12/21/16 4:41am
thaicongee

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

beijinglamb

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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08/16/16 3:46pm
ASSAMLAKSA

Asam laksa is a great way to beat brutal heat and humidity.

As many C+M readers know, I’m a big fan of late night and early a.m. kari laksa runs to Flushing’s Curry Leaves. For years the spicy coconut-enriched soup bobbing with all manner of wontons and fish cakes was the only Malaysian soup I tried. Lately though I’ve come to appreciated kari laksa’s sour sister, asam laksa. (more…)

02/22/16 11:10am
PappaCKT

A mess of delicious Malaysian noodles from PappaRich.

One of the first things my father taught me about Chinatown is that it’s always changing, always evolving in new and delicious ways. That’s as true of Hong Kong and Macau as it is of Manhattan—the old man’s stomping grounds—and Flushing—my stomping grounds. One Fulton Square, a newish mixed use development is at the forefront of these changes in Flushing. It contains more than a dozen eateries ranging from high-end sushi (Iki) and Sichuan (Szechuan Mountain House) to specialty coffee (Presso). PappaRich, the second U.S. outpost of a Malaysian chain, is the latest addition to what’s fast becoming an Asian Times Square. (more…)

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…)

06/24/14 11:49am
CRESCENT2

Deliciously oddball critic bait: frog leg confit.

“This is either going to absolutely great or a friggin train wreck,” my buddy declared while perusing the menu at Crescent Grill. The confit frog leg ($12) with an oddball combination of cheffy ingredients and techniques including braised Vidalia onion and balsamic gelee the is the type of dish some food writers call critic bait.

“This is the prettiest train wreck I’ve ever seen,” I thought when I saw the cup of bibb lettuce cradling frog leg confit ringed by Vidalia onion. It tasted even better, like late spring by the fishing hole,with the frog taking nicely to the confit balanced by the sweetness of the onions and the sweetly acidic pop of the balsamic gelee.

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12/27/13 10:01am
LAKSA

Flushing’s temple of kari laksa.

When I’m in the mood for something spicy on a bitter cold winter morning there’s nothing better than a bowl of customizable Malaysian kari laksa from Curry Leaves in Flushing. I like to go in the wee hours of the morning—oh, say 4 a.m.—when the crew behind the longest-running pop-up in Queens is just getting started. Laksa and other Malaysian snacks are served cafeteria style from 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily. As you can see from this photo, plenty of folks are still bellying up to the laksa bar at 9 a.m.  To submit your delicious finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY. And while you’re at it, check me out on Instagram, joedistefanoqns.

 Curry Leaves, 135-31 40th Road, Flushing, 718-762-9313

08/21/13 10:08am
FATTY2

For added crunch tuck the homemade krupuk into the crab sandwich.

I’ve been eating on and off at Zak Pelaccio’s Malaysian-inspired restaurant Fatty Crab for years. And until very recently I’ve never eaten any crab in the joint. You might think that I sprang for the joint’s signature chili crab, but you see I’ve got this thing where I have to write about a sandwich every Wednesday. So I walked in and ordered a lobster roll. “We have a crab roll,” the dude behind the bar said. “OK I’ll have the lobster roll,” I said laughing at my misremembering the restaurant’s new sandwich. At $19 the crab roll isn’t cheap, but it is quite tasty. Cool chunks of lump crab slicked with an intense crab aioli are nestled in a split-top bun. Best of all there is a goodly sized pile of homemade krupuk, crunchy Malaysian shrimp crackers. You’ll want to take these and tuck them into your sandwich. They also come in handy to scoop up the errant bits of crab that will fall out of the sandwich. Cool, crunchy, and spicy it’s a perfect late summer snack, but I still want a Malaysian-inspired lobster roll.

Fatty Crab, 643 Hudson St.,212-352-3592

05/14/13 9:48am
The newly opened Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.

Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.

At one of the many recent Southeast Asian lunar New Year festivals  my good friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation spoke excitedly about a new spot in Flushing, “Mama Khao’s.”  At least that’s what I thought he said, until he informed me that the new Malaysian joint is named Mamak House, after the mamak who as I just learned from Wikipedia are “Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago.” As Dave explained that the joint was started by a gal who runs a mamak-style catering outfit I thought, “Boy my Singaporean friends are gonna be excited about this place.” Whenever I talk to them about Malaysian food in New York City, they always say something to the effect of, “It’s OK, but it’s not the same as back home. The Indian influence is missing.”

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Last week Dave and I met at Mamak House for a late lunch. As I walked in I recalled that it used to be a Dongbei joint with table cooking in fact, several of the grill tables remain. The menu, is filled with mamak specialties, including an intriguing weekend only dish: nasi ulam utara, rice mixed with more than 10 types of herbs and roasted shrimp. The back of the bill of fare is adorned with pictures of spices from the aromatic to the fiery. The murtabak ($6.95) , savory envelopes filled with ground beef, were subtly flavored with clove and other spices. A sidecar of sharp pickled onions accompanied the mellow Malaysian beef blintzes. (more…)

03/14/13 9:51am
The ladies behind the counter will load up your bowl with all manner of goodies.

The ladies behind the counter will load up your bowl with goodies.

I’m often asked, “Have you traveled in Asia?” My typical response: “No, just Queens.”  It’s possible to eat foods from Thailand’s northeastern Issan region, Tibet, and China’s Dongbei region all without ever leaving the borough. One thing you can’t find in Queens though is a proper night market. The closest thing is the late night (4 a.m. to 11 a.m.) soup and noodle counter at Malaysian spot Curry Leaves in Flushing.

Walk up to the counter and one of the ladies will ask what type of broth you want. I always get kari laksa, a fiery coconut-enriched broth. The next question is what type of noodle; I always get yellow, presumably wheat, noodles. Now comes the fun part, choosing from the dozen or so items to add to your bowl. These include fried tofu, several types of fish cake, long green hot peppers stuffed with fish paste, fried wontons, char siu, shrimp, veggies, and bitter melon. No matter how many items you add it’s unlikely that the bowl will run over ten bucks. It makes for a hearty late-night snack, or breakfast.

The best time to eat there is half an hour or so before dawn. Watch the sun rise from the bottom of a soup bowl figuratively speaking. After an iced coffee and pandan gelatin to calm the kari fire, walk out into the early morning light and check out the live fish delivery trucks as they make their rounds on Main Street.

 Curry Leaves, 135-31 40th Road, Flushing, 718-762-9313

02/27/13 12:25pm
A quick and easy way to get a Singapore curry la mian fix.

A quick and easy way to get a Singapore curry la mian fix.

One of my favorite Southeast Asian dishes is kari laksa, a spicy and creamy soup enriched with coconut milk, popular in Singapore and Malaysia. I like to get it at the “night market” counter at Curry Leaves in Flushing. Sometimes I don’t want to get up at 6 a.m. for noodle soup, though. That’s why I’m glad that I picked up a package of Prima Taste Singapore Curry La Mian at Old Town Asia Market.

The la mian kit contained two brown packages “(A) Curry Paste” and “(B) Curry Premix.” The instructions said to add (A) to the water first. When I saw the vibrant orange paste, I knew was in for a treat. Even uncooked it had a distinctly funky aroma of curry, shrimp paste, and other SEA aromatics like ginger and lemon grass. Envelope B contained a white powder which I soon learned was dehydrated coconut milk. After some stirring and letting it come to a boil, I added the noodles. For the last few minutes of the boil I added some prepackaged tuna fish. (more…)