06/08/15 9:42am
Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

As an Italian-American, I cut my teeth on fried calamari. Whether made at home by my old man or at the Long Island outpost of Vincent’s Clam Bar, it was almost always eaten with a marinara sauce spiked with copious amounts of red pepper. The other day I tried a Chinese twist on fried squid at Shanghai 33 that was simply amazing. (more…)

06/03/15 10:24am
A fish sandwich with a sidecar.

A fish sandwich with a sidecar.

Truly good Chinese sandwiches are few in and far between in Queens. While the yang rou jiao mou—a spicy cumin lamb sandwich from Xi’an Foods—remains a long-time favorite, the house special pork chop from The Crispy Pancake is my current Chinese sandwich crush. A deep fried pork cutlet topped with lettuce and crowned with a runny fried egg is stacked between two shatteringly crisp pancakes, forming one of the craziest, most delicious Chinese sandwiches in downtown Flushing. (more…)

04/24/15 12:28am
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Peng Shun’s Mongolian roast lamb ribs are astounding.

“Wow I think you renewed my faith in this dish,” a dining companion said the other day. He was talking about Muslim lamb chop a delicacy that rose to ascendancy on cumin-scented wave of glory at Fu Ran neé Fu Run about five years ago. Sadly Fu Ran’s version ain’t what it used to be. On my last few visits it was precooked, rendering what should be gloriously juicy, fatty lamb flesh rather dry and tight.

Muslim lamb chop also called lamb in Xinjiang style is a specialty of Flushing’s Dongbei restaraunts. The version that rocked our world’s can’t be had at a restaurant though. It’s served in a much more humble setting, New York Food Court. (more…)

04/21/15 11:54am
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Sheng jian bao at New York Food Court.

There are so many dumplings in the bustling and delicious Chinatown of downtown Flushing that keeping track of them all would be a lifelong task. A task for which I am ill-equipped. Perhaps that xiao long bao obsessive guy whose exhaustive soup dumpling survey is making its way around the interwebs will come to Queens one day, calipers and scale in hand. Until he does I will muddle along as best as I can. That being said, let’s talk about two of my favorite new dumplings. (more…)

04/13/15 9:57am

“This one wants to try something really weird,” the parent of a young man on my most recent Flushing Chinatown food tour said. We had already tried fu qi fei pian, the Sichuan mélange of offal that combines tripe, tendon, and beef shin, so I knew the kid was a tough customer. He seemed satisfied by the plate of crunchy Chengdu style pig ears we shared at Golden Mall. (more…)

03/27/15 9:57am
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M. Wells’ Russian Waffle is delicious and quite photogenic.

“I’ll never use Instagram,” I once said. Famous last words. These days, I use it more than ever. Most of my non food nerd friends know my phone camera eats first. When I’m out with a posse of food nerds, it becomes an Instagram shooting frenzy, and I’ve learned to accept that I just might not get that perfect shot. But what about those other times? I am by no means an expert Instagrammer or food photographer, but I have learned a bit over the few years I have been shooting food. Below are some of my favorite tips. (more…)

02/24/15 3:18pm
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The stars of Shandong dumpling making have a new home.

After years of being on the chopping block, Flushing Mall finally closed its doors late last month. I can’t say I’ll miss the odd collection of retailers, but the main food court was always a favorite food tour stop, particularly for Diverse Dim Sum’s excellent xiao long bao. And then there were the Shandong Dumpling Ladies located on the already sleepy mall’s even sleepier side. (more…)

02/20/15 11:27am
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Festive hong bao being sold on Main Street last week.

Gong xi fa cai!! Here at C+M’s Photo Friday we wish to extend to you warm Chinese New Year wishes for this Year of the Sheep. There’s been much confusion as to whether it is the sheep or the ram, I may just start calling it Year of the Ovine.

Queens being the most diverse place on earth,  it’s not just Chinese who celebrate the Lunar Year, but also Vietnamese, Malaysians, and as I learned the other day, Thai people of Chinese descent. Two days ago I walked in to Sugar Club in Elmhurst with a tour group and there was entire New Year’s spread laid out. Want to be featured on Photo Friday? Tag your  Instagram photos #CMSHUNGRY.

02/18/15 12:43am
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Sesame chicken and wonton soup, Brooklyn style.

When it comes to Chinese sandwiches in New York City there are few real standouts: gua bao as made by everybody from Eddie Huang to Taiwanese grannies, Xi’an Famous Foods’ cumin lamb burger, and the $1 Peking duck buns from Flushing’s Corner 28.  So I was very pleased to discover an outstanding American-Chinese mashup of a sandwich—Red Star’s sesame chicken ($8.50) —although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I travelled to Boerum Hill to get it.

Red Star Sandwich Shop is the brainchild of brothers Gibson and Johnson Ho who grew up eating a combination of Chinese takeout and traditional Fujianese food that their parents and grandparents made. Sesame chicken was a childhood favorite says Johnson. “It’s so American.”

Red Star takes the American-Chinese classic and turns up the heat a bit creating a sesame chicken sandwich that got my attention without blowing my head off. The tender sesame-studded chunks of fried dark meat came with a sauce more spicy than sweet piled high on a roll from Carroll Garden’s institution Caputo’s Bakery. The whole lot’s dressed with pickled peppers, jalapenos, and lettuce.

I’ve eaten sesame chicken and wonton soup together, but not quite like this. Unlike the wonton soup from the corner takeout, Red Star’s is a delicate Fuzhou style version with thin skinned pork dumplings floating in broth made from pork and chicken.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Star’s stupendously good p’tater tots ($3.25), which take a school lunch favorite and elevate it to the zth degree. They are twice fried resulting in a fluffy interior and a crispy outside.

Before I left Johnson and I talked for a bit about Fuzhou food. “It’s not sexy,” he said. I nodded eating the last of the tots. And then I told him that if his brother Gibson, an alum of Ippudo and Momofuku Noodle Bar, could make such ethereal tater tots surely he could make Fujianese food sexy.

Red Star Sandwich Shop, 176 Smith St, Boerum Hill, 718-935-1999

02/16/15 10:05am
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Hunan House’s steamed eggplant is packed with homestyle flavor.

A few weeks I ago visited Hunan House with a crew of ravenous foodies. As soon as we were in the door encountered my pal Colin Goh. “Try the steamed eggplant with salted duck eggs,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t convince anybody to order the eggplant, but we did discover the amazing beef with crispy pepper. It’s a dish so good we ordered two rounds.

This past Saturday I ran into to Colin, his wife, Yen Yen, and their little girl, Kai Kai at the Lunar New Year celebration at Flushing Town Hall. When given a choice between a homestyle Korean place and Hunan House, young Kai Kai chose Hunan House. And that’s how I fell in love with xian dan huang qie zi, or steamed eggplant with salted duck egg yolk on Valentine’s Day. (more…)