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…)
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…)
“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.
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
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: @restaurantfairy) Kurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212(more…)
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.
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
The name of this newish Tibetan spot in the heart of Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok pays tribute to a cool mung bean jelly that’s more commonly known as laphing in Tibet. One of the best things on the 15-item menu, however is the spicy dumpling ($5.99). The chef-owner can call them dumplings, but I prefer to think of them as mini momos. (more…)
Gong xi fa cai! Happy Year of the Rooster! One of the best things about Chinese New Year is that the celebration lasts for 15 days. So here on this fourth day of the Lunar New Year festivities, C+M presents a list of our favorite Chinese dishes in Queens, some old, some new, all decidedly delicious. Normally this column contains seven entries, but we’re giving you one for good luck!
1. House special ribs with spicy sauce, Fu Run Even though it’s the restaurant that introduced Chinese food fans to the cumin encrusted glory that is the Muslim lamb chop I’ve been over their version for quite some time. It stopped being good the moment the restaurant decided to prepare the racks of ribs in advance and reheat them. So I was very pleasantly surprised by the house special ribs with spicy sauce ($14.95) that I tried the other day. La xiao le pai, literally little spicy riblets, turn out to be deep fried Dongbei style rib tips shot through with fried peanuts, chilies, and cilantro. They’re the best pork ribs I’ve ever had in Flushing. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St., Flushing, 718-321-1363
2. Hakka hot chicken, Tangra Masala I have it on good authority that there’s nothing wrong with eating chicken to celebrate the Year of The Rooster.; it’s only unlucky for the chicken. And, since it’s the Year of the Fire Rooster, there’s no better dish to celebrate than the hakka hot chicken at Peter Lo’s Indian-Chinese restaurant Tangra Masala. The dish of hacked up bits of fried bird is coated in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. Shot through with chilies and sautéed onions the succulent pieces of poultry call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
3. Sesame biscuit with fried jelly bun When I first saw the hawker stand set up across the street from the Golden Mall I thought it was yet another skewer specialist. Turns out the lady running it specializes in a vegetarian sandwich, sesame biscuits stuffed with fried bean jelly. A shao bing jia liang fen will set you back a mere $5. The bun’s filled with wobbly blocks of bean jelly that have been fried on a flat top and slathered with a profoundly garlicky sauce. Shao Bing Jia Liang Fen stand, 41st Rd, across form Golden Mall(more…)
The lamb and green squash dumplings at Helen You’s Tianjin Dumpling House were a revelation when I first tasted them years ago at Flushing’s Golden Mall. The tiny packages filled with lamb emit a puff of ovine aroma and burst with juices when bitten into. They remain a feature of my food tour to this day. Three years ago she opened Dumpling Galaxy, a sit-down restaurant. While I love the variety it offers—100 kinds of dumplings—sometimes, really most of the time, I prefer the hawker stand.
When I heard You was offering off menu lamb soup dumplings at Dumpling Galaxy, I forgot all about my preference for the hawker stand and hightailed it over to the restaurant. After all I am as big a fan of lamb as I am of soup dumplings. To the best of my knowledge she’s the only one in New York City offering yang rou xiao long bao.(more…)
Fried beef momo, just one of many delicacies that will be offered.
With winter just around the corner, my pals and I from Queens Dinner Club have chosen a most seasonally appropriate cuisine: the hearty, spicy flavors of Tibet. And there’s no better place to enjoy them Chef Chime Tendha’s Phayul. In fact I personally love Phayul—which means fatherland in Tibetan—so much that I made sure they appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. To score a ticket for this tasty trek please click here.(more…)
Soup dumplings—and instructions on how to eat them—are always a highlight of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. One of the stranger techniques I’ve witnessed is people who forego a spoon and hold the dumpling aloft, nipping a hole in the side. It’s not a method I’d recommend. One tool I never thought I’d see used in dispatching xiao long bao is a straw. Lately though a larger style dumpling has begun to appear, first in Shanghai, and now in Queens, thanks to Shanghai You Garden.(more…)