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.
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.
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…)
London’s Borough Market predates the age of foodies by a good 163 years. I visited the bustling food paradise which offers everything from fresh produce and truffles to traditional English sausage rolls and Spanish charcuterie as part of the whirlwind weekend that was the 2014 Chowzter Awards. When I arrived there with my international food blogger posse—Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Catherine Ling of Camemberu, and Stanislaus Hans Danial Subianto of Eats and Treats—the crowds were pretty thin. Within about an hour they’d reached Times Square New Year’s Eve proportions as every permutation of foodies and tourists milled around taking snapshots. I of course qualified as both. Here’s a look at what we ate. (more…)
Fuchsia Dunlop’s account of wrangling with passel of stag pizzle in the latest Lucky Peach is alternately harrowing and humorous. It’s been five years since I took the acclaimed British cook and Chinese food expert to explore Flushing’s Golden Mall, so I thought I’d put my aside my castration anxiety aside and drop the author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, a line. Dunlop who is currently eating her way through Beijing was kind enough to answer Seven Questions. By the way if you want to get really hungry follow her adventures on Instagram.
Are there any misconceptions about Chinese food you’d like to dispel? I’ve spent my entire food-writing career trying to dispel various misconceptions about Chinese food—most of all that it’s unhealthy! Of course if one were to eat deep-fried egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork all the time it wouldn’t be a very healthy diet, but most Chinese home cooking is about rice or other grains with plenty of vegetables and a little meat, fish or poultry. I’ve always been impressed by Chinese knowledge of how to eat for health and happiness (and it’s sad to see how many younger people are now following in the unhealthy food footsteps of the West).
The other misconception is that ‘Chinese food’ is a single cuisine. China is a vast country with an incredible wealth of local and regional culinary traditions. (more…)
With the exception of Chinese skewers and anticuchos the last time I had meat on a stick was more than a decade ago. The details are hazy, but I’m certain the meat in question was of the souvlaki variety, essentially a kebab with a hunk of bread impaled on the end. Lately I’ve been passing by Souvlaki King an Astorian purveyor of sandwiches—and you guessed it—meat on a stick. Yesterday I finally succumbed to the siren call of smoke and meat at the stand on the corner of 31st Ave. and 31st St. A red siren sits atop the stand, silently flashing. As it spins it conjures up images of brothers George and Kostas Tsampas as souvlaki EMTs, or better still super heroes. (more…)
Outside it was gray, inside Mediterranean sunshine on a plate.
I have a confession. The variety of delicious things to eat in Elmhurst, Flushing and Jackson Heights—dumplings,dosa, and Sichuan happy meals—is so amazing that I often overlook whole neighborhoods and whole cuisines. The Turkish scene in Sunnyside is a prime example of this gastronomic myopia. (Notice how I opted not to coin the word gastropia.)
The other night I was out to dinner with Max Falkowitz, the editor of Serious Eats New York—in Flushing natch—and he told me I should try the menemen, at Grill 43. “Menemen?” I asked between bites of crunchy Sichuan fish. “It’s like the Turkish version of shakshuka,” he said. “It’s really good.” I’ve never really dug the Israeli scramble that is shaksuka, but whenever someone whose taste I trust enthuses about a dish I know I’m in for a treat. And so it was with Grill 43’s menemen ($5.95).
The plate of fluffy scrambled eggs mixed with tomatoes and red peppers is as simple as it is delicious. An orange-hued liquid, the very essence of red peppers, sits at the bottom of the plate. Sopping it up with slightly salty wedges of homemade Turkish bread was the perfect antidote to what was an otherwise gray afternoon. As I was leaving the guy behind the counter said that some people like their menemen with cheese. Next time I’m going to ask him to make a Turkish egg and cheese sandwich.