Downtown Flushing’s Chinese nougat man plying his wares on a hot summer’s day.
I can count the number of times I’ve added unknown foods to my Queens culinary walking tours on the fingers of one hand. This reticence to try new things with guests stems not from a lack of adventure, but rather the “all killer no filler” approach I take to the foods I showcase on the tour. Most of the time, unknown quantities prove to be severely lacking, but every now and then I come across a gem. Such a diamond in the rough appeared in the form of a streetside sweet on yesterday’s Flushing Chinatown food tour.
My guests and I were en route to the subterranean Golden Shopping Mall food court when I spied a Chinese gentleman with a streetside stand with a bunch of other Chinese folks surrounding him. I peeked over their shoulders, to see what I first thought was dragon beard candy because of the clouds of confectioners sugar, then I realized it was giant spiral of stretchy, sweet nougat. For a buck a pop the gent, who turns about to be from Fujian Province, stretched out the elastic peanut-filled sweet and then cut a fat finger sized length off with kitchen shears. It’s pretty tasty, but truthfully I was more amazed by finding a new street food than the flavor per se.
After my guests and I said our goodbyes, I hung out for a while and watched him ply his craft.When asked him his hours he shrugged and said he didn’t know. I bought a few more pieces to give my friends at Chengdu Tian Fu. I emerged from Golden Mall on to the street and went to say goodbye to the taffy master, but he was gone.
“Wow that was quick,” I thought giving myself a healthy mental pat on the back for having tried it. As I made my way northward on Main Street who should I see but my new friend posted up underneath the Long Island Railroad Station, with a small crowd around him. He hadn’t left, but had moved on to a busier spot. My new motto is Carpe Via Cibus—Seize The Street Food—for you never know when it’s going to be gone.
All of this brings me back to the titular question of this post, what’s your favorite Queens street food these days? Let me know in the comments.
There are many, many treats at the Heights’ new bakery but this chocolate bar steals the show.
Acclaimed pastry chef Michael Mignano’s Farine Baking Company opened about a week and a half ago in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood better known for such multicolored Indian sweets as jalebi and chum chum than French treats like brioche and kouign amann. I stopped by last weekend to ogle the Viennoiserie and other goodies, but the place was a madhouse, so I returned on a weekday when things were a bit more chill and was lucky enough to meet the man himself.
“Try this, the 2017 Iron Chef champ said as he handed me an ingot-sized chocolate bar. “This is our Mignano bar. It’s layers of cashew and macadamia nut caramel, dark chocolate, crispy nougat, and graham cracker crust, all covered in dark chocolate with black Hawaiian sea salt,” the bar’s namesake told me as I bit into it and held on to the counter to avoid fainting from sheer bliss. (more…)
With fall finally here, the days growing shorter, and Halloween just around the corner my thoughts and appetite turn to Japanese Cranberry Almond KitKat. Or at least they do now that I found them at H Mart in Manhattan’s K-Town.
Japan’s obsession with KitKat is legendary. My personal obsession with the Japanese version of one of my favorite American chocolate bars almost approaches that level. I’ve tried the green tea, wasabi, and Japanese pumpkin varieties and I’m always on the lookout for new flavors. So when I saw the package emblazoned with a bowl of cranberries and almonds I immediately grabbed two. Unsure as to how they would taste, I was drawn in by the blond wood and green-leaved cranberry stems. (more…)
If you’re anything like me—and I suspect you are if you read my musings about food and culture in Queens—you might still be struggling about what to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow. Rejoice procrastinators and noncooks! Japan has come to your rescue in the form of pumpkin creme brulee KitKats. Let me say that again “Pumpkin Crème Brûlée KitKats!”
I consider myself lucky to procure the occasional green tea Kit Kat. It’s a Japanese variety of Nestle’s popular candy bar. And in that country Kit Kat are really, really popular. There are scores and scores of oddball flavors: cherry, blueberry cheesecake, brandy and orange, red bean and matcha shaved ice, maple, sports drink, and wasabi.
My good friend William shared some of that last flavor with me the other day. He brought back a box of minis from a recent trip to Japan. The package bears the familiar red-and-white logo and the slogan “Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” There all similarity ends, for one thing there’s the word “wasabi,” and a whole bunch of Japanese on the inside of the box, which extols wasabia japonica’s white flowers and talks about how it was first cultivated 400 years ago.
So how does it taste? Crunchy and creamy with just the slightest hint of wasabi. Wondering why Kit Kat are so popular in Japan? The candy’s name sounds like “kitto katsu,” an expression associated with good luck. I consider myself lucky to have tried the wasabi ones, and look forward to eventually getting to Japan to try others.
Labor Day might be the symbolic end of summer, but truth be told there’s almost two weeks left of the season. So why not celebrate the tail end with something truly crazy: a piña loca from Jazmin Deli in Elmhurst? It’s part fruit salad, part candy store and all party. The $15 fiesta consists of a cored out pineapple filled with a mixture of spiced fruit, cucumbers, and the candy coated peanuts known as cacahuate estilo Japones. It’s garnished with skewers of more fruit, and several types of candy including a straw coated in spicy tamarind. (more…)
These are just some of the British candy bars to be found in Woodside.
Happy Halloween to one and all. This festive, sugar-laden time of year brings back fond memories of fun-sized candies, along with fear of being pelted with eggs. These days my tastes in candy runs toward either high-end truffles, green tea Kit Kats, or perhaps my favorite of all, British candy bars. I grew up eating Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bars, but my first real introduction to British candy bars was Yorkie. The chocolate-covered raisin and biscuit treat was originally marketed at truckers hence its rather misogynistic “Not for Girls” marketing campaign. For a while it was my go to British candy bar. Once I even tried a misbegotten peppermint version called Yorkie Blue Ice that tasted like it was made with crushed up menthol cough drops. (more…)
Ever wonder what goes on at night inside the neon squiggle festooned former diner that is Flushing’s Lake Pavilion? Well, wonder no more. The Cantonese banquet hall is the subject of a two-star review in this weeks’ New York Times. Gotta give Pete Wells props for trying goose webs and screw clam, which is not a clam, but rather an organ extracted from a sea cucumber.
In case you’ve got a forequarter of beef lying around that you’d like to turn into pastrami this video might come in handy.
I’ve always been fascinated with Rocco’s Calamari in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Now Eating in Translation helps me understand why. Rocco is Calabrese, just like my dear old Ma. (more…)
At $17 a box these chocolate-covered potato chips aren’t cheap.
A couple of weeks ago after a visit to The Marrow I found myself on a block of Bleecker St. that I like to think of as the West Village’s dessert district. I wandered into Royce’, a Japanese chocolatier, which for some reason uses a superfluous apostrophe. Inside I found something that I haven’t seen in some time, chocolate-covered potato chips or as the Royce’ copywriters put it, “Potatochip Chocolate.”
After sampling one—crunchy, slightly salty, and coated with milk chocolate—I gamely forked over $17 for a box. That’s right $17. Yes, they’re imported from Hokkaido “where the climate and the clean air are ideal for making confection,” but they’re not $17 good. I know this because a week later I still have most of the original box.
I suppose if you really must have $17 chocolate chips Royce’ will gladly take your money and give you a boutiquey little shopping bag to carry home your precious cargo. Here’s what you should do instead, sample a chip or two. Then go the newstand and buy 15 or so Take 5 bars with the $17 you would have spent at Royce’. The pretzel, peanut, caramel, peanut butter, chocolate bar is the tastiest and cheapest way I know to slake a thirst for sweet-salty snacks.