06/15/15 10:54am
Zhi zi liang fen, slippery cool, and garlicky as all getout.

Zhi zi liang fen, slippery cool, and garlicky as all getout.

“What’s your favorite noodle dish?,” is a question I’m asked all too often. As a food nerd I have about a dozen favorites encompassing Thai, Uzbek, and Chinese. One of my top Chinese noodles these days is the ma la liang mian or cold noodles—humming with ma la flavor of tingling Sichuan peppercorns combined with red chilies—from Szechuan Taste.

It’s so good that it’s taken me a year to start ordering the stall’s other cold noodle specialties like zhi zi liang fen, or gardenia bean jelly ($3.75). Despite the English name, there are no flowers in it whatsoever. Just Like its bone-white cousin liang fen, this sunnier version is made with mung beans. (more…)

06/08/15 9:42am
Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

As an Italian-American, I cut my teeth on fried calamari. Whether made at home by my old man or at the Long Island outpost of Vincent’s Clam Bar, it was almost always eaten with a marinara sauce spiked with copious amounts of red pepper. The other day I tried a Chinese twist on fried squid at Shanghai 33 that was simply amazing. (more…)

05/13/15 12:50pm
quesadila

El Salvador’s version of the quesadilla is not what you think.

As one of the only Salvadoran spots in the largely Asian stronghold of Flushing, El Ranchito De Daisy is quite an anomaly. The pupusas are good but the quesadilla Savadoreno ($3) is really quite remarkable.

“What’s that I asked?” spying the golden brown ovoids lining the counter. “Quesadilla,” came the response. “Quesadilla!!? Quesadilla de que?” I asked in my best bad Spanish. “De arroz,” the gent behind the counter replied. (more…)

05/11/15 10:15am
PLANTLOVESUMMER

Sure to be this summer’s spiciest bowl of kuai tiao.

Long before I ever slurped the kuai tiao that have taken Queens by storm in places like Pye Boat Noodle, Pata Paplean, and Plant Love House I took great pride in ordering my food Thai spicy. Whether larb, curry, or som tum the resulting chili pepper overkill from uttering those two words invariably left my lips burning and nose running. These days I rarely ever utter the words “Thai spicy.” The bowl of noodles that goes by the name Summer ($12.95) currently being served at Plant Love House is far more incendiary than any dish I ever consumed during my Thai spicy days. (more…)

04/27/15 10:41am
laphingserpo

Refreshing and much easier to eat than its blockier cousin.

Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Jackson Heights food tours. My fellow travelers are always amazed to discover a family-run Tibetan eatery tucked behind a cell phone store. The momo are excellent, too. The other day I made a discovery of my own—laphing serpo ($6)—while leading a tour of what I like to call Himalayan Heights.

“Yellow laphing,” the cook said when I gestured to a mass of what looked to be dough behind the counter. Laphing, slippery blocky cold mung bean jelly noodles, bathed in black vinegar, garlic and chilies is quite common on Tibetan menus. This was my first encounter with the yellow variety, though. (more…)

04/24/15 12:28am
MUSLIMLAMBCHOP1

Peng Shun’s Mongolian roast lamb ribs are astounding.

“Wow I think you renewed my faith in this dish,” a dining companion said the other day. He was talking about Muslim lamb chop a delicacy that rose to ascendancy on cumin-scented wave of glory at Fu Ran neé Fu Run about five years ago. Sadly Fu Ran’s version ain’t what it used to be. On my last few visits it was precooked, rendering what should be gloriously juicy, fatty lamb flesh rather dry and tight.

Muslim lamb chop also called lamb in Xinjiang style is a specialty of Flushing’s Dongbei restaraunts. The version that rocked our world’s can’t be had at a restaurant though. It’s served in a much more humble setting, New York Food Court. (more…)

04/07/15 10:11am
UNITORO

Uni and toro, together at last!

The Madison Square Park area has never been known for izakaya, the Japanese gastropubs that are haunts of salarymen, sake drinkers, and adventurous eaters alike. Izakaya NoMad is out to change all that as I learned during a press dinner recently. With  a whimsical dining room featuring a Godzilla mural, it  offers an accessible alternative that sits somewhere between the rarefied air of a Sakagura and St. Marks’ grease bespattered yakitori joints. (more…)

03/24/15 10:07am
AREPATACONE

Chorizo and chicarron give a one-two punch of porky goodness.

The crew over at Areperia Arepa Lady have been busy these past few months. In addition to enlarging the dining room they’ve added mini arepas and patacones. The latter consists of plaintains that have been mashed, flattened and fried. They’re then topped with avocado and various meats. I went for a mixta ($8.50), topped with carne asada, chicharron, and chorizo. The combination of crunchy plantain, creamy avocado, and the one-two punch of pork made for a magnificent gutbomb. “I’ve gained 20 pounds” since we opened the Arepa Lady’s son Alejandro told me as I polished off the last bite. I believe him, I  think I gained five after my patacone.

Arepa Lady, 77-02AA Roosevelt Ave.,  Jackson Heights

03/09/15 9:22am
sugarclubtoast

Kanom pang ping’s just the thing.

My pal Joel has forgotten more about Thai food and culture than I may ever know. A week ago he took a break from the wintry land of Boston to spend a day with me and some other Thai food nerds in Elmhurst eating at as many Thai spots as possible. We hit half a dozen Thai Town favorites, including Plant Love House and Paet Rio.

Joel and I started out bright and early at Sugar Club, where he was keen to breakfast on “toast soldiers” and kha-fai ron, strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk. The owner presented us with two orders of kai kra ta, the Thai equivalent of a Denny’s grand slam, two sunny side up eggs, sweet pork sausage, chopped pork loaf, and ground pork. It came with toast. And for dessert more toast, with sweetened condensed milk and pandan for dessert. All the toast we had that morning was excellent, but none of it was the aforementioned toast soldiers. (more…)

02/16/15 10:05am
HHEGGPLANT

Hunan House’s steamed eggplant is packed with homestyle flavor.

A few weeks I ago visited Hunan House with a crew of ravenous foodies. As soon as we were in the door encountered my pal Colin Goh. “Try the steamed eggplant with salted duck eggs,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t convince anybody to order the eggplant, but we did discover the amazing beef with crispy pepper. It’s a dish so good we ordered two rounds.

This past Saturday I ran into to Colin, his wife, Yen Yen, and their little girl, Kai Kai at the Lunar New Year celebration at Flushing Town Hall. When given a choice between a homestyle Korean place and Hunan House, young Kai Kai chose Hunan House. And that’s how I fell in love with xian dan huang qie zi, or steamed eggplant with salted duck egg yolk on Valentine’s Day. (more…)