The chef recommended I try the No. 12 at the newly opened Burmese bites, shown here unmixed.
Myo Lin Thway and his family who run Burmese Bites at the Queens Night Market, a specialist in palata—airy stuffed roti like bread made by Myo himself—and other goodies like ohno kaukswe, a wonderful coconut chicken noodle soup, have long been one of my favorite stands. I almost always get their noodles or palata on every visit to the market. There’s only one problem; I wish there were more options as well as the ability to get their Burmese cuisine year round. Well, thanks to the crew’s new location, which opened about a week ago in the Queens Center Mall Food Court, a venue better known for Panda Express than Burmese delicacies, both of these problems have been solved.
“What do you have that’s not at the Night Market?” I asked, looking at the roster of more than a dozen dishes. “You should get the Number 12, the shan kaukswe,” he said. “I know you’ll like these noodles because you appreciate Burmese food.”
In addition to the noodles I ordered tea leaf salad, or laphet thoke, a riotous blend of textures and flavors that along with the fish soup mohinga is considered by many to be the national dish of Burma. Just as Myo handed me my food who should I spy taking photos but none other than my dear friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation. (We have been running into each other in my various Queens stamping grounds for years now and Dave joked that we need to develop a bat signal so we can know when an impromptu eatup is about to occur.)
Each dish came in a cardboard takeout box, the components waiting to be mixed. The shan kaukswe container simply labeled “Shan” held rice noodles topped with ground chicken and peanuts surrounded by pea shoots, scallions, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and a little cup of dried chili. I started to mix the lot with fork and spoon, but quickly realized that closing and vigorously shaking the box—albeit carefully—would be more effective. This newly created Shan shake didn’t work so well for the tea leaf salad, which I tossed with utensils.
I’m glad I took Myo’s recommendation. The combination of the noodles along with the salty pickled vegetables, chili, garlic, and other components was utterly transporting. Dave ordered the shrimp curry and mango salad and subbed in tea life rice for white rice. All in all it was a great first meal at Myo’s new digs.
For a long time I’ve groused that the mall’s food court, known as the World’s Fare Café, was hardly deserving of the moniker since it didn’t reflect the delicious diversity of Queens. Now thanks to Burmese Bites along with its newly opened neighbor C Bao, a purveyor of Chinese pork and duck buns, it’s on its way to becoming a food court worthy of the World’s Borough.
Burmese Bites, Queens Center Mall, 90-15 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst
The Chick’n Shack is a worthy alternative to Shake Shack’s hamburgers.
“Really? That’s like going to Peter Luger and getting the salmon,” my pal Robbie told me when I said I was excited to try the chicken sandwich at the newish Shake Shack in the Queens Center. Robbie is a big, big fan of their burgers. Not to say that I’m not, but I seem to be on a fried chicken sandwich kick of late.
As I waited on line a young couple in front of me bantered about the name of the sandwich “Chick’n Shack.” Soon it was time for me to fork over $6.29 for a cage-free buttermilk marinated fried chicken sandwich. As I waited for my sandwich I noticed somebody with a bottle of Louisiana brand hot sauce and immediately grabbed some to doctor up my bird. Shortly thereafter the Shake Shack pager began to vibrate and I picked up my order. (more…)
Truly good Chinese sandwiches are few in and far between in Queens. While the yang rou jiao mou—a spicy cumin lamb sandwich from Xi’an Foods—remains a long-time favorite, the house special pork chop from The Crispy Pancake is my current Chinese sandwich crush. A deep fried pork cutlet topped with lettuce and crowned with a runny fried egg is stacked between two shatteringly crisp pancakes, forming one of the craziest, most delicious Chinese sandwiches in downtown Flushing. (more…)
Spectacular Sichuan street food can be had at No. 25.
“It’s the same thing as New World Mall Food Court,” a local restaurant owner said of downtown Flushing’s latest entrant in the Queens Chinatown food court game. Indeed the first thing one sees when entering the month-old New York Food Court is Tokyo Express, a fake Japanese chicken teriyaki joint that looks suspiciously like the one in New World Mall. And, yes just like at New World Mall Food Court, there’s yet another branch of Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles as well as several spicy stir fry by the pound places, including the ridiculously named Incredibowl. Nonetheless I’ve been able to ferret out some good stuff. Let’s start with Szechuan Taste, No. 25, which lies just beyond the jivey Japanese. (more…)
Tianjin Dumpling House’s snazzy new customizable dumpling menu.
One of the coolest things about Golden Shopping Mall apart from all the delicious regional Chinese food is watching the ebb and flow of the various family run hawker stands. Over the six years I’ve been eating at the labyrinthine Flushing food court there have been stands that keep chugging along—Sichuan specialist Cheng Du Tian Fu and Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup come to mind—and wild success stories like Xi’an Famous Foods.
