Pata Paplean is my favorite Thai bar in Elmhurst, but I never drink there. I eat there as often as possible. On weekend afternoons the funky joint named for a 900-pound gorilla serves the best street food style Thai noodle soups in Queens’ Little Bangkok. So when Cherry and Chompoo—the gals behind the pork blood enriched kuay tiew nam tok moo—asked if I wanted to collaborate on a popup series with them, I immediately said yes. UPDATE: Tickets are now on sale here for the Oct. 18 Pata Paplean Popup!! (more…)
The Himalayan culinary diaspora has moved southward to Elmhurst.
In the days before air flight a journey from Indonesia to Tibet required a boat ride across the Bay of Bengal and a trek through Burma, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, all told a distance of some 3,000 miles. In Queens—where time and space bend in strange, delicious ways—the two countries lie just down the street from one another. Or at least they do now that Himalaya Kitchen opened its doors a few days ago.
I first noticed Himalaya Kitchen the other day on a stretch of Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst better known for serving Indonesian fried chicken than Tibetan dumplings. I was leading a trek of my own, a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights. We’d already eaten plenty, plus the plan was to have those dumplings, or momo, at one of my favorite secret spots in Himalayan Heights. So I made a mental note to return to the new spot, which represents the southernmost Tibetan eatery in Queens. (more…)
Grilling one-dollar skewers over hardwood lump charcoal.
Once upon a time there was only one Mutton Man as my unrepentantly carnivorous colleague Josh Ozersky calls the gent who runs the Traditional Xinjiang BBQ cart on Kissena Boulevard and 41st Avenue. The big man dubbed him thus because of his juicy one-dollar lamb skewers. Nowadays the Mutton Man’s copycats are legion along Main Street in downtown Flushing. Sadly the original has been shut down by the city for excessive smoke. According to his son this sort of thing happens every few months. I fully expect that he will back in business before I know it. In the meantime, I’m happy to report a new Chinese meat on a stick vendor has come to Queens’ second Chinatown. (more…)
Songkran, or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals in Queens.
The ornate gilded roof of Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram rises majestically above squat brick apartment buildings. The temple, its grounds, and the shrine room with its Emerald Buddha is so spectacular that I always include it in my tours of what I like to call SEA Elmhurst. Even more amazing though is the temple’s annual Songkran—or Thai New Year—festival featuring music, kick boxing, a beauty pageant, and an immense Thai buffet that draws an equally immense crowd.
Preparing to serve the hungry Songkran horde.
In years past “before the Internet,” as a friend likes to say, the crowds were manageable. These days the line snakes around the corner. Yesterday I arrived at around 10:45 to find a huge crowd waiting to feast. Long tables laden with larb, currys, grilled fish, and many, many other dishes were arrayed in front of the temple.
A heaping Songkran helping, including larb, fried fish, duck, and stewed pork.
Apart from larb I don’t the names of any of the dishes I tried because they weren’t labeled and the crowding made it next to impossible to engage the servers. I do know that everything I ate was excellent, singing with the flavors of Thailand: fish sauce, chili,lime juice, and kaffir lime leaves to name a few. (more…)
Golden Shopping Mall’s Tianjin Dumpling House offers 10 kinds.
Last summer I compiled a list of the Top 7 Dumplings in Queens. The delicious little secret is that it was really, really hard to limit such a list to just seven dumplings. In fact I could devote a whole blog to dumplings in Queens. So today’s edition of Twofer Tuesday is dedicated to two of my latest dumpling discoveries from Queens’ two Chinatowns, Flushing and Elmhurst.
These steamed lamb dumplings made for a perfect Easter snack.
Tianjin Dumpling House is a relatively new outfit on the lower level of Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Among the 10 varieties of dumplings find yáng ròu shuǐ jiǎo, or lamb dumplings with green squash($5for 12). Create your own dipping sauce by combining soy, black vinegar, and chili oil.
A DIY kit for roti saimai, Thai spun sugar spring rolls.
