04/13/18 10:48am

Qing tuan, piping hot, each filled with a savory-sweet surprise.

As anyone who talks to me about xiao long bao for more than five minutes knows, my favorite soup dumplings in downtown Flushing can be had at Shanghai specialist Diverse Dim Sum in the New York Food Court. The skin is so thin as to be translucent, and the balance of savory pork and crab broth is perfect, making the little packages a staple on my Flushing Chinatown food tours.

Last week I had a guest with a gluten allergy. I knew the rest of her party would enjoy the soup dumplings, but also wanted to give the gluten-free guest a taste of Shanghai. And that’s where the trio of multihued spheres—purple, green, and yellow—come in. I first noticed them around Easter time and suspected they were a seasonal specialty. Normally I don’t chance trying new things on a food tour, but after learning they were made from rice and various sweet-savory fillings I made an exception. (more…)

01/15/18 10:47am

Dumplings for days, well almost.

I’m not sure why, but it’s taken four decades of eating Chinese food for me to discover the wonders of HK noodles. My introduction to the wiry Hong Kong style yellow noodles began with HK lo mein combo at Shun Wong in Elmhurst. The massive portion of dumplings and lo mein comes with a sidecar of chicken broth as does an equally massive feed I tried at Flushing’s Shifu Chio.

I’ve passed Shifu Chio by hundreds of times, but had only eaten there once before. I scarcely ever look up at the faded red awning, which reads “Prince Noodle & Cafe, when I’m leading tours through the neighborhood.  One day last week after perusing such whimsical menu categories as “Golden Oldies,” which includes fried fish cake lo mein, and “The Conservatives,” a septet of congees, including pig’s belly and liver I zeroed in on HK noodles. (more…)

11/07/17 1:52pm

And the winner is (are) . . . these Nepali jhol momo.

Since I am fortunate to live very close to Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights I tend to avoid the dumpling extravaganza that is the Momo Crawl. Now its sixth year the festival that Jeff Orlick started featured more than 20 restaurants serving the beloved dumplings of the Himalayan diaspora. Rather than participate in the crawl, I pay my respects to the winner the day after. This year’s winner took home a groovy yak leather wrestling belt that Orlick designed with local artisan Lhemi Sherpa. It features a gleaming momo and a rock from Mount Everest. And the winner is . . .

10/31/17 11:14pm

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…)

10/16/17 11:54am

Can’t decide between won ton, roast pork, or noodle soup? Don’t worry Shun Wang’s got you.

I’ve been forsaking my heritage. By that I refer not to red sauce—OK fine we called it gravy—with which my father baptized me every Sunday, but rather the Cantonese food he fed me, thus beginning my lifelong love affair with Chinese cuisine. So when a friend posted a mouthwatering image of the HK lo mein at Shun Wang, I knew I had to try it.

“You know what this is?” the waiter at this Cantonese holdout in the increasingly Thai neighborhood of Elmhurst asked incredulously. “Yes,” I lied. “It’s steamed noodles,” he responded. Up until two days ago my Cantonese noodle knowledge was limited to chow fun and the thicker version of lo mein. (more…)

08/15/17 12:44pm

Steamed veal pelmeni, spa food via Russia and Corona.

There are many, many Central Asian eateries in Forest Hills and Rego Park where one can procure a plate of pelmeni, the pleated Russian ravioli, but there’s none quite like Forest Hills Spa. That’s because the tiny restaurant lies within the only authentic Russkaya banya, or Russian spa, in Queens. Banya—an experience that combines a eucalyptus scented steam room, sauna, and a blistering Russian Room where the temperature hovers around 190F—is a Russian tradition. The banya is just one of many places featured in my new guidebook 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss, which drops later this year.

The menu at the tiny restaurant illuminated by a skylight includes such spa-worthy items as fresh fruit juices, but on both visits I opted for the Russian ravioli. When in a Russian spa, why not eat Russian food? (more…)

07/03/17 9:27am

How now shui jian bao?

