04/14/17 1:00pm
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Why not have a large-format Dongbei lamb feast for Easter?

The New York Times recently had an article about lamb overtaking ham on the Easter table. Here in Queens I don’t wait until that springtime holiday to eat lamb.  Just in case you don’t yet have Easter plans, please enjoy this selection of Chinese, Indian, and Uzbek lamb delicacies. If I left your favorite out please let me know in the comments.   

1. Roast Lamb Leg, Desired Taste International
There are many, many places in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown to get juicy lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and red pepper, but there’s none quite like Desired Taste International. That’s because it’s star skewer—kao yang tui—is an entire leg of lamb. Salt, cumin, and sesame form a delicious crunchy crust that encases succulent purplish-red flesh. Ask for some cumin and ground red pepper to use as a dip for an extra burst of flavor. Desired Taste International, 35-20 Farrington St., Flushing, 718-888-9622

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2. Lamb Chops, Kurry Qulture
“My lamb chops are getting very famous,” says Kurry Qulture’s Sonny Solomon. “A Greek guy came in and ordered 50 for Easter, he loved it so much.” Marinated in yogurt, black pepper, garam masala, coriander, and cumin the Astoria restaurant’s chops are indeed delicious. Tandoor-cooked, they’re the tenderest, most flavorful Indian lamb in Astoria—and all of Queens. (Photo: @restaurantfairyKurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212 (more…)

01/31/17 7:40pm
Fu Run's pork ribs are worth celebrating!

Fu Run’s pork ribs are worth celebrating!

Gong xi fa cai! Happy Year of the Rooster! One of the best things about Chinese New Year is that the celebration lasts for 15 days. So here on this fourth day of the Lunar New Year festivities, C+M presents a list of our favorite Chinese dishes in Queens, some old, some new, all decidedly delicious. Normally this column contains seven entries, but we’re giving you one for good luck!

1. House special ribs with spicy sauce, Fu Run
Even though it’s the restaurant that introduced Chinese food fans to the cumin encrusted glory that is the Muslim lamb chop I’ve been over their version for quite some time. It stopped being good the moment the restaurant decided to prepare the racks of ribs in advance and reheat them. So I was very pleasantly surprised by the house special ribs with spicy sauce ($14.95) that I tried the other day.  La xiao le pai, literally little spicy riblets, turn out to be deep fried Dongbei style rib tips shot through with fried peanuts, chilies, and cilantro. They’re the best pork ribs I’ve ever had in Flushing. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St., Flushing, 718-321-1363

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2. Hakka hot chicken, Tangra Masala
I have it on good authority that there’s nothing wrong with eating chicken to celebrate the Year of The Rooster.; it’s only unlucky for the chicken. And, since it’s the Year of the Fire Rooster, there’s no better dish to celebrate than the hakka hot chicken at Peter Lo’s Indian-Chinese restaurant Tangra Masala. The dish of hacked up bits of fried bird is coated in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. Shot through with chilies and sautéed onions the succulent pieces of poultry call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298

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3. Sesame biscuit with fried jelly bun
When I first saw the hawker stand set up across the street from the Golden Mall I thought it was yet another skewer specialist. Turns out the lady running it specializes in a vegetarian sandwich, sesame biscuits stuffed with fried bean jelly.  A shao bing jia liang fen will set you back a mere $5. The bun’s filled with wobbly blocks of bean jelly that have been fried on a flat top and slathered with a profoundly garlicky sauce. Shao Bing Jia Liang Fen stand, 41st Rd, across form Golden Mall (more…)

01/24/17 11:20pm
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How now, lamb xiao long bao?

The lamb and green squash dumplings at Helen You’s Tianjin Dumpling House were a revelation when I first tasted them years ago at Flushing’s Golden Mall. The tiny packages filled with lamb emit a puff of ovine aroma and burst with juices when bitten into. They remain a feature of my food tour to this day. Three years ago she opened Dumpling Galaxy, a sit-down restaurant. While I love the variety it offers—100 kinds of dumplings—sometimes, really most of the time, I prefer the hawker stand.

