For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.
1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
2. Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp, minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate. Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181(more…)
Like many of the best Korean BBQ’s Majang Dong cooks over charcoal.
The number of places to enjoy Korean BBQ in Queens is staggering. The vast K-tropolis that runs along Northern Boulevard boasts kalbi specialists like Mapo, spots renowned for the fatty ribbons of pork belly known as samgyeopsal, and even all you can eat/grill joint called Picnic Garden. There’s only one that feels like being at an actual picnic though, Majang Dong. To be more specific it feels like a backyard BBQ—and that’s because it is.
Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. It’s not that one needs a password to gain access, it’s more that if you didn’t know that it was there you could easily pass right by it. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. (more…)
The meganightmarket/food hall known as Bourdain Night Market that will rise on Chelsea’s Pier 57 development in some two years is being hailed as the most exciting development in the food scene since white people, including myself and Tony B., discovered Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Anthony Bourdain and Stephen Werther have tapped some major talent, including hawker food expert KF Seetoh and The Street Vendor Project—the nonprofit behind the Vendy Awards—to curate a dozen stalls. I’m excited to try Singapore’s Geylang Claypot Rice and the uni tostadas from Sabina Bandar of Ensenada, Mexico. “It will be all transparent and authentic…not sterile, but chaotic in a good way, with hawkers and vendors and places to eat,” Bourdain tells Florence Fabricant in last week’s Times. “Where in this city can you have that?” Where indeed!!?? Why Queens, of course. Without further ado here are seven spots we’d love to see find a home in Bourdain Market.
1. La Esquina del Camaron Mexico Pedro Rodriguez is a mixologist of sorts, but instead of mescal or tequila his cocktails contain shrimp and octopus. His Mexican seafood cocktail mise en place includes olive oil, limes, onions, cilantro, avocado, and a tomato-based sauce. Doctored up with a goodly splashe of Valentina hot sauce and served with saltines, a cup of his signature creation brimming with tender octopus and shrimp is a meal in itself. Rodriguez operates out of a sparkling clean kitchen in a bodega on Roosevelt Avenue. Lately he’s branched out to include other delicacies like octopus tostadas. La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (347) 885-2946(more…)
Spectacular Sichuan street food can be had at No. 25.
“It’s the same thing as New World Mall Food Court,” a local restaurant owner said of downtown Flushing’s latest entrant in the Queens Chinatown food court game. Indeed the first thing one sees when entering the month-old New York Food Court is Tokyo Express, a fake Japanese chicken teriyaki joint that looks suspiciously like the one in New World Mall. And, yes just like at New World Mall Food Court, there’s yet another branch of Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles as well as several spicy stir fry by the pound places, including the ridiculously named Incredibowl. Nonetheless I’ve been able to ferret out some good stuff. Let’s start with Szechuan Taste, No. 25, which lies just beyond the jivey Japanese. (more…)
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.
When it first opened back in 2003 Sake Bar Hagi was a gem of an underground izakaya. It was almost exclusively the province of Japanese office workers. That was before humble food scribes like myself and bigger names like Peter Meehan and Anthony Bourdain blew the cover of what was once Times Squares’ best kept secret sake bar. The specials always featured two or three edible oddities like the noxious homestyle squid guts and the surprisingly tasty pickled firefly squid. These days it’s still attracts a certain breed of extreme eater. As Justin Warner of Brooklyn’s Do or Dine once put it, “You don’t go to Hagi because you’re really into Japanese food; you go to Hagi because they have some really weird shit on the menu.”
These days there’s less weird stuff on the specials board at Hagi and more gaijin in the seats. One thing that hasn’t changed is a $7.50 dish that goes by the name “sweet fatty pork.” I had some there the other night after seeing Django at the AMC in Times Square. It was as good as it was a decade ago when I first started hanging out at Hagi with my pal William C. Wallis who would always order it by the Japanese name tontoro. I have never been sure whether the cut used is neck or cheek, but it is sweet, fatty and possessed of a rich porkiness. A squeeze of the accompanying lemon wedge and some green onions round out the flavors perfectly. William is the man behind the lovely chopsticks and marrow photo treatment that appears on the C+M banner. He remains as good a friend as ever just as Hagi remains as a good place to hang out as ever, even if the food isn’t quite as odd as it once was.
Sake Bar Hagi, 152 West 49th St., Manhattan, 212-764-854
Live octopus is among the stranger things I’ve eaten.
I’m no slouch when it comes to the nasty, and often squirmy, bits. Just last night some friends and I enjoyed a multistop Flushing feast that began with Sichuan cold chicken feet and beef tendon and ended with chicken heart and beef stomach skewers at Biang! And, it’s a little known fact that I turned Anthony Bourdain on to the infamous lamb face salad that was created at Biang! parent Xi’an Famous Foods.
For the inaugural issue of Edible Queens I was tasked with taking Bourdain and his pal, Eric Ripert to eat the Korean delicacy san nakji, or live baby octopus. “Wouldn’t it be cool if I were experiencing it for the first time with them?,” I asked my editor. Her response was less than enthusiastic.
My virgin san nakji experience was with my Korean dry cleaner Paulie Sunshine. We got one critter each. After dispatching the squirming tentacles, Paulie popped the head in his mouth, chewed twice, and then swallowed.
“Your turn Joseph,” he said with a smile as I popped the slippery egg-shaped orb into my mouth and began chewing. And chewing. And chewing. No matter how much I chewed my teeth couldn’t get hold of the slippery mass. The ink sacs began to pop, and the surprisingly tasty ink began to seep out. Just as I was wondering if this was the cephalopod’s way of taking revenge on me I heard a voice. “OK Joseph, you go spit it out.” So, I did. It is thus far the first and only time I have tried to eat an octopus head.
So here’s what I’m curious to know. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten or attempted to eat. Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.