Despite the name the newly opened Hot Spot specializes in shaved ice.
Come summertime one of my favorite ways to chill out is shaved ice, whether of the Dominican or Taiwanese variety. So I was pleased when Hot Spot, a new Taiwanese shaved iced stand opened on Main Street a few days ago. It’s affiliated with the late Ice Fire Land, hence the name. Situated in front of an apothecary, it’s the only grab-and-go shaved stand in Flushing’s Chinatown. (more…)
Grilling one-dollar skewers over hardwood lump charcoal.
Once upon a time there was only one Mutton Man as my unrepentantly carnivorous colleague Josh Ozersky calls the gent who runs the Traditional Xinjiang BBQ cart on Kissena Boulevard and 41st Avenue. The big man dubbed him thus because of his juicy one-dollar lamb skewers. Nowadays the Mutton Man’s copycats are legion along Main Street in downtown Flushing. Sadly the original has been shut down by the city for excessive smoke. According to his son this sort of thing happens every few months. I fully expect that he will back in business before I know it. In the meantime, I’m happy to report a new Chinese meat on a stick vendor has come to Queens’ second Chinatown. (more…)
The other day I walked through Golden Shopping Mall, stopping to peer at the picture menu at Cheng Du Tian Fu and waving hello to the ladies at Xi’an Famous Foods, and Tian Jin Dumpling House. I left without ordering anything. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Since I’m always on the lookout for new dishes I patrol the food court’s grotty corridors weekly. It was breakfast time and I was hungry, but nothing really struck my fancy.
So I headed over to Oriental Express Food, which lies a few storefronts south. The name on the sign—which features a locomotive chugging its way across a bowl of soup—is the only English in the joint. I headed to the last stall in the back, a hawker of thick scallion pancakes the size of manhole covers and other specialties from Tianjin. (more…)
Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.
At one of the many recent Southeast Asian lunar New Year festivals my good friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation spoke excitedly about a new spot in Flushing, “Mama Khao’s.” At least that’s what I thought he said, until he informed me that the new Malaysian joint is named Mamak House, after the mamak who as I just learned from Wikipedia are “Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago.” As Dave explained that the joint was started by a gal who runs a mamak-style catering outfit I thought, “Boy my Singaporean friends are gonna be excited about this place.” Whenever I talk to them about Malaysian food in New York City, they always say something to the effect of, “It’s OK, but it’s not the same as back home. The Indian influence is missing.”
Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.
Last week Dave and I met at Mamak House for a late lunch. As I walked in I recalled that it used to be a Dongbei joint with table cooking in fact, several of the grill tables remain. The menu, is filled with mamak specialties, including an intriguing weekend only dish: nasi ulam utara, rice mixed with more than 10 types of herbs and roasted shrimp. The back of the bill of fare is adorned with pictures of spices from the aromatic to the fiery. The murtabak ($6.95) , savory envelopes filled with ground beef, were subtly flavored with clove and other spices. A sidecar of sharp pickled onions accompanied the mellow Malaysian beef blintzes. (more…)
This bowl of shaved ice holds a warm, chewy surprise.
Along with the cold Korean soup naeng-myun, Taiwanese shaved ice is one of my favorite ways to cool off when humidity starts to make me overheat. Ice Fire Land, a hotpot shaved ice hybrid owned by Timothy Chuang, used to be my favorite place to get a bowl of this refreshing sweet treat. Chuang has changed the name of his restaurant to Taipei 101, for Taiwan’s gleaming office tower. Hotpot’s been replaced by an ambitious menu of Taiwanese fare, but the shaved is still there on a separate menu.
I was glad to know that I could still get shaved ice when I walked in yesterday. “Pudding, pineapple,condensed milk,” I said pausing to ask Mr. Chuang, which of the many balls tapioca, taro,or yam were the chewy ones. “They’re all chewy,” he said, so I settled on yam. (more…)
An old school slice in the midst of New York City’s most dynamic Chinatown.
Unlike Manhattan Chinatown, which borders Little Italy, downtown Flushing has little or no Italian food. There is precisely one Italian restaurant, Lucia Pizza. It sits across from New World Mall, and has been there since well before that mall was a Caldor. Its opening also predates New York current pizza Napoletana craze.
The draw here is unreconstructed old-school New York City pizza, by the pie,or more often the slice. Hand over $2.25, grab a perch at the counter and dig into a taste of days gone by. The Sicilian slice is pretty good too. I once asked the counterman here why he didn’t have kimchi pizza, like T.J.’s a spot that has since closed. He looked at me like I was nuts.