When I heard You was offering off menu lamb soup dumplings at Dumpling Galaxy, I forgot all about my preference for the hawker stand and hightailed it over to the restaurant. After all I am as big a fan of lamb as I am of soup dumplings. To the best of my knowledge she’s the only one in New York City offering yang rou xiao long bao. (more…)

12/21/16 4:41am
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Sugar Club added Thai style congee to the menu just in time for winter.

Like much of New York City, Queens is now in winter’s icy grip. Unlike most of the rest the city though we have two Chinatowns and the most robust K-town in New York City, which is all a very long way of saying that there are many many options when it comes to Asian soups. Here are our seven of our favorites.

1.  Thai Congee, Sugar Club
“Thai people like the pork one,” the kid behind the counter responded when asked which variety of Thai congee was better. Earlier this week Sugar Club started selling the rice porridge, known as jok in Thailand, just in time for winter. The shop’s version ($6.50) of the ubiquitous Asian breakfast porridge features an egg stirred in, mushrooms, and a tangle of noodles. As for the pork it turns out to be lovely little meatballs. Doctored up with chili flakes and salty Golden Mountain sauce this combination porridge/noodle soup its a great way to ward off winter’s arctic chill. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-565-9018

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This lamb spine’s mighty fine.

2. Lamb Hot Pot, Beijing First Lamb Shabu
I’m no fan of Chinese style hotpot, but the stuff they’re making at Beijing First Lamb Shabu, (Lao Cheng Yi Guo in Chinese) is truly special, mainly because the specialty of the house isn’t traditional hotpot, but rather a rich lamb stew. Upon entering the Flushing branch of this Beijing chain I was floored by pervasive aroma of gamy lamb and five spice.  Like many hot pot joints there’s a ballot-like menu with all sorts of add-ins and soup bases. The difference here is that all of the soup bases feature a combination of mutton ribs and spine in a rich heady broth. Lao Cheng Yi Guo thoughtfully provides gloves so you can pick up the vertebrae and get at the ridiculously tender bits of meat that cling  to the lamb spine.  Someone once told me that eating lamb spine is a fertility tonic for men. I’m not sure about tha,t but Lao Cheng Yi Guo certainly put a smile on my face and warmed me up. Lao Cheng Yi Guo, 136-55 37th Ave., Flushing

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12/14/16 10:12am
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Bracing sourness and chilies are a perfect foil for fatty beef.

Most non-Chinese speaking Flushing fans know the Henanese outfit Su Xiang Yuan by its English name, Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup. And that milky white broth teeming with tender bits of lamb, chewy hand-pulled wheat noodles and other goodies is the star of the show.

Su Xiang Yuan got its start in the Golden Mall but has another location in New World Mall with a deeper menu offering such dishes as da pan ji, or big tray of chicken, and suan tang fei niu, fat beef slices in sour stock. I broke with lamb noodle tradition to try the fatty beef dish yesterday, and I’m glad I did. Normally I doctor up the lamb noodle soup with chili paste and vinegar. Given that it was already a sour soup and the sight of a few chilies I decided to enjoy it as is.

Glass noodles and ribbons of tofu skin lurked beneath the surface of fatty ribbons of beef, crunchy sour cabbage, and pickled peppers. The bracing sour broth and chilies were a perfect foil to the ribbons of fatty beef. This dish also came with a bowl of white rice. I alternated between eating it on its own and putting slices of beef on top. I’ll definitely be back for another bowl or two of this stuff.

It bears pointing out that there is no English name for the New World Mall location, you can easily spot it though. It’s the one in the back right corner playing a loop of Anthony Bourdain eating their soup.

Su Xiang Yuan, No.28, New World Mall Food Court, Flushing

04/24/15 12:28am
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Peng Shun’s Mongolian roast lamb ribs are astounding.

