Fare from Tibet, Xinjiang, and Thailand make it the most diverse food court in New York City’s most diverse borough.
Like many of my fellow Queens food nerds I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of HK Food Court in Elmhurst. It’s been in the works for so long, that I didn’t think it was going to happen especially since the owner also operates a less than stellar food court in the basement of Hong Kong Supermarket in downtown Flushing.
Then last Saturday my buddy Ron and I poked our heads in to see almost all the booths set up. “Come back Monday,” a worker told us. So I came back. In fact I’ve been back four times so far. You might expect to find HK food, but the name refers to the fact that the culinary wonderland is built on the former site of Hong Kong Supermarket’s Elmhurst location.
The Chinese name “xiang gang mei chi cheng,” actually translates to “Hong Kong Gourmet Food Court.” Even thought it’s not even fully occupied I haven’t been this excited about a food court since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Shopping Mall. “It’s one thing to have to go to Main and Roosie for something like this, but to have this around the way is amazing,” I overheard someone say to their tablemate. Indeed! Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten so far.
Lamb ‘polo’ by way of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous region and Elmhurst.
Xinjiang House (No. 17) sits between one of the food court’s numerous Thai vendors and the sole Vietnamese outfit. It specializes in fare from China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. The Chinese name “Hui Wei Xinjiang” translates to “Xinjiang Muslim taste,” and the bill of fare features plenty of lamb. I tried a lovely Xinjiang lamb pilaf ($7.99), or polo as as the gent behind the counter called it. The fat grains of rice were shot through with fatty chunks of lamb, raisins, and barberries and just enough carrot for sweetness. Next time, I’m getting the spicy lamb feet ($15.99).
On the day I tried Xinjiang House I took a peek at Khao Ka Moo NYC, a Thai pork specialist to the left. A burnished pork shank redolent of five spice and other aromatics sat luxuriating in a steam table with eggs and greens. I was already full, but plotting my return.
It’s that time of year again when more than 50 of Queens’ best restaurants, makers of sweet treats, and brewers of fine libations converge upon the New York Hall of Science for the annual Queens Taste. The gala tasting, which takes place Tuesday night, May 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., features an international roster of cuisine from all over the borough. Astoria and India will be represented by Kurry Qulture while Flushing and Taiwan will be take part as OK Canaan serves up that country’s treats. Old school confections will be provided by Jamaica’s very own Schmidt’s Candy and pub grub will be served up Neir’s Tavern of Woodhaven, a watering hole that dates back to the 1800s.
I’m honored to be a sponsor of this year’s event and want to give you dear reader the chance to win a pair of tickets. Here’s the deal: write a haiku in the comments about why you love food in Queens. The best one wins. Contest ends Monday, May 6 at noon.
While it’s tempting to think of samosa chaat as an Indian version of loaded nachos, it’s really its own thing as Sonny Solomon the man behind Astoria’s Kurry Qulture, told me over a cup of chai last week.
“It’s a very, very popular street food in North India, but now it’s all over India,” Solomon said. “People love it!” And it’s all over Queens too. At Raja Fast Food, always a stop on my Himalayan Heights food tour Vikh and his crew make a psychedelic supersized version consisting of several of the veggie turnovers showered with all manner of sauces and chutneys. (more…)
As food writer I’m often loathe to throw around superlatives even though I’ve been called upon by Grub Street to do so in recent months. All that said, I have no problem calling the spicy buttermilk chicken sandwich at the newish Farine Baking Company in Jackson Heights the best fried chicken between bread in Queens.
At $16 Chef Michael Mignano’s chicken sandwich is isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. It’s insanely crunchy and juicy and packs a nice kick from a Sriracha honey glaze. It is a gloriously messy sandwich requiring removal of both wristwatch and rings. The secret behind this marvel is twofold: first the chicken thighs luxuriate in a mixture of buttermilk, fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic for two days. Then they’re fried twice first at 325 to seal in the juices and then at 375 to get a nice crust.
If this method sounds a lot like Korean fried chicken, that’s because Mignano borrowed the technique. “I’m not using a Korean chili paste, but I am borrowing the double fry technique and the breading mixture is very similar,” he said. For the record his favorite KFC can be had at the H Mart off Route 100 in Hartsdale. Farine Baking Company, 74-24 37th Ave., Jackson Heights
Mexican-born chef Fernando Gonzales of ERT will be cooking up cochinita pibil.
