04/22/19 9:51pm

While it’s tempting to think of samosa chaat as an Indian version of loaded nachos, it’s really its own thing as Sonny Solomon the man behind Astoria’s Kurry Qulture, told me over a cup of chai last week.

“It’s a very, very popular street food in North India, but now it’s all over India,” Solomon said. “People love it!” And it’s all over Queens too. At Raja Fast Food, always a stop on my Himalayan Heights food tour Vikh and his crew make a psychedelic supersized version consisting of several of the veggie turnovers showered with all manner of sauces and chutneys. (more…)

04/06/18 4:12pm

Despite the somewhat generic name Sushma Thukral’s New Asian Food Products tucked away on Cherry Avenue just of Kissena Boulevard, has a specialty, Indian food, specifically roti and such vegetarian snacks as savory samosas packed with potatoes and herbs and crunchy fresh fried pakora as well as sweets, chai, and other snacks.
Over the course of my two decades of exploring downtown Flushing, I’ve probably stopped in two or three times, but now thanks to Sixty First Productions and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce  I’ll be stopping by more often and have even added it to my food tour itinerary. (more…)

10/05/15 1:29pm

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…)

01/13/14 10:00am

Pavakkai Chips from Grand Sweets and Snacks, Chennai, India. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

From Chennai with Love: Pavakkai (bitter gourd) chips dusted with hing and pepper

At home, I keep Indian salty snacks at the ready when sipping a refreshing brew. But when I go out, I’m stuck with the usual over-salted nuts and bland, fried bar snacks. Even Indians—who enjoy their salty snacks with milky, sugary chai—seem unaware of this potentially brilliant pairing.

Would it be weird to smuggle in some chana jor garam the next time I head out for a pint? Not if everyone’s doing it. Beer-swilling spice lovers, unite…and let the Indian bar food smuggling begin! (more…)

09/30/13 10:14am

Medu vada from Thali, Newport Centre Mall, Jersey City. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Not a doughnut: Fluffy, light medu vada from Thali.

Taste of India and Thali are located smack in the middle of the food court in Jersey City’s Newport Centre Mall. But they’re worlds apart from the usual greased-up, Americanized mall food joints. (After all, Jersey City has a huge South Asian community, so the folks frequenting this food court know the good stuff from the rest.)

Bhel puri at Taste of India, Newport Centre Mall, Jersey City. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

A chaat a day keeps the doctor away: Taste of India’s exceptionally light bhel puri.

Skip the steam table filled with the usual bright-hued, oil-slicked sub-continental fare and order a la carte. Taste of India’s bhel puri combines diced tomato, onion, boiled potato, and cilantro tossed with peanuts, puffed rice, crunchy fried bits, salty-fiery spices, and a tangy-spicy-sweet duo of chutneys. The ultra-flavorful chutneys are the secret here. If you’ve never tried mint chutney that actually tastes like mint, you’re in for a real treat.

For a more substantial snack, try the dahi puri—a North Indian spin on pani puri that replaces spicy water with tangy yogurt and that same zesty blend of chutneys and spices. It’s easily the best version of this chaat (that I’ve found) in New York. (more…)

08/30/13 9:59am

Baul Daada, fabled chaat mixologist, and friend.

I’ve dubbed the sector of Jackson Heights bounded by 72 and 74 Streets, between Roosevelt and 37th Avenues, Himalayan Heights due its profusion of Tibetan and Nepalese  eateries. There are now three carts specializing in momo, the steamed dumplings beloved by all members of the Himalayan diaspora. My tendency is to downplay the area’s remaining Indian restaurants, but the truth is that those few blocks of Jackson Heights are a rich tapestry of interwoven ethnic enclaves. There’s even a Little Bangladesh on 73 Street. It’s favorite part of my food tours of the neighborhood,particularly when the Baul Daada Jaal Muri shop is open. (more…)

08/05/13 10:11am
Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.

Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.


Wai Wai Noodles have always been something of a mystery. The counter at Dhaulagiri Kitchen is lined with little packages of the instant Nepalese ramen. I always thought they were used for soup. Then a friend told me about sandheko Wai Wai ($3.50). “It’s like an instant Nepali chaat,” she said. There are many ways to repurpose instant ramen, including what I like to call spaghetto carbonara, which involves an egg, plenty of Kraft parmesan, and black pepper. Chaat is not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to ramen recipes, but it’s one of the tastiest ramen creations I’ve ever had. (more…)

05/31/13 1:50pm
Taste of Lahore's falooda takes care of your refreshment and noodle needs.

Taste of Lahore’s falooda took care of my refreshment and noodle needs.

Yesterday I went on a fascinating crawl of South Indian and Pakistani hot spots in Jackson Heights with Suketu Mehta. Mehta was raised in Bombay, but grew up in Jackson Heights. He had many valuable insights about the neighborhood’s history,which will come in handy for the book I’m writing, “Queens Cuisine Along the 7 Line: World’s Fare.” Plus, he turned me on to the sev puri at Bombay Chat. I’ve taken many a tour group to the Tibetan/Indian spot for chaat,but we always get the pani puri. He also showed me the proper way to eat a paratha, with butter, raita, and pickle. (more…)

03/21/13 12:20pm

Jaal muri, a Bangaldeshi chaat makes for a great late-night snack.


What are you your favorite late-night eateries in Jackson Heights?-Harry H.

It depends what kind of eats you’re craving. If it’s street food the taco vendors right outside the 74 Roosevelt terminal on Roosevelt Avenue are pretty good. Not far from them are two carts specializing in momo, or Tibetan beef dumplings. For a truly unique street food experience hit up Baul Daada Jal Muri shop on 73 St. near 37 Ave. Despite the name it’s not a shop, it’s streetside Bangladeshi chaat operation run by one Baul Daada. Three bucks gets you an order of his specialty, jal muri, or spicy puffed rice. It’s a sensory overload of a snack consisting of puffed rice, kala chana (black chickpeas) chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green chili paste, red onions, crunchy dried soybeans, cilantro, spicy fried noodles, and squirts and shakes from the various and sundry bottles, including some sinus-clearing mustard oil. (more…)

02/01/13 12:20pm

Welcome to Ask C+M, a weekly column where I’ll answer readers questions regarding food in Queens and beyond. Have a question you’d like to ask? E-mail jdistefanony68c(at) yahoo.com. Our first question comes from Alex.

First of all, I love your blog, so many amazing options. I tried a few places you wrote about in the last week and they’ve been incredible. I recently moved to Astoria from California and I’m trying to find some interesting food in Astoria and Jackson Heights. I’ve done a fair amount of exploring and found some great things but I’m curious as to what your top recommendations in those two areas are, preferably things that are maybe off the beaten path. Alex


A school of perfectly fried fish from Astoria Seafood.

A school of perfectly fried fish from Astoria Seafood.

Hi Alex,
So glad that youlike the blog and that you have been exploring the culinary paradise that is Queens. In Astoria I like Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave.) for Bosnian food, including bureks and pljeskavica, a comically huge Bosnia burger, Down on Ditmars there’s Hinomaru (33-18 Ditmars Blvd.), a great Japanese ramen joint. The signature “NewYork style” ramen  has a rich porky broth and features a fireball, an orb of ground pork mixed with several types of hot peppers. Astoria Seafood (Astoria Seafood, 37-10 33rd St.) is an excellent fish market/restaurant located away from most of the other Greek spots. (more…)