One of the things I heard most from my editors when I was putting together 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Misswas “Joe, there’s too much food on your list.” To which I mentally responded, “Don’t they know who they hired? I am the guy who ate Queens for chrissake!” Somehow I still managed to mention food and drink more than 40 times in the book. Herewith are seven of my favorites. To find out the others, you’ll have to score a copy. A great time to do so would be next Wednesday, February 21 when 111 Places in Queens Comes to Jackson Heights at Espresso 77. Ace photographer Clay Williams and I will even autograph your copy. Can’t make that? Come celebrate Chinese New Year at Leaf Cocktail Lounge with us on February 22nd.
1. Lhasa Fast Food I’d love to take credit for discovering this gem of a Tibetan restaurant tucked behind a Jackson Heights cell phone store, but I can’t. Momo maven Jeff Orlick turned me on to it years ago. There’s nothing fast about the momo making here though. The reward for your patience? Juicy steamed beef dumplings that are amazing as is the thentuk soup featuring hand-torn swatches of dough. It’s such a special place it merited its own chapter! 37-50 74th St, Queens, NY 11372, 646-256-3805
2. Falafel slice at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar This marvelous Middle Eastern mashup can be had at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar. It combines two great street foods New York City pizza and Israeli falafel. Topped with half a dozen falafel balls, I like to eat it with tahini and hot sauce. In case you are wondering, this novelty slice did not get its own chapter. It appears as a tip at the end of the chapter on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite. 72-72 Main St, Flushing, 718- 268-0791(more…)
The Ganesh Temple of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, known by its devotees as Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam, is a cultural and spiritual center for Hindus residing in Queens and beyond. Thanks to a canteen serving some of the best South Indian vegetarian fare in New York City the temple is also a destination for culinary pilgrims. That’s why my pals from Queens Dinner Club and I chose it for this month’s feast. To score a ticket to this culinary passage to South India please click here.(more…)
Who knew Gui Lin Mi Fen had an awesome tofu salad?
As a nonvegetarian omnivore the first things I think of when it comes to vegetarian food in the bustling Chinatown of downtown Flushing are the tofu from Soybean Chen and the dosai at the Ganesh Temple Canteen. But what would a real vegetarian choose? To find out I turned to Howard Walfish, the man behind the web sites Lost Vegetarian and Brooklyn Vegetarian, who was kind enough to share his favorites in this guest post.
Downtown Flushing can be a little daunting for vegetarians. Between the restaurants, street vendors, and food courts, there are hundreds of places to eat. Many of them don’t have English-language menus, and many of them have decidedly nonvegetarian specialties. But all it takes is a little digging, and you can find lots of great vegetarian food. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Tofu Salad at Gui Lin Mei Fen Gui Lin Mi Fen is best known for its noodle bowls, but there’s a sleeper vegetarian hit on their menu that’s easy to overlook: a tofu salad. The firm tofu is diced and flavored with kalimeris indica, a plant also known as Indian aster. The herb adds an herbal, floral note to the salad that makes it irresistible. (135-25 40th Rd.)(more…)
The running joke about me and M. Wells Dinette is that if I had an editor they’d tell me not to write about the place so much. Since I don’t, here goes. Yesterday I stopped by to check out their pig roast and petanque scene in the courtyard of at MoMA PS1. Finding myself in the mood for neither, I headed into the restaurant.
“I kind of want beef tartare, but can’t justify having it since I ate my body weight in red meat last night,” I said to Aidan O’Neal. “You should try the beet tartare,” he said. I flat out refused claiming somewhat hyperbolically that it goes against everything I believe in. It sort of does since I am no fan of mock meat and veggie burgers. “Try it, I think you’ll be surprised,” the chef persisted. Eventually I caved and ordered the $14 vegetable tartare. And I am glad I did. (more…)
Green bean sheet jelly with red oil, for vegetarians and chiliheads alike.