Without immigrants the United States and Queens, and myself, frankly would not be who we are today. That’s why I’m honored to show my support for the second Dining For Justice fundraiser for immigrant families at the border, which will be held at Sound River Studios in Long Island City. on April 14, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Chef Jonathan Forgash, co-founder of Queens Dinner Club, has assembled a roster of top-flight chefs, many of whom are immigrants themselves, for this gala tasting whose cuisine is as diverse as Queens itself. (more…)
Behold, the mighty Tortas Chivas, CDMX’s answer to the NYC breakfast sandwich.
“They’re all pretty big,” I said to two recent guests on a World’s Fare Eating Along the 7 food tour. We were about an hour into our trek and had already enjoyed delicacies from Joe’s Steam Rice Roll and Soybean Chen and had just arrived at Tortas Neza, which specializes in comically huge Mexican sandwiches. I was doing my best to steer the two ladies toward a carnitas taco, but l knew they really wanted a sandwich.
The gargantuan 7-ingredient Tortas Puma named for the owner’s favorite Mexican soccer team was out of the question. So I scanned the roster of 20 creations, each named for a different team, and settled on the Chivas, which listed only three ingredients: huevo, quesillo, and chorizo.
As Galdino “Tortas” Neza prepared the sausage omelet on the plancha I told the guests it represented just one component of his biggest sandwich. “We can handle this one, it’ll be like a Mexican breakfast sandwich,” I said with a chuckle. (more…)
Case of the Mondays answers the question ‘What if the Take 5 Bar were a pie’?
For a food writer who doesn’t specialize in sweets, I I’ve been on a bit of a sugar kick lately. I blame a certain highfalutin candy bar from Michael Mignano. My latest indulgence was a slice of heaven called Case of the Mondays from Daly Pie.
Meghan Daly’s shop is located in the faraway land of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, but luckily for me it has had a popup in Long Island City for the past few months. I passed by a week or so ago to check out the goods, from the traditional like butter milk coconut and apple crisp to the newfangled like salty lime and the aforementioned Case of the Mondays, which consists of peanut butter custard sandwiched between a pretzel crust, a layer of Nutella and chocolate ganache. In lieu of whipped cream, there are potato chips. (more…)
There are many, many treats at the Heights’ new bakery but this chocolate bar steals the show.
Acclaimed pastry chef Michael Mignano’s Farine Baking Company opened about a week and a half ago in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood better known for such multicolored Indian sweets as jalebi and chum chum than French treats like brioche and kouign amann. I stopped by last weekend to ogle the Viennoiserie and other goodies, but the place was a madhouse, so I returned on a weekday when things were a bit more chill and was lucky enough to meet the man himself.
“Try this, the 2017 Iron Chef champ said as he handed me an ingot-sized chocolate bar. “This is our Mignano bar. It’s layers of cashew and macadamia nut caramel, dark chocolate, crispy nougat, and graham cracker crust, all covered in dark chocolate with black Hawaiian sea salt,” the bar’s namesake told me as I bit into it and held on to the counter to avoid fainting from sheer bliss. (more…)
Ma po pig brains are an offal lover’s version of the classic Sichuan dish.
As a rule I never put new, untried dishes on a food tour except when I choose to break that rule. On those rare occasions, the new item comes from a trusted vendor. Like the other day when I took my friend Giuseppe Viterale chef-owner of Astoria’s Ornella Trattoria on a culinary research tour of downtown Flushing’s Chinatown with the aim of showing him how the Chinese eat pork offal. I had blood, feet, and ears covered, but wanted a larger dish to share at the end of our gastronomic adventure. So before I met up with Giuseppe I stopped in Szechuan House to see if my friend Linda and her husband had anything that might fit the bill.
Among a baker’s dozen new dishes I hit paydirt in the form of No. 5, listed in English as “ma po brain flower.” Surely this is a mistranslation I thought to myself, but Lisa informed me otherwise. “It’s like ma po tofu, but we use pig brain instead.”
Many guests on my food tours of America’s Greatest Chinatown—aka downtown Flushing—have had soup dumplings. Xiao long bao virgins get a quick tutorial. Since the wrappers at my favorite spot in New York Food Court are super thin, I encourage people to avoid using chopsticks and gingerly pick up the package from the top with their fingers and place it on the spoon.
They may or may not choose to cool their dumpling in the accompanying black vinegar, but the next step is always the same: “Bite a tiny hole in the side like a vampire and slurp the soup out.”