“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.
There are many tasty things at Arcadia Mall on the southern end of Main Street in downtown Flushing. A good majority of them—hearty lamb soup dumplings, delicate seabass dumplings, and crunchy fried spare ribs—can be found at Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy. If only Cin Cheese Back Ribs were so so tasty. Sadly the bizarre Chinese Korean rib fondue mashup is not so great. Suffice to say the people who I eat with never leave food on the table. A redemption meal was needed and quick. So Daphne suggested we head over to the Fujianese joint next door for some peanut noodles. (more…)
Fuchsia Dunlop’s account of wrangling with passel of stag pizzle in the latest Lucky Peach is alternately harrowing and humorous. It’s been five years since I took the acclaimed British cook and Chinese food expert to explore Flushing’s Golden Mall, so I thought I’d put my aside my castration anxiety aside and drop the author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, a line. Dunlop who is currently eating her way through Beijing was kind enough to answer Seven Questions. By the way if you want to get really hungry follow her adventures on Instagram.
Are there any misconceptions about Chinese food you’d like to dispel? I’ve spent my entire food-writing career trying to dispel various misconceptions about Chinese food—most of all that it’s unhealthy! Of course if one were to eat deep-fried egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork all the time it wouldn’t be a very healthy diet, but most Chinese home cooking is about rice or other grains with plenty of vegetables and a little meat, fish or poultry. I’ve always been impressed by Chinese knowledge of how to eat for health and happiness (and it’s sad to see how many younger people are now following in the unhealthy food footsteps of the West).
The other misconception is that ‘Chinese food’ is a single cuisine. China is a vast country with an incredible wealth of local and regional culinary traditions. (more…)
Ever wonder what goes on at night inside the neon squiggle festooned former diner that is Flushing’s Lake Pavilion? Well, wonder no more. The Cantonese banquet hall is the subject of a two-star review in this weeks’ New York Times. Gotta give Pete Wells props for trying goose webs and screw clam, which is not a clam, but rather an organ extracted from a sea cucumber.
In case you’ve got a forequarter of beef lying around that you’d like to turn into pastrami this video might come in handy.
I’ve always been fascinated with Rocco’s Calamari in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Now Eating in Translation helps me understand why. Rocco is Calabrese, just like my dear old Ma. (more…)
Hly’s fu qi fei pian is quite the harmonious marriage of offal.
With its ribbons of tongue and tripe slicked with chili oil and romantic back story, fu qi fei pian is one of the most intriguing and delicious cold Sichuan dishes out there. I honestly forget whether I read it in one of her books or whether she told me on a visit to Golden Shopping Mall, but Fuchsia Dunlop says it gets its name, “husband and wife offal slices” from an especially happy couple who created the dish many years ago in Sichuan.
It is commonly listed on menus as ox tongue and tripe in pepper sauce, perhaps to avoid tasteless jokes about cannibalism. There are almost as many versions of this dish in Flushing’s Chinatown as there are Chinese restaurants. The one that makes me happiest these days can be found at at Hly, a newish spot on the southern end of Main Street. Strewn with peanuts and bits of greenery it is plenty spicy but not ridiculously so. Consider it a more refined take on a Chengdu street food classic. Or perhaps an offal lover’s version of the American Chinese stir fry, Happy Family.