11/24/15 10:09am
pad thai

Half the fun of Plant Love House’s pad thai is mixing the ingredients together.

“You ordered pad thai!!??” one of the chef’s daughters at Plant Love House exclaimed last night. “That’s not like you,” she countered when asked why she reacted with such shock. She’s rights, it’s not like me at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve ordered the dish. The last time was over two years ago at Andy Ricker’s now shuttered Pok Pok Phat Thai. I like to think of it as the sweet and sour pork of Thai cuisine. It’s a “real dish” in Thai cuisine—just as sweet and sour pork is in China’s Dongbei region—that’s been Americanized.

I’ve eaten my way through most of the items, including the lovely noodle soups, on the menu at this family run joint in Elmhurst’s Thai Town, and have enjoyed most everything I tried from the specials board. So when I saw pad thai listed as a special I had a hunch it would be pretty good. (more…)

11/08/15 10:07pm

The buttery folds of Turkiyem’s börek are filled with a savory mix of beef and herbs.

One of the things I love most about leading food tours in Queens is reliving  the sense of discovery through my guest’s as they experience new flavors—fresh Chinese tofu, Nepalese jerky, Mexican seafood cocktails—for the first time. Sometimes, I even make new discoveries while leading a tour. This past Saturday I discovered that I can ride a bike through Queens traffic without getting creamed, I also found some awesome homemade böreks at Turkiyem Market in Sunnyside. (more…)

11/01/15 10:44pm

Chu-tse momo are packed with chives.

Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Himalayan Heights Food Tour. Tucked away behind a cell phone store, it’s a veritable Shangrila of Tibetan cooking. Last year the hidden restaurant’s beef dumplings took home the coveted Golden Momo, the trophy awarded to the best momo in the annual Momo Crawl. Juicy and scented with Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese celery the little packages are made to order and well worth the wait. The other day I discovered a secret momo being served at this momo speakeasy: chu-tse momo. (more…)

10/30/15 12:20am

Gemmeli were a childhood favorite for Mamma Gianna Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica.

This year marks the 100th birthday of Ronzoni, the venerable pasta maker that was started by one Emanuele Ronzoni in 1915. To celebrate its centennial the company chose a chef from each New York City’s borough to be the face of Ronzoni. When I received an e-mail stating that Chef Gianna ‘Mamma Gianna’ Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica was named the Ronzoni chef for Queens, I couldn’t help but smile, her restaurant is one of my favorite Italian spots, and, just like Ronzoni, she got her start in Long Island City, Queens.  (more…)

10/26/15 9:14am

Asian Taste 86’s soto ayam topped with shrimpy-garlicky koya powder.

“Ah yes I remember you from last time,” the waitress from Asian Taste 86 said. “Soto ayam, with lots of sambal.” Last time was a month ago when I had a cold and had come seeking comfort in the form of the yellow Indonesian chicken soup known as soto ayam. When I have a cold I tend to subsist on matzo ball soup from Knish Nosh and gingery chicken and rice soup spiked with plenty of garlic and chilies from Eim Khao Man Gai. Usually I reach a point where I bring out the big guns, like a bowl of the Indonesian chicken soup, with plenty of fiery sambal and lime. (more…)

10/20/15 5:01pm

Despite its name, this Taiwanese specialty contains no fly heads whatsoever.

“We’re having lunch with KF Seetoh,” my good friend Colin Goh messaged me a few weeks back. “Want to come?” Given the chance to dine with the demigod of Southeast Asian hawker food, I immediately cleared my schedule and hastened to Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Specialties.

The man behind Makansutra who’s working on Bourdain Market turned out be a regular guy, albeit one who’s really, really into his food. Our little group ordered several dishes including something known in Chinese as “chive flowers with fly heads.”  (more…)

10/04/15 3:25am

BearCheeseBurgerThere’s a Queens-based chain called Bareburger whose menu complexity never ceases to vex. There are multiple meat choices: elk,bison,beef, duck, ostrich,wild boar, and turkey; multiple sauce choices, including curry ginger ketchup and horseradish remoulade; a greengrocer’s worth of vegetation to choose from; and even multiple bun choices: brioche, sprout bun, tapioca rice. You could also choose from the 14 remade combos. Just writing about all these choices has given me a headache!  The only choices one should have to make when ordering a burger are cooking temp and with or without cheese.

And then’s there Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky’s Bear, which has nothing to do with the aforementioned chain. It offers only one type of burger. It’s a cheeseburger that also goes by the nickname the Grizzly Burger. It consists of a loosely packed patty with a fringed, crispy bottom sitting atop some greenery. The top is mantled with American cheese and crowned with a slice of juicy tomato. The bun’s what Pogrebinsky calls a standard “backyard bun,” because after all who really wants to think about the bun when eating a burger, it should serve as a mere vehicle for its contents. (more…)

09/28/15 11:44am

DIY noodle soup at Flushing’s Gui Lin Mi Fen.

Sometimes it feels as if I lead so many food tours of Flushing Chinatown that I don’t do enough research, i.e. eating, of non-sharable dishes like noodle soups. Sure I have my favorites: predawn laksa at Curry Leaves, Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup’s namesake tonic, the samgyetang at Hansol Nutrition Center. Lately though I’ve been craving a brand new flavor in noodle soup, which is why I’m glad  I finally tried Gui Lin Mi Fen. (more…)

09/11/15 1:42pm

Labor Day might be the symbolic end of summer, but truth be told there’s almost two weeks left of the season. So why not celebrate the tail end with something truly crazy: a piña loca from Jazmin Deli in Elmhurst? It’s part fruit salad, part candy store and all party. The $15 fiesta consists of a cored out pineapple filled with a mixture of spiced fruit, cucumbers, and the candy coated peanuts known as cacahuate estilo Japones. It’s garnished with skewers of more fruit, and several types of candy including a straw coated in spicy tamarind. (more…)

09/01/15 11:28am
The Central Asian cousin of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

The Central Asian cousin of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Rego Park is home to so many kosher Uzbeki kebab joints that local friends and I joke that they’re all more or less the same restaurant, just with different specialties, and/or slightly surlier service. The latest entrant into the neighborhood’s crowded field of more than a dozen restaurants is a rather opulent looking establishment (think flocked Louis XIV wallpaper and chandeliers) called U Yuri Fergana. (more…)