This pillowy sandwich is filled with an absurd amount of pork fluff.
As a kid I never really dug Fluffernutter sandwiches. I think it has something to with them not being quite savory enough, after all I was the type of kid who ate Accent out of the jar and cut notches in apples to fill them with lunch meat. Last week I had something at Flushing’s Sun Mary Bakery that I’m pretty sure I would have been happy to find in my lunch box: the Chinese Fluffernutter Sandwich.
Perhaps my nickname for rou song dan gao, or Chinese dry pork cake ($2.50), is an exaggeration, but it definitely has the same junk-food gone healthy sensibility as its Western counterpart. Rou song, or dried pork stands in for the peanut butter, in this cakelike bun. A sweet pillowy roll is split and slathered with a buttery spread and then topped with a ridiculous amount of dried pork fluff. It is savory, sweet, and decidedly unwieldy. Bits of crunchy sweet-and-salty pork fluff will fall out as you bite into it.
A strong iced coffee cuts through the fatty sweetness of the bun. I think I may like it better than the old school roast pork buns I used to eat with my old man at Mei Lei Wah in Manhattan’s Chinatown. By the way I’m pretty sure this item is not unique to Sun Mary Bakery, I’d be curious to know how many folks prefer it to the American Fluffernutter.
Sun Mary Bakery ,133-57 41st Rd, Flushing, 718-460-8800
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 Hotpot’s been replaced by an ambitious menu of Taiwanese fare, but the shaved is still there on a separate menu.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…)
“Oh, it’s so good that I friggin dream about it,” my pal enthused to me about the Muslim lamb chop ($21.95) at Fu Run. “Yeah right, I thought to myself,” filing his rave about this Dongbei joint’s lamb dish away in the back of my mind. And then one day I finally broke down and tried it. It is spectacular in many, many ways. For one thing it is not a lamb chop but rather a whole rack, butchered in what I guess would be called country style.
Imagine a mad chef-scientist turning his attention to American Chinese pork spare ribs. Naturally he’d replace lamb with pork since it’s so much tastier. Then he’d braise it, roll it in spices, and deep fry it. The crunchy spice-studded exterior encases red-tinged meat and bits of snow-white fat, all packed with wonderful lamb flavor. An order of tiger vegetables ($5.95), a cool tangle of cilantro and hot peppers shot through with teeny salty shrimp, is a welcome foil to all that rich meat.
Noodles topped with a trio of fish roe sing with the flavors of Japan.
Last night I found myself wandering around the Lower East Side with a restless appetite. I considered eating at Wylie Dufresne’s new spot Alder then realized I was nowhere near it. Perhaps a bowl of Japanese bacon and egg mazemen noodles at the new Smorgasburg outpost inside Whole Foods. Alas they were closed. So I headed over to my favorite spot in the hood, Mission Chinese, for Danny Bowien’s mouth-blasting, palate-tingling take on Chinese food.
As I waited on line I weighed my spice-fueled options: kung pao lamb pastrami, thrice-cooked bacon, Chonqing chicken wings? When I took a seat in the dining room something delightfully odd happened. I was handed a slip of paper with the evening’s specials, two of which were Japanese. The first, cold tsukemen noodles ($16) with trout roe and sea urchin in bacon consommé sounded quite lovely. Turning back to the main menu I noticed beef heart and Hokkaido scallop sashimi ($13). I immediately ordered both, but felt quite strange. Was I really going to dine on Japanese fare at MCF with nary a hint of lip tingling Sichuan peppercorn? Apparently so. (more…)
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.
Chinese crullers and soy milk are a favorite breakfast in China and Flushing.
Even though I am constantly munching during my food tours I always make sure to have a small meal beforehand. That’s because if my blood sugar drops, then it becomes the moody foodie death march, and that’s not good for anyone. One of my favorite pregame meals is a very traditional Chinese breakfast of crullers, or yóutiáo, and soy milk. I like to dip the absurdly long doughnut into the warm, nutty soy milk. Incidentally yóutiáo translates to “oil strip.” The other morning I noticed that they are sold from Tianjin Xianbing the stall in the front window of Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. I love how they are stacked like a game of doughnut Jenga.
Tianjin Xianbing, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main Street, Stall D1, Flushing
Wonder what the Marx Bros. would have made of this duck offal soup.
About a month ago I was showing a tour group around Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court. As we approached No. 28—one of the few spots in the food court whose sign is only in Chinese—the new tenant, a strangely familiar looking woman behind the counter greeted me enthusiastically. No matter how hard tried I couldn’t place her.
On my next visit it dawned on me. The mystery woman was the wife of the owner of Golden Shopping Mall’s Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup, one of my go-to spots in the rag-tag collection of miniature restaurants. In addition to the wonderful hand-pulled lamb noodle soup there are several other items on the pictorial menu at this new outpost, including a largely forgettable knockoff of Xi’an Famous Foods lamb burger. And then there’s something that the menu lists as “old duck soup fans” ($6.50),which sounds like a club for elderly fans of the Marx Bros.
The offal rich soup’s Chinese name, lao ya feng shi tang,does indeed contain the words for old duick, “lao ya.” I can’t tell whether they came from an old duck or not, but the soup’s nasty bits—gizzard, bits of stomach, and blood cakes—were pleasant enough. Golden pillows of fried tofu, bok choy, and slippery glass noodles round out the bowl. Like the lamb noodle soup, it takes well to a dollop of chili paste. The proprietors of this new stall have set up a flat screen monitor. Instead of Chico, Groucho, and Harpo it plays a loop of Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Golden Shopping Mall.
Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup, No.28, New World Mall Food Court, Flushing
About a week ago I had the honor of appearing on Travel Channel’s Street Eats: U.S.A. for a segment on street foods in New York City. For those who didn’t get to see it and for those who crave more curbside cuisine I’ve devoted this week’s edition of The Seven to street food. Here then in no particular order are seven of my current street food faves. Some appeared on the show, and some some didn’t. Have a favorite street food you think I left out? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.
1. Pedro El Cevichero I first encountered Pedro’s sidewalk ceviche outside a market in Elmhurst. His Mexican ceviche mise en place includes olive oil, limes, onions, cilantro, and a tomato-based sauce. South of the Border ceviche is called coctele, as in shrimp cocktail. It’s more of a cold seafood soup than the Peruvian version. Pedro makes it right before your very eyes. It’s like watching a seafood mixologist as you listen to the 7 train rumble by overhead. Shrimp cocteles are available in three sizes ($8, $10, $12). The excellent mixto, shrimp and octopus is ($6, $8, $10). Find Pedro at Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
2. Baul Daada Jaal Muri Shop This is not so much a shop as a streetside Bangladeshi chaat vendor. As the name implies there’s only one specialty here, jaal muri. Three bucks gets you an order of Baul Daada’sspicy 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. Find Daada on 73 St. near 37 Ave. from late afternoon to around 10 p.m. weather permitting. (more…)
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.