03/16/16 11:16am
Farewell meal at Plant Love House: mackerel with shrimp paste fried rice and dessert.

Farewell meal at Plant Love House: mackerel with shrimp paste fried rice and dessert.

Apart from how to successfully navigate a cavernous dim sum hall one of the most important things I learned about Chinatown from my father is something I like to call Vito’s Law: Chinatown is always changing. With apologies to AristotIe, the corollary is “Chinatown and nature alike abhor a vacuum.” This law holds true for the Chinatown of Elmhurst, Queens, which these days skews more Southeast Asian. All of which brings me to the subject of today’s post, the demise of Plant Love House, a gem of a Thai restaurant that closed shop last month so the owners could focus their efforts on Look Brooklyn, a sister restaurant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which opened late last year. Personally I was devastated by the loss of Plant Love House as were many of my readers and social media followers. Some requested a lament while others talked of being “heartbroken,” and still others were more strident, “So we lose out!? F**k Brooklyn.”

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03/07/16 2:37pm
Guchun

Spiciest Chinese chitterlings ever!

“Wow, where’d you get that?” I said to my new friend Mike as he presented a jazzy looking bowl of wavy hand-pulled noodles bobbing with Chinese chitterlings and pickled mustard greens in a crimson broth. “Over there,” he said waving a hand toward Guchun Private Kitchen.

I love Guchun for its chao bing. The Northern Chinese specialty substitutes strips of flatbread for noodles to such great effect that I’d never even given the la mian so much as a second look, so I was glad that Mike, a first-time visitor to New York Food Court, had sussed it out. (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…)

02/05/16 8:10am

Super Bowl 50 is almost upon us, and as usual, I’m only just learning which teams will face off Sunday evening. Such is my interest, or lack thereof, in football. Despite my apathy for team sports, I do hope all who watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers have a great time. Thus as a public service C+M presents a list of global snacks and goodies all of which are available in in Queens and will give your Super Bowl party much more flavor than guacamole and onion dip.

MeeKrob

1. Mee krob (Thai)
The name of this popular Thai snack literally translates to crispy noodles. It’s no mere salty indulgence, though. Like so many of my other favorite Southeast Asian snacks, the tangle of noodles and fried bits of egg is salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Tamarind and chili combined with a chewy sweetness make mee krob eat like a Thai Rice Krispy treat. Find it at the counter at Elmhurst’s Sugar Club. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-865-9018

jeffrox

2. Fried jeffrox fish (Filipino)
Find this pescatarian answer to potato chips at Phil-Am Market, a paradise of Filipino groceries and snacks located in Woodside’s Little Manila. The translucent sheets of fried dried fish are available on Thursday through Sunday. The crunchy critters come with a sidecar of seasoned vinegar and make for excellent, if somewhat odiferous, snacking. Phil-Am Market, 40-03 70th St, Woodside 718-899-1797 (more…)

01/28/16 11:18pm
WOHOPWONTON

The perfect amuse for American-Chinese.

As someone who often spends every waking moment seeking out and ingesting “authentic” Chinese food—Muslim lamb chops, gui lin mei fen, Sichuan cold noodles, Shanghai xiao long bao, to name a very few—I sometimes forget where I came from. I cut my teeth on Long Island strip mall Chinese—chow fun, lo mein and General Tso’s—along with dishes with names like “happy family.” To this day I think my mother—ever the peacekeeper—ordered the stir fry of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and scallops mixed with vegetables just because she thought the name had some sort of magical powers. Whatever domestic strife there may have been growing up, we were mostly certainly a happy family when eating Chinese food whether dim sum, Peking duck, strip mall Chinese, or one of my favorite spots of all, the subterranean den of American-Chinese splendor that is Wo Hop.

I blame monthly visits to Wo Hop with my parents and basement Thanksgiving feasts for engendering an obsession with delicious food served in basements that would reach fruition with my forays into Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall decades later.

