03/11/14 10:15am
LIANGPI

Cold skin noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods are as spicy and refreshing as ever.

Way back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods had but one location, in what I like to call the 36th Chamber of the Golden Shopping Mall. It was presided over by an affable gent who went by the nom de cuisine Liang Pi, after his signature dish liang pi, cold skin noodles. Today it’s become a mini empire with five locations, upscale sister restaurant Biang, and a Brooklyn commissary.

Back in the day the most notable design elements were rickety folding stools and 100-pound bags of wheat flour arrayed like sandbags along the back wall. “My name is Liang Pi,” he would proudly say as he ladled out the dish. Many of his customers came from the same region and seemed absolutely thrilled to find  a dish from back home in Queens. Legions of hungry regional Chinese cuisine fiends were pretty thrilled too. I’d never tasted anything like cold skin noodles before: squidgy, porous blocks of wheat gluten and chewy ribbons of wheat starch, tossed with bean sprouts, cilantro, slivers of cucumber and a “secret sauce” made from sesame paste, vinegar, and chili oil, among other things. “I have it for breakfast at least three times a week,” one fan told me. (more…)

01/22/14 3:43pm

When I was lad there was no such thing as a “polar vortex,” we called it winter—and reveled in it. Decades of relatively mild winters have spoiled me and many other New Yorkers. As a public service to help you thaw out from Winter Storm Janus, C+M presents a bone-warming roster of some of our favorite soups in Queens from Long Island City to Flushing, and points in between.

YUNNANPORKRICESOUP

1. Yunnan rice noodle soup with pork at Crazy Crab
Find this lovely bowl at New York City’s only crab shack/Burmese/Yunnanese  spot. Warm up with tender chunks of pork and a spicy broth enlivened by a fresh squeeze of lime. It’s a taste of Southwestern China by way of Flushing. Not a bad deal at all, for $8.99.  Crazy Crab 888,40-42 College Point Blvd, Flushing 718-353-8188

MUTONKOTSU

2. Tonkotsu 2.0 at Mu Ramen
When the sun goes down and it’s brick cold out, head to over to Bricktown Bagels, which turns into Long Island City’s only ramen-ya. Joshua Smookler’s Tonkotsu 2.0 ($15) is made from six different types of pork bones, including shanks that cook for more than 20 hours. Topped with a slick of mayu (black garlic oil) and wobbly bits of tontoro (pork jowl), the soup is rich and complex. Best of all it has plenty of marrow thanks to all those shanks. Mu Ramen, 51-06 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Tues-Sat 6:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (more…)

12/30/13 2:50pm

As 2013 draws to a close rather than offer up a list of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M offers a list of 20 of our favorite posts, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, sandwiches, mashups, secret eats and deliciousness begin.

Crazy Crab’s Yunnan special sliced pork salad.

1. Best use of Pig Face
Crazy Crab’s Yunnanese pig face salad is a spicy sour, salty, and unabashedly funky showcase for swatches of cool, slightly chewy pig skin.

2. Best Fizzy Water for Gluttons
Apart from being the preferred beverage of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin the selling point of Borjomi, a Georgian sparkling mineral water, is that it “Gets rid of unnecessaries,” or as expressed in more forthright language elsewhere on the company web site, “Borjomi also improves functioning of intestines and supports slag excretion.”

3. Flushing’s Cheapest Veggie Burger
The $1.25 cài bĭng at Super Snack, a counter just outside Golden Shopping Mall is packed with crunchy piquant mustard greens and is as fine a snack as any.

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11/13/13 10:16am
CAIBING

Behold the Chinese veggie burger!

“I’ve walked by this place dozens, maybe hundreds of times, until I finally tried it.” It’s a common refrain on my Flushing Chinatown food tours, as we stop at White Bear or Soybean Flower Chen. And so it goes with the $1.25 cài bĭng that I found yesterday at the purple-awninged Super Snack, a counter just outside the 41st Road entrance of the Golden Shopping Mall. I’ve been seeing the veggie sandwiches around for years, and recall Calvin Trillin writing about a similar one in Manhattan’s Chinatown years ago. At $1.25 this “vegetable cake,” is more expensive than the nearby $1 Peking duck sandwich from Corner 28, though arguably better for one’s health. The slightly doughy flatbread is packed with crunchy piquant mustard greens and is as fine a snack as any. It’s the cheapest , tastiest  veggie sandwich I’ve ever had in Flushing.

