An especially happy Thai meal from Khao Kang. Clockwise from bottom left: fish with eggplant and green beans, spicy pork ribs, and caramelized pork with fish sauce.
Elmhurst, Queens, my fair borough’s second, smaller more Southeast Asian Chinatown—after the sprawling wonderland of deliciousness that is downtown Flushing— is slowly awakening from pandemic slumber. In addition to Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants and shops, the neighborhood is home to the largest concentration of real deal regional Thai cuisine in all of New York City. Many of the shops and restaurants that have been regular stops on my food tours over the years are starting to reopen for takeout and delivery.
Two of my favorite Thai spots Khao Kang—a rice and three steam stable specialist where the offerings are indeed very special—and sister restaurant Khao Nom which excels in desserts as well as savory dishes recently reopened. Khao Nom has been offering set rice plates. I got there a little late today, so they were out of crispy pork, so I opted for dessert instead, more on that later. (more…)
Khao Nom, the sweeter little sister of wildly popular Thai steam table specialist Khao Kang opened about a month ago with the promise of old school Thai desserts and a short menu of savory items, my favorite being the sticky sweet and spicy chan noodles with prawns. Until recently though, none of the desserts has knocked my socks off. Sure they were good, but nothing revelatory. Dessert epiphany finally dawned the other week when I spied a tiny cake with a golden top and a spongy bottom sandwiching a layer of creamy spheres. (more…)
Surely Lhasa Fast Food’s “cold skin sushi” deserves Michelin recognition.
Earlier this week Michelin released its 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees, which “denotes establishments where diners can enjoy a great meal for a good value.” I’m glad the crew of inspectors from the little red book is focusing more attention on the so-called outer boroughs and happy to see they added my dear friend Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy to the list, but the Queens roster is still lacking. What’s more, Brooklyn and Manhattan are broken out into subareas (Upper East Side, Williamsburg, etc.) while the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens lack such distinction. If any from Guide Michelin is reading this, do look me up I’d be glad to consult with you on neighborhood geography for a modest fee. (For the record I live in the one called Rego Park.)
“I can name five more Southeast Asian restaurants that should be on that list,” read a quote from me in The Wall Street Journal’s piece on the Bib Gourmands. I can, but I won’t. Instead here’s a list of seven places of varying cuisines that should have made the Michelin cut.
1. Lhasa Fast food Everybody who’s into food knows about this spot, which Jeff Orlick hipped me to years ago. Call it a momo speakeasy if you must, but really what Lhasa Fast Food is is a window into another culture and cuisine that just happens to be tucked away behind a cellphone store. I like the spicy yellow liang fen done up to look like sushi and of course the momos, including the classic beef and the rarely seen chu tse, or chive version. . 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok is the gift that keeps on giving. Khao Nom is the latest entrant in the nexus of deliciousness that radiates outward from the junction of Woodside Avenue and Broadway. When I say latest I mean very latest, as in they opened last Thursday. Food critics normally stay away from a place for several weeks before spilling ink, thankfully as a food writer I have no such constraints. When I first heard about Khao Nom—whose name means dessert—I was told that its mainstay would be old-fashioned Thai dessert. So when I visited on opening day I was surprised to find a six-item menu of savories, including something called chan noodle ($11). It’s a generous tangle of chewy flat rice noodles known as sen chan, flavored with chili and tamarind and surmounted by two huge prawns. It comes with a back story too. My pal Joel, a go-to source for all things related to Thai food culture tells me it’s a forerunner of pad thai that dates back to the time when Siam became Thailand and there was a rice shortage. Prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram encouraged the eating of noodles and set up a contest. The story goes that the winner of the contest was sen chan (chan noodles) named after the town Chantaburi.(more…)
Forgot it’s a Thai dessert? Let the caramelized shallots remind you!
Until very recently I’ve felt I could take or leave taro. The taro cakes found at Chinatown dim sum houses are good, but I’m not exactly crazy for them. I prefer the latke-like shrimp fritters encrusted in shredded taro. It took a Thai dessert preparation—morkhang puek—to make me really crave the starchy tuber.
I found the toasted taro custard at Khao Kang, an Elmhurst steam table specialist, with a sideline in desserts. Like so many of my favorite Thai snacks, the dense eggy morkhang puek blurs the Western disctinctions of sweet and savory. In case there was any doubt that this is a Thai dessert, caramelized shallots sit atop the burnished brown surface.
The distinctly Thai combination of salt, egg, and coconut milk is lovely. The whole affair tastes like a Southeast Asian version of flan. It almost makes me want to sneak in a bottle of fish sauce to a Cuban restaurant. Almost.
Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.
Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!
1. Kanikko Like many Japanesedrinking snackskanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220
Festive tangles of Thai taro.
2. Thai taro crunch Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)
As 2014 draws to a close rather than offer up a roster of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M presents a list of 14 of our favorite things, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, mashups, secret eats, and overall deliciousness begin.
The rugelssaint at Andre’s Hungarian.
1. Sweetest mashup
Part pain au chocolat, part rugelach, all decadence the chocolate croissant—aka rugelssaint—at Andre’s Hungarian Bakery was my go-to guilty breakfast this year.
Ban Ga Ne’s got your large format goat feast needs covered.
2. Best goat meat bonanza Not only was the three-course black goat meat feast at Ban Ga Ne one of the best Korean meals I’ve had in a long time, it was some of the best goat I’ve ever had. Plus as the proprietor pointed out, it’s um, invigorating.
Zuppardi’s glorious fresh shucked Little Neck clam pie.
3. Best pizza Some friendsand I made a pizza pilgrimage to New Haven this fall. Everything we tried was good, but the real revelation came when we dug into the fresh clam pie at Zuppardi’s Apizza. Fragrant with Little Necks and oregano atop a crackling thin crust, it was simply astounding. (more…)
I am not sure whether brunch is eaten in Thailand. I prefer to think it’s not. For the purpose of this dispatch though, I had a lovely two-part brunch in Elmhurst’s ever expanding Thai town. Stop number one was the newly renovated Sugar Club. In addition to seating and room for an entire table laden with prepared foods and desserts, the expansion includes a café area, which serves up desserts and a savory breakfast called egg pan ($5), or kai kra ta in Thai. (more…)
It’s a good time to eat Thai in Queens. Arguably this has been true since Sripraphai Tipmanee opened her namesake restaurant in Woodside some 25 years ago. Of late though, Woodside and Elmhurst have blossomed into a Little Bangkok, with the emergence of spots like Khao Kang,Paet Rio, and Eim Khao Man Gai. The latest entrant into this arena of deliciousness is Plant Love House. Judging by the logo of a street cart, this is back home hawker fare. This oddly named restaurant run by Peak Manadsanan and her family opened a week or two ago with an abbreviated menu in a space that had housed a Tibetan restaurant. Before that it was a Chinese noodle and dumpling house, so you could say that things have sort of come full circle. (more…)
Khao Kang has the best Thai steam table grub around.
Thais and non-Thais, foodies, chefs, and local shop owners alike have been encouraging me to try Khao Kang for months. The steam table joint opened this winter on a stretch of Woodside Avenue I like to call Little Bangkok. It took me half a year to finally try it, but I am ever so glad I did.
At first glance it looks like a Chinese rice-and-three spot, but it’s actually far superior. It recalls the good old days of Sripraphai, before the restaurant skyrocketed to popularity, taking up two storefronts. Selections change daily according to the chef’s whim, but they are always fragrant, delicious, and often quite hot. There are a few regulars like a wonderful stewed pork belly and something I like to call the Thai surf and turf, which is available only on weekends. (more…)