Mix in the sauce and dig into the best Sichuan cold noodles ever.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, or Chengdu Heavenly Plenty Snacks, is one of the first stalls I ever visited in the regional Chinese wonderland that is the Golden Shopping Mall. Back in 2007 there was hardly any English signage in the entire place and I was relying upon a rosetta stone of sorts from a Chowhound post. These days the menu is in English and there are dozens of items—beef jerky, fu qi fei pian, dan dan mian and more—shown in the mouthwatering photos that adorn the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
This Sichuan specialist has become a favorite of the Mission Chinese crew. Despite the vast selection I’ve gotten the same thing every time for the last 10 or more visits: cold noodles Chengdu style ($3.50). A palate-awakening sauce consisting of crushed chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, what looks to be MSG, black vinegar, and a prodigious amount of fine garlic paste tops the tangle of thin al dente noodles. Mixing the sauce to coat the noodles take a bit of effort. It’s worth it for the results, though. The bowl of noodles ping pongs between refreshing,fiery, palate-tingling, and pungent.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing
Apparently Old Master Fu Zi liked his pork belly and his chilies.
Last night I had dinner in Flushing with two fellow food writers at a newish Sichuan restaurant that shall remain nameless for the purposes of this dispatch. Almost everything we ordered was stunning save for one item. As luck would have it, it was the one dish that I, Queens’ foremost Caucasian expert on Asian food insisted on ordering. I expected a pork belly creation like the one pictured above. To be sure what came to the table was pork belly in a steamer, but all resemblance ended there. For one thing it looked like a washed up version of mofongo and tasted rather like an English school lunch sitting atop bland mashed peas. The entire lot had been steamed into flavorless submission.
What I’d expected was something like a dish I’d had at Hunan House a while back: xiang shan ma la fu zi rou, or “Hunan house Old Master Fuzi meat dish.” It consists of pork belly and rice powder steamed for so long that the rice powder has melded with the pork fat, and vice versa. Each slice of the fanned out pork belly is rich and unctuous and can just barely retain its form. It’s tasty, but superfatty, which is where those pickled chilies come in. It’s the type of thing that’s best eaten with rice and shared with more than one person.
As for the nameless Sichuan restaurant, all I can say is not every dish can be a winner. It was just such a shock to see such a weirdly lackluster dish emerge from an otherwise accomplished kitchen. And it was of course a slight slow to my ego. I suppose such occupational hazards are part and parcel of being The Guy Who Ate Queens.
Golden Shopping Mall’s Tianjin Dumpling House offers 10 kinds.
Last summer I compiled a list of the Top 7 Dumplings in Queens. The delicious little secret is that it was really, really hard to limit such a list to just seven dumplings. In fact I could devote a whole blog to dumplings in Queens. So today’s edition of Twofer Tuesday is dedicated to two of my latest dumpling discoveries from Queens’ two Chinatowns, Flushing and Elmhurst.
These steamed lamb dumplings made for a perfect Easter snack.
Tianjin Dumpling House is a relatively new outfit on the lower level of Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Among the 10 varieties of dumplings find yáng ròu shuǐ jiǎo, or lamb dumplings with green squash($5for 12). Create your own dipping sauce by combining soy, black vinegar, and chili oil.
Prince Noodle House has undergone a transformation into Láo Chéng Dū.
“My Mom has a new place, you have to come try it,” Zhū Dà Jiě’s son told me about a week ago. “Call me, she’ll make you a few dishes to taste.” Big Sister Zhū is widely known among Flushing aficionados for making some of the best Sichuan food around. She has had a succession of small-scale food court stalls, and was most recently at a Chinese bakery. And that’s the type of set-up I expected to find on Prince Street. When I saw that her new place was a full-scale restaurant, Láo Chéng Dū, I was very excited indeed.
Zhū Dà Jiě now offers a full menu of Sichuan specialties.
When I entered the place the staff were wondering why I was outside taking photos. In a combination of Mandarin and English I made it understood that I was friend of Big Sister Zhū. I was so happy when I saw her. After following her and her fantastic food around for several years we have a connection. Lately I have come to realize that seeing her and eating her food reminds of eating homemade pasta with Big Ann, my mother’s aunt. And just like my Italian-American family Big Sister Zhū and the staff decided to kill me with kindness laying out way more than a few dishes.