A black market for homemade rice wine—those unmarked tubs of reddish liquid stacked up in the corner of your favorite dumpling shop?— is thriving in the depths of Chinatown, and authorities aren't quite sure what to do about it.
The newish wave of Fujianese immigrants in Manhattan's Chinatown and Sunset Park are apparently causing the biggest headache, brewing their own rice wine at home (legal) and selling it to local businesses (not legal). And while it's easy enough to get a glass of the stuff at a restaurant or grocery (for $3-5 a pop), it is, unsurprisingly, much harder to track down the makers themselves. “Not for sale!” cried one store owner on Allen St when questioned about the unmarked containers in her refrigerator, and then, moments later, “It’s for cooking, for sautéeing! It’s only for the Fujianese!”
The SLA told the Times that they were looking into the illegal sale of Chinese rice wine, though the NYPD said they've never bothered—perhaps because they've been too busy kicking street vendors out from under the Manhattan Bridge. Anyhow, if you're desperate to try some of the 10-18% alcohol stuff but don't know the secret Chinese passcode, here's a primer on how to make it yourself.