Wonder what the Marx Bros. would have made of this duck offal soup.
About a month ago I was showing a tour group around Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court. As we approached No. 28—one of the few spots in the food court whose sign is only in Chinese—the new tenant, a strangely familiar looking woman behind the counter greeted me enthusiastically. No matter how hard tried I couldn’t place her.
On my next visit it dawned on me. The mystery woman was the wife of the owner of Golden Shopping Mall’s Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup, one of my go-to spots in the rag-tag collection of miniature restaurants. In addition to the wonderful hand-pulled lamb noodle soup there are several other items on the pictorial menu at this new outpost, including a largely forgettable knockoff of Xi’an Famous Foods lamb burger. And then there’s something that the menu lists as “old duck soup fans” ($6.50),which sounds like a club for elderly fans of the Marx Bros.
The offal rich soup’s Chinese name, lao ya feng shi tang,does indeed contain the words for old duick, “lao ya.” I can’t tell whether they came from an old duck or not, but the soup’s nasty bits—gizzard, bits of stomach, and blood cakes—were pleasant enough. Golden pillows of fried tofu, bok choy, and slippery glass noodles round out the bowl. Like the lamb noodle soup, it takes well to a dollop of chili paste. The proprietors of this new stall have set up a flat screen monitor. Instead of Chico, Groucho, and Harpo it plays a loop of Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Golden Shopping Mall.
Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup, No.28, New World Mall Food Court, Flushing
Arzu’s lamb ribs and sweetbreads are both excellent.
There are more than a half dozen Uzbek kebab houses within walking distance of C+M’s Rego Park headquarters. All of these kosher spots serve various meats—lamb, beef, chicken, and odd bits like lamb fat—grilled on flat, swordlike skewers. I am not sure what serving meat on swords says about this culture, but I do know that it is darn tasty.
One of the best of these often social club like eateries is Café Arzu. It’s practically a samsa’s throw away from my apartment. A shish-kebab of lamb ribs—really riblets—runs $4.25. Sprinkle on a bit of vinegar and some ground hot pepper and set to gnawing away. That vinegar and the raw onion serve to cut the lamb’s rich fat. Veal khorovak ($5), is one of the cheapest and tastiest preparations of sweetbreads I’ve ever come across. At times Arzu has a heavy social club vibe. Blend in BYOing a bottle of vodka and drinking a pot of green tea. Or just set to ordering and eating meat with utter abandon.
The Gastronauts chow down on a meal of many parts, including beef penis.
Last month on the two days before Valentine’s Day I had the dubious pleasure of co-hosting a very special Chinese New Year’s dinner with the Gastronauts. Curtiss Calleo, one of the masterminds behind the club for adventurous eaters and I endured not one but two days of juvenile humor along the lines of, “Please limit yourselves to five inches per serving.” I suppose we deserved it. After all we created a menu whose dishes included lamb testicles and quick fried beef genitals, i.e. beef pizzle. I’m pretty sure that my affable Henanese uncle, Steven Zhou, was pretty amazed that we were able to gather a gang of hard-drinking weirdos to buy out his restaurant with such a menu for two consecutive nights.
From center: headcheese, chicken hearts, tofu, beef tendon, pickles, and tripe.
The festivities kicked off with a platter of cold dishes. Headcheese, chicken hearts, tofu skin, beef tendon, quick pickle, and beef tripe were all artfully laid out in concentric rings. “These are the best chicken hearts I’ve ever had,” one of my tablemates exclaimed. I’d have to agree, the peppery five-spiced hearts were quite nice. Next came the lamb testicles which had been artfully cross-hatched. They had plenty of cumin and heat, though they were a tad rubbery. At least they were not too gamy. (more…)
At just under $10 this six-course meal of Sichuan snacks won’t break the bank.
Much like downtown Flushing’s Chinatown itself the New World Mall food court is diverse and constantly evolving. One of the latest additions is a two-week-old outfit that goes by the rather unassuming English name, “Szechuan Dish.” The Chinese on its sign “Mei Sichuan” and “Chéng Dū kǒu wèi,” which more or less says beautiful Sichuan, Chengdu flavor, gives a much better idea of the beautiful flavorful, fiery things coming out of Stall No. 25.
