05/16/16 11:59am
ThaiFlan1

Forgot it’s a Thai dessert? Let the caramelized shallots remind you!

Until very recently I’ve felt I could take or leave taro. The taro cakes found at Chinatown dim sum houses are good, but I’m not exactly crazy for them. I prefer the latke-like shrimp fritters encrusted in shredded taro. It took a Thai dessert preparation—morkhang puekto make me really crave the starchy tuber.

I found the toasted taro custard at Khao Kang, an Elmhurst steam table specialist, with a sideline in desserts. Like so many of my favorite Thai snacks, the dense eggy morkhang puek blurs the Western disctinctions of sweet and savory. In case there was any doubt that this is a Thai dessert, caramelized shallots sit atop the burnished brown surface.

The distinctly Thai combination of salt, egg, and coconut milk is lovely. The whole affair tastes like a Southeast Asian version of flan. It almost makes me want to sneak in a bottle of fish sauce to a Cuban restaurant. Almost.

Khao Kang,  76-20 Woodside Ave, Elmhurst, 718-806-1807

01/30/15 10:22am

Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.

KannikoDisp

Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!

1. Kanikko
Like many Japanese drinking snacks kanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220

THAITARO

Festive tangles of Thai taro.

2. Thai taro crunch
Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)

08/11/14 11:38am
BASI

Ba si from a hawker stand, a Flushing Chinatown first.

“Everybody thinks it’s fried chicken,” the girl behind the counter said with a laugh, when I pointed at the rows of clamshell containers filled with golden brown morsels and said ba si. Coated with a sticky glaze and studded with sesame seeds one could see why it might get mistaken for a hyper-regional take on General Tso’s.

Ba si—fried apple, taro, or sweet potato glazed in syrup—is something I’d never seen at a hawker stand. At Flushing’s many Dongbei restaraunts it comes to the table still hot with a bowl of cool water. Dip a chunk into the water and the glaze hardens, forming strings of spun sugar. Think of it as Manchurian molecular gastronomy. (more…)

06/04/13 10:33am
Disks of crunchy fried taro make for a nice starter.

Disks of crunchy fried taro make for a nice starter.

My recent Thai fried chicken skin mitzvah has made curious about Sripraphai. Ever since the Woodside eatery hit the big time, I’ve avoided it like the plague. (Actually that’s not quite true, about once a month I check out the prepared foods and desserts near the front counter. That’s how I knew about the fried chicken skin.) I liked it better when it was barely one stark fluorescent-lit storefront wide and there was no wait for a table on a Friday night. So the other day I decided to have lunch there with a buddy. As we perused the encyclopedic menu, I told my pal how the old bill of fare used to be a loose-leaf binder complete with photos.

I was going to get a fiery jungle curry and a papaya salad like I used to back in the day. Instead I went with something a bit mellower. For a starter I had the fried shredded taro ($7.00), circular tangles of tuber with a peanut dipping sauce and sweet chili sauce. They were pleasantly crunchy and fun to eat. (more…)