05/15/18 10:32am

The more austere lugaw (left) and golden yellow arroz caldo at HOI with crispy tofu.

My mother is from the Philippines, which is why my family called rice porridge lugaw when I was growing up. Even my father now calls rice porridge lugaw even though he grew up in Taiwan calling it mai. The lugaw we made at home was usually a bland rice-and-water-only affair, without even salt. Occasionally, my mother would make chicken lugaw by braising drumsticks in the simmering rice, a rudimentary version of the chicken porridge known as arroz caldo.

On the all-day breakfast menu at the House of Inasal in Woodside, you’ll find both lugaw and arroz caldo. (If you order before noon, they come with free taho, Philippine-style dòuhuā, extra soft tofu topped with sago pearls and arnibal, a syrup made from brown sugar, ideally muscovado.) (more…)

05/03/18 8:49am

HOI’s fish fryup feeds two normal eaters, or one very hungry blogger.

I count myself a big fan of Filipino breakfast and I was pleased to see a rundown of it on Saveur recently. When it comes to Filipino food, I’m usually all about the pork, but not when it comes to breakfast. When I find myself at a Filipino restaurant in the a.m. I forsake my affections for crispy pata and lechon kawali. At the Filpino breakfast table my heart and stomach belong to dasilog, a fried dried milkfish, served with sinagag—garlic fried rice—and itlog—a sunnyside up egg. Or at least they did until recently. (more…)

04/04/18 9:33pm

When winter ain’t playin’, it’s time for Himalayan!

It’s been two years since Kamala Gauchan, my adopted Nepalese mother, decamped from Queens’ Himalayan Heights to Manhattan’s Curry Hill. Back when she held court in her shoebox of a restaurant carved out of a corner of Tawa Roti I ate her food weekly. These days I trek to her roomier spot on Lexington Avenue whenever I have a dental appointment. Which happened to be the case during Monday’s snow storm.
After a filling, it was time to fill my belly. When I entered Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, Gauchan and her crew had just opened for the day and a mantra to Ganesh—Om Gan Ganapataye Namo Namah—played over and over on the flat screen next to a signed photo of Andrew Zimmern. For a moment I considered jhol momo—dumplings in a spicy broth—but I knew soup was the ticket for a wintry spring morning. (more…)

04/02/18 10:32pm

Maddur vada, savory crisps of wheat and rice studded with spices and herbs.

One challenge of leading food tours of downtown Flushing is how best to showcase America’s Greatest Chinatown to Chinese guests. I still remember the day I met the Vanderschoors. Imagine my surprise when I rendezvoused not with a Dutch family, but a Chinese one. “Don’t worry, we’re from San Francisco,” they said. “We don’t know anything about Flushing, you’re the expert.” This brings me to the subject of today’s post: last Saturday’s trio of Indian clients—a lovely married couple who hail from Northern India and a young student from Chennai—and the crunchiest, savoriest Indian snack in downtown Flushing, maddur vada. (more…)

03/23/18 2:45pm

Until very recently I’ve always thought Little House Cafe—with its yellow and red awning that reads “Bubble Tea. Bakery. Teriyaki Express. Asian Cuisine” —was just another of Elmhurst’s many bubble tea spots. Despite appearances Little House is actually a stealth Malaysian restaurant, with a very big secret, a jumbo curry chicken bun the size of my head.
I learned about it from a breathless Instagram post: “The first unique and delicious handmade ‘Jumbo Curry Chicken Bun’ in the United States- Only from us!!” The other day I stopped by hoping to try the jia li mian bao ji, as it’s known in Chinese. (more…)

03/13/18 1:39pm

Sariling’s belly lechon is only available on weekends.

Yesterday an article by food writer Ligaya Mishan positing that bagoong—a funky fermented shrimp paste—and other Filipino foods have entered the American mainstream dropped in New York Times Food. No doubt Mishan, who cut her teeth on Filipino food, knows more about it than I ever will, but bagoong being mainstream is a bit of a stretch. As for me, I’m still far too distracted by all of the cuisine’s glorious pork dishes. Which is exactly the position I found myself in on Sunday at Sariling Atin, a Filipino turo turo in Elmhurst.

