Manny’s Bake Shop, a Filipino restaurant and bakery, is in Flushing but it lies far from my Chinatown stomping grounds. And it’s pretty far afield from Woodside’s Little Manila. I came across it while on my way to volunteer at Queens General Hospital as I do every Thursday morning. Occasionally I duck in for a buttered pandesal and a coffee. Then one day I noticed the menu’s five-item “Native Breakfast” section. “I’ll be back,” I said to the gal behind the counter grabbing my coffee and buttered roll. (more…)
Dhaulagiri Kitchen, a tiny Nepalese outfit that’s the latest eatery to take up residence inside roti bakery Tawa Foods, is easily my favorite place in Jackson Heights these days. It’s named for the third highest mountain peak in the world, but as far as I’m concerned the flavors here—fiery pickles; sukuti, an air-dried beef jerky; and spicy chicken choila—are the tops. Lately I have been partaking of this eight-seater’s thalis. Thali literally means plate and it consists of a mound of rice ringed by various accoutrements, including pickles, daal, fried bitter melon, mustard greens, and a center of the plate item like chicken beef, or goat. The rice and the sides are refillable.
One day I was eating a fish thali ($11) whose main attraction was two crisp fried hunks of fish, a nattily dressed gent entered. As I ate my fish and rice while picking at the gudruk, a Nepalese kimchi of sorts, and other pickles arrayed around the circumference of the thali he rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands. And then he got down to business. (more…)
Scotch bonnet pepper sauce makes it even more bangin’.
Much of The Guyanese/Trinidadian/Indian enclave Richmond Hill remains terra incognita to me, just as Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall once was. There are dozens upon dozens of doubles joints along Liberty Avenue. I know there’s tons of good stuff in this hood, but sometimes don’t know where to start. One beacon of deliciousness I’ve found in this vast sea of West Indian food is the bangamary sandwich ($6) at Sybil’s. It is one of the best fried fish sandwiches I have ever had. (more…)
A hefty serving of cumin lamb has been stuffed into this fish.
When I was first learning about Chinese food from my old man at various spots on Long Island—including the fabled Hunam in Levittown—my brothers and I were always discouraged from ordering any form of whole fish. I think dear old Dad thought it wasn’t worth the expense. My relationship with Chinese whole fish dishes has been strained ever since. In general I prefer bolder fried whole fish dishes as opposed to steamed specimens. Or at least I did until last night when I tried the Dongbei surf and turf. (more…)
Jorgito’s ceviche is topped with crunchy, salty maize cancha.
The best ceviche de pescado I ever had came from a sweet Peruvian lady’s cooler. She sold it streetside in the Diamond District. Every Friday I’d buy one for lunch, and devour it greedily at my desk, She’s long gone now, but my soft spot for fish cooked in lime juice served streetside remains. Last weekend when I saw Cevicheria Jorgito, a cart on 111th Street just off La Roosie, my heart and stomach lept up. About half an hour and 30 blocks prior I’d had a Mexican style coktel, and was starting to feel hungry again.
Jorgito’s cart lies a corn kernel’s throw from the 7 line.
I was a little disappointed when I found out Jorgito’s ceviche is the soupier Ecuadorean style. I prefer the Peruvian version, which is more of salad. This disappointment did not deter me from handing over $6 for a small container of ceviche de pescado. Bits of cooked corvina bobbed in the cool tomato soup, alongside a surprise ingredient, chewy morsels of yucca. Topped with salty toasted corn kernels and a squirt or three of bright orange hot sauce it was a nice snack. It’s great to find Mexican and Ecuadorean ceviches on La Roosie. Now if I could just find a Peruvian one all my streetside seafood needs would be met.
Cevicheria Jorgito, 111 St., north side of Roosevelt Avenue, weekends only
It’s the pescatarian response to the Muslim lamb chop.
It’s a good thing I don’t have a cumin allergy. Otherwise I’d never be able to enjoy the many delicious Dongbei dishes that liberally employ the spice. Perhaps the most famous is a meaty marvel that goes by the name Muslim lamb chop. It is an entire rack of lamb that’s been braised, deep fried and then rolled in cumin, black and white sesame seeds, and hot pepper. And it is spectacular. The other night at Rural I learned there is a fish version.
All the crunch of a potato chip with one million times the cumin.
Cumin flounder ($15.99) lands on the table coated in plenty of its namesake spice, plus a copious amount of chilies. Gawk at it for a moment and Instagram if you must, but then let the waitress cut up into rectangles using a spoon. Crunch into it while it’s still hot. Each swatch of flounder is perfectly fried. In addition to cumin there are pickled chilies lending a nice flavor to what I’ve come to think of as a Dongbei potato chip of sorts.