Lately one of my favorite stands has been Tianjin Dumpling House. Back when I took Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert to the Golden Shopping Mall the most notable thing about the dumplings at what was then called Xie’s Home Cooking, or Xie Jia Tsai, was an off-flavor that Ripert said resembled cigarette ashes. About a year or so Xie’s was rebannered Tianjin Dumpling House. A menu boasting a dozen kinds of dumplings, including the amazing lamb and green squash, was added. And about two weeks ago things got real deep when my friend Helen rolled out a customizable dumpling menu. For a mere $5 a dozen (a buck extra for shrimp or fish) you can design your own dumplings, which are freshly made and steamed on the spot. Some folks—not me, mind you—might call them bespoke dumplings. (more…)
Noodle Village’s rice rolls are a sweet chewy delight.
“I never get anything else there,” she said, “because my inner six-year-old makes a bee line for the rice rolls.” We were talking about Noodle Village So Good, a stall just at the bottom of the escalator in New World Mall, which traffics in congees, soups, and noodles, with a side line in xiao long bao. I told her that as a six-year old I’d eaten my fair share of shrimp and pork chang fan at Mei Lai Wah Coffee House in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I’d always thought of them as more of snacky type meal than a treat, but I could tell from the way she spoke about them Noodle Village’s rice rolls fell clearly in the treat category. (more…)
A potage of poultry and potatoes sits atop a bed of hand-pulled noodles.
Dà pán jī—or “big tray of chicken” is a Henanese dish I’ve been meaning to try for some time. I’d forgotten all about dà pán jī until I started seeing it at the New World Mall Food Court, notably at the purple curvilinear stand Stew where it goes by the rather ungainly yet specific English name “chicken potato noodle.” For an additional four bucks one can procure beef, lamb, or fish potato noodle. As I snapped a photo of the Chinese language sign for the dish, which shows Stew’s chef giving a thumbs up and some characters that likely translate to “Best big tray of chicken in the free world,” my friend from the neighboring Stall No. 28 waved me over. (more…)
Surely this is the subtlest Sichuan seafood soup ever.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
When it comes to Sichuan dumplings two words spring to mind: chili oil. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a subtle wonton soup at Szechuan Dish in the New World Mall Food Court. The stall serves what are to my mind the best Sichuan noodles in New York City and its exquisite cold dishes, including cucumbers in chili and surprisingly smoky strips of gluten, are a staple of my Flushing food tours.
On the picture menu, where all the others item are tinted a fiery red, haĭ weì chāo shoŭ ($7), looks out of place. Although there’s no chili to be found in seafood flavor wonton soup, it has a steady buzz of spice thanks to black and white pepper. And there are so many delicate (more…)
Not a doughnut: Fluffy, light medu vada from Thali.
Taste of India and Thali are located smack in the middle of the food court in Jersey City’s Newport Centre Mall. But they’re worlds apart from the usual greased-up, Americanized mall food joints. (After all, Jersey City has a huge South Asian community, so the folks frequenting this food court know the good stuff from the rest.)
A chaat a day keeps the doctor away: Taste of India’s exceptionally light bhel puri.
Skip the steam table filled with the usual bright-hued, oil-slicked sub-continental fare and order a la carte. Taste of India’s bhel puri combines diced tomato, onion, boiled potato, and cilantro tossed with peanuts, puffed rice, crunchy fried bits, salty-fiery spices, and a tangy-spicy-sweet duo of chutneys. The ultra-flavorful chutneys are the secret here. If you’ve never tried mint chutney that actually tastes like mint, you’re in for a real treat.
For a more substantial snack, try the dahi puri—a North Indian spin on pani purithat replaces spicy water with tangy yogurt and that same zesty blend of chutneys and spices. It’s easily the best version of this chaat (that I’ve found) in New York. (more…)
Chatime food court, home to Flushing’s fiercest fried chicken rivalry.
Once upon a time not too long ago on the corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue in New York City’s most magical Chinatown there was a food court that went by the name Savor Fusion. Its overlord was a distinguished Taiwanese gent named Bobby Lee, who looked like he just stepped out of a Hong Kong gangster flick. Depending on the day’s vibe, the mustachioed Bobby was either chilling with his attractive and much younger wife, getting into a fracas with rowdy patrons, or giving out fruit to his handpicked roster of vendors who represented cooking styles from all over China. One thing was always certain though, excellent food turned out by two female chefs.
Mind and palate-blowing Sichuan fare—dan dan mian, spicy fried fish, and all manner of spicy pickles—was the specialty of the charmingly gruff Zhū Dà Jiě. Home-style Taiwanese chow, including lovely salt and pepper fried chicken, was the province of the equally gruff matriarch of Taipei Hong. Sadly Savor Fusion is no more, but Zhū Dà Jiě. now has her own restaurant, which is quite excellent. Taipei Hong and its magnificent chicken were but a distant memory. I’d given up all hope of ever tasting it again. Then one day I ran into the chef on Roosevelt Avenue. I’d already eaten a substantial meal at the New World Mall, but she insisted on showing me her new joint. (more…)