My jaw dropped when I saw the twin cylinders of porcine goodness—encased in burnished crackling skin—sitting above the steam table. “How much,” I asked once I’d regained my composure. “Sixteen a pound,” the gal behind the counter responded as I stared transfixed at the rolled belly lechon whose inner folds held lemongrass and other aromatics. After forking over $15 for a combo platter—I chose laing, or taro leaves, from the steam table—I took a seat.  (more…)

03/12/18 12:06pm

Edible Americana meets Japanese culinary tradition.

Those unfamiliar with Keizo Shimamoto, the man behind the Smorgasburg sensation known as the Ramen Burger—which sandwiches a beef patty between two noodly buns—might think the Japanese chef is no ramen purist. Anyone who’s been to Ramen Shack, his modest restaurant hard by the Queensbridge, Houses can attest to Shimamoto’s ramen reverence though.

Shimamoto serves what he calls “ramen inspired ramen,” and the other day I came really close to having a steaming bowl of his classic shoyu. With spring somewhat in the air though, I flipped the menu over to the B side where I spied Burger Ramen ($12), a soupless bowl I’ve been meaning to try for some time. (more…)

03/06/18 3:55pm

The menu calls it a salted pancake, but it’s really fried rice roll.

My earliest Chinese food memories center around Cantonese chang fen slurped at the counter of Mei Lei Wah in the mid 1970s with my father who taught me all I know about Chinese food. Beef roll, as he called it, awash in sweet soy sauce, was his go-to and mine was shrimp.

Over the years I’ve tried many versions, including yim shui cheung fen, which stars cilantro; one stuffed with fried crullers; and my current obsession the gossamer thin version made from freshly ground rice at Joe’s Steam Rice Roll. The other day I encountered a kind I’ve never had, a deep fried version, listed on the menu at Congee Village as sweet or salted pancake ($6.50). (more…)

01/29/18 10:27pm

Fried calamari Indonesian style.

It’s no secret to regular readers of this blog that Awang Kitchen is my favorite Indonesian restaurant in Queens. I eat there quite often and write about it almost as often. Here’s the thing though, I’ve become so used to ordering off the specials menu, that I’ve been missing out on some glorious dishes on the regular menu. Dishes like cumi goreng sauce telor asin ($9) or fried calamari in salty egg sauce.

Fried calamari isn’t necessarily the first thing I think of when it comes to Indonesian fare and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of “salty egg sauce,” but after a friend talked it up on Instagram, I knew I’d be trying it. Turns out that salty egg sauce is actually bits of golden salty egg yolk mixed in with the fried garlic and shallots that’s interspersed with the fried nuggets of squid.

The menu listing for this wonderfully salty and crunchy Indonesian take on fried calamari sports two chilies, but only because of the accompanying sambal. It’s great mixed in with the calamari itself as well as the accompanying nonsalty egg.

Awang Kitchen, 84-05 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, 347-492-9264

01/15/18 10:47am

Dumplings for days, well almost.

I’m not sure why, but it’s taken four decades of eating Chinese food for me to discover the wonders of HK noodles. My introduction to the wiry Hong Kong style yellow noodles began with HK lo mein combo at Shun Wong in Elmhurst. The massive portion of dumplings and lo mein comes with a sidecar of chicken broth as does an equally massive feed I tried at Flushing’s Shifu Chio.

I’ve passed Shifu Chio by hundreds of times, but had only eaten there once before. I scarcely ever look up at the faded red awning, which reads “Prince Noodle & Cafe, when I’m leading tours through the neighborhood.  One day last week after perusing such whimsical menu categories as “Golden Oldies,” which includes fried fish cake lo mein, and “The Conservatives,” a septet of congees, including pig’s belly and liver I zeroed in on HK noodles. (more…)