Once upon a time not too long ago on the corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue in New York City’s most magical Chinatown there was a food court that went by the name Savor Fusion. Its overlord was a distinguished Taiwanese gent named Bobby Lee, who looked like he just stepped out of a Hong Kong gangster flick. Depending on the day’s vibe, the mustachioed Bobby was either chilling with his attractive and much younger wife, getting into a fracas with rowdy patrons, or giving out fruit to his handpicked roster of vendors who represented cooking styles from all over China. One thing was always certain though, excellent food turned out by two female chefs.
Mind and palate-blowing Sichuan fare—dan dan mian, spicy fried fish, and all manner of spicy pickles—was the specialty of the charmingly gruff Zhū Dà Jiě. Home-style Taiwanese chow, including lovely salt and pepper fried chicken, was the province of the equally gruff matriarch of Taipei Hong. Sadly Savor Fusion is no more, but Zhū Dà Jiě. now has her own restaurant, which is quite excellent. Taipei Hong and its magnificent chicken were but a distant memory. I’d given up all hope of ever tasting it again. Then one day I ran into the chef on Roosevelt Avenue. I’d already eaten a substantial meal at the New World Mall, but she insisted on showing me her new joint.
Taipei Hong’s new home is the Chatime food court across from Macy’s on Roosevelt Avenue. “Do you still have the fried chicken?” I asked when we got to her counter at the back. With a frown and a jerk of her head toward the bright yellow spot that is the newish Two Peck Fried Chicken, she said no longer sold the crispy salty nuggets of chicken, but insisted that I try a mala tang, a spicy soup. Next time I stopped by and learned from her son, Joe, that they still made the chicken, but just for friends.
A few days later I returned to Taipei Hong, and whispered to my namesake, “Do you have the chicken?” He nodded, but said I’d have to take it to go because he didn’t want any trouble from the Two Peck crew. I ordered the $7 spicy chicken combo and hustled over to New World Mall to eat the contraband. The chicken, ordered spicy, was as good if not better than I remember. The crunchy, juicy, salty morsels of meaty joy were served in a paper sleeve adorned with a lady preparing to devour a platter of hamburgers and fries. The chicken was so good I almost forgot about the rest of the Taiwanese happy meal, a generous tray of rice topped with minced pork, pickled vegetables, sweet sausage, and greens.
A day or say later I returned to Chatime to check out Two Peck. “Is this a chain?” I asked the gal behind the slick yellow and blue counter. She assured me it’s the only one as I scanned the menu, eventually settling on the spicy chicken thigh nuggets ($3.25). I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that she said it would take 10 minutes to make. I sat back in anticipation wondering how this outfit’s chicken would fare against the forbidden poultry of Taipei Hong.
As is common with this style of chicken Two Peck’s meaty chunks were served with a skewer to make them easier to eat. They were juicy, crunchy, expertly fried, and as promised spicy. Too bad they were also incredibly cloyingly sweet. I am not sure what the two anime dudes who are the spoksescharacters for Two Peck are putting in the batter, but it tastes like pancake syrup. “Two Sweet,” or perhaps “What the Cluck?”might be better names for this establishment than Two Peck. It’s almost whoever devised the recipe sat down and said, “I like chicken and waffles. Let’s make the batter taste like chicken and waffles!”
So the winner of Flushing’s Chinese fried chicken battle is Taipei Hong. Next time I’m ordering her chicken to stay. I have an urge to see the gal who runs it throw down. Either that or I miss the sometimes raucous scene that was Savor Fusion. In any case, I now know where to score the tastiest Taiwanese fried chicken in Queens.
Taipei Hong, 136-55 Roosevelt Ave.
Two Peck Chicken, 136-55 Roosevelt Ave.