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…)

12/02/15 11:32pm
Best spicy pork porridge ever!

Best spicy pork porridge ever!

“So it’s a bowl of rice and a soup with any of these?” I asked the waitress at Zabb Elee as I perused the 20-deep roster of rice soup that runs from such items as “salted eggs spicy salad” and “pickled cabbage spicy salad” to “ground pork omelet” and “deep fried pork with garlic and pepper.” I went with the latter and chose pandanus rice, not sure whether I’d be delivered a soup with spicy pork in it or not. (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…)

10/26/15 9:14am
sotoayam

Asian Taste 86’s soto ayam topped with shrimpy-garlicky koya powder.

“Ah yes I remember you from last time,” the waitress from Asian Taste 86 said. “Soto ayam, with lots of sambal.” Last time was a month ago when I had a cold and had come seeking comfort in the form of the yellow Indonesian chicken soup known as soto ayam. When I have a cold I tend to subsist on matzo ball soup from Knish Nosh and gingery chicken and rice soup spiked with plenty of garlic and chilies from Eim Khao Man Gai. Usually I reach a point where I bring out the big guns, like a bowl of the Indonesian chicken soup, with plenty of fiery sambal and lime. (more…)

10/12/15 10:09am

resoboxramenButter makes everything better, including miso ramen.

“Oh, wow you guys have food now!?” I said to Takashi Ikezawa owner of Resobox a Japanese cafe, gallery, and cultural center in Long Island City, as I glanced at the ramen roster. I was glad to see Resobox, which offers classes in everything from flower arranging and Samurai sword to manga drawing for kids, finally serving ramen, itself an integral part of Japanese culture. I grabbed my coffee and made a mental note to return for some ramen. (more…)

09/28/15 11:44am
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DIY noodle soup at Flushing’s Gui Lin Mi Fen.

Sometimes it feels as if I lead so many food tours of Flushing Chinatown that I don’t do enough research, i.e. eating, of non-sharable dishes like noodle soups. Sure I have my favorites: predawn laksa at Curry Leaves, Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup’s namesake tonic, the samgyetang at Hansol Nutrition Center. Lately though I’ve been craving a brand new flavor in noodle soup, which is why I’m glad  I finally tried Gui Lin Mi Fen. (more…)

09/01/15 11:28am
The Central Asian cousin of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

The Central Asian cousin of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Rego Park is home to so many kosher Uzbeki kebab joints that local friends and I joke that they’re all more or less the same restaurant, just with different specialties, and/or slightly surlier service. The latest entrant into the neighborhood’s crowded field of more than a dozen restaurants is a rather opulent looking establishment (think flocked Louis XIV wallpaper and chandeliers) called U Yuri Fergana. (more…)

08/26/15 12:49pm

Friends and fans alike know I have a real soft spot for 4 a.m. Malaysian kari laksa as served by the good folks at Curry Leaves in Flushing. Recently I tried the asam laksa—a spicy sour soup enriched with fish—at Pulau Pinang. It’s a palate-jolting, head-clearing wonder of a bowl.

It’s taken me a summer cold and about 15 years to finally develop a taste for asam laksa. Now I’ve a jones to visit Malaysia and try some regional variations of the spicy noodle soup. I blame the above video from SAYS Malaysia and Air Asia. In it a diverse group of Malaysians taste an equally diverse group of laksas and attempt to identify their origins. (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…)

06/23/15 8:58am
Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

There’s been such a renaissance of Thai cuisine in Queens that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the players. Which is why I’m very glad my friend Connie asked me to lunch at Mamu Thai. I’ve been meanng to try the Astoria eatery, which got its start as a noodle truck for at least six months. We ate enough for a small army of Thai truckers that humid afternoon, but there are two dishes that stood out:one, a beguiling beef noodle soup, and the other a not-so-simple off-menu omelet. (more…)