05/14/19 12:14am

Fare from Tibet, Xinjiang, and Thailand make it the most diverse food court in New York City’s most diverse borough.

Like many of my fellow Queens food nerds I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of HK Food Court in Elmhurst. It’s been in the works for so long, that I didn’t think it was going to happen especially since the owner also operates a less than stellar food court in the basement of Hong Kong Supermarket in downtown Flushing.

Then last Saturday my buddy Ron and I poked our heads in to see almost all the booths set up. “Come back Monday,” a worker told us. So I came back. In fact I’ve been back four times so far. You might expect to find HK food, but the name refers to the fact that the culinary wonderland is built on the former site of Hong Kong Supermarket’s Elmhurst location.

The Chinese name “xiang gang mei chi cheng,” actually translates to “Hong Kong Gourmet Food Court.” Even thought it’s not even fully occupied I haven’t been this excited about a food court since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Shopping Mall. “It’s one thing to have to go to Main and Roosie for something like this, but to have this around the way is amazing,” I overheard someone say to their tablemate. Indeed! Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten so far.

Lamb ‘polo’ by way of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous region and Elmhurst.

Xinjiang House (No. 17) sits between one of the food court’s numerous Thai vendors and the sole Vietnamese outfit. It specializes in fare from China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. The Chinese name “Hui Wei Xinjiang” translates to “Xinjiang Muslim taste,” and the bill of fare features plenty of lamb. I tried a lovely Xinjiang lamb pilaf ($7.99), or polo as as the gent behind the counter called it. The fat grains of rice were shot through with fatty chunks of lamb, raisins, and barberries and just enough carrot for sweetness. Next time, I’m getting the spicy lamb feet ($15.99).

On the day I tried Xinjiang House I took a peek at Khao Ka Moo NYC, a Thai pork specialist to the left. A burnished pork shank redolent of five spice and other aromatics sat luxuriating in a steam table with eggs and greens. I was already full, but plotting my return.

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04/29/19 4:18pm

It’s that time of year again when more than 50 of Queens’ best restaurants, makers of sweet treats, and brewers of fine libations converge upon the New York Hall of Science for the annual Queens Taste. The gala tasting, which takes place Tuesday night, May 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., features an international roster of cuisine from all over the borough. Astoria and India will be represented by Kurry Qulture while Flushing and Taiwan will be take part as OK Canaan serves up that country’s treats. Old school confections will be provided by Jamaica’s very own Schmidt’s Candy and pub grub will be served up Neir’s Tavern of Woodhaven, a watering hole that dates back to the 1800s.

I’m honored to be a sponsor of this year’s event and want to give you dear reader the chance to win a pair of tickets. Here’s the deal: write a haiku in the comments about why you love food in Queens. The best one wins. Contest ends Monday, May 6 at noon.

04/08/19 9:33am

Mexican-born chef Fernando Gonzales of ERT will be cooking up cochinita pibil.

Without immigrants the United States and Queens, and myself, frankly would not be who we are today. That’s why I’m honored to show my support for the second Dining For Justice fundraiser for immigrant families at the border, which will be held at Sound River Studios in Long Island City. on April 14, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Chef Jonathan Forgash, co-founder of Queens Dinner Club, has assembled a roster of top-flight chefs, many of whom are immigrants themselves, for this gala tasting whose cuisine is as diverse as Queens itself. (more…)

02/26/19 4:41pm

Mohinga as served by the newly revamped Asian Bowl, the sole Burmese restaurant in Queens.

I suspect I’m not alone as a food writer in having guilty pleasures I never write about. One of my favorites is the Singapore mei fun from  Asian Bowl, a takeout pan-Asian spot next to an Uzbek kebab parlor, around the corner from my house. I’m well aware that there is little or nothing Singaporean about the tangle of yellow noodles, shrimp, pork, and egg, but that doesn’t stop me from eating it at least once a week.