Sugar Club is one of my favorite Thai markets. There’s tons of snacks and prepared foods to heat up and eat in or take home. Much as I love the place I never thought the combination grocery video store deserved such a sweet name. That is until I came across roti saimai ($4). Essentially a spun sugar spring roll, roti saimai, is a popular Thai street food.
Sweetest spring roll ever.
The package contains a ziplock baggie of gossamer-thin spun sugar along with a few spring roll wrappers. Warm one of the wrappers in the shop’s microwave for about five or six seconds. Then pile on some of the pale green candy floss and roll your own. Bite into it and join the sugar club. It tastes sort of like cookie dough and reminds me of the sugar sandwiches a childhood friend sued to make. Sweet!
Batagor, a popular snack in Indonesia and Elmhurst alike.
Jakarta style fried fish cake with peanut sauce doesn’t sound so appetizing at first, but the batagor ($6.50) at Mie Jakarta is a tasty surprise. Batagor takes it’s name from bakso (fish cake), tahu, (tofu), and goreng (fried). It’s a popular street food in Indonesia. At Mie Jakarta its takes the form of chewy fried fish cakes, blocks of tofu, and other crunchy bits. Dressed with peanut sauce; the sweet sticky soy sauce kecap manis; a bit of chili; and fried shallots it’s a tasty snack or side dish. I consider myself lucky to have this and other Indonesian delights a mere three or four subway stops away from C+M headquarters in the neighborhood I like to call SEA Elmhurst.
Mie Jakarta, 86-20 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, 718-606-8025
A slather of chimichurri makes this sandwich even more delectable.
I have come to love equestrian-themed Argentine steakhouse La Fusta because it does right by shell steak. I’ve eaten one too many tough specimens at other Argentine steak houses. Now I have another reason to love La Fusta, an off-menu skirt steak sandwich ($7.50) that I discovered the other day. “Yes, we have sandwiches,” the maître d’ said. “Chicken and skirt steak, they’re not on the menu, but many people from the hospital get them,” he said referring to nearby Elmhurst Hospital. As if on cue an EMT walked in to grab a takeout lunch. The skirt steak sandwich is excellent and contains just enough red meat to satisfy a carnivorous craving without inducing a food coma. It is even better with a generous slather of garlicky chimichurri sauce. That sauce also comes in handy for French fries, should you order them. La Fusta, 80-32 Baxter Ave., Elmhurst, 718-458-7747
Morocho’s anticuchos: one of New York City’s top Street Eats.
Way back in July I had the distinct pleasure of filming an episode of Street Eats U.S.A. for the Travel Channel. It was so long ago I almost forgot about it. The crew and I spent three days running around in the heat and humidity filming New York City’s finest street foods. The first two days were spent in Manhattan, which has some surprisingly good street food, especially Morocho Peruvian Fusion. Naturally we spent an entire day in Queens, with stops in Corona, Elmhurst, and Flushing.
You can’t go wrong with duck for a buck.
The show airs on 3/23 at 3 p.m. EST. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was excited about being on the Travel Channel, home to Messrs. Bourdain and Zimmern. I am, however, more excited that some of Queens’ greatest street vendors—Soybean Flower Chen who sells cloud-like fresh tofu; Corner 28’s one-buck duck ladies; and Tortas Neza, Corona’s undisputed king of the Mexican sandwich—all get their turn in the spotlight. Check out a preview clip here kids.
Fried chicken it’s what’s for breakfast in Indonesia and Elmhurst.
The very word porridge invokes austerity and blandness. It’s something one eats when sick or in a British orphanage. So it went for me with Asian rice porridge, variously called congee or jook. That is until I tried an Indonesian version called bubur ayam ($5.50) at Java Village. It literally means chicken porridge. More specifically fried chicken porridge. That’s right, fried chicken porridge. It’s topped with crunchy fried bits of bird, crisp pieces of cruller, and, if you like, fiery sambal. I always opt for a salty preserved egg and a squirt or two of the thick, sweet soy sauce kecap manis.Sweet, savory, spicy, and anything but austere, it is one of my favorite breakfasts in all of Queens.
Java Village, 86-10 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, 718-205-2166