China’s Hunan province is renowned for its fiery cuisine, so much so that’s there’s even a classic folk song “La Mei Zi,” or “spicy girl,”from the region. A savvy C+M reader tipped me off to this rousing video by superstar Chinese soprano Song Zuying. Much as I enjoy hearing her sing the title refrain I am even more amused by the proliferation of hot peppers and the reckless abandon with which they are handled. There’s enough chili peppers in this video to keep the Sriracha plant in business for a year.
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…)
Apparently Old Master Fu Zi liked his pork belly and his chilies.
Last night I had dinner in Flushing with two fellow food writers at a newish Sichuan restaurant that shall remain nameless for the purposes of this dispatch. Almost everything we ordered was stunning save for one item. As luck would have it, it was the one dish that I, Queens’ foremost Caucasian expert on Asian food insisted on ordering. I expected a pork belly creation like the one pictured above. To be sure what came to the table was pork belly in a steamer, but all resemblance ended there. For one thing it looked like a washed up version of mofongo and tasted rather like an English school lunch sitting atop bland mashed peas. The entire lot had been steamed into flavorless submission.
What I’d expected was something like a dish I’d had at Hunan House a while back: xiang shan ma la fu zi rou, or “Hunan house Old Master Fuzi meat dish.” It consists of pork belly and rice powder steamed for so long that the rice powder has melded with the pork fat, and vice versa. Each slice of the fanned out pork belly is rich and unctuous and can just barely retain its form. It’s tasty, but superfatty, which is where those pickled chilies come in. It’s the type of thing that’s best eaten with rice and shared with more than one person.
As for the nameless Sichuan restaurant, all I can say is not every dish can be a winner. It was just such a shock to see such a weirdly lackluster dish emerge from an otherwise accomplished kitchen. And it was of course a slight slow to my ego. I suppose such occupational hazards are part and parcel of being The Guy Who Ate Queens.