Last Sunday I tried liáng bàn xīn shé, a fiery cold salad of pig tongue and heart slicked with chili oil. And yesterday I stopped by for a fēng wèi xiǎo chī tào cān, or local flavor set meal. Think of it as a six-course Sichuan Happy Meal. For $9.50 I was one happy, happy eater. It was like a greatest hits of Chengdu street food: excellent dàn dàn miàn,noodles in a fiery sauce of ground beef and preserved vegetables; Chéng Dū hóng yóu shuǐ jiǎo, pork dumplings in soy sauce enlivened with chilies and no small amount of garlic; and hǎi wèi chāo shŏu, a flavorful wonton and seafood soup. The bountiful set also includes a cold two-veggie plate and a cold two-meat plate. Last night the meats were the aforementioned pig offal and excellent diced rabbit. The vegetable plate was preserved tofu and celery and an unidentifiable yet pleasantly chewy rooty type vegetable. If you’re into that sort of thing there is also a sweet fermented rice soup.
If you think this sounds like a whole lot of food for $9.50, you are right. It is also a whole lot of flavors: chili, garlic, salty, sweet, even a subtle smokiness from the vegetable plate. I haven’t been this excited about Sichuan food since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to the Golden Mall. It’s a game changer people.
Szechuan Dish, No. 25, New World Mall Food Court, 40-21 Main St., Flushing
Chinese New Year’s nigh. They’re selling red panties outside Golden Mall.
This Sunday is the beginning of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration. To kick off the Year of the Snake The Gastronauts and C+M are hosting a very special banquet at Uncle Zhou’s. As a way to reward the burgeoning C+M community I’m giving away two seats to the February 12 dinner at 7:30.
What’s on the evening’s very special menu you ask? The fête kicks off with a cold platter of beef tendon, chicken heart, beef tripe, tofu skin, quick pickle, and headcheese. Then in true Gastronaut fashion, there will be lamb testicles, quick fried beef genitals, red and white carrot with pig tripe, spicy rabbit, and pig kidney. As a friend of mine likes to say, it’ll be a meal of many parts.
To win the dinner for two, write a haiku that references Uncle Zhou, offal, and whatever else you find apt. The writer of the winning poem wins two seats at the banquet table. Please be sure to place responses in the comment section of this post. The contest ends Monday at 12:00 p.m. That gives you a whole snowy weekend to find something poetic to say about beef penis.
Welcome to Ask C+M, a weekly column where I’ll answer readers questions regarding food in Queens and beyond. Have a question you’d like to ask? E-mail jdistefanony68c(at) yahoo.com. Our first question comes from Alex.
First of all, I love your blog, so many amazing options. I tried a few places you wrote about in the last week and they’ve been incredible. I recently moved to Astoria from California and I’m trying to find some interesting food in Astoria and Jackson Heights. I’ve done a fair amount of exploring and found some great things but I’m curious as to what your top recommendations in those two areas are, preferably things that are maybe off the beaten path. — Alex
A school of perfectly fried fish from Astoria Seafood.
So glad that youlike the blog and that you have been exploring the culinary paradise that is Queens. In Astoria I like Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave.) for Bosnian food, including bureks and pljeskavica, a comically huge Bosnia burger, Down on Ditmars there’s Hinomaru (33-18 Ditmars Blvd.), a great Japanese ramen joint. The signature “NewYork style” ramen has a rich porky broth and features a fireball, an orb of ground pork mixed with several types of hot peppers. Astoria Seafood (Astoria Seafood, 37-10 33rd St.) is an excellent fish market/restaurant located away from most of the other Greek spots. (more…)
Almost every genre of music from jazz and blues to rock and roll and rap has songs about food. There are songs about sweets, paeans to poultry and there are even raps extolling food critics along with bush meat and bánh mì. Here are a few of my favorite gastronomical ditties, with food pairings.
