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.
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!