Edible Americana meets Japanese culinary tradition.
Those unfamiliar with Keizo Shimamoto, the man behind the Smorgasburg sensation known as the Ramen Burger—which sandwiches a beef patty between two noodly buns—might think the Japanese chef is no ramen purist. Anyone who’s been to Ramen Shack, his modest restaurant hard by the Queensbridge, Houses can attest to Shimamoto’s ramen reverence though.
Shimamoto serves what he calls “ramen inspired ramen,” and the other day I came really close to having a steaming bowl of his classic shoyu. With spring somewhat in the air though, I flipped the menu over to the B side where I spied Burger Ramen ($12), a soupless bowl I’ve been meaning to try for some time.(more…)
Winter’s cold and the attendant coughing and sniffling always call for a good bowl of spicy soup, and Thai noodle soup always fits the bill. Today a look at two of my new favorites: one a Japanese take on Thai green curry and the other an everything but the kitchen sink Thai pork soup.
First up the Queensmatic Green Curry ($17) from Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, which is an ajitama’s throw away from where Nas came up in the Queensbridge houses. Shimamoto learned to make a similar green curry ramen while working at Tokyo’s Bassanova Ramen. His curry paste hums with the flavors of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and bird’s eye chilies. At first I considered adding some chili oil, but as the heat pleasantly mounted I decided against it. (more…)
As a friend likes to point out, summer—with its steamy humidity and lazy beach days—is far from over. With that in mind here are seven of my favorite international frozen treats from Indonesian and Thai shaved ices and South American slushies to old-school American ice cream for you to enjoy
1. Pitaya nieves, Los Poblanos Grocery Nieves, literally snows, are a wonderful frozen Mexican treat. With flavors like lip-puckering tamarind; refreshing melon; and jamaica, or tart hibisicus flowers, it’s easy to think of them as a frozen version of the auguas frescas that many vendors lining Roosevelt Avenue sell. There are many nieves sellers on La Roosie, but thankfully my peeps at Food & Footprints turned me on to one the best, Los Poblanos Grocery. On my first visit I had a jamaica, scarlet and refreshing and on my second, I had pitaya, better known as prickly pear. The tart red snow was shot through with crunchy seeds making it even more fun to eat. Los Poblanos Grocery, 92-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights
2. Naem kaeng sai, Teacup Cafe
When I was a kid I was always jealous of one of my cousins who had the Snoopy Sno Cone machine. We never played with it, no doubt because the novelty had worn off. I trace my fascination with shaved ice to that unrequited desire for frozen confections. Now that I’m all grown up, there’s no better way for me to fulfill that childhood wish than Thai shaved ice or naem kang sai. As served at Teacup Cafe, it has enough sugar and toppings for a kid’s birthday party.
First choose your syrup—red or green—and then pick from eleven toppings. The red syrup, an artificial take on the sala fruit is floral and ultrasweet as is the green, which resembles cream soda. Toppings include taro, black grass jelly, pudding, corn, mixed fruit, coconut, palm seeds, red beans, toddy palm seeds, jackfruit, and popping bubbles. Three toppings will run you $4, but for the princely sum of $5.50 you can get all of the toppings. The result is an arctic explosion of colors, textures, and flavors.Teacup Cafe, 76-23 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, Phone: (718) 426-2222(more…)
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.
1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
2. Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp, minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate. Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181(more…)
If you’re anything like me—and I suspect you are if you read my musings about food and culture in Queens—you might still be struggling about what to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow. Rejoice procrastinators and noncooks! Japan has come to your rescue in the form of pumpkin creme brulee KitKats. Let me say that again “Pumpkin Crème Brûlée KitKats!”
Savor Ejen’s Korean noodles at the Mid-Autumn Asian Feastival.
Queens has long been home to New York City’s real Chinatown. In addition to tons of top-notch regional Chinese food the borough boasts some of the best Asian food in New York City. That’s why C+M is proud to partner with LIC Flea & Food for the first-ever Mid-Autumn Asian Feastival being held all this weekend from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Join us to experience the flavors of Korea, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand at this very special festival. There’s only one place this weekend to enjoy Indian dosa, Taiwanese fried chicken, Korean noodles, Indonesian satay, and Japanese ramen and that’s the Feastival! (more…)
When it comes to Chinese frozen desserts I’m half traditionalist/half adventurous. Shaved ice gets a resounding yes—whether the granular form or the fluffy one that’s been showing up at spots like Snow Days. Ice rice, which my pal Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine said seemed disgusting also get the nod. Novelties like the ubiquitous rolled ice cream are simply that, good for Instagram hits and little else. (more…)
I consider myself lucky to procure the occasional green tea Kit Kat. It’s a Japanese variety of Nestle’s popular candy bar. And in that country Kit Kat are really, really popular. There are scores and scores of oddball flavors: cherry, blueberry cheesecake, brandy and orange, red bean and matcha shaved ice, maple, sports drink, and wasabi.
My good friend William shared some of that last flavor with me the other day. He brought back a box of minis from a recent trip to Japan. The package bears the familiar red-and-white logo and the slogan “Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” There all similarity ends, for one thing there’s the word “wasabi,” and a whole bunch of Japanese on the inside of the box, which extols wasabia japonica’s white flowers and talks about how it was first cultivated 400 years ago.
So how does it taste? Crunchy and creamy with just the slightest hint of wasabi. Wondering why Kit Kat are so popular in Japan? The candy’s name sounds like “kitto katsu,” an expression associated with good luck. I consider myself lucky to have tried the wasabi ones, and look forward to eventually getting to Japan to try others.
Butter makes everything better, including miso ramen.
“Oh, wow you guys have food now!?” I said to Takashi Ikezawa owner of Resobox a Japanese cafe, gallery, and cultural center in Long Island City, as I glanced at the ramen roster. I was glad to see Resobox, which offers classes in everything from flower arranging and Samurai sword to manga drawing for kids, finally serving ramen, itself an integral part of Japanese culture. I grabbed my coffee and made a mental note to return for some ramen. (more…)
Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.
Curating Smorgasburg Queens with its melting pot of international vendors ranging from The Arepa Lady and Celebes Bakar Indonesian Grill to luxe offerings like the lobster rolls from Brine by Danny Brown has been a real hoot. What’s even more fun for me though is eating there.
One Saturday I went full on Andrew Zimmern: balut from Papa’s Kitchen for starters, papaya salad with black crab from Qi, Snowy Durian from my friends at KULU Desserts. While I’m partial to the hallacas—sweet and savory Ecuadorean tamales—from Son Foods, my favorite eating experience at Smorgasburg Queens has to be Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack.
To step behind the curtain and take a seat at Keizo’s counter is to enter another world, somewhat more serene than the rest of the market, but no less delicious. Both of the hot soups I have tried have been most excellent, but my top pick might be the seafood broth based cold noodles. So, tell me, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Smorgasburg Queens?
Smorgasburg Queens, 43-29 Crescent St., Long Island City