To a certain kind of Chinese food aficionado the very mention of Fu Run conjures up three words: Muslim lamb chop. And it is well that it should. For the ruddy rack of lamb that’s been braised, deep fried and rolled in cumin and sesame is truly spectacular. When I showed Dave Beran the executive chef of Next around downtown Flushing a while back he told me he wanted to take it easy on cumin forward dishes. I insisted the Muslim lamb chop was a must-eat, and he relented, and was glad to have done so. As a card carrying carnivore I am loath to admit two of my favorite dishes from our Fu Run meal were vegetarian. (more…)
Cold skin noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods are as spicy and refreshing as ever.
Way back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods had but one location, in what I like to call the 36th Chamber of the Golden Shopping Mall. It was presided over by an affable gent who went by the nom de cuisine Liang Pi, after his signature dish liang pi, cold skin noodles. Today it’s become a mini empire with five locations, upscale sister restaurant Biang, and a Brooklyn commissary.
Back in the day the most notable design elements were rickety folding stools and 100-pound bags of wheat flour arrayed like sandbags along the back wall. “My name is Liang Pi,” he would proudly say as he ladled out the dish. Many of his customers came from the same region and seemed absolutely thrilled to find a dish from back home in Queens. Legions of hungry regional Chinese cuisine fiends were pretty thrilled too. I’d never tasted anything like cold skin noodles before: squidgy, porous blocks of wheat gluten and chewy ribbons of wheat starch, tossed with bean sprouts, cilantro, slivers of cucumber and a “secret sauce” made from sesame paste, vinegar, and chili oil, among other things. “I have it for breakfast at least three times a week,” one fan told me. (more…)
Sabich, the falafel sandwich’s lesser known cousin.
When I was in my twenties running around the East Village smoking more marijuana than I care to remember I ate more falafel than I care to remember. Had I known about the sabich, a lesser sung Israeli sandwich, I’d have added some variety to my midnight munchies. The combination of fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs sounds odd at first, but it’s actually quite good. I’m fortunate to be able to procure one at Grill House a tiny Israeli joint that’s a 5-minute walk from my house. (more…)
Bella Roza’s plof is real stick to your ribs fare.
Unless you count the crusty caramelized part, which adheres to the bottom of cooking vessel and is prized by Puerto Ricans and Koreans alike, plain white rice holds little appeal. Chinese takeout fried rice is much tastier. It’s been years—OK maybe six months—since I’ve eaten it. That’s because in Queens there so many other rice dishes from all over the world from biryani to bibimbap. Today, a look at two less common ones. (more…)
Wafa’s cauliflower sandwich is a Lebanese delight.
For the longest time the scope of my Middle Eastern vegetable sandwich knowledge was limited to the mighty falafel. After all what’s not to like? Pita stuffed with the crunchy, fried, cheap, and flavorful orbs got me through many misspent East Village nights in my twenties. The falafel at Wafa’s is excellent, and even better with the fiery hot sauce made by her son, Youssef, and the addition of crunchy pickled turnips. The last time I visited the Lebanese spot in Forest Hills I decided to broaden my horizons with what family matriarch and chef Wafa Chaimi describes as “something different”: a fried cauliflower sandwich ($6). (more…)
I first learned to cook during the year I studied in England. University students there typically fend for themselves in dorm kitchens, rather than relying on meal plans.
With little free time and even less money, most of us took to dumping readymade soups or canned beans over toast or pasta. If we were feeling fancy (or starved for protein), we crowned these starchy, carby meals with a fried egg.
That experience left me with an abiding kernel of culinary wisdom: Any light dish can be transformed into a stomach-filling meal simply by adding pasta.
Enter my Punjabi mother-in-law, who re-educated me in the kitchen and taught me Indian home cooking. Thanks to her, I can whip up a full meal from my usual pantry staples (i.e., lentils, rice, spices, garlic, and ginger) and a few stray vegetables (e.g., onion, tomato, potato, carrot). If only she’d been there, in England, to save me from British student food (and my own culinary incompetence). (more…)