Super Snack, 41-28 Main St., Flushing, (718) 886-2294

11/04/13 9:43am
BIG-TRAY

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…)

07/15/13 10:30am

ASG-SMALLPUMAS-2a

The Puma from Tortas Neza is big enough to feed your entire team.

Despite the Mets colors that I often fly I like to say that I’m more of a Queens fan than a fan of the beleaguered ball club. One thing that I’m surely a fan of is my home borough’s diverse and delicious food. So as a public service to baseball fans—native New Yorkers and tourists alike—I devote this week’s edition of The Seven to a lineup of places to eat before and after the 2013 MLB All-Star Game being held tomorrow night at Citi Field at 7:30 p.m.   (more…)

06/27/13 10:11am

Uncle John’s hot links are revelatory.

Did you know Flushing’s Hunan House has had a sister restaurant hard by Grand Central Terminal for two years? Ligaya Mishan explores the salty, smoky, sour delights at Hunan Manor.

The Times has an interesting piece on the combination of two frosty summertime treats: ice cream and beer, including the amazing sounding “three-hops ice cream with chunks of upside-down cake baked with candied pineapple, tangerine zest and hop leaves.”

Max Falkowitz pens a love letter to Tianjin Dumpling House in Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. The primary object of his affection: the excellent lamb and green squash dumplings. (more…)

06/21/13 12:48pm
xxxxxx

Guess who’s the ‘de facto food critic of Queens?’

Back in February I had the pleasure of taking Andrew Zimmern on a whirlwind private tour of Queens’ culinary gems. Our day started in Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights and wound up at Maima’s Liberian Bistro in Jamaica. I’m stoked to watch the Queens episode of Bizarre Foods America when it airs next month. What I’m even more excited about though is that the bizarre one went on record in Delta Sky Mag, to declare Queens “the king of the American food scene.” Not only that, Zimmern dubbed me the borough’s “de facto food critic.” (more…)

06/05/13 10:00am
The unfortunately named Chinger opened about two a month ago.

The unfortunately named Chinger opened about a month ago.

Xi’an Famous Foods, with its Silk Road inflected fare featuring plenty of cumin-laced lamb and flatbreads, has been such a success story that it was only a matter of time before copycats started emerging. Nobody has been bold enough to bootleg the entire concept. A couple of places have tried their hand at rou jia mou, the Chinese flatbread sandwiches that David “Liang Pi” Shi used to tell me were “Chinese hamburgers” back when Xi’an Famous Foods’ operation was limited to a humble stall in the 36th Chamber  of the Golden Shopping Mall. The worst copycat Chinese burger I’ve had tasted more or less like a lamb sloppy joe. And the best comes from a newish place in Elmhurst named Chinger.The shop’s name, an unfortunate portmanteau of Chinese and a mispelling of burger, sounds vaguely like a racist epithet or a Mexican cuss word. (more…)

05/29/13 9:52am
Fried crullers wrapped in eggyfried flatbread.

Fried crullers wrapped in an eggy fried pancake

The other day I walked through Golden Shopping Mall, stopping to peer at the picture menu at Cheng Du Tian Fu and waving hello to the ladies at Xi’an Famous Foods, and Tian Jin Dumpling House. I left without ordering anything. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Since I’m always on the lookout for new dishes I patrol the food court’s grotty corridors weekly. It was breakfast time and I was hungry, but nothing really struck my fancy.

So I headed over to Oriental Express Food, which lies a few storefronts south. The name on the sign—which features a locomotive chugging its way across a bowl of soup—is the only English in the joint. I headed to the last stall in the back, a hawker of thick scallion pancakes the size of manhole covers and other specialties from Tianjin. (more…)