Gong Xi Fa Cai! The year of the Wood Horse is upon us. To aid in your celebration of the 15-day Chinese New Year, here’s a short list of some of my favorite dishes in what I humbly consider to be the tastiest Chinatown in America.
Fu Run’s festive looking golden corn pancake.
1. Golden Corn Pancake, Fu Run The granddaddy of Dongbei cookery in Flushing is best known for the Muslim lanb chop, but it’s specials, like the festive lookinghuang jin yu mi lao,or golden corn pancake($15.95)that keep me coming back. Despite the name it’s not stack of hoe cakes, but rather some lovely fried corn croquettes. The loosely bound kernels are interspersed with carrots and peas and laid out in a star pattern. Other standout specials include the spicy fried crabs. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St, Flushing, 718-321-1363 (more…)
With the official start of winter just days away my mind turns toward sandwiches served in far warmer climes, specifically Trinidad. To celebrate Saturday’s Winter Solstice why not visit Richmond Hill’s Trini Delite and treat yourself to a Maracas style bake and shark ($8). The sandwich takes its name from Maracas Beach where many vendors sell the local delicacy. Trini Delite offers it only on weekends, so expect to wait on line. The deejay/CD vendor playing the hits of Soca Elvis and other artists will keep you entertained as your appetite builds. (more…)
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.