There are many, many things I love at Elmhurst’s Little House cafe, a Malaysian bakery/restaurant run by Helen Bay and her husband Michael Lee. There’s the giant chicken curry bun; stupendously good chow kueh teow; specials like salted egg chow fun; and goodies baked up by Helen, including the amazing Malaysian style brown sugar cake. In fact there are so many sweet and savory things that the family rotates some of them out. What I love most about Little House right now though is that it’s back open. Well, that and the glutinous rice doughnuts, 夹粽, or kap zhong, that appeared as a special dessert over the weekend.
A while back, Helen’s daughter, Joanne, gifted me a black and yellow tote bag. One seam bears the legend, “Don’t ask just eat.” It’s a slogan I took to heart with the little box of ovoid kap zhong. Soft and sweet with a ring of brown dough enclosing a center of chewy glutinous rice, they’re sugary and oily in the best possible way. They call to mind the zeppole my mother used to fry up on St. Joseph’s Day.
Like many things at this little house that could, these treats, whose name means something along the lines of pressed from both sides, are only around for a short time. But Joanne tells me there will be a fresh batch tomorrow. I’m going to forego them this time, at my age, I can only eat such a thing occasionally. But you should try them while you can. To paraphrase the slogan on the bag: Don’t ask about the calories, just eat them.
Little House Cafe, 90-19 Corona Ave., Elmhurst, 718-592-0888
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.
1. Best Grilled Cheese Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.” The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588
2. Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar
3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
4. Best Breakfast Sandwich I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629(more…)
Little Greek doughnuts, aka loukoumades, at Astoria’s Cafe Boulis.
“Let’s go to the place with the little Greek doughnuts,” my friend Jane said. We’d just had a lovely Thai lunch at Pye Boat Noodle. After I confessed my ignorance of little Greek doughnuts, we set out for our dessert destination.
“Oh, gosh I’ve passed this place dozens of times,” I said when we arrived at Cafe Boulis. Like many Greek cafes in Astoria the little space hums with a caffeinated energy. Directly opposite the door a sign reading, “LOUKOUMADES MADE FRESH TO ORDER” graces the Greek doughnut station. Behind the glass lies a fryer that evokes memories of fresh fried zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day and the spectacle of watching Krispy Kremes receive a cascade of glaze as they come down the conveyor belt. (more…)
“Do you have the new croissant donut?” I asked the gent at my local Dunkin’ Donuts this past Saturday. “New doughnut,” he said gesturing to a few orange frosted Halloween numbers. I left with just a coffee. I have yet to have one of Dominique Ansel’s wildly popular Cronuts, though I have had the Paris Baguette knockoff, which was quite nice. So I was eager to try to Dunkin’s croissant doughnut, particularly since it did not entail waking at an ungodly hour to wait in line with hordes of food faddists. (more…)
Today is National Doughnut Day. While Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts are both giving away the treats, this holiday was not started by a corporate chain. It began way back in 1938 when the Salvation Army began commemorating those who served doughnuts to World War I soldiers. This morning I decided to go to Dunkin’ and score a free glazed doughnut. It’s a decision I regret. (more…)
Today marks the third day of Losar, a lunar New Year festival that’s celebrated as much in the Himalayas themselves as it is in Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights. In order to help you get into the spirit of the 15-day celebration of the Year of the Wood Horse, here’s a list of my favorite Tibetan and Nepalese dishes in the neighborhood.
1. Goat Sukuti at Dhaulagiri Kitchen
“Oh, we have buffalo and goat sukuti too,” Kamala Gauchan the matriarch of this shoebox-sized Nepali gem told me a few weeks ago. I almost fell out of my chair when she said the types of this traditional jerky went beyond beef. And then I tasted the goat version. I’d be lying if I said I fell out of my chair, but it is absolutely amazing. Drying the meat has concentrated the goat flavor to such a degree that it almost tastes like cheese. Served in a spicy sauce—a Nepali ragu if you will—as part of a thali it is simply lovely. 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights
I have yet to consume a Cronut, but my friend Wendy Chan did, and she was kind enough to file this dispatch from the front lines of food faddery in Soho. Take it away Wendy . . .
While grocery shopping at Stew Leonard’s this summer, I walked past the bakery where samples were passed out for a taste of their new product, a croissant donut. The bakery team there claimed this new hybrid is made from 162 layers of butter and dough, deep-fried to golden perfection. I knew this “Cro Do” was a copycat product, but I would not miss a chance to try it.
It did taste pretty good, still piping hot. I was sold. Frankly, butter makes everything taste good! Deep fried? Darn it! Irresistible! It’s retailed at $3.99 for two. I bought half a dozen to share with friends that evening. No line, no fuss.
My daughter ,Veronica, had already introduced me to the original Cronut, created by Dominique Ansel, but it didn’t impress me. But then, it was frozen overnight, as a thoughtful gift of love, (well, she had to get up early to stand in line for it) so it was not a fair verdict. (more…)
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