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…)

01/24/17 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…)

01/04/17 5:21pm
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The Bund’s pork and crab soup dumplings.

“They should call this place mei you xiao long bao,” I cracked to a buddy on one of my first visits to The Bund, a newish Shanghai spot in Forest Hills. Two chefs from Shanghai and nary a soup dumpling in sight. Apparently the guys who started it wanted to make the point that Shanghai cuisine consists of so much more than XLB.

I’m not sure if they made their point, but I’m happy to say that they’ve changed their minds about XLB. They recently introduced soup dumplings to the menu. Today I stopped in with some friends for a steamer full of pork and another of pork and crab. The skins were a bit on the thickish side, but they were fine otherwise, certainly the best in the hood. As long as they don’t start selling those ridiculous novelty dumplings with the straw the Bund is all right by me. (more…)

09/19/16 11:53pm
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You Garden’s new dumpling comes with a straw.

Soup dumplings—and instructions on how to eat them—are always a highlight of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. One of the stranger techniques I’ve witnessed is people who forego a spoon and hold the dumpling aloft, nipping a hole in the side. It’s not a method I’d recommend. One tool I never thought I’d see used in dispatching xiao long bao is a straw. Lately though a larger style dumpling has begun to appear, first in Shanghai, and now in Queens, thanks to Shanghai You Garden. (more…)

06/08/15 9:42am
Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

Crunchy, spicy, and salty baby squid from Shanghai 33.

As an Italian-American, I cut my teeth on fried calamari. Whether made at home by my old man or at the Long Island outpost of Vincent’s Clam Bar, it was almost always eaten with a marinara sauce spiked with copious amounts of red pepper. The other day I tried a Chinese twist on fried squid at Shanghai 33 that was simply amazing. (more…)

05/02/13 10:10am

Uncle John’s hot links are revelatory.

Ligaya Mishan of the Times weighs in on Salt & Fat in Sunnyside whose pork belly buns are capable of “evoking not so much a Big Mac as your best childhood memory of it.” Mishan’s takeaway: “. . . not every dish is hellbent on living up to the restaurant’s name.”

Over at The Atlantic Michael Moss writes about a food that is hell-bent on the use of salt, fat, and sugar: the potato chip. Apart from an incisive analysis of why chips are so addictive, or craveable as snack industry gurus like to say there’s this revelation: ”chip companies spend a lot of effort creating a perfectly noisy, crunchy chip.”

The Village Voice offers a hit list of the city’s 10 best French fries, including Mile End’s wonderful looking smoked-meat poutine fries. Sadly the only entry for Queens is Huajio fried potatoes at Little Pepper.While the Sichuan-accented fries are quite good, surely Joju’s ultracrunchy bizarre banh mi fries deserve a spot.

And Tejal Rao makes me incredibly hungry for the pristine flavors and jewel-box presentation of Japanese vegan cusine as served at Kajitsu in Midtown.

O.G. ethnic food enthusiast Robert Sietsema files a dispatch headlined, “Shanghai Newcomer Full House Brings Back Soup Dumplings.” I’m sure the xiao long bao at this Bowery spot are quite good, but here in Queens soup dumplings never left.

Over at Esquire’s Eat Like a Man John Mariani writes about his bromance with the Bronx hood, Belmont where one can score fresh mozzarella that’s still warm and slurp clams on the sidewalk. Sign me up, John.

Max Falkowitz endures the wrath of a surly paesan working the counter at Little Italy’s Parisi Bakery and orders a dreadnought of a sandwich: a potato and egg on an 18-inch loaf of lard bread. Now why didn’t I think of that.

01/24/13 9:43am
Are the pork and crab soup dumplings at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao Flushing’s finest?

Are the soup dumplings at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao Flushing’s finest?

Last week my friend and neighbor Suzanne Parker, TimesLedger food critic and author  of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, New York,” called me to rave about Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao’s pork and crab soup dumplings.

“Seriously,” I said, “their soup dumplings aren’t all that, they’re good, but certainly not the best.”  The best I’ve had in Queens, I pointed out, can be found at Diverse Dim Sum in the Flushing Mall. This got us to wondering whether either of us really knew where to find the best xiao long bao in Flushing. So we decided to find out. I should point out that we are both certified  Kansas City Barbecue Society judges and certified food enthusiasts (Suzanne, it should be noted flies the foodie flag, while I abhor the word).

We very roughly modeled our judging criteria—filling, broth, wrapper, texture, and taste—on the KCBS categories and set out to evaluate four xiao long bao joints.  The plan was to savor just one dumpling at each restaurant so as not skew our judgment by becoming overly full. The remaining dumplings would be taken back to Suzanne’s house to reheat and reassess. I had the brilliant idea to eat two dumplings at each stop, one with vinegar and one without. I did this not because it enabled me to judge the dumplings better, but because I am a glutton. So without further ado C+M presents the Xiao Long Bao Battle Royale.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House  ain’t what it used to be.

Nan Xiang Dumpling House ain’t what it used to be.

The first stop on our soup dumpling survey was Nan Xiang Dumpling House where an order of pork and crab soup dumplings is $6.50 for 6 pieces. At one time I could say with confidence—and home borough pride—that Nan Xiang had the best soup dumplings not only in Queens, but in all of New York City. Sadly, that time has passed. The first thing we noticed about the xiao long bao here was that they were huge. The second thing we noticed is that they were abysmal. The broth was completely devoid of crab flavor, and mine even had a bit of gristle in it. What was once a great soup dumpling joint has clearly been spoiled by its own success. It was all I could do to not remove Nan Xiang’s Michelin sign on the way out.  Nan Xiang Dumpling House, 38-12 Prince St., Flushing, 718-321-3838

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