1. Pass the Peas, The JB’s
Just like Bobby, I like soul food “because it makes me happy.” Pair this funky jam by James Brown’s band with a plate of stewed pig ears, collards and sausage and rice from RCL Enterprises. RCL Enterprises, 141-22 Rockaway Blvd., Rochdale, (718) 529-3576
2. Brunch, Action Bronson
Sure the video for this tune by Flushing’s finest chef turned rapper is a grisly tale of romantic betrayal and murder, but hey it’s got a great blues hook and food too. Pair it with an offal-themed brunch from M. Wells Dinette.M. Wells Dinette, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800
3. Taco And A Pork Chop, Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride.
Beyond the call and response, “Taco And a Pork Chop,” there are no lyrics to this swinging bass virtuoso showcase. Pair it with the truly spectacular pork carnitas taco from Tortas Neza. Tortas Neza, 111-03 Roosevelt Ave, Corona
After ceviche, my next favorite Peruvian food would have to be anticuchos, skewers of grilled beef heart. In my home borough of Queens there are more Peruvian restaurants to grab this carnivore’s delight than once could shake a stick at. The best anticuchos I’ve had don’t come from a restaurant in Queens, though. They come from a Peruvian street cart in Manhhatan’s Union Square.
Morocho Peruvian serves up two skewers, with purple Peruvian potatoes, and the kernels of hominy corn known as choclo for $6. The secret behind these succulent skewers of is that they are veal heart rather than the beef heart found elsewhere. A lengthy marination in Peruvian aji panca peppers, soy sauce and oregano makes them even more toothsome. Though some would say it is not quite as romantic as chocolate, I think this tender veal heart makes for a fine St. Valentine’s Day snack.
Morocho Peruvian Fusion, 1 Union Square West @ West 14th St., 646-330-1951
Last week I received quite an honor, a recognition of my work if you will. Alas, it was not a James Beard Award. Nor was it another television appearance, although I do have one coming up February 27 at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel. No, this was a far greater mark of prestige than any medal or TV spot. The TripeMarketingBoard (@TripeUK) followed me on Twitter in response to a post about the Sichuan dish fu qi fei pian.
They also sent along a link to the fascinating film above: Marketing Tripe: a Brief History. I was especially intrigued by an old-timey still of an Italian eatery called Antonia’s Tripe & Pasta Hut. Along with such slogans as “Tripe for Stamina,” the whole thing seems fake. It is in fact quite legitimate as a Google search for the Lancashire–based Tripe Marketing Board reveals. And yes, there was an Antonia’s where they served pizza topped with reticular tripe, which is something I’d like to try. There is one thing that I am sure does not exist though, a Chinese Tripe Marketing Board.
Legions of Gastronauts stormed Sik Gaek for a seafood feast.
When it comes to dining out I’m not one for the communal table, I prefer to dine in small groups, or alone an eating army of one if you will. And as far as eating clubs go I take the Groucho Marx approach. That said I make an exception for The Gastronauts. The club for adventurous eaters was started by Curtiss Calleo and Ben Pauker over a Malaysian meal seven years ago and the ranks have swelled to 1,300 folks eager to try everything from goat’s eyes to horse meat. As I mentioned I have no need to be in a club to be an adventurous eater. An affinity for the nasty, squirmy, and often spicy bits is an integral part of my genetic makeup. And it doesn’t get any squirmier and spicier than the seafood feast some 50 Gastronauts gathered at Sik Gaek in Woodside on Tuesday night to enjoy. That’s because one of the eight courses was san nakji, or live octopus.
For whatever reason a meal at the soju-drenched Sik Gaek always begins with eggs cooked over a table top grill. This was followed by a grilled mackerel whose skin was so crisp it tasted like it had begun to confit in its own Omega-3 rich fat. Then came the live octopus. Truth be told it was some of the sleepiest live octopus I have ever encountered.
Surely this must be the Octopus’ Garden that Ringo Starr sang about.
Octopus and lobster, both still very much alive, were the centerpiece of the next course, a Korean bouillabaisse of sorts. Clams, abalone, mussels, baby octopi, prawns,shrimp, calamari, and plenty of veggies bubbled away in a spicy broth. The steam that billowed forth was like spicy seafood aromatherapy. And the broth was quite simply one of the best seafood soups I have ever had. Once the lobster was cooked our waiter came over and cracked it open, and we all greedily dredged the pan for the precious flesh.