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04/28/17 2:59am
Fried chicken marinated with coconut water.

Fried chicken marinated with coconut water.

When I first visited the Facebook page of Awang Kitchen, the newest Indonesian spot in the Southeast Asian-inflected Chinatown of Elmhurst, it displayed a vast menu, which has seen been edited down to a more manageable size. While the food was delicious, when I visited on opening weekend, the kitchen was moving at a glacial pace. Thankfully the kinks have been ironed out and Awang is fast becoming my favorite Indonesian spot in the neighborhood.

I’m a big fan of Indonesian fried chicken, so when I spied ayam goreng kalasan, a variety marinated with coconut water, I had to try it. It was some mighty fine bird and came with a sidecar of sambal terasi, a fiery red pepper concoction made with terasi, or fermented shrimp paste. It’s one of several sambals that the Jakartan chef-owner Siliwang “Awang” Nln makes in house. (more…)

04/26/17 10:19am

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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 next Tuesday night, May 2, features an international roster of cuisine from all over the borough. Astoria will be represented by The Astor Room serving up American classics and Kurry Qulture will be there with its exquisite Indian. Neir’s Tavern of Woodhaven will be serving historic pub grub while Thai Rock will be representing the Rockaways. And guests will have a chance to try the food from the soon to open Salt & Bone Smokehouse.

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 1 at noon.

04/18/17 3:53pm
LaoNoodle

Umami bombs in the form of dried fish curl in this tangle of fried noodles.

Long before I heard the word “umami” I was addicted to the savory fifth flavor. I blame pouring Accent directly on my tongue as a young boy. Accent has precisely one ingredient: monosodium glutamate. In terms of umami overload, it was the equivalent of Peter Parker’s radioactive spider bite. I’ve had superpowers ever since, OK not really. I did develop a keen palate for umami though, which brings me to the subject of today’s post: the use of umami bombs—little bursts of flavor in two Southeast Asian noodle dishes I ate recently.

The first comes from Thailand via Laos and Woodside, Queens. “Spicy noodle with Lao sausage real Thai,” read the menu at Thailand’s Center Point. (For the record, everything at this place that I’ve been reacquainting myself with of late is real Thai.) The tangle of noodles ($11.50) is riddled with generous chunks of chewy sour sausage and fried dry chilies, a nice touch which enables one to adjust the heat in the dish. There was another component: little almost imperceptible nuggets of fishy flavor.

“Is there pickled fish in this?” I asked the waitress, who looked surprised by my question. Thanks to Instagrammer @gustasian, I now know that the little umami bombs were dried fish. (more…)

04/14/17 1:00pm
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Why not have a large-format Dongbei lamb feast for Easter?

The New York Times recently had an article about lamb overtaking ham on the Easter table. Here in Queens I don’t wait until that springtime holiday to eat lamb.  Just in case you don’t yet have Easter plans, please enjoy this selection of Chinese, Indian, and Uzbek lamb delicacies. If I left your favorite out please let me know in the comments.   

1. Roast Lamb Leg, Desired Taste International
There are many, many places in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown to get juicy lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and red pepper, but there’s none quite like Desired Taste International. That’s because it’s star skewer—kao yang tui—is an entire leg of lamb. Salt, cumin, and sesame form a delicious crunchy crust that encases succulent purplish-red flesh. Ask for some cumin and ground red pepper to use as a dip for an extra burst of flavor. Desired Taste International, 35-20 Farrington St., Flushing, 718-888-9622

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2. Lamb Chops, Kurry Qulture
“My lamb chops are getting very famous,” says Kurry Qulture’s Sonny Solomon. “A Greek guy came in and ordered 50 for Easter, he loved it so much.” Marinated in yogurt, black pepper, garam masala, coriander, and cumin the Astoria restaurant’s chops are indeed delicious. Tandoor-cooked, they’re the tenderest, most flavorful Indian lamb in Astoria—and all of Queens. (Photo: @restaurantfairyKurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212 (more…)

04/13/17 10:25am
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Soul satisfying Fuzhou peanut noodles.

There are many tasty things at Arcadia Mall on the southern end of Main Street in downtown Flushing. A good majority of them—hearty lamb soup dumplings, delicate seabass dumplings, and crunchy fried spare ribs—can be found at Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy. If only Cin Cheese Back Ribs were so so tasty. Sadly the bizarre Chinese Korean rib fondue mashup is not so great. Suffice to say the people who I eat with never leave food on the table. A redemption meal was needed and quick. So Daphne suggested we head over to the Fujianese joint next door for some peanut noodles. (more…)

04/07/17 1:06pm
INDOCROWD

The Indonesian Food Bazaar will be bustling tomorrow.

