A Vietnamese pork chop with a fried ham supplement.
The menu at Pho Bac in Elmhurst lists more than 150 items. Yet most diners, myself included, almost always order a bowl of the namesake beef noodle soup. The other night in an effort to expand my knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine I decided to branch out. I ordered something that I have taken to calling the pork chop happy meal. I call it that not because it came with a toy, but rather because eating it made me quite happy.
Com tam suon cha (grilled pork chop and crab meat patty over broken rice) is one of several dishes that star tasty grilled pork. At $7, it’s a steal. In case there’s not enough pig on the plate you can get a supplement of Vietnamese ham for $1.50. Dip the sweet charred pork into the accompanying fish sauce concoction. The crab meat patties are more of an omelet than anything, but are tasty nonetheless. Along with the rice and veggies it makes for a filling and relatively healthful dinner. For another buck, one can get a fried egg on top, making for marginally less healthful repast.
This Tibetan soup smells like stinky French cheese.
“Have you had it before?” the waitress at Phayul asked when I ordered the tsak sha chu rul ($3.99), or “beef and Tibet cheese soup.” The note of concern in her voice was in no small part due to this dish’s rather pungent bouquet. I nodded my assent and waited for the bowl of what smells not unlike a Tibetan tallegio to arrive. (more…)
Knish Nosh’s perogies are pure Eastern European comfort food.
Sixty-year-old Knish Nosh is best known for its namesake old school New York City snack. The Forest Hills shop sells seven varieties of hand-rolled potato knishes, including sweet potato, broccoli, and mushroom. As much as I love the knishes, come late fall I like to snack on one of Knish Nosh’s lesser known, but heartier potato products: perogies. The hefty packages smothered in caramelized onions taste like they were cooked up on the stove of an Eastern European grandmother. That grandmother would be Romanian-born Ana Vasilescu, who prepares spinach and potato varieties ($2.50) as well as ones packed with brisket ($2.50). I prefer potato, but when especially hungry I get brisket. I have yet to try the spinach version, but I am sure it’s only a matter of time before my adopted Romanian grandmother tells me to eat my vegetables.
Knish Nosh, 100-30 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, 718-897-5554
Lamb tartare is a Thanksgiving favorite for Wafa’s family.
I suppose there are some people who are disgusted by the very idea of eating raw meat. I am not one of them. Beef tartare is of my favorite things to eat. Once I even had horse tartare, which was quite good. I am especially fond of other cultures raw meat dishes and relish Korean yuk hwe and Thai num tuk.So when I heard Wafa’s was making a Lebanese lamb tartare I knew I had to try it. (more…)
A potage of poultry and potatoes sits atop a bed of hand-pulled noodles.
Dà pán jī—or “big tray of chicken” is a Henanese dish I’ve been meaning to try for some time. I’d forgotten all about dà pán jī until I started seeing it at the New World Mall Food Court, notably at the purple curvilinear stand Stew where it goes by the rather ungainly yet specific English name “chicken potato noodle.” For an additional four bucks one can procure beef, lamb, or fish potato noodle. As I snapped a photo of the Chinese language sign for the dish, which shows Stew’s chef giving a thumbs up and some characters that likely translate to “Best big tray of chicken in the free world,” my friend from the neighboring Stall No. 28 waved me over. (more…)
Soto bakso is one of my favorite Indonesian soups.
The bazaars held throughout the summer at Masjid Al Hikmah are among my favorite food events. As fall approaches, the parking lot, once crammed with satay hawkers, fish grillers, and gado gado grannies empties and I’m left with no place to enjoy this most wonderful of Indonesian pot lucks. I sorely missed the smiling vendors and their delicious food. Or at least I did until this Saturday. It turns out that the food festival still goes on every Saturday from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., albeit in very abbreviated form. (more…)
Surely this is the subtlest Sichuan seafood soup ever.
When it comes to Sichuan dumplings two words spring to mind: chili oil. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a subtle wonton soup at Szechuan Dish in the New World Mall Food Court. The stall serves what are to my mind the best Sichuan noodles in New York City and its exquisite cold dishes, including cucumbers in chili and surprisingly smoky strips of gluten, are a staple of my Flushing food tours.
On the picture menu, where all the others item are tinted a fiery red, haĭ weì chāo shoŭ ($7), looks out of place. Although there’s no chili to be found in seafood flavor wonton soup, it has a steady buzz of spice thanks to black and white pepper. And there are so many delicate (more…)
Like a Big Mac, but much spicier and much, much more kosher.
The last time I ate a kosher burger was more than five years ago. It was such a disappointment I’ve given little or no thought to repeating the experience. That is until I came across Burgers Plus out on Union Turnpike in the part of Flushing locals call Hillcrest. Still dubious I asked my pal Meir—my go-to guy for Israeli grub—about it. “It’s really good,” he enthused. “We should have lunch there.”
The menu at Burgers Plus lists four burgers, including a 220-gram lamb number ($10.95) that the grill man said was his favorite. In 2013 Burgers Plus seems to be the only the burger joint that has caught onto the metric system. I followed Meir’s lead and ordered the 150 gram (5.2911-oz.) house spicy beef burger ($7.95). The burger is also available in a non-spicy version, given the option I always choose spicy. (more…)
Maspeth’s most decadent veal ravioli sings with the flavors of sage and speck.
My buddy Josh Ozersky likes to say I’ve forsaken my Italian heritage to eat weird Chinese food in dodgy Flushing basements. He’s only partially right. I grew up in a home where soy sauce and hoisin were as common as Sunday gravy and the hunk of Pecorino we called “grating cheese.” Now and then I am turned on to a dish that makes me proud of my Italian heritage. Most recently it was the pasta—specifically the ravioli di vitello burro, salvia e speck ($13.95)—at the newish Osteria Italiana in Maspeth, a neighborhood that’s more Polish than Italian. Of all people it was my adopted Jewish mother, Times Ledger food critic Suzanne Parker, who turned me on to this lovely dish. Perfectly al dente triangles are filled with veal and sauced with butter and sage. Salty, smoky bits of speck top it all off. Buttery and decadent, it’s nothing like my Italian mother’s pillowy red sauce ravioli, but every bit as good.
From the way I hate on Brooklyn you’d think the only reason I went there was to eat weird ice cream and bitch about Ramen Burger lines. The truth about the County of Kings though is that there’s all sorts of foods available there that just can’t be found in Queens, from the Sicilian specialties at Joe’s of Avenue U in Gravesend to the Kyrgyz cuisine at Café Avat in Bath Beach. Savvy readers will note that both of these neighborhoods are blissfully free of hipsters and the food trends they slavishly worship.
My home turf of Rego Park has plenty of Uzbek kebab houses, but the cuisine of Kyrgyzstan is woefully under-represented. So when Dave Cook of Eating in Translation asked me to join a crew of like-minded eaters for dinner at Café Avat just down the street from the fourth to last stop on the D train I immediately said yes. (more…)