07/17/17 8:49am

Gorgeous gai yang studded with herbs and spices.

“I guess Queens is still the only place to go,” read a lament about the state of Thai food in Brooklyn. To put a finer point on, it Elmhurst, is the place to go. And, to narrow it down even further, Hug Esan, is the place,  at least so it’s been for the past 11 days for me and a rather large chunk of the local Thai community.

I’d been watching the space—carved out of the first floor of an apartment building—for months. The name might sound like a character from a Thai version of Starsky and Hutch, but Hug means “love” in Thailand’s Esan dialect.  (more…)

06/15/17 11:38pm

As any one who’s talked to me for than five minutes about food in Queens knows, I’m a firm believer that the best Thai food in New York City can be had in Elmhurst. In fact I love the Little Bangkok that runs along Broadway between Whitney and Woodside Avenues so much that it’s the star of one of my food tours. So this month the boys at Queens Dinner Club and I are offering Big Taste of Little Bangkok, on June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at our new home in Kaufmann Astoria Studios. Tickets are $40 and may be purchased here.

The evening’s menu will include some of our favorite dishes from local hot spots Dek Sen, Eim Khao Mun Gai, Pata Paplean and Sugar Club. Dek Sen will be preparing tom yam, the classic Thai papaya salad, and moo ping Brooklyn, savory pork skewers. In case you’re wondering the name comes not from an affinity with the County of Kings, but rather the niece of one of the owners who’s named Brooklyn. As is traditional, both will be served with plenty of sticky rice.   (more…)

06/01/17 4:56pm

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my  teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.

1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights

 

2.  Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp,  minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate.  Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181 (more…)

05/10/17 10:00am
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Sometimes an average restaurant banh mi is just what you need.

“I really want to try the Vietnamese sandwich,” Chef Dave, said as we wheeled into the parking lot of Elmhurst’s Pho Bac. He was pretty excited because there were baguettes stacked in the window, an unusual sight for midevening. Not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, I didn’t trot out my theory that restaurant banh mi are passable at best compared to those from sandwich shops and delis.

As we were looking at the menu, I remembered something I wanted to try, call it a Vietnamese French dip. (I’m sure whatever blog I cribbed the idea from does.) In no sort order Chef Dave and I had each ordered a sandwich—classic pork for him and highfalutin steak for me—and a large bowl of pho tai. The latter is the most minimalist of the 10 or so beef noodle soups offered, containing little more than noodles and rare slices of beef. (more…)

04/28/17 2:59am
Fried chicken marinated with coconut water.

Fried chicken marinated with coconut water.

When I first visited the Facebook page of Awang Kitchen, the newest Indonesian spot in the Southeast Asian-inflected Chinatown of Elmhurst, it displayed a vast menu, which has seen been edited down to a more manageable size. While the food was delicious, when I visited on opening weekend, the kitchen was moving at a glacial pace. Thankfully the kinks have been ironed out and Awang is fast becoming my favorite Indonesian spot in the neighborhood.

I’m a big fan of Indonesian fried chicken, so when I spied ayam goreng kalasan, a variety marinated with coconut water, I had to try it. It was some mighty fine bird and came with a sidecar of sambal terasi, a fiery red pepper concoction made with terasi, or fermented shrimp paste. It’s one of several sambals that the Jakartan chef-owner Siliwang “Awang” Nln makes in house. (more…)

04/18/17 3:53pm
LaoNoodle

Umami bombs in the form of dried fish curl in this tangle of fried noodles.

Long before I heard the word “umami” I was addicted to the savory fifth flavor. I blame pouring Accent directly on my tongue as a young boy. Accent has precisely one ingredient: monosodium glutamate. In terms of umami overload, it was the equivalent of Peter Parker’s radioactive spider bite. I’ve had superpowers ever since, OK not really. I did develop a keen palate for umami though, which brings me to the subject of today’s post: the use of umami bombs—little bursts of flavor in two Southeast Asian noodle dishes I ate recently.

The first comes from Thailand via Laos and Woodside, Queens. “Spicy noodle with Lao sausage real Thai,” read the menu at Thailand’s Center Point. (For the record, everything at this place that I’ve been reacquainting myself with of late is real Thai.) The tangle of noodles ($11.50) is riddled with generous chunks of chewy sour sausage and fried dry chilies, a nice touch which enables one to adjust the heat in the dish. There was another component: little almost imperceptible nuggets of fishy flavor.

“Is there pickled fish in this?” I asked the waitress, who looked surprised by my question. Thanks to Instagrammer @gustasian, I now know that the little umami bombs were dried fish. (more…)

04/07/17 1:06pm
INDOCROWD

The Indonesian Food Bazaar will be bustling tomorrow.

Queens is fortunate to have two Chinatowns, the bustling downtown Flushing, home to a wealth of regional Chinese cuisine, and the somewhat mellower Elmhurst, which in addition to Cantonese, Sichuan, and Henanese fare, features some of the best Southeast Asian food to be found in all of New York City. That includes Indonesian food, notably the Indonesian Food Bazaar, which takes place tomorrow at St. James Church. What follows is a pictorial guide/plan of attack for eating your way through tomorrow’s festivities, which run from noon to 5 p.m.

indomartabak

Curb your hunger with the Indonesian beef pie known as martabak.

As Indonesian food nerd/Instagrammer @dan.bukit points out it’s best to arrive before 1 p.m. for the greatest selection. By 2 p.m. some of the stands start to run out. Since my eyes are quite often bigger than my stomach, I immediately head over to one of the snackier stands and have one of the Indonesian beef pies known as martabak. That way I can take my time exploring the festival without being hangry. Many folks like to bring a posse of four or five friends to share. I prefer to go it alone, although I usually run into a fellow food geek to share with.

(more…)

02/06/17 11:42pm
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The spiciest baby momo in Thai Town!

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…)

01/31/17 7:40pm
Fu Run's pork ribs are worth celebrating!

Fu Run’s pork ribs are worth celebrating!

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

HakkaHotChicken

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

CNY-SKINBING

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…)

01/19/17 1:52pm
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Khao taen: crunchy, sweet, craveable.

Last time I checked  Rice Krispies weren’t part of the traditional Thai pantry. That doesn’t prevent me from thinking of khao taencrispy disks of fried rice drizzled with cane sugar caramel—as Thai Rice Krispy treats. They’re a common street food in Thailand. Here in Queens, I found them at Sugar Club.

They’re made with sticky rice as I learned from reading a recipe over at She Simmers Thai Cooking. Truth be told they’re way crunchier than Rice Krispy treats and eminently craveable. I usually buy a box for dessert with Thai coffee after chicken and rice soup at Eim Khao Mun Kai. I always promise myself that I’ll eat only one or two pieces—four at most—but wind up polishing off the whole lot.

Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-565-9018