Top row: raw puerh tea from 2017, bottom the prized 1976 raw puerh.
Fang Gourmet Tea is one of my favorite places to take food tour guests when exploring the bustling neighborhood that is downtown Flushing. It’s a great way to get to know my new friends. Plus, they’re always surprised to find the oasis of calm lying at the back of a minimall, just steps away from the often chaotic energy of America’s Greatest Chinatown. The puerh tea that I typically order—Little Brick—is great for the digestion, and it’s always neat for my guests to see the bullion-sized break expand over the course of five steeps. (more…)
Manhattan’s Fung Wong is where I tried my first mooncake decades ago.
Last week I paid a visit to Manhattan’s Chinatown with my brother John. The neighborhood has changed much since we used to go there with our father 30 years ago, but some things remain the same, notably the tea parlors and Fung Wong Bakery. The latter is where I used to get blobs of chewy sweet rice cake for dessert after hitting up Wo Hop with my parents. It’s also where I tried my first mooncake.
After John and I caught up over dim sum at Nom Wah, I poked my head into Fung Wong to see dozens of mooncakes lining the case and stacks of red boxes proclaiming, “BEST MOON CAKES IN CHINATOWN N.Y.” Back in Queens, I shared the treat with some dear friends. The filling of fruit paste and preserved duck egg had an old-fashioned feel to it, more of a rough texture than others, whose smoother paste seems more processed. The real thing that set it apart though was the dough itself, which was far less dense and sweeter than any I’ve had in recent memory. (more…)
Maddur vada, savory crisps of wheat and rice studded with spices and herbs.
One challenge of leading food tours of downtown Flushing is how best to showcase America’s Greatest Chinatown to Chinese guests. I still remember the day I met the Vanderschoors. Imagine my surprise when I rendezvoused not with a Dutch family, but a Chinese one. “Don’t worry, we’re from San Francisco,” they said. “We don’t know anything about Flushing, you’re the expert.” This brings me to the subject of today’s post: last Saturday’s trio of Indian clients—a lovely married couple who hail from Northern India and a young student from Chennai—and the crunchiest, savoriest Indian snack in downtown Flushing, maddur vada.(more…)
I walked into Old Tang—a new spot just off the bustling corner of Main and Roosevelt in downtown Flushing—at least three times before finally trying the noodles. The first time they were under construction, but the other times I eyed the mise en place and upon seeing minced pickled green beans and fried soybeans asked the same question in my fractured Mandarin Chinese “Giulin ren ma?” And each time the kids behind the counter would patiently respond, “No we’re from Sichuan.” “Ah so, the workers are from Sichuan, but surely the food is from Giulin,” I thought to myself. “I’ll have to come back and try it when I’m not already full from leading a food tour.”
Ma po tofu and homemade roasted fish are both standouts.
The entrance to Guan Fu— the latest in a recent string of higher end Sichuan openings in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown—is flanked by two formidable foo lions standing sentry outside a facade that calls to mind a temple or palace. Quite appropriate given that the black and gold plaque reads “Guan Fu Chuan Cai,” which translates to “Official Palace Szechuan Cuisine.”
I’ve been mighty curious about Guan Fu since it opened. My interest reached a fever pitch when Pete Wells bestowed three stars upon it this summer. So when the one of the owners reached out with a dinner invite I couldn’t say no. As I waited for my dining companion on a bench facing the entrance delicious aromas wafted towards me as the doors opened and closed.
The most amazing guo tie have returned to Flushing.
For the longest time my Flushing Chinatown food tours included two shatteringly crunchy specialties: the paper dosa from the Ganesh Temple Canteen and otherwordly pork and leek dumplings bound by a crisp sheet of dough from a Henanese stall in New World Mall. And then one day, the guo tie vanished much like the UFO they resembled might. It’s been so long since I’d had these potstickers that I’ve begun to question whether I had imagined the radial pattern of dumplings beneath a lacy sheet of dough in a foodie fever dream. (more…)
From Guangzhou to Flushing, steamed rice roll with egg.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Jane sent me a video of Guangzhou rice rolls being made. “I wish we had these here,” she wrote via Facebook message.
