03/11/14 10:15am
LIANGPI

Cold skin noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods are as spicy and refreshing as ever.

Way back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods had but one location, in what I like to call the 36th Chamber of the Golden Shopping Mall. It was presided over by an affable gent who went by the nom de cuisine Liang Pi, after his signature dish liang pi, cold skin noodles. Today it’s become a mini empire with five locations, upscale sister restaurant Biang, and a Brooklyn commissary.

Back in the day the most notable design elements were rickety folding stools and 100-pound bags of wheat flour arrayed like sandbags along the back wall. “My name is Liang Pi,” he would proudly say as he ladled out the dish. Many of his customers came from the same region and seemed absolutely thrilled to find  a dish from back home in Queens. Legions of hungry regional Chinese cuisine fiends were pretty thrilled too. I’d never tasted anything like cold skin noodles before: squidgy, porous blocks of wheat gluten and chewy ribbons of wheat starch, tossed with bean sprouts, cilantro, slivers of cucumber and a “secret sauce” made from sesame paste, vinegar, and chili oil, among other things. “I have it for breakfast at least three times a week,” one fan told me. (more…)

01/31/14 10:51am

GOLDENCNY

Gong Xi Fa Cai! The year of the Wood Horse is upon us. To aid in your celebration of the 15-day Chinese New Year, here’s  a short list of some of my favorite dishes in what I humbly consider to be the tastiest Chinatown in America.

FURUNCORN

Fu Run’s festive looking golden corn pancake.

1. Golden Corn Pancake, Fu Run
The granddaddy of Dongbei cookery in Flushing is best known for the Muslim lanb chop, but it’s specials, like the festive looking huang jin yu mi lao, or golden corn pancake ($15.95) that keep me coming back. Despite the name it’s not stack of hoe cakes, but rather some lovely fried corn croquettes. The loosely bound kernels are interspersed with carrots and peas and laid out in a star pattern. Other standout specials include the spicy fried crabs. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St, Flushing, 718-321-1363 (more…)

01/22/14 3:43pm

When I was lad there was no such thing as a “polar vortex,” we called it winter—and reveled in it. Decades of relatively mild winters have spoiled me and many other New Yorkers. As a public service to help you thaw out from Winter Storm Janus, C+M presents a bone-warming roster of some of our favorite soups in Queens from Long Island City to Flushing, and points in between.

YUNNANPORKRICESOUP

1. Yunnan rice noodle soup with pork at Crazy Crab
Find this lovely bowl at New York City’s only crab shack/Burmese/Yunnanese  spot. Warm up with tender chunks of pork and a spicy broth enlivened by a fresh squeeze of lime. It’s a taste of Southwestern China by way of Flushing. Not a bad deal at all, for $8.99.  Crazy Crab 888,40-42 College Point Blvd, Flushing 718-353-8188

MUTONKOTSU

2. Tonkotsu 2.0 at Mu Ramen
When the sun goes down and it’s brick cold out, head to over to Bricktown Bagels, which turns into Long Island City’s only ramen-ya. Joshua Smookler’s Tonkotsu 2.0 ($15) is made from six different types of pork bones, including shanks that cook for more than 20 hours. Topped with a slick of mayu (black garlic oil) and wobbly bits of tontoro (pork jowl), the soup is rich and complex. Best of all it has plenty of marrow thanks to all those shanks. Mu Ramen, 51-06 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Tues-Sat 6:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (more…)

10/25/13 11:11am
The stewed oxtail lunch special at Liang’s.

The stewed oxtail lunch special at Liang’s.

Can you give me a recommendation for a place in Queens to eat oxtails?
Paul Z., Bayside,N.Y.

There are many good West Indian places to eat oxtails in Queens, but I suggest that you go Chinese. The stewed oxtail over rice special at Liang’s Kitchen (133-51 39th Ave., Flushing, 347-506-0115) is quite lovely. For a spicier approach I highly recommend the oxtail and hand ripped noodles at Biang! (41-10 Main St., Flushing,  718-888-7713.)

Whenever I go to the Golden Shopping Mall I find myself very overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds,and aromas. What’s the best thing to eat there?
Baffled in Brooklyn

You are not alone, the first time I went there I left without ordering a thing because I was completely overwhelmed. (more…)

01/11/13 11:04am

Quite possibly America’s best potstickers. Image source: The SunBreak

Here’s a newsflash: “Find Some of America’s Best Chinese Food … in Flushing.” Or so Jay Friedman declared last week in The SunBreak. Pondering next month’s Chinese New Year Seattle-based Friedman writes:

But what if I could be anywhere in America for Chinese food? The San Gabriel Valley in the Los Angeles area would tempt me (and wouldn’t disappoint), but at this point, I find myself leaning toward Flushing, New York. …There’s an international melting pot of food in the borough of Queens, and Flushing’s the place if you want a full array of Chinese cuisine.

I had the pleasure of showing Friedman and his brother around downtown Flushing back in August. It was an “absolute feeding frenzy” that started out with the magnificent guo tie at New World Mall. The winged dumplings never fail to impress. We also managed to fit in a taste of Tianjin pork tongue, fresh tofu, and even a visit to Biang!, among many other things.

Friedman’s kind words about my enthusiasm for downtown Flushing warmed my heart and his slideshow of our whirlwind day of eating made me hungry. Check it for yourself here. It was an honor to show him around. But the real honor goes to Flushing and its amazing Chinese food.

01/08/13 2:00pm

Rapping about food has been a hiphop staple since the Fat Boys filmed the video for “All You Can Eat,” at the Sbarro in Times Square. And the song that put rap on the map Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight is replete with food references, including “collard greens that don’t taste good” and  “chicken tastes like wood.” The gastronomic theme is also liberally sprinkled throughout gangster rap—Biggie’s sardines for dinner—and continues with rapper-chef (or is that chef-rapper?) Action Bronson whose rhymes are more food filled than Josh Ozersky’s dreams. So I present two decidedly more far-flung food rappers, one from Tibet and another from Xi’an, China.

Karma Emchi better known by his nom du rap, Shapaley is half Swiss and half-Tibetan. His stage name comes from the Tibetan beef patty that’s available in many of the momo parlors in Himalayan Heights, as I’ve come to call Jackson Heights, Queens. The message behind the tune Shapaley is equal parts national pride and equal parts filial piety. You don’t hear lines like this in American rap: “If your grandpa tells you to pass him his walking sticks you’d better do it…If you don’t wait a minute, I’ll make the dough, put meat on it, fry it in oil and there it goes.” And: “Mother and father if your kids don’t behave just call me up. I’ll be there in a minute and give them shapaley.”

Cao-Si hails from Xi’an, China. The ancient Chinese city is widely known as the home of the terra cotta warriors. In Queens it’s better known as the city that gave birth to the cumin-laced lambcentric fare of Xi’an Famous Foods and its upscale sister restaurant Biang! Cao-Si can rhyme. He shouts out dozens of local specialties. Translated into English they no longer rhyme, but they sound delicious: “Garlic dipped noodles are hot, your tongue might be on fire.” Jason Wang, the younger half of the father and son team behind  XFF once told me that he was a B-boy in college. Now it makes sense. Talk about local flavor!