01/03/16 12:29pm

Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal. Queens  continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.

CHERRYDRYNOODLE

Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.

1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.

BIGELOWS2

2.  Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten.  (more…)

12/28/15 10:05am
pozole2

Meet pozole’s spicier cousin, pozole rojo.

Pozole, the Mexican pork and hominy soup is a renowned hangover cure. Like many of the best such remedies—Korea’s samgyetang and seolleongtang come to mind—it’s a season it yourself situation.  Served with diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper it’s a nice pick-me-up. I like the pork and corn concoction  well enough, but no matter how much seasoning I add it never has the incendiary heat I so often crave. That’s why I’m glad I happened upon pozole rojo at Taqueria Coatzingo. (more…)

12/14/15 11:16am
c-momo

C-momo come with onions and peppers, just like Tex-Mex fajitas.

I’ve often thought of the sizzle platter—a cast iron oval set in a wooden block—as a gimmick. Designed to make diners ooh and aah with its sputtering and hissing, it’s akin to fried ice cream or the show put on by a teppanyaki grill man. I can count the number of times I’ve ordered sizzling fajitas, precisely once. But when I heard of the sizzling C-momo at Spicy Tibet I couldn’t resist. Whether fried or chive-filled I have a weakness for the dumplings that are the hamburgers of the Himalayas. (more…)

12/02/15 11:32pm
Best spicy pork porridge ever!

Best spicy pork porridge ever!

“So it’s a bowl of rice and a soup with any of these?” I asked the waitress at Zabb Elee as I perused the 20-deep roster of rice soup that runs from such items as “salted eggs spicy salad” and “pickled cabbage spicy salad” to “ground pork omelet” and “deep fried pork with garlic and pepper.” I went with the latter and chose pandanus rice, not sure whether I’d be delivered a soup with spicy pork in it or not. (more…)

11/01/15 10:44pm
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Chu-tse momo are packed with chives.

Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Himalayan Heights Food Tour. Tucked away behind a cell phone store, it’s a veritable Shangrila of Tibetan cooking. Last year the hidden restaurant’s beef dumplings took home the coveted Golden Momo, the trophy awarded to the best momo in the annual Momo Crawl. Juicy and scented with Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese celery the little packages are made to order and well worth the wait. The other day I discovered a secret momo being served at this momo speakeasy: chu-tse momo. (more…)

10/05/15 1:29pm

The meganightmarket/food hall known as Bourdain Night Market that will rise on Chelsea’s Pier 57 development in some two years is being hailed as the most exciting development in the food scene since white people, including myself and Tony B., discovered Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Anthony Bourdain and Stephen Werther have tapped some major talent, including hawker food expert KF Seetoh and The Street Vendor Project—the nonprofit behind the Vendy Awards—to curate a dozen stalls. I’m excited to try Singapore’s Geylang Claypot Rice and the uni tostadas from Sabina Bandar of Ensenada, Mexico.
“It will be all transparent and authentic…not sterile, but chaotic in a good way, with hawkers and vendors and places to eat,” Bourdain tells Florence Fabricant in last week’s Times. “Where in this city can you have that?” Where indeed!!?? Why Queens, of course. Without further ado here are seven spots we’d love to see find a home in Bourdain Market.

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1. La Esquina del Camaron Mexico
Pedro Rodriguez is a mixologist of sorts, but instead of mescal or tequila his cocktails contain shrimp and octopus. His Mexican seafood cocktail mise en place includes olive oil, limes, onions, cilantro, avocado, and a tomato-based sauce. Doctored up with a goodly splashe of Valentina hot sauce and served with saltines, a cup of his signature creation brimming with tender octopus and shrimp is a meal in itself. Rodriguez operates out of a sparkling clean kitchen in a bodega on Roosevelt Avenue. Lately he’s branched out to include other delicacies like octopus tostadas. La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, 80th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (347) 885-2946 (more…)

09/15/15 2:26pm

yakcheese

There are cheeses out there that prove challenging to some palates and sensibilities, most notably the infamous casu marzu, or Sardinian maggot cheese which is actually quite tasty. And then there are the so-called stinky cheeses Tallegio and its odiferous brothers all which I find quite lovely. The most challenging two cheeses I’ve personally encountered are from Tibet. Both are made from yak milk. (more…)

08/12/15 10:25am

It’s been a while since I’ve had sandwiches de miga, the dainty crustless Argentine triple deckers. Leave it to Youtube to stoke my hunger for them. La Cocina del Sandy makes several, including a lovely looking one with one ham and, hardboiled eggs, and pimento.

Before getting down to sandwich making she goes over miga mise en place—ham, roasted peppers, cheese, eggs, etc.—and then spends a good two minutes describing how to prepare a special mayonnaise in which manteca plays a crucial role. My Spanish is just good enough for me to understand some of what she says, but not good enough to understand the entire recipe.  All of which makes me very glad to live just a short subway ride away from La Nueva Bakery in Jackson Heights.

 

08/06/15 4:23pm

“Wow, you like hot oil,” more than one waiter at the Chinese joint in Levittown would say to my father when he requested a small dish of the stuff. “Hot oil make you live a long time.” Earlier this week Time published an article citing a link between eating fiery food and longevity, based on a study of about 500,000 Chinese.

Lu Qi, the author of the study writes “It appears that increasing your intake moderately, just to 1-2 or 3-5 times a week, shows very similar protective effect,” he says. “Just increase moderately. That’s maybe enough.” Based on that statement I might just live forever. With further ado, please enjoy this list of C+M’s favorite spicy foods in Queens.

PLANTLOVESUMMER

1. Kuai tiao Summer, Plant Love House
I may no longer order my food Thai spicy. , but the bowl of Kuai tiao that goes by the name Summer ($12.95) at Plant Love House, remains the most incendiary Thai noodle soup I have ever slurped. “Summer. The heat is real. Dare you to try,” reads a menu insert with a picture of this blazingly hot take on tom yum. A gigantic prawn lolls in the red broth along with a hard-boiled egg, bacon, and a home-made sweet pork patty. The latter is a good counterpoint to the spicy broth which has an undertone of lime, chili, and garlic. There’s a nice smokiness from the bacon, but above all there’s the unmistakable flamethrower heat that comes from plenty of red chilies. Plant Love House, 86-08 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, 718-565-2010

Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.

2. Sandheko wai wai, Dhaulaghiri Kitchen
Whenever I try to characterize Nepali food, I find myself saying, “It’s like Indian food but spicier and different.” Sandheko Wai Wai ($3.50), a Nepalese chaat made from crushed ramen noodles fits both descriptors. The noodles are mixed with onions, raw garlic, tomatoes, red pepper, and plenty of green chilies, among other things. Crunchy and spicy it will have you mopping your brow. Dhaulagiri Kitchen, 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights (more…)

07/19/15 10:38pm
OCTOTACO

La Esquina Del Camaron’s octopus taco.

Fish tacos are tricky business. The batter fried ones are OK, but to this eater they seem like little more than fish and chips gone South of the Border. I prefer my fish tacos with a batter and a hard fry like they do at Tortilleria Nixtamal, where they use skate wing. The other day though I encountered a kind of seafood taco I never tried, octopus tacos. (more…)