I’ve been eating at Flushing’s Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup (a/k/a Su Xiang Yuan) for at least a decade and almost always get the namesake dish. The Henanese delicacy is a bowl of milky white broth teeming with tender bits of lamb and chewy hand-pulled wheat noodles. Lately I’ve been branching out and trying other things, most recently something that goes by the English name lightly fried Chinese bread ($5).

“They look kind of like zeppole,” my dining companion said. I wasn’t so sure of that, but was pretty sure they’d be a great accompaniment to a bowl of soup. Much to our mutual delight we found out we’d ordered not fried bread, but shui jian bao, or pan fried buns. (more…)

06/14/17 12:42am

“Wow, you look very healthy,” my friend Helen You told me the other day when I brought a tour group to her restaurant, Dumpling Galaxy for lamb soup dumplings. “It’s like you lived two lives in one,” she said when I told her about my recent recovery from colorectal cancer. You’s words made me tear up a bit as did the premiere episode of Last Stop on The 7, which details her own story of living two lives in one. The video, which was produced by the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Sixty First Productions, features absolutely mesmerizing shots of You’s flour coated hands rolling out wrappers and folding them to create pork and chive dumplings.

(more…)

04/14/17 1:00pm
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Why not have a large-format Dongbei lamb feast for Easter?

The New York Times recently had an article about lamb overtaking ham on the Easter table. Here in Queens I don’t wait until that springtime holiday to eat lamb.  Just in case you don’t yet have Easter plans, please enjoy this selection of Chinese, Indian, and Uzbek lamb delicacies. If I left your favorite out please let me know in the comments.   

1. Roast Lamb Leg, Desired Taste International
There are many, many places in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown to get juicy lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and red pepper, but there’s none quite like Desired Taste International. That’s because it’s star skewer—kao yang tui—is an entire leg of lamb. Salt, cumin, and sesame form a delicious crunchy crust that encases succulent purplish-red flesh. Ask for some cumin and ground red pepper to use as a dip for an extra burst of flavor. Desired Taste International, 35-20 Farrington St., Flushing, 718-888-9622

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2. Lamb Chops, Kurry Qulture
“My lamb chops are getting very famous,” says Kurry Qulture’s Sonny Solomon. “A Greek guy came in and ordered 50 for Easter, he loved it so much.” Marinated in yogurt, black pepper, garam masala, coriander, and cumin the Astoria restaurant’s chops are indeed delicious. Tandoor-cooked, they’re the tenderest, most flavorful Indian lamb in Astoria—and all of Queens. (Photo: @restaurantfairyKurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212 (more…)

04/04/17 11:53pm
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Jhol momo come in a nutty sesame sauce perfumed with ginger and garlic.

I’ve had my eye on Momos Bros, a snazzy new food truck located a block or so north of Roosevelt Avenue on 74th Street for about a week now. It sports a groovy anthropomorphic dumpling situated in the center of a rising sun motif above a skyline. I’ve stopped by twice without eating, mainly because I was full. On the first visit I was quite pleased to learn that the bros running the truck aren’t some white dudes named Chad and Brad. On the second visit I’d just come from having a bowl of soup at Lhasa Fast Food, which is located across the street, so I thought I would try a Tibetan meat pie, or shapaley, but they were out.

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There’s a new momo truck in town!

The third time, as they say, is the charm. Tonight I stopped by with an appetite and tried a type of momo I’ve never had in Himalayan Heights, New York City’s epicenter of momodom. Jhol momo ($6) are a specialty in Nepal where the bros—actual blood brothers—Basang and Chema Sherpa hail from. Right now they’re offering chicken and beef. I went for the beef.

The steamed crescent-shaped dumplings are anointed with a sesame-based broth that tastes like a spicier, South Asian version of tahini. With the addition of a bit of hot sauce, it made for a most satisfying late dinner on a cool spring night.

Momo Bros., outside Citibank 37-57 74th St., Jackson Heights, 347- 944-9480