Within a day or two she sent me another message, apparently these rolled rice noodles had to come Flushing thanks to an outfit called Joe’s Steam Rice Roll. So we decided to check it out.
The joint’s Chinese name, “Shi Mo Chang Feng Wang,” as Jane was so kind to inform me translates to “Stone Milled Rice Roll King.” Sure enough right in the window was a stone mill used to grind rice into a slurry and the king himself, whose name it turns out is actually Joe. (more…)
Sugar Club added Thai style congee to the menu just in time for winter.
Like much of New York City, Queens is now in winter’s icy grip. Unlike most of the rest the city though we have two Chinatowns and the most robust K-town in New York City, which is all a very long way of saying that there are many many options when it comes to Asian soups. Here are our seven of our favorites.
1. Thai Congee, Sugar Club “Thai people like the pork one,” the kid behind the counter responded when asked which variety of Thai congee was better. Earlier this week Sugar Club started selling the rice porridge, known as jok in Thailand, just in time for winter. The shop’s version ($6.50) of the ubiquitous Asian breakfast porridge features an egg stirred in, mushrooms, and a tangle of noodles. As for the pork it turns out to be lovely little meatballs. Doctored up with chili flakes and salty Golden Mountain sauce this combination porridge/noodle soup its a great way to ward off winter’s arctic chill. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-565-9018
This lamb spine’s mighty fine.
2. Lamb Hot Pot, Beijing First Lamb Shabu I’m no fan of Chinese style hotpot, but the stuff they’re making at Beijing First Lamb Shabu, (Lao Cheng Yi Guo in Chinese) is truly special, mainly because the specialty of the house isn’t traditional hotpot, but rather a rich lamb stew. Upon entering the Flushing branch of this Beijing chain I was floored by pervasive aroma of gamy lamb and five spice. Like many hot pot joints there’s a ballot-like menu with all sorts of add-ins and soup bases. The difference here is that all of the soup bases feature a combination of mutton ribs and spine in a rich heady broth. Lao Cheng Yi Guo thoughtfully provides gloves so you can pick up the vertebrae and get at the ridiculously tender bits of meat that cling to the lamb spine. Someone once told me that eating lamb spine is a fertility tonic for men. I’m not sure about tha,t but Lao Cheng Yi Guo certainly put a smile on my face and warmed me up. Lao Cheng Yi Guo, 136-55 37th Ave., Flushing
I haven’t been this excited about cold skin noodles—aka liáng pi—since I first tried them at Xi’an Famous Foods, back when family patriarch David Shi went by the moniker Liáng Pí and his sales pitch was a hawker’s chant, “My name is Liáng Pí, try my famous cold skin noodles, you want to try a Chinese hamburger.” These days the mini-chain deserves the appellation “famous” and has even spawned imposters, notably Elmhurst’s Chinger, a pormanteau of Chinese Burger, that sounds like a racial epithet.
Thankfully Lǎo Luòyáng is no imposter but rather a practitioner of the liang pi art that brings some color and history to the game. On a first visit I tried the purple sweet potato cold noodle ($6.50), zǐshǔ liáng pí. The sweet potato lent a slight tinge to the slippery wheat noodles and squidgy blocks of gluten, but added little flavor. No matter though as the sauce was astonishing, hitting many points of the flavor matrix, chili, garlic, vinegar, but above all a beguiling blend of tahini and aromatics like cloves. It was so good I slurped some up with a straw. (more…)
Duck charcuterie by way of Chengdu and downtown Flushing.
As a keen watcher and eater of all that goes on in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown, I’ve seen a many a hawker stall come and go. This seems especially true of Sichuan outfits. Thankfully there’s one constant in this shifting ma la sea: Cheng Du Tian Fu or Chengdu Heaven, as it’s often so aptly rendered in English. (more…)