And one of their most popular flavors is, of course, Chinese Almond Cookie. Not only is the ice cream flavored with real almond extract to give it its authentic taste, you can actually get real almond cookies crumbled up inside your scoop. It’s packed with flavor in a way that a typical ice cream parlor overlooks, spending more time on their chocolates and fixin-packed flavors than a simple vanilla almond. And even then, it’s way more vanilla than almond. But Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has set its reputation and fame on their outstanding, unique flavors, and Chinese Almond Cookie is no different. So keep walking when you see those stale, unappealing almond cookies and stop by the ice cream factory today for the real taste of the food holiday!
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard St (between Elizabeth St & Mott St)
“Almond Cookie is my favorite flavor at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. It’s so popular that to say so is practically cliché, but that mix of crushed almond cookies in an almond-scented vanilla ice cream base is incredibly seductive, the flavors spot-on. I most often stop at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory after dinner nearby, but by then, and especially on a Friday or Saturday night, chances are they’ll have sold out of Almond Cookie.”–Serious Eats
“For more than 30 years, CICF has been serving flavors like almond cookie, avocado, black sesame, green tea, lychee, red bean, and countless more American and Chinese flavors. The flavors in each scoop are so apparent, and jump out at you upon initial contact. Every bite of almond cookie tastes as if you were eating an entire bag of almond cookies!”–New York.com
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The last time I was here, I brought Nydia C., having never heard of this place before. She had the luxury of having their “Almond Cookie” flavor that day; later exclaiming it to be the best she’s tasted. I tried it myself for the first time then, and I have to agree. It instantly brought me back to the goodhumor almond ice cream bars II had as a kid in those hot summer days, only better, much better.”–Jef T.
” We shared a scoop of red bean ice cream and a scoop of almond cookie ice cream. We loved them both! The red bean ice cream was pink, and if found anywhere outside of Chinatown would have been mistaken for strawberry just by looking at it. It wasn’t. Instead it had a very mildly sweet and delicate flavor. Meanwhile, the almond cookie ice cream was much stronger in flavor and tasted of amaretto cookies. Amazing. Not only were these ice creams delicious, but they were light and fluffy as well, almost as if they had been whipped. You could see tiny air pockets throughout the ice cream. This lightness made the ice cream really stand out to me from other denser ice creams I’ve had in the past. This was a truly delightful difference, and I know this ice cream will definitely bring me back to Chinatown for more!”–Victoria K.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!