06/07/16 11:44am
Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Back when I first moved to Queens there was a pizzeria in downtown Flushing called T.J.’s that sold a Korean-influenced slice. Apart from a generous serving of tangy, peppery kimchi it was a classic New York City slice. And T.J.’s itself was a classic New York City pizza parlor.

A few weeks ago some friends and I tried out Pizza Maru, in the vast K-tropolis of Northern Boulevard. If T.J.’s was a classic New York joint then Pizza Maru is classic Korean fast-casual spot. It’s Pizza Hut as envisioned by Korean businessmen, complete with four types of stuffed crusts and more than a dozen pies, including honey gorgonzola and Chicago style. (more…)

05/30/16 1:00pm
MajangCook

Like many of the best Korean BBQ’s Majang Dong cooks over charcoal.

The number of places to enjoy Korean BBQ in Queens is staggering. The vast K-tropolis that runs along Northern Boulevard boasts kalbi specialists like Mapo, spots renowned for the fatty ribbons of pork belly known as samgyeopsal, and even all you can eat/grill joint called Picnic Garden. There’s only one that feels like being at an actual picnic though, Majang Dong. To be more specific it feels like a backyard BBQ—and that’s because it is.

Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. It’s not that one needs a password to gain access, it’s more that if you didn’t know that it was there you could easily pass right by it. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ,  and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland.   (more…)

04/12/16 4:14pm
Who knew Gui Lin Mi Fen had an awesome tofu salad?

Who knew Gui Lin Mi Fen had an awesome tofu salad?

As a nonvegetarian omnivore the first things I think of when it comes to vegetarian food in the bustling Chinatown of downtown Flushing are the tofu from Soybean Chen and the dosai at the Ganesh Temple Canteen. But what would a real vegetarian choose? To find out I turned to Howard Walfish, the man behind the web sites Lost Vegetarian and Brooklyn Vegetarian, who was kind enough to share his favorites in this guest post.

Downtown Flushing can be a little daunting for vegetarians. Between the restaurants, street vendors, and food courts, there are hundreds of places to eat.  Many of them don’t have English-language menus, and many of them have decidedly nonvegetarian specialties. But all it takes is a little digging, and you can find lots of great vegetarian food.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Tofu Salad at Gui Lin Mei Fen
Gui Lin Mi Fen is best known for its noodle bowls, but there’s a sleeper vegetarian hit on their menu that’s easy to overlook: a tofu salad. The firm tofu is diced and flavored with kalimeris indica, a plant also known as Indian aster. The herb adds an herbal, floral note to the salad that makes it irresistible.  (135-25 40th Rd.) (more…)

03/18/16 12:45am
RiceCake

Seafood sticky rice balls are gloriously golden brown.

The menu at Diverse Dim Sum is as advertised, running to some 30 items, including various pancakes, noodles, dumplings, and other snacks. The soup dumplings at the oddly named Shanghai xiao chi specialist are so good—thin of skin and fragrant of broth—that I’ve sampled hardly anything else on the menu.

I’d been hearing great things about the seafood sticky rice ball ($3), so the other night a carb craving friend and I decided to have it as a sidecar to an order of xiao long bao. Hai xian zi fan gao, as they’re known in Chinese, come two an order and they’re more blocks than balls.

“Chinese pizza,” the lady behind the counter said as she presented the pair of golden brown slabs. (more…)

03/07/16 2:37pm
Guchun

Spiciest Chinese chitterlings ever!

“Wow, where’d you get that?” I said to my new friend Mike as he presented a jazzy looking bowl of wavy hand-pulled noodles bobbing with Chinese chitterlings and pickled mustard greens in a crimson broth. “Over there,” he said waving a hand toward Guchun Private Kitchen.

I love Guchun for its chao bing. The Northern Chinese specialty substitutes strips of flatbread for noodles to such great effect that I’d never even given the la mian so much as a second look, so I was glad that Mike, a first-time visitor to New York Food Court, had sussed it out. (more…)

02/22/16 11:10am
PappaCKT

A mess of delicious Malaysian noodles from PappaRich.

One of the first things my father taught me about Chinatown is that it’s always changing, always evolving in new and delicious ways. That’s as true of Hong Kong and Macau as it is of Manhattan—the old man’s stomping grounds—and Flushing—my stomping grounds. One Fulton Square, a newish mixed use development is at the forefront of these changes in Flushing. It contains more than a dozen eateries ranging from high-end sushi (Iki) and Sichuan (Szechuan Mountain House) to specialty coffee (Presso). PappaRich, the second U.S. outpost of a Malaysian chain, is the latest addition to what’s fast becoming an Asian Times Square. (more…)

01/23/16 12:05pm

Now that King Frost has officially made his presence known with the arrival of winter storm Jonas, it is officially soup season. Sure I’ve had plenty of bowls over the course of the past two months. But now it’s on, time to bring in the big guns. So here are seven of my favorites spanning a variety of styles—from sweet medicinal Chinese concoctions to savory noodle soups and spicy sinus clearers—and regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Best of all you can find all of them without leaving the world’s borough, Queens.

pozole2

1. Pozole rojo, Taqueria Coatzingo
This Jackson Heights cantina is known for its tacos, but the specials are the real stars. That’s where I discovered pozole rojo, the spicier cousin of the Mexican pork and hominy soup. As the name implies, the broth is red—very, very red—thanks to loads of chilies. Pozole rojo employs chicken rather than pork as a base.  Served with the standard pozole fixings of diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper, I like it think of it as Mexican penicillin. Add a few squeezes of lime along with a handful of onion and the other seasonings for one of the most head-clearing soups to be found on Roosevelt Avenue. Sour, spicy, and packed with fresh herbs, hominy, and chicken it’s sure to cure what ails you. Best of all it’s always on the specials menu! Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-424-1977 (more…)

01/04/16 1:25pm
kulupapaya

Cloud ear fungus is said to benefit the respiratory system.

Kulu Desserts has all manner of cold treats, including sawdust pudding and some lovely durian preparations, come wintertime though I find myself craving their tong shui or traditional Chinese sweet medicinal soups. It’s not every day you can eat dessert and claim that it’s good for anything other than your mood.

One of my favorites is the papaya white fungus soup, a comforting brew of crunchy snow ear mushrooms, chunks of sweet papaya, and Chinese almonds. Papaya aids in digestion, so it’s something I like to have after a big meal. The frilly white fungus is said to benefit the respiratory system. I have a feeling I’ll be sipping a lot of this sweet soothing brew this winter.

Kulu Desserts, 37-06 Prince St, Flushing, 718-886-3302;  806 62nd St, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn,  718-680-2818; 123 West 3rd St., 212-658-0865

01/03/16 12:29pm

Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal. Queens  continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.

CHERRYDRYNOODLE

Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.

1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.

BIGELOWS2

2.  Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten.  (more…)

11/05/15 10:39am
duriancake

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…)