Queens is fortunate to have two Chinatowns, the bustling downtown Flushing, home to a wealth of regional Chinese cuisine, and the somewhat mellower Elmhurst, which in addition to Cantonese, Sichuan, and Henanese fare, features some of the best Southeast Asian food to be found in all of New York City. That includes Indonesian food, notably the Indonesian Food Bazaar, which takes place tomorrow at St. James Church. What follows is a pictorial guide/plan of attack for eating your way through tomorrow’s festivities, which run from noon to 5 p.m.

indomartabak

Curb your hunger with the Indonesian beef pie known as martabak.

As Indonesian food nerd/Instagrammer @dan.bukit points out it’s best to arrive before 1 p.m. for the greatest selection. By 2 p.m. some of the stands start to run out. Since my eyes are quite often bigger than my stomach, I immediately head over to one of the snackier stands and have one of the Indonesian beef pies known as martabak. That way I can take my time exploring the festival without being hangry. Many folks like to bring a posse of four or five friends to share. I prefer to go it alone, although I usually run into a fellow food geek to share with.

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04/04/17 11:53pm
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Jhol momo come in a nutty sesame sauce perfumed with ginger and garlic.

I’ve had my eye on Momos Bros, a snazzy new food truck located a block or so north of Roosevelt Avenue on 74th Street for about a week now. It sports a groovy anthropomorphic dumpling situated in the center of a rising sun motif above a skyline. I’ve stopped by twice without eating, mainly because I was full. On the first visit I was quite pleased to learn that the bros running the truck aren’t some white dudes named Chad and Brad. On the second visit I’d just come from having a bowl of soup at Lhasa Fast Food, which is located across the street, so I thought I would try a Tibetan meat pie, or shapaley, but they were out.

momobros

There’s a new momo truck in town!

The third time, as they say, is the charm. Tonight I stopped by with an appetite and tried a type of momo I’ve never had in Himalayan Heights, New York City’s epicenter of momodom. Jhol momo ($6) are a specialty in Nepal where the bros—actual blood brothers—Basang and Chema Sherpa hail from. Right now they’re offering chicken and beef. I went for the beef.

The steamed crescent-shaped dumplings are anointed with a sesame-based broth that tastes like a spicier, South Asian version of tahini. With the addition of a bit of hot sauce, it made for a most satisfying late dinner on a cool spring night.

Momo Bros., outside Citibank 37-57 74th St., Jackson Heights, 347- 944-9480

04/03/17 6:06pm
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Legend of Taste’s Szechuan style crispy eggplant.

I’ve been hearing about Legend of Taste since late last year when Jim Leff, the founder of Chowhound declared it “The Best Sichuan I’ve Ever Found in NYC.” I knew I’d eventually make it out to the restaurant, which is located rather incongruously in Whitestone, a neighborhood hardly known for regional Chinese cuisine. So when Rich Sanders of Ethnojunkie told me he was gathering a crew of a dozen like-minded eaters and writers, I immediately said yes.

I knew we were off to a good start when a dish of peanuts coated in a heady mixture of salt, sugar, ground chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorn was placed before us. It’s one of my favorite Sichuan snacks. Everything we tried was delicious, but there was one dish that stood out, Szechuan style crispy eggplant ($12.95). (more…)

03/31/17 9:27am
Find Thai arancini and duck at this Woodside spot.

Find Thai arancini and duck at this Woodside spot.

Thailand’s Center Point, an adorable restaurant run by Aom “Annie” Phinphatthakul and her family is one of my favorite places to enjoy Thai cuisine. Phinphatthakul possesses a mastery of flavor and a stunning visual sensibility. The dishes here are, “Pride on a plate,” as a friend pointed out yesterday at lunch.

“Where’ve you been everything OK?, Chef Annie asked as it had been a year-and-a-half since I’d eaten at her Woodside restaurant. Based on yesterday’s meal, that’s far too long to stay away from her cooking. Everything we ate yesterday was delicious, but the real standout for me was larb duck with crispy rice ($13.95). (more…)

03/29/17 9:14am
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Behold, the Breakfast Ramen Burger!

Nothing so much disappoints as an ill-made, breakfast sandwich. (For those of you outside the New York City metro area, a breakfast sandwich is defined as bacon, egg, and cheese on a kaiser roll.) American’s the standard cheese, though I do not mind a good Cheddar. One thing is not debatable though, the bacon should be crispy.

As way to recover from a poorly made spin on a BEC I recently tried a far better interpretation of the NYC classic, the Breakfast Ramen Burger as Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack. The $7 sandwich is a far cry from the coffee cart classic, but it’s one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in recent memory. Two ramen noodles bun stand in for the roll. They encase a well fried egg, and crisp bacon topped with white American cheese. The noodly buns have a nice chew to them and held up well to the ingredients. Eating it gave me hope for New York City’s BEC, classic and otherwise.

Ramen Shack, 13-13 40th Avenue, Long Island City, 929-522-0285