Cold skin noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods are as spicy and refreshing as ever.
Way back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods had but one location, in what I like to call the 36th Chamber of the Golden Shopping Mall. It was presided over by an affable gent who went by the nom de cuisine Liang Pi, after his signature dish liang pi, cold skin noodles. Today it’s become a mini empire with five locations, upscale sister restaurant Biang, and a Brooklyn commissary.
Back in the day the most notable design elements were rickety folding stools and 100-pound bags of wheat flour arrayed like sandbags along the back wall. “My name is Liang Pi,” he would proudly say as he ladled out the dish. Many of his customers came from the same region and seemed absolutely thrilled to find a dish from back home in Queens. Legions of hungry regional Chinese cuisine fiends were pretty thrilled too. I’d never tasted anything like cold skin noodles before: squidgy, porous blocks of wheat gluten and chewy ribbons of wheat starch, tossed with bean sprouts, cilantro, slivers of cucumber and a “secret sauce” made from sesame paste, vinegar, and chili oil, among other things. “I have it for breakfast at least three times a week,” one fan told me. (more…)
These thick-skinned beauties are perfect on a winter’s day.
At the end of the day momos are just beef dumplings and I will never ever get as excited about them as folks from the Himalayan diaspora do. There are now more than a dozen restaurants and four food trucks in Jackson Heights that serve them. Momos are to Tibetans and Nepalese as hamburgers are to Americans—a national dish that evokes gatherings with family and friends. “What’s the big deal about a hamburger?” I imagine a Tibetan saying. “It’s just two pieces of bread with ground beef in between.” But enough momo musing. I’m here to tell you I’ve discovered a momo that is the very essence of winter comfort food: the kothe momo. (more…)
On weekend mornings the counter at Sugar Club, a Thai grocer/video store, is lined with dozens of containers of prepared foods. Many of these come in the form of a kit to be assembled at home. Last weekend kao krup kapi ($7) caught my eye. Onions, sliced raw green beans, and Thai chilies occupied one side of the container. Slivers of unripened mango and a tangle of sliced omelet and dried shrimp filled the other quadrant. Reddish rice and a baggie of sweet pork formed the base. I could hardly wait to assemble this DIY Thai takeout. (more…)
When it comes to salmon Bricktown Bagels is probably better known for belly lox than salmon roe. That’s not the case come nighttime when the Long Island City bagelry morphs into Mu Ramen. While the soup’s the star at Joshua Smookler’s pop-up ramen-ya, many of the “treats,” listed on the menu are well deserving of the name. Chief among these is the U & I ($15), a rice bowl which features uni and ikura, or salmon roe. (more…)
As much as I love eating my way around the world without ever leaving Queens, I have a huge soft spot for the psychedelic Canadian bistro/diner/art project that is M. Wells Dinette. Hugue Dufour’s combination of bistro classics, with nose-to-tail and sheer Quebecois farmboy whimsy keeps me coming back. Beef Wellington, along with, escargots, foie gras, caviar, and Dover sole falls into a class of foods that this product of a suburban lower middle class Italian-American home thinks of as luxurious. (more…)
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…)