When it comes to Chinese frozen desserts I’m half traditionalist/half adventurous. Shaved ice gets a resounding yes—whether the granular form or the fluffy one that’s been showing up at spots like Snow Days. Ice rice, which my pal Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine said seemed disgusting also get the nod. Novelties like the ubiquitous rolled ice cream are simply that, good for Instagram hits and little else. (more…)
Half a lifetime ago Zak Pelaccio taught me to ball up khao neuw or Thai sticky rice and dredge it through the bracing liquour that sat at the bottom of a platter of papaya salad. We were gathered around the table at what was then the best Thai restaurant in Queens, Zabb Elee. Zabb is gone and Zak decamped for Hudson, New York, a while back. As for me I’m still in Queens, and have watched the Thai restaurant scene in the environs of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside blossom.
Whenever I’m at a Thai table there’s always sticky rice. Sometimes it acts a foil for savory dishes. Sometimes it’s the centerpiece of a dessert as with the pandan-scented sticky rice that acts as the foundation for Sugar Club’s over-the-top mango sticky rice.(more…)
Nuts and dried fruit top this frosty Korean treat.
When summertime rolls around, my heart, mind, and stomach turn toward frosty treats. Here in Queens we’re lucky to have so many to choose from. There’s everything from old school institutions like Eddie’s Sweet Shop and The Lemon Ice King of Corona to new fangled creations like Snow Days, plus shaved ice creations from all over the globe, including Mexico,Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and Korea.
Pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice typically consists of a small glacier of ice topped with red beans, fresh fruit, and condensed milk. Lately a newer version of the treat has appeared on the scene, a “well-being” variety that skips the red beans and condensed milk, favoring other ingredients like nuts and mochi. My favorite version of this pat bing soo subspecies can be had at Ye Dang, a shop on the further reaches of Queens’ vast K-tropolis.(more…)
Bacon makes everything better, including ice cream.
I am the type of salty sweet enthusiast who finds most salted caramel ice creams lacking. Until I visited the outpost of OddFellows Ice Cream Co. in Urbanspace Vanderbilt I didn’t realize that what they lacked was bacon among other things.
Brooklyn’s most unique ice cream artisans have joined forces with the culinary juggernaut that is Roberta’s to create a powerhouse of a savory sweet frozen confection. The flavor has no name, it’s announced by its ingredients: coffee ice cream, Roberta’s sticky bun bread pudding, bacon and salted caramel. One scoop in a cup made for a fine dessert after a chicken sandwich.
I must say that while I was eating it I felt much like the monkey in the photo. The new creation will be available through Labor Day.
OddFellows Ice Cream Co., Urbanspace Vanderbilt, 230 Park Avenue
Little Greek doughnuts, aka loukoumades, at Astoria’s Cafe Boulis.
“Let’s go to the place with the little Greek doughnuts,” my friend Jane said. We’d just had a lovely Thai lunch at Pye Boat Noodle. After I confessed my ignorance of little Greek doughnuts, we set out for our dessert destination.
“Oh, gosh I’ve passed this place dozens of times,” I said when we arrived at Cafe Boulis. Like many Greek cafes in Astoria the little space hums with a caffeinated energy. Directly opposite the door a sign reading, “LOUKOUMADES MADE FRESH TO ORDER” graces the Greek doughnut station. Behind the glass lies a fryer that evokes memories of fresh fried zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day and the spectacle of watching Krispy Kremes receive a cascade of glaze as they come down the conveyor belt. (more…)
Forgot it’s a Thai dessert? Let the caramelized shallots remind you!
Until very recently I’ve felt I could take or leave taro. The taro cakes found at Chinatown dim sum houses are good, but I’m not exactly crazy for them. I prefer the latke-like shrimp fritters encrusted in shredded taro. It took a Thai dessert preparation—morkhang puek—to make me really crave the starchy tuber.
I found the toasted taro custard at Khao Kang, an Elmhurst steam table specialist, with a sideline in desserts. Like so many of my favorite Thai snacks, the dense eggy morkhang puek blurs the Western disctinctions of sweet and savory. In case there was any doubt that this is a Thai dessert, caramelized shallots sit atop the burnished brown surface.
The distinctly Thai combination of salt, egg, and coconut milk is lovely. The whole affair tastes like a Southeast Asian version of flan. It almost makes me want to sneak in a bottle of fish sauce to a Cuban restaurant. Almost.
Cloud ear fungus is said to benefit the respiratory system.
Kulu Desserts has all manner of cold treats, including sawdust pudding and some lovely durian preparations, come wintertime though I find myself craving their tong shui or traditional Chinese sweet medicinal soups. It’s not every day you can eat dessert and claim that it’s good for anything other than your mood.
One of my favorites is the papaya white fungus soup, a comforting brew of crunchy snow ear mushrooms, chunks of sweet papaya, and Chinese almonds. Papaya aids in digestion, so it’s something I like to have after a big meal. The frilly white fungus is said to benefit the respiratory system. I have a feeling I’ll be sipping a lot of this sweet soothing brew this winter.
Kulu Desserts, 37-06 Prince St, Flushing, 718-886-3302; 806 62nd St, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, 718-680-2818; 123 West 3rd St., 212-658-0865
Whether in Krakow or in Queens a donut is a pączki by any other name.
Sometimes you just really need a donut. And not just any donut, but a puffy Polish pączki. Filled with jelly or cream they’re a common pre-Lenten treat. I’d be lying if I said pączki were on my mind Friday morning as my business partner and I drove around Glendale trying to find Finback Brewery.
Beer and ticket sales were our primary concern. We needed two kegs of beer and we needed them fast, for a festival the following day. This urgency didn’t keep us from stopping in our tracks when we saw a hand-written sign that read “Bake Sale.” (more…)
I’ve been eating my way through Flushing’s New York Food Court for about a year. Yet somehow, I only just got around to trying Mango Mango yesterday. The bowl of spicy soup I’d just finished had put me in the mood for something sweet to cool down.
I wasn’t in the a mango mood though, and almost left the food court without getting dessert. Then I saw the hand written special sign reading “mille crepe durian (slice).” There was also a mango version, but I was more intrigued by the durian. (more…)
Pineapple kesari called to mind sweet, comforting memories.
One of the things I love most about giving food tours of Queens is the opportunity to rediscover the delicious flavors of such neighborhoods as Flushing through the eyes of my guests. Every now and then I discover something new too, like the pineapple kesari, I found at the Ganesh Temple Canteen on a recent tour.
Typically I order a gigantic paper dosa at the Canteen. The crisp megaphone-shaped crepe never fails to impress. “Is that a sweet?” I asked when I saw a hand-written sign that read “Today’s Special: Pineapple Kesari.” Even before the lady behind the counter said yes I knew I was going to order it. (more…)