Fermentation is gastronomic alchemy. It can turn grains into intoxicating elixirs and cabbage into kimchi. And squid guts into something so foul it should be weaponized. Japanese home-style squid guts are not my cup of sake. Thai fermented fish, pla som, on the other hand, is one of my favorite things.
It’s made by taking a fish, salting it, and packing it with rice and garlic and leaving it unrefrigerated for three days to let nature take its course. I do not intend to undertake what’s probably a very simple process in my home kitchen. So in Queens I like to eat pla som at Zabb Elee, the wonderful Northeastern Thai spot. A fried piece of tilapia pla som runs $9. It’s crunchy sour, slightly funky and absolutely wonderful with the accompanying fried shallots, galangal, and chilies.
Until I get to Thailand Zabb will likely remain my go-to spot for this dish. Lucky for me they’re open quite late and are only a short subway ride from my place. One can never tell when that late-night fried fermented fish craving’s gonna hit.
Zabb Elee, 71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, 718-426-7992
Taiwanese fish fry with peanuts and chili peppers is a great beer snack.
“This we call funny fish,” my Taiwanese-American college buddy Rick’s father said as he plopped down a bowl of small fried dish interspersed with peanuts and dried hot peppers. “It’s good with beer.” At the time I was not nearly as adventurous an eater as I am now, but the Taiwanese fish fry was way better than any chips or pretzels. Salty, crunchy, spicy, and nutty, and very, very good with an ice cold Budweiser.
Years later I found myself snacking on it at Mingle Beer House an ill-fated Flushing beer bar. Mingle is no more but I’m glad that I can still find what I like to think of Taiwanese beer nuts at most any Chinese supermarket. Best of all there are variations some with a bit of sweetness in addition to the spice. For those who’d like to try to making this crave-inducing snack at home there’s a pretty easy-looking recipe over at Eating China.
There’s nothing quite as summery as a nice plate of ceviche.
Ceviche, that refreshing Peruvian concoction of fish cooked in a lime juice marinade is one of my favorite things to eat during the summer, or really any time of year. I am so enamored of it that I used to cop a small plastic container of ceviche mixto from a sweet Peruvian lady who sold it out of a cooler in Manhattan’s Diamond District. She was even kind enough to bring me a block of a Peruvian shortbread confection known as King Kong from her home country.
Last time I checked my sweet streetside ceviche vendor was gone. I’m OK with that though. Here in Queens, there are many places from which to score ceviche, from full-blown cevicherias to coffee shops that have a side line in ceviche. Heck there are two Peruvian restaurants in walking distance from C+M headquarters in Rego Park that serve serviceable versions.
With winter in full effect you’d think I’d be in the mood for soup. The dish I crave today, though is ceviche, spicy and bracing with a side of that steroidal corn and plenty of eye-opening lime juice to slurp down as a chaser afterward.
“Savor Fusion’s been DOH’d what shall I do w/o Sister Zhu,” I tweeted in no small amount of distress after Flushing’s newest food court was shut down by the Department of Health in September. I’ve been eating at Zhū Dà Jiě Chéng dū Xiǎo Chī (Big Sister Zhu’s Chengdu Snacks) in one incarnation or another for about three years. I’ve tried everything from springy dàn dàn miàn, noodles in fiery pork sauce, and homemade pork sausage scented with orange to the poetically named fū qī fèi piàn, husband and wife offal slices, actually cold ox tongue and tripe in an incendiary sauce, to Sichuan hacked rabbit. At Savor Fusion I became enamored of her má là yú, deliciously crisp fried fish, and a quite a deal at $6 for six.
Coated in Sichuan peppercorn and hot pepper these fish are delicious.
I’d given up finding her ever again, and then she reappeared, in a bakery of all places. I’d stopped in with a friend to grab a coffee milk tea and a pork bun and then I saw them. There was no mistaking the cook behind the hotel pan of chili crusted fish on the counter. “Zhū dà jiě!,” I exclaimed pointing to the fish. And out she came from the back. “Hey, my friend. How are you,” she asked with a broad smile. The pork bun was quite good, but what I really wanted was some fish. That crunchy, fiery fish that calls to mind Wise BBQ potato chips, had they been created in a Chengdu snack shop.
Sister Zhu is lucky to have a new home.
I’m pretty sure my big sister from Chengdu has never heard of a pop-up restaurant, but I am ever so glad that she popped up where she did. The other week a buddy and I stopped in for some of that fish and an order of tofu skin with hot peppers. The crunchy coating of the fish sang with the classic má là,or numb-hot flavor that comes from the combination of chilies and tongue-tingling Sichuan peppers. And the hot peppers and chewy tofu skin called to mind a flavor from my childhood, hot sopressata.
I have a feeling that if Sister Zhu moves again I’ll be able to find her. Not because of some cosmic culinary connection, but mainly because I’ll be sure to keep tabs on her. It’s not every day one finds fried fish that good after all.