Manhattan’s Fung Wong is where I tried my first mooncake decades ago.
Last week I paid a visit to Manhattan’s Chinatown with my brother John. The neighborhood has changed much since we used to go there with our father 30 years ago, but some things remain the same, notably the tea parlors and Fung Wong Bakery. The latter is where I used to get blobs of chewy sweet rice cake for dessert after hitting up Wo Hop with my parents. It’s also where I tried my first mooncake.
After John and I caught up over dim sum at Nom Wah, I poked my head into Fung Wong to see dozens of mooncakes lining the case and stacks of red boxes proclaiming, “BEST MOON CAKES IN CHINATOWN N.Y.” Back in Queens, I shared the treat with some dear friends. The filling of fruit paste and preserved duck egg had an old-fashioned feel to it, more of a rough texture than others, whose smoother paste seems more processed. The real thing that set it apart though was the dough itself, which was far less dense and sweeter than any I’ve had in recent memory. (more…)
“We’re here at Flushing’s oldest food court,” I tell my Chinatown tour guests as we stand outside the Golden Shopping Mall before descending the stairs to the gritty wonderland of regional Chinese food. “When I first came here, I had no idea what to order because everything was in Chinese,” I continue.
Once downstairs I point out Chen Du Tian Fu, noting that it has wonderful Sichuan food. Typically we forego the fiery fare at this stall in favor of Helen You’s Tianjin Dumpling House, which is a shame because Stall No. 31, downtown Flushing’s O.G. Sichuan street food specialist, is where a decade ago myself and many other non-Chinese speaking Chinese food nerds had our first experiences with Golden Shopping Mall thanks to a legendary Chowhound post by BrianS that translated the then all Chinese red and yellow wall menu. That translation ultimately led me to bring Chinese food expert and Sichuan food specialist Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Mall in the summer of 2008.
“They’re speaking Sichuan dialect. I love it, Sichuan dialect is so lovely,” Dunlop exclaimed as we tucked into a plate of fu qi fei pian, a tangle of tendon, tripe, and beef bathed in chili oil singing with ma la flavor. In the ten years since my visit with Dunlop, Golden Shopping Mall has been discovered. Zimmern, Bourdain, the Times, even Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien, who I once ran into dining there with his kitchen crew, have all taken a seat at the rickety stools.
Qing tuan, piping hot, each filled with a savory-sweet surprise.
As anyone who talks to me about xiao long bao for more than five minutes knows, my favorite soup dumplings in downtown Flushing can be had at Shanghai specialist Diverse Dim Sum in the New York Food Court. The skin is so thin as to be translucent, and the balance of savory pork and crab broth is perfect, making the little packages a staple on my Flushing Chinatown food tours.
Last week I had a guest with a gluten allergy. I knew the rest of her party would enjoy the soup dumplings, but also wanted to give the gluten-free guest a taste of Shanghai. And that’s where the trio of multihued spheres—purple, green, and yellow—come in. I first noticed them around Easter time and suspected they were a seasonal specialty. Normally I don’t chance trying new things on a food tour, but after learning they were made from rice and various sweet-savory fillings I made an exception. (more…)
Despite the somewhat generic name Sushma Thukral’s New Asian Food Products tucked away on Cherry Avenue just of Kissena Boulevard, has a specialty, Indian food, specifically roti and such vegetarian snacks as savory samosas packed with potatoes and herbs and crunchy fresh fried pakora as well as sweets, chai, and other snacks.
Over the course of my two decades of exploring downtown Flushing, I’ve probably stopped in two or three times, but now thanks to Sixty First Productions and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce I’ll be stopping by more often and have even added it to my food tour itinerary. (more…)
Maddur vada, savory crisps of wheat and rice studded with spices and herbs.
One challenge of leading food tours of downtown Flushing is how best to showcase America’s Greatest Chinatown to Chinese guests. I still remember the day I met the Vanderschoors. Imagine my surprise when I rendezvoused not with a Dutch family, but a Chinese one. “Don’t worry, we’re from San Francisco,” they said. “We don’t know anything about Flushing, you’re the expert.” This brings me to the subject of today’s post: last Saturday’s trio of Indian clients—a lovely married couple who hail from Northern India and a young student from Chennai—and the crunchiest, savoriest Indian snack in downtown Flushing, maddur vada.(more…)
I walked into Old Tang—a new spot just off the bustling corner of Main and Roosevelt in downtown Flushing—at least three times before finally trying the noodles. The first time they were under construction, but the other times I eyed the mise en place and upon seeing minced pickled green beans and fried soybeans asked the same question in my fractured Mandarin Chinese “Giulin ren ma?” And each time the kids behind the counter would patiently respond, “No we’re from Sichuan.” “Ah so, the workers are from Sichuan, but surely the food is from Giulin,” I thought to myself. “I’ll have to come back and try it when I’m not already full from leading a food tour.”
Hun jiang chang fen, aka mixed sauce rice roll noodle.
One of my earliest food memories is shrimp in rice roll noodles at Mei Lei Wah in Chinatown. Slippery, sweet and savory—they sparked a love affair with Chinese food and proved to be good chopstick training.
Served two or three to a plate, cheung fen, whether beef or shrimp remained a dim sum favorite for many years. When I moved to Queens I discovered other varieties, including the wonderful hun jiang chang fen, or mixed sauce rice roll noodle. It’s a simple pleasure consisting of the rolled up noodles, peanut and sweet sauces, and little else. They’ve become a staple of my Flushing Chinatown food tours.(more…)
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons Greetings and all that jazz dear reader. As a public service, C+M presents our very first ultra last-minute holiday gift guide where you’re sure to find something perfect for the food lover in your life.
Uzbek hospitality, League of Kitchens style.
Join The League of Kitchens for a Workshop
There’s a good reason The League of Kitchens sounds like the League of Nations. That’s because it offers a variety of globetrotting cooking workshops—Indian, Lebanese, Japanese, Uzbek to name a few—taught by immigrant home cooks who are eager to share their food, culture, and family recipes with students. A while back I took the Ubzek class and had a blast. League of Kitchens gift certificates may be purchased here. Looking for something to do Christmas Eve? The League still has a few slots open for an immersive vegetarian Indian cooking class.
Give the Gift of an Avant Garde Steakhouse Experience at M. Wells
My love of Chef Hugue Dufour’s cooking at M. Wells Steakhouse—from an aged porterhouse dinner that comes with escargot bone marrow and pomme aligot to such dishes as a venison T-bone and a lovely steak tartare—is no secret. Why not treat your meat eating loved ones with an M. Wells Steakhouse gift certificate? To purchase one call (718) 786-9060. (more…)
As someone who’s constantly devouring the delicious diversity that is Queens it’s possible to become spoiled by choices, even jaded. Luckily for me leading food tours affords an opportunity to turn others on to the culinary delights of Queens. My passion for the borough and its food is rekindled by seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. Which is precisely what happened when I led ace travel blogger Jon Barr on a whirlwind food tour of Jackson aka Himalayan Heights last week.
“It smelled so good the second I stepped off that train and walked down the stairs,” Barr exclaimed as we strolled over to the aptly name Diversity Plaza for our first stop, some Indian chaat. No tour of the hidden gems of Jackson Heights is complete without a visit to Lhasa Fast Food where we feasted upon momo and cold skin sushi.
All told we visited four countries and two continents in under 10 minutes, plus I got to use my Telemundo announcer’s voice. Be sure to check out Jon’s Youtube channel here and click here for my info on my Queens food tours.