05/20/14 10:46am
PLOYMK1

There’s a reason miang kana is number one on the chef’ specialties.

“Do you have miang kum?” I asked the chef of Ploy Thai. She was chatting outside the kitchen door chatting with her staff. I don’t usually accost chefs while the gates are still down, but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends who were joining me for a Thai food crawl in Elmhurst. My Thai is beyond limited, but I definitely  heard her say something with the word miang. I was very excited to introduce my pals to the savory flavor bomb that is miang kum—dried shrimp, tiny skin on lime wedges, chilies, peanuts, dried shredded coconut, and a sugary fish sauce spiked paste—designed to be wrapped up in a leaf and enjoyed. (more…)

02/20/14 12:13am
NOODLEBOTACTION1

Flushing’s Noodlebot and his caretakers are local celebrities.

There are more than a half dozen places in downtown Flushing’s teeming Chinatown to observe the magic of noodle-making. I love to marvel at X’ian Famous Foods hand-ripped biang biang mian, the pulling and stretching of Lanzhou Noodles into thin strands, and the long broad noodles of Su Xiang Yuan. I’ve never seen anything quite like Ultraman Spaceman Knife-Cut Noodles 奥特慢太空人刀削面 though.

This newish stall in the Flushing Mall Food Court takes its name from the 1960s Japanese sci-fi series Ultraman. According to Wikipedia, the pointy headed silver spaceman has more than 20 super powers, including Spacium Ray, Ultra Psychokinesis, and Ultra Slash. Making knife-shaved noodles is not on the list of super powers, but it’s clearly an adaption of Ultra Slash. Let’s watch our hero in action (courtesy of my pal, Colin Goh) shall we? (more…)

02/07/14 9:33am
BUNNY

What’s up, Doc?

One of things I love most about bringing food tours to Korean megamarket Assi Plaza, is browsing the meat case. In addition to lovely cuts of short rib and pork belly for tabletop grilling there’s plenty of offal, from snout to pizzle. And then there’s this, to ggi, or wild rabbit with a graphic of Bugs Bunny on the label. Many thanks to Instagrammer HUNGRY_EYE. To submit your delicious finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY. And while you’re at it, check me out on Instagram, joedistefanoqns.

01/24/14 12:49pm
FLUSHINGSNOW

Tuesday was as fine a winter’s day as any for a food tour.

What do you when duty calls and your battlefield is in the grips of a polar vortex? Well if your duty is to give food tours of America’s tastiest Chinatown, you soldier on. Which is precisely what I did Tuesday  morning when I showed a couple around Downtown Flushing. There was no way I was going to cancel on them, particularly since they’d travelled from Buffalo, a burg notorious for snowfall. To submit your delicious and/or snowy  finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY. And while you’re at it, check me out on Instagram, joedistefanoqns.

08/30/13 9:59am
BAUL

Baul Daada, fabled chaat mixologist, and friend.

I’ve dubbed the sector of Jackson Heights bounded by 72 and 74 Streets, between Roosevelt and 37th Avenues, Himalayan Heights due its profusion of Tibetan and Nepalese  eateries. There are now three carts specializing in momo, the steamed dumplings beloved by all members of the Himalayan diaspora. My tendency is to downplay the area’s remaining Indian restaurants, but the truth is that those few blocks of Jackson Heights are a rich tapestry of interwoven ethnic enclaves. There’s even a Little Bangladesh on 73 Street. It’s favorite part of my food tours of the neighborhood,particularly when the Baul Daada Jaal Muri shop is open. (more…)

08/20/13 12:28pm
HK1

The Himalayan culinary diaspora has moved southward to Elmhurst.

In the days before air flight a journey from Indonesia to Tibet required a boat ride across the Bay of Bengal and a trek through Burma, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, all told a distance of some 3,000 miles. In Queens—where time and space bend in strange, delicious ways—the two countries lie just down the street from one another. Or at least they do now that Himalaya Kitchen opened its doors a few days ago.

I first noticed Himalaya Kitchen the other day on a stretch of Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst better known for serving Indonesian fried chicken than Tibetan dumplings. I was leading a trek of my own, a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights. We’d already eaten plenty, plus the plan was to have those dumplings, or momo, at one of my favorite secret spots in Himalayan Heights. So I made a mental note to return to the new spot, which represents the southernmost Tibetan eatery in Queens. (more…)

08/15/13 9:54am
Mohammed Malik traveled to Jackson Heights to feast on Pakistani offal for his 25th birthday.

