Northeast 167th Street may not be a walkable strip like New York's Mott Street, but with more than a dozen Asian restaurants and grocery stores, it's the closest thing Miami has to a Chinatown. Covering the window of PK Oriental Mart is bright red graffiti touting housemade Chinatown-style barbecue. Sure enough, in the shop's back corner, tacked on to a butcher/fish counter, is a glass case whose display of succulent hanging meats and poultry resembles a miniature Mott Street window.
Most offerings are more expensive than a 99 cent hog head priced between $5 and $10 per pound and also much easier to manage thanks to the little Asian woman with a very big cleaver working behind the counter. Armed with this megachopper and an equally large smile she will hack your purchases into ready-to-eat pieces. Although the barbecue is take-out only, it's a rare gem.
It's also uncommon to find whole roasted chicken like those PK procures whose white meat is as juicy as its dark meat even though the Chinese have been perfecting the art of cooking poultry for more than 9000 years. In addition, there's almost no visible fat under these birds' soy-marinated, burnished brown skin.
The same lack of subcutaneous fat is apparent in twice-cooked roasted and then deep-fried Pei Pa duck, available only Saturdays and Sundays. PK's standard roast ducks are just as tasty but fattier than the fried version. It seems counterintuitive, but deep-frying, which crisps the skin beautifully, also eradicates virtually all of the grease underneath.
In China home to one-third of the world's domesticated pigs meat means pork. PK has three preparations, including roasted and, on weekends, barbecue ribs. Both beat most commercial versions, because in place of an alarming red dye, offerings are subtly marinated without star anise's licorice-stick overkill. The best, though, was crisp pork double-cooked like the Pa Pei duck and cut into tender boneless cubes, each with a layer of crunchy crackling attached.
All barbecue choices come with hoisin or soy dipping sauce but no housemade starch or green vegetable sides to complement the protein. Fortunately PK's grocery shelves are stocked with plenty of accompaniments and some of the packaged offerings are tastier and more authentic than those offered by Miami's average Chinese eatery. Especially recommended: United Taiwan Corp.'s Cantonese or Taiwanese sticky fried rice, as easy as boiling water (literally, they're boil-in-bags).
Even better is Myojo Chukazanmai, a light but astonishingly bold-flavored sesame noodle that's as uncomplicated to prepare as the soba noodles favored by college students. Add some cucumbers, a sprinkling of chopped Chinese parsley, and a few garlic chives from PK's produce counter (which also features exotic treats like freshwater chestnuts), and the dish becomes what the Food Network calls almost homemade.