The other night I stopped in to get my mei fun on. The place seemed different, for one thing the lights were turned up high and there were new tables. “Are you open I asked?” of a guy who I’d never seen working the counter. “Yes, but we’re under new management,” he said after taking my order. “We are going to start serving Burmese food and sushi too.”

“If you make mohinga I’ll come every day,” I responded. “How do you know mohinga,” he said quickly grabbed my hand and kissing it in a fit of pure joy because I namechecked the fish noodle soup from his homeland. (more…)

01/21/19 10:57am

Top-flight Hainanese chicken has landed in a neighborhood better known for bulgogi.

I first noticed Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro back in the fall. I was slightly bemused to see such Singaporean classics as chili crab and Hainanese chicken alongside seafood pasta in butter lemon sauce and kimchi fried rice with bacon and Polska kielbasa on the menu of a restaurant in the heart of a neighborhood better known for Korean food than Southeast Asian cuisine.

I forgot all about Yummy Tummy until a friend raved to me about the Hainanese chicken last month. “It’s the best in New York City,” he crowed. “They do it the right way, the skin is so supple.”

So just after New Year’s I trekked down Northern Boulevard to try the chicken and a few other dishes with a friend. The bird was lovely, silky of skin, the tender meat was full of flavor. The accompanying chili sauce and pesto were great, but the bird was better on its own. That’s because Singaporean Chef Richard Chan takes great care and pride in its preparation, starting with the fact that the fresh killed bird doesn’t get chilled until an hour-long ice bath, which is preceded by a leisurely 45-minute simmer in chicken broth whilst stuffed with ginger, garlic, and spring onion. There are also two massages involved, one with salt before cooking and another with salt and sesame oil after the ice bath. (more…)

01/15/19 12:11pm

Cumin-coated wild boar skewers.                                                                      Photo: @foodmento

Winter calls to mind warmer times—with plenty of good old-fashioned BBQ and cold beer to wash it all down. Which is why this month’s Queens Dinner Club will be a down-home Nepali style BBQ feast at Bajeko Sekuwa on January 28. Tickets are $52 and may be purchased here.

The new spot in Sunnyside whose name means grandpa’s BBQ was started by Dinanath Bhandari who used to grill sekuwa skewers at a hawker stand on the road to the Kathmandu airport. His once humble stand has grown into a mini-empire with 14 locations in Nepal, and just one in the U.S., in Sunnyside, Queens. (more…)

10/15/18 7:52pm

Chicken thentuk, perfect for a crisp fall night.

To say Elmhurst’s newest Tibetan eatery is easier to find than its predecessor would be a vast understatement. After all Sang Jien Ben’s first restaurant, Lhasa Fast Food, lies down a cramped hallway behind a cell phone store, while the new one is in plain sight just behind Elmurst Hospital.

It opened in August with a menu featuring the beef momos—juicy dumplings that are as ubiquitous in Tibet as they are in Himalayan Heights—and thentuk, a hearty soup with hand-torn swatches of dough that made the first spot a draw for everyone from homesick Tibetans and local foodies to Eater and Anthony Bourdain. A beaming Dalai Lama presides over the room. Enshrined on altar below it a photo of Chef Ben and Bourdain. (more…)

09/17/18 11:48am

Manhattan’s Fung Wong is where I tried my first mooncake decades ago.

Last week I paid a visit to Manhattan’s Chinatown with my brother John. The neighborhood has changed much since we used to go there with our father 30 years ago, but some things remain the same, notably the tea parlors and Fung Wong Bakery. The latter is where I used to get blobs of chewy sweet rice cake for dessert after hitting up Wo Hop with my parents. It’s also where I tried my first mooncake.

After John and I caught up over dim sum at Nom Wah, I poked my head into Fung Wong to see dozens of mooncakes lining the case and stacks of red boxes proclaiming, “BEST MOON CAKES IN CHINATOWN N.Y.” Back in Queens, I shared the treat with some dear friends. The filling of fruit paste and preserved duck egg had an old-fashioned feel to it, more of a rough texture than others, whose smoother paste seems more processed. The real thing that set it apart though was the dough itself, which was far less dense and sweeter than any I’ve had in recent memory. (more…)

09/06/18 8:33am

Fish cakes from Bronx-based Vendy finalist CaSpanish.