Mohammed traveled to Queens to feast on Pakistani offal for his 25th birthday.

Hey Joe I saw you on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern eating that Pakistani dish. My parents are from Pakistan and I haven’t had the opportunity to try tawa kata-kat. I can’t find the name of the restaurant so I can go there. Can you please provide me the name and address? I will be visiting New York this coming Saturday for my 25th birthday. Thanks.
Mohammed Malik, St. Louis, Mo.

Young man, enthusiastic offal eaters like you are the future of our nation. Tawa kata-kat, the fry up of goat brains, kidneys, and heart seasoned with ginger and chili can be had at Kababish, 70-64 Broadway, Jackson Heights, (718) 565-5131. (more…)

06/21/13 10:02am
The Andean delicacy cuy is one of the shop's many items from South and Central America.

Cuy is one of the shop’s many items from South and Central America.

Earlier this week I took my pal Don Magee and his buddy on a multicultural tour of Roosevelt Avenue. The plan was to start out at Tortas Neza and work our way through South and Central America to Tibet. When I got to 111th and Roosevelt my fellow fearless fressers were there but the Tortas Neza truck was nowhere in sight. To make up for it, I added in a visit to Los Paisanos.  I had forgotten how amazing the Jackson Heights market devoted to products from the various “paisas” in Latin America is. Mexican hot chocolate, Peruvian hot peppers, and many, many other things are featured in the display window.  Most intriguing of all was a hand-written pink sign that read, “TENEMOS CUY.” (more…)

05/05/13 9:52am
Try adifferent kinm

A Mexican cocktail of a different kind for Cinco de Mayo.

Sometimes I’m convinced that Cinco de Mayo was invented by Cervecería Modelo to promote Corona. That’s just one reason why I’m spending it in the Bronx eating Bengali food.  For those of you who don’t have plans yet or don’t like drinking frozen margaritas and dining on rice, beans, and mystery meat covered in cheese I have a suggestion. Grab a few friends and take a nice walk in the spring sunshine on La Roosie, as the locals like to call the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that runs through Jackson Heights and Corona.

Start out with a Mexican style ceviche from La Esquina de Camaron Mexicano, Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. Watch as Pedro the ceviche mixologist  fills a plastic cup with your choice of seafood: shrimp, octopus, or both. To the protein he adds a pour of a tomato-based concoction, olive oil, diced onions, avocado, salt, and hot sauce. Don’t forget to crumble some saltines over the top before digging in. If ceviche, or a “coktel,” as Pedro calls it, isn’t your thing head over to the nearby Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave. for a weekend special: barbacoa de chivo, slow roasted young goat available in a taco or a platter with consommé and rice and beans. Stop by Panaderia Coatzingo next door for a cinnamon and sugar dusted concha to munch on your walk.

Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.

Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.

As you continue down La Roosie with shafts of light dancing on the street from the elevated train you’ll soon enter Little Ecuador. Its epicenter is Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue, right by the Junction Boulevard stop on the 7. The corner and Warren Street are lined with food trucks and carts offering a staggering amount of pork, both roasted and fried. The ladies who run the cart called La Esquina del Sabor—the corner of flavor—will gladly offer up a sample of fritada, toothsome fried pork. Ten bucks buys a plate of pork with potatoes, fat starchy kernels of mote corn, and crunchy toasted maiz cancha. Need to cool off?  Hit up El Bohio,  98-17 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, for an old school Dominican shaved ice. My go-to is the fresa or raspberry ice ($3.50 for a large cup) with leche condensada. If you’re still in need of refreshment there’s a Dominican dude who hangs out around 104th St. selling fresh tropical fruits and drinks.  These include ginormous young coconuts ($5) that he will gladly hack open with his trusty machete. (more…)

04/12/13 9:39am
Chinese crullers and soy milk are a favorite breakfast in china and Flushing.

Chinese crullers and soy milk are a favorite breakfast in China and Flushing.

Even though I am constantly munching during my food tours I always make sure to have a small meal beforehand. That’s because if my blood sugar drops, then it becomes the moody foodie death march, and that’s not good for anyone. One of my favorite pregame meals is a very traditional Chinese breakfast of crullers, or yóutiáo, and soy milk. I like to dip the absurdly long doughnut into the warm, nutty soy milk.  Incidentally yóutiáo translates to “oil strip.” The other morning I noticed that they are sold from Tianjin Xianbing the stall in the front window of Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. I love how they are stacked like a game of doughnut Jenga.

Tianjin Xianbing, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main Street, Stall D1, Flushing