In my perambulations around America’s Greatest Chinatown, aka downtown Flushing, I encounter many, many cold appetizers. One of my favorites can be found at Chengdu Tianfu. Liang ban san su—cold salad three vegetables—consists of seaweed, julienned carrots, and chewy noodles showered in cilantro dressed with roasted chili oil, black vinegar, and a healthy dose of garlic. The other day though I took a dive into the 42-item roster of special cold appetizers at Wenzhou Noodle Restaurant and discovered a trio of new favorites.
The extensive list of te se leng pan—special cold dishes—includes such items as “drunky crab,” presumably a wine marinated crab. Of the 18 or so items on display, one in particular—a red-tinged cartilaginous jumble—caught my eye. “What’s that?” I asked the kid behind the counter. “Boneless chicken feet.” I rounded out the cold dish sampler with some dried squid with garlic chives (zhong qin mu yu) and lovely little planks of pressed tofu skin in spicy sauce (su e).
While I do eat fung zhua, or phoenix claws as chicken feet are poetically known as in Chinese, I’m not the biggest fan. My least favorite preparation is pickled, but this boned out version in a garlicky, vinegary hot sauce might just be my new favorite way to eat them. The salty, chewy miniature squid were also quite lovely as was the tofu skin.
To accompany my boneless chicken feet, I also had a bowl of smoked chicken noodle soup (xun ji mian) which was an interesting change of pace from other Chinese noodle soups. I plan to work my way through the other 16 noodle soups on the menu!
Wenzhou Noodle Restaurant, 41-12 College Point Boulevard, (718) 358-0058
Chengdu Tianfu = Chendu Heaven?