When talking Taiwanese food in Queens one or two names always pop up: Taiwanese Gourmet in Elmhurst and the rather loftily named Main Street Imperial Taiwanese in Flushing. The latter lies at the southern end of Main Street away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Flushing. Thankfully it lives up to its name and executes all the classics rather well.
Main Street Imperial is a favorite among my local Taiwanese foodie friends. It’s also a go-to spot for Chef Trigg Brown of East Williamsburg’s hottest new Taiwanese spot, Win Son. as I learned while dining with him and a bunch of chefs and food nerds the other night.
We worked our way through more than a half dozen dishes, including chou doufu, aka stinky tofu, and fly heads, a dish so named for the resemblance of the black beans, ground pork, and chilies to the insect’s head. The latter is also shot through with chives and is wonderful over rice. Every three months or so I try stinky tofu, and while by no means repulsed, I come to the same conclusion, I just don’t get it.
My favorite dish was san bei ji, or three cup chicken. I’d never eaten it at Main Street Imperial since I usually go straight for the yen su ji or salty crispy fried chicken strewn with basil leaves. (My jones for salty fried Taiwanese meat was more than satisfied by the pork chops we ate that night.) Three cup chicken is so named for its ingredients, a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. The bird gets cooked in that Taiwanese holy trinity along with plenty of ginger, garlic, and basil. The resulting chunks of chicken are succulent yet slightly dry on the outside due to a nice long cook in a clay pot. I didn’t have the chance to ask anybody at the table what the Chinese word for fond is, but I do know that the crispy bits of sauce and chicken at the bottom of the pot are most excellent over rice.
Like most of the restaurants in Flushing Main Street Imperial Taiwanese is the gift that keeps on giving. I have a feeling I need to take the trek down to that end of Main Street more often. One of my fellow food nerds just gave me a hot tip on something called the Master’s Ribs.
Main Street Imperial Taiwanese, 59-14 Main St. Flushing, 718-886-8788