11/29/16 7:04pm

Durian pizza, a match made in Hong Kong.

Once upon a time there were many places in downtown Flushing to get a slice of pizza, notably Gloria Pizza and Lucia Pizza. The former is long gone and the latter soldiers on in a space flanked by a Chinese food court and a Korean skin care emporium. And then there was T.J.’s, which served a mean kimchi slice. These days it’s easier to find a spiky durian fruit than old school New York City pizza. Enter C Fruit Life, a new Hong Kong style dessert cafe serving “Golden Pillow Durian Pizza,” a decidedly modern fusion pie.

Is jin zheng tou liu lien pi za as it’s known in Mandarin Chinese the strangest pizza I’ve had in Queens? (Yes, the pinyin for pizza is pi za.) Hard to say, after all the borough boasts both bulgogi and falafel pies. It’s certainly one of the stranger uses of the pungent durian fruit I’ve come across. For the record I happen to like durian and think it has a bad rep.  (more…)

11/05/15 10:39am

The Hong Kong equivalent of New York cheesecake.

I’ve been eating my way through Flushing’s New York Food Court for about a year. Yet somehow, I only just got around to trying Mango Mango yesterday. The bowl of spicy soup I’d just finished had put me in the mood for something sweet to cool down.

I wasn’t in the a mango mood though, and almost left the food court without getting dessert.  Then I saw the hand written special sign reading “mille crepe durian (slice).” There was also a mango version, but I was more intrigued by the durian. (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…)

12/09/14 1:49pm

Kulu’s sawdust pudding is way better than it sounds.

There are more than a few a misconceptions about Chinese desserts floating around. There’s the completely wrong-headed notion that Chinese civilization was exposed to sugar later than its Western counterpart and therefore its desserts are simply not as good. Another perhaps less foolish notion, of which I am personally guilty, is that all Chinese desserts are either heavy and buttery like egg tarts and jindui, the fried Chinese “doughnut” filled with red bean paste.

As I’ve learned from experience with the wonderful dou hua or flower tofu from Soybean Chen, these Western misconceptions are just that. Last week Jayson Chong, owner and creator of Kulu Desserts, helped me to further dispel these lao wai misconceptions by introducing me to his more modern, lighter take on Chinese sweets. (more…)

10/15/13 10:32am

Doctoring up Tasty Sweety’s durian sago soup with even more durian.


“If you don’t like durian we shouldn’t sit so close to the counter,” a 40-something Chinese man said to his family as they entered Tasty Sweety a cute little shop in downtown Flushing that specializing in Hong Kong style dessert soups, including those made with durian. As I got up to leave, I smiled at him. “Oh, you must like it,” he said. (more…)

08/21/13 11:43pm

The crunchiest durian sundae ever.

“This would be really good over vanilla ice cream,” my friend Anne Marie Cruz said as she munched on a handful of kering tempe, a spicy Indonesian brittle made from tempe, potatoes, and peanuts. Crunchy, garlicky, and singing with sweet spicy flavor, it’s the only way I can abide the fermented soybean noxiousness that is tempe. Abide is an understatement. I can easily polish off a $7 box of the stuff in a sitting.

We scored the highly addictive snack at OK Indo, one of the stops on a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights that I took Anne Marie, her boyfriend Brant, and their friends on for Brant’s birthday. By the time we got to the Thai-run Tea Cup Café, I’d forgotten all about the kering tempe. That is until Anne Marie ordered some durian ice cream. (more…)

02/19/13 12:41pm
Freeze-dried durian is pretty benign.

Freeze-dried durian is pretty benign.

One of the questions I ask Flushing food tour groups—besides is it too early in the morning for tripe—is, “How do you feel about durian?” Canvassing opinions about the spiky king of fruit, which Anthony Bourdain once described as smelling “…like you’d buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later,” is as good a gauge of adventurousness as any.

On one tour a guy told me about how an over-ripe durian landed on his head while he was taking a nap under a tree in Southeast Asia. He was supposed to go to a wedding later that day, but was forbidden to attend because he was “unlucky,” and, no doubt, stinky.

Most truly odiferous durian varieties never make it to the United States. Usually I’ll buy my tour group a bag of freeze-dried durian at a Malaysian market. As durian goes it’s pretty benign. It’s crunchy and sweet, though it does have a somewhat funky after taste. Last Sunday though I purchased some dumplings at Golden Shopping Mall called “ice durian.” Each tiny purse was filled with a mixture of cool custard topped by some really pungent durian. I rather liked it, so much so that I’m thinking of eating some today. My tour group did not feel the same way. Here’s what I’d like to know: Do you dig durian?  Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.