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01/23/16 12:05pm

Now that King Frost has officially made his presence known with the arrival of winter storm Jonas, it is officially soup season. Sure I’ve had plenty of bowls over the course of the past two months. But now it’s on, time to bring in the big guns. So here are seven of my favorites spanning a variety of styles—from sweet medicinal Chinese concoctions to savory noodle soups and spicy sinus clearers—and regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Best of all you can find all of them without leaving the world’s borough, Queens.

pozole2

1. Pozole rojo, Taqueria Coatzingo
This Jackson Heights cantina is known for its tacos, but the specials are the real stars. That’s where I discovered pozole rojo, the spicier cousin of the Mexican pork and hominy soup. As the name implies, the broth is red—very, very red—thanks to loads of chilies. Pozole rojo employs chicken rather than pork as a base.  Served with the standard pozole fixings of diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper, I like it think of it as Mexican penicillin. Add a few squeezes of lime along with a handful of onion and the other seasonings for one of the most head-clearing soups to be found on Roosevelt Avenue. Sour, spicy, and packed with fresh herbs, hominy, and chicken it’s sure to cure what ails you. Best of all it’s always on the specials menu! Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-424-1977 (more…)

01/13/16 11:09pm

Esther Choi’s grandmother taught her to love cooking and eating Korean food. She’s been in the restaurant business since she was 14. She also loves Korean food in Queens whether Geo Si Gi’s pork stew or Sik Gaek’s live octopus as you can see in the above video from our friends at Find. Eat. Drink. As chef and owner of Mokbar, a bustling noodle shop in Chelsea Market, Choi is one busy lady, so I’m grateful she took the time to answer 7 Questions.

What inspired you to open Mokbar? What does the name mean?
I felt the need to speak for Korean food. It can be more than just Korean BBQ like most Americans think. There are so many different special flavors and dishes in Korean cuisine. I wanted to show Korean flavors in a different light, which is why I decided to go with Korean ramen. The name was inspired from a term ‘mokbang’ which is a famous phenomena in Korea where people watch other people eat food. I actually thought it was hilarious and love watching it myself as well. Mok means to eat, so it made sense to me: “Eat Bar.”

What’s in your fridge at home right now?
A lot of kimchi. A lot of gochujang and doenjang. And a lot of beer. These are staples in my fridge and I feel really bad when it’s not filled with these items.  (more…)

01/03/16 12:29pm

Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal. Queens  continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.

CHERRYDRYNOODLE

Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.

1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.

BIGELOWS2

2.  Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten.  (more…)

11/30/15 9:47am
RussianRamen

Bear’s Russian ramen sings with the flavors of Siberia.

When cold and flu season hit, chicken soup’s the order of the day. There’s a reason they call chicken soup Jewish penicillin. Lucky for me there are two places just a matzo ball’s throw from my house to get to an excellent bowl. In Queens every culture has its own version of chicken soup: Indonesian soto ayam hued yellow with turmeric and spiked with fiery sambal and  lime, Korean samgyetang enriched with ginseng and garlic, and Filipino tinalong manok singing with ginger are just a few of my favorites. Now thanks to Natasha Pogrebinsky’s Bear I can add Mother Russia to the list of cold busters. (more…)

11/24/15 10:09am
pad thai

Half the fun of Plant Love House’s pad thai is mixing the ingredients together.

“You ordered pad thai!!??” one of the chef’s daughters at Plant Love House exclaimed last night. “That’s not like you,” she countered when asked why she reacted with such shock. She’s rights, it’s not like me at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve ordered the dish. The last time was over two years ago at Andy Ricker’s now shuttered Pok Pok Phat Thai. I like to think of it as the sweet and sour pork of Thai cuisine. It’s a “real dish” in Thai cuisine—just as sweet and sour pork is in China’s Dongbei region—that’s been Americanized.

I’ve eaten my way through most of the items, including the lovely noodle soups, on the menu at this family run joint in Elmhurst’s Thai Town, and have enjoyed most everything I tried from the specials board. So when I saw pad thai listed as a special I had a hunch it would be pretty good. (more…)