“Wow I think you renewed my faith in this dish,” a dining companion said the other day. He was talking about Muslim lamb chop a delicacy that rose to ascendancy on cumin-scented wave of glory at Fu Ran neé Fu Run about five years ago. Sadly Fu Ran’s version ain’t what it used to be. On my last few visits it was precooked, rendering what should be gloriously juicy, fatty lamb flesh rather dry and tight.

Muslim lamb chop also called lamb in Xinjiang style is a specialty of Flushing’s Dongbei restaraunts. The version that rocked our world’s can’t be had at a restaurant though. It’s served in a much more humble setting, New York Food Court. (more…)

02/10/15 2:31pm
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At Lao Dong Bei, they call it lamb chop in Xinjiang style, and it’s glorious.

Muslim lamb chop is a dish I first had at one of Flushing’s first Dongbei eateries, Fu Run. Not really a chop but rather a whole slab of lamb ribs, braised and then deep fried and rolled in cumin, chili, and sesame seeds—a mixture that one food writer termed “Dongbei everything bagel spice”—the result was magnificent fatty, crunchy and luscious. And for quite some time it continued to be magnificent, so much so that I turned the crew of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods America on to it. (more…)

11/10/14 12:06pm
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Slow cooked lamb with sage, shallots, and touch of pepper and prune.

I first met Vinny Accardi, the chef at the newish Room 55 in Glendale at the kickoff to Queens Restaurant Week. He had run out of food but was quick to tell me that his first restaurant “overdelivers on the food,” and suggested I come in for a tasting.

So I took him up on the offer a few weeks later. The restaurant, named for the month and day of his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in 2000, is tucked away on an otherwise nondescript block. Everything I tasted, from the autumn harvest salad ($9) of mixed greens, beets, and candied walnuts with warm goat cheese to his casino style Little Neck clams ($11) was excellent, but my favorite dish was the one of the menu’s two pasta offerings. (more…)

08/12/14 10:50am
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Betony’s roasted lamb with eggplant is worth the splurge.

I was recently asked by Bon Appetit what restaurant I’d save up to splurge on. At the time I didn’t really have an answer. Then a week later I had the good pleasure of being treated to dinner at Betony. Even though I often eat at restaurants of decidedly less lofty stature, I appreciate a three-star New York Times eatery as much as the next guy. Betony is now my pick for that splurge restaurant.

Everything we had, including the fried pickles ($12), no mere bread and butter chips, but rather wax beans in airy tempura, and foie gras bonbons ($19) was top notch. Served with a couple of lines of coarsely ground black pepper the decadent bonbons rolled in cashew are an haute riff on butter crunch toffee. It was my main course, though that really blew me away. As a card carrying carnivore I was torn between the grilled short rib ($40) and the roasted lamb ($44). I went for the lamb. Paired with eggplant it’s the kind of dish that might be called lamb two ways elsewhere. Nomenclature aside, it was simply amazing. So amazing that I had to find out exactly why. (more…)

05/27/14 1:24pm

Offal—tongue, tripe, heart, even face, among other so-called off cuts—happens to be one of my favorite things to eat. As with most of my stranger culinary predilections, I blame it on my old man who always made sure to include plenty of hearts whenever he cooked up a batch of chicken soup. Thus I present a list of some of my favorite nasty bits.

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Husband and wife offal slices at Golden Mall.

1. Fu qi fei pian, Cheng Du Tian Fu
The story goes that fu qi fei pian, or husband and wife offal slices, are so named because the couple who created this classic dish back in Chengdu, Sichuan, had an especially harmonious union. While that tale may be apocryphal the union of meaty beef tongue; funky chewy ribbons of tripe; and translucent swatches of tendon bathed in chili oil and shot through with peanuts cilantro, and just enough Sichuan peppercorn to set your mouth atingle is especially delicious. My favorite place to dig into this fiery heap of beef offal is Cheng Du Tian Fu in Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing (more…)