Back in 2009, when the Vendy Awards were held in the shadow of the Unisphere, there was only one food market game in town: Smorgasburg. LIC Flea & Food came along in 2012 and a few years later Queens got its very own night market. Well these days it does and so does the Bronx. The finalists for this years Vendy Awards are a lineup of vendors from the street and from the markets that is almost as diverse as Queens itself. Puerto Rico, the Domican Republic,Trinidad, Italy, China, Indonesia, Japan, El Salvador, India, and Romania are all represented. What’s more, six of the nine finalists have a connection to Queens.This year’s Vendy Awards will be held on Governors Island on September 22. Click here to get tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2018 Vendy Awards Finalists for Best Market Vendor and Best Dessert Vendor.

CaSpanish
These Bronx Night Market stalwarts take their name from a blend of Caribbean and Spanish cuisines as reflected in a menu that features straight up Dominican fare like mangu—a trifecta of salami fried cheese, and eggs—and fusion specialties like jerk chicken empanadas. Husband and wife duo Keith and Judy were in the middle of planning their wedding in 2015 when they could not find a caterer that offered the varied menu they were looking for. Keith is Trinidadian-American and Judy is Puerto Rican and Dominican. They wanted a reception spread that included each of their favorite foods reflecting their Caribbean-American backgrounds. Unhappy with what they found they decided to cater their own wedding reception, and thus was born CaSpanish.

D’Abruzzo NYC took top honors at this spring’s World’s Fare.

D’Abruzzo NYC
Tommaso Conte started D’Abruzzo NYC in August 2017, and now sells his arrosticini, succulent roasted lamb skewers, at Smorgasburg and other markets. While growing up on Long Island, Tommaso’s family, in particular his nonno, or grandfather, instilled in him the values, traditions, and work ethic that he learned in Abruzzo a rugged mountainous region is southern Italy. Early on Tommaso grew tomatoes, helped make wine in his Cantina, and turned the soil in his nonno’s garden. This connection to the land at an early age has inspired Tommaso to pay homage to his roots with D’Abruzzo NYC.

Hometown Spring Pancakes
Founder Annie Ye hails from Wenzhou, China and got started in the food market game with CBao Asian Buns, which can still be found at Queens Night Market, beside her new venture, Hometown Spring Pancake, which showcases a lesser known Northern Chinese snack. Each flaky pancake is made fresh to order and then filled with such meats as stewed beef or roast pork. (more…)

05/28/18 10:35pm

“We’re here at Flushing’s oldest food court,” I tell my Chinatown tour guests as we stand outside the Golden Shopping Mall before descending the stairs to the gritty wonderland of regional Chinese food. “When I first came here, I had no idea what to order because everything was in Chinese,” I continue.

Once downstairs I point out Chen Du Tian Fu, noting that it has wonderful Sichuan food. Typically we forego the fiery fare at this stall in favor of Helen You’s  Tianjin Dumpling House, which is a shame because Stall No. 31, downtown Flushing’s O.G. Sichuan street food specialist, is where a decade ago myself and many other non-Chinese speaking Chinese food nerds had our first experiences with Golden Shopping Mall thanks to a legendary Chowhound post by BrianS that translated the then all Chinese red and yellow wall menu. That translation ultimately led me to bring Chinese food expert and Sichuan food specialist Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Mall in the summer of 2008.

“They’re speaking Sichuan dialect. I love it, Sichuan dialect is so lovely,” Dunlop exclaimed as we tucked into a plate of fu qi fei pian, a tangle of tendon, tripe, and beef bathed in chili oil singing with ma la flavor. In the ten years since my visit with Dunlop, Golden Shopping Mall has been discovered. Zimmern, Bourdain, the Times, even Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien, who I once ran into dining there with his kitchen crew, have all taken a seat at the rickety stools.

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