Each savory flavor bomb sings with sugar, chili, and Sichuan peppercorn.
Every now and then I happen upon a Midnight Snack that I simply cannot stop eating. These guài wèi hūa shēng, or “queer taste peanuts,” are so eminently snackable I should have bought two, or even three, containers instead of one. The English name on the sign reads, “stir fried peanuts with sweet and spicy sauce.” A better description would be “sweet and savory flavor nuggets that will haunt your dreams.”
Each roasted peanut is coated with a mixture of sugar, chili, Sichuan peppercorn, and garlic among other things. Crunchy, toasty, sweet and singing with the classic numb-hot flavor think of these babies as Sichuan beer nuts. They are available for $4 a container at Szechuan Dish in the New World Mall Food Court. Get there before I corner the market on their supply.
Szechuan Dish, No. 25, New World Mall Food Court, 40-21 Main St., Flushing
The Chinese name for these crawfish translates to ‘spicy little lobsters.’
Even though I pride myself on being an adventurous eater, it took a good 30-plus years before I tried crawfish. It’s not that I have a problem with seafood. After all I grew up with an Italian-American seafood bonanza—shrimp scampi, seafood salad, lobster, fried calamari, and baked clams—every Christmas Eve. The opportunity just never presented itself. Then one day crawfish, a delicacy most often associated with New Orleans, appeared in a most unexpected place, a Henanese noodle stand in Flushing’s New World Mall food court.
I handed over my $9.99 and was soon presented with a bowl of má là xiǎo long xiā. Bathed in chili oil, and shot through with palate-tingling Sichuan peppercorns and bits of ginger they were simply amazing. Little lobster is an apt name for these succulent crustaceans. Simply pop the tail off and pull out a nugget of sweet meat. They are truly the spiciest, tastiest Henanese crawdads in all of Flushing. And, I want a bowl of ‘em right now.
Li’s Lanzhou Hand Stretched Noodles, No. 12, New World Mall Food Court, 40-21 Main St., Flushing
This carb on carb number was pretty good, but it’s not my favorite.
Despite my ever-present Mets cap, I am by no means a sports fan. This is why I chose to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday by eating dim sum in Flushing with two old friends.
By the time we got there, Grand Restaurant (New World Mall, 40-21 Main St., 3rd Floor) was packed. I like Grand because there’s something for everyone: a good half dozen types of dumplings, various steamed buns, large plates ranging from fried whitebait and sauteed baby octopus to roast pork, several preparations of chicken feet, and many desserty type items. And I almost always find something new there, like the sticky rice bun pictured above. Sadly they did not have one of my favorite items: a giant seafood dumpling in a bowl of soup that one adds red vinegar and ginger to
With Chinese New Year fast approaching here’s what I’m curious to know. What are your favorite items to eat when you go out for dim sum? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.
Quite possibly America’s best potstickers. Image source: The SunBreak
Here’s a newsflash: “Find Some of America’s Best Chinese Food … in Flushing.” Or so Jay Friedman declared last week in The SunBreak. Pondering next month’s Chinese New Year Seattle-based Friedman writes:
But what if I could be anywhere in America for Chinese food? The San Gabriel Valley in the Los Angeles area would tempt me (and wouldn’t disappoint), but at this point, I find myself leaning toward Flushing, New York. …There’s an international melting pot of food in the borough of Queens, and Flushing’s the place if you want a full array of Chinese cuisine.
I had the pleasure of showing Friedman and his brother around downtown Flushing back in August. It was an “absolute feeding frenzy” that started out with the magnificent guo tie at New World Mall. The winged dumplings never fail to impress. We also managed to fit in a taste of Tianjin pork tongue, fresh tofu, and even a visit to Biang!, among many other things.
Friedman’s kind words about my enthusiasm for downtown Flushing warmed my heart and his slideshow of our whirlwind day of eating made me hungry. Check it for yourself here. It was an honor to show him around. But the real honor goes to Flushing and its amazing Chinese food.