12/05/16 10:56am
sushi

A mandala of deliciousness!

Slippery chewy cold noodles coated in a chili-spiked sauce have been a favorite since I slurped my first sesame-slicked strand. Here in Queens the cold noodle game gets way deeper than sesame noodles, Sichuan noodles, or even near ubiquitous cold skin noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods. That depth is best measured by something I like to call Tibetan style cold skin noodle sushi. I discovered it at Lhasa Fast Food, a Himalayan hot spot hidden behind a cell phone store. (more…)

06/03/15 10:24am
A fish sandwich with a sidecar.

A fish sandwich with a sidecar.

Truly good Chinese sandwiches are few in and far between in Queens. While the yang rou jiao mou—a spicy cumin lamb sandwich from Xi’an Foods—remains a long-time favorite, the house special pork chop from The Crispy Pancake is my current Chinese sandwich crush. A deep fried pork cutlet topped with lettuce and crowned with a runny fried egg is stacked between two shatteringly crisp pancakes, forming one of the craziest, most delicious Chinese sandwiches in downtown Flushing. (more…)

02/18/15 12:43am
REDSTAR1

Sesame chicken and wonton soup, Brooklyn style.

When it comes to Chinese sandwiches in New York City there are few real standouts: gua bao as made by everybody from Eddie Huang to Taiwanese grannies, Xi’an Famous Foods’ cumin lamb burger, and the $1 Peking duck buns from Flushing’s Corner 28.  So I was very pleased to discover an outstanding American-Chinese mashup of a sandwich—Red Star’s sesame chicken ($8.50) —although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I travelled to Boerum Hill to get it.

Red Star Sandwich Shop is the brainchild of brothers Gibson and Johnson Ho who grew up eating a combination of Chinese takeout and traditional Fujianese food that their parents and grandparents made. Sesame chicken was a childhood favorite says Johnson. “It’s so American.”

Red Star takes the American-Chinese classic and turns up the heat a bit creating a sesame chicken sandwich that got my attention without blowing my head off. The tender sesame-studded chunks of fried dark meat came with a sauce more spicy than sweet piled high on a roll from Carroll Garden’s institution Caputo’s Bakery. The whole lot’s dressed with pickled peppers, jalapenos, and lettuce.

I’ve eaten sesame chicken and wonton soup together, but not quite like this. Unlike the wonton soup from the corner takeout, Red Star’s is a delicate Fuzhou style version with thin skinned pork dumplings floating in broth made from pork and chicken.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Star’s stupendously good p’tater tots ($3.25), which take a school lunch favorite and elevate it to the zth degree. They are twice fried resulting in a fluffy interior and a crispy outside.

Before I left Johnson and I talked for a bit about Fuzhou food. “It’s not sexy,” he said. I nodded eating the last of the tots. And then I told him that if his brother Gibson, an alum of Ippudo and Momofuku Noodle Bar, could make such ethereal tater tots surely he could make Fujianese food sexy.

Red Star Sandwich Shop, 176 Smith St, Boerum Hill, 718-935-1999

12/05/14 10:39am
NYFCSICHFRONT

Spectacular Sichuan street food can be had at No. 25.

“It’s the same thing as New World Mall Food Court,” a local restaurant owner said of downtown Flushing’s latest entrant in the Queens Chinatown food court game. Indeed the first thing one sees when entering the month-old New York Food Court is Tokyo Express, a fake Japanese chicken teriyaki joint that looks suspiciously like the one in New World Mall. And, yes just like at New World Mall Food Court, there’s yet another branch of Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles as well as several spicy stir fry by the pound places, including the ridiculously named Incredibowl. Nonetheless I’ve been able to ferret out some good stuff. Let’s start with Szechuan Taste, No. 25, which lies just beyond the jivey Japanese. (more…)

10/21/14 10:22am

 jason xianJason Wang, CEO of Xi’an Famous Foods, took a business that his father David “Liang Pi” Shi started in the 36th chamber of Flushing’s fabled Golden Shopping Mall, and made it truly famous spawning a mini-empire, specializing in cold skin noodles—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—and other regional specialties. The 25-year old noodle mogul took a break from the Forbes 30 under 30 Conference and was kind enough to answer 7 Questions.

Tell me about the two new Xi’an Famous Foods stores you have in the pipeline? How will they differ from
the other locations?
They’ll be very similar to our later locations in terms of the food, but each location has its own feel. The new Greenpoint location, for example, will have a backyard dining area, the first one of Xi’an Famous Foods with one, and the upcoming 34th Street location will have the biggest space out of all of our stores, with a mezzanine level featuring skylights.

You went to culinary school for a little bit, did that change your approach to the cuisine at Xi’an Famous Foods?
It widened my view of cuisine a bit, as it gave me an idea of how western cuisine is prepared, the fundamentals, and how in the end, it is still similar in some ways to Chinese cuisine. While it did not directly affect our ways of preparing our foods, it does make me more aware of possibilities and possible future applications of western approaches to our eastern ways of cooking. (more…)

09/15/14 12:23pm

With such a diversity of culinary cultures Queens boasts all kinds of noodles from all kinds of places. Cold, hot, spicy, even dessert they come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Here are seven of our favorites.

BIG-TRAY

1, Da pan ji, Su Xiang Yuan
One of the most surprising things about da pan ji, the Henanese specialty known as “big tray of chicken,” is that it’s actually a big tray of poultry, potatoes, and noodles. And not just any old noodles either, they are the very same springy broad ribbons that grace the specialty of the house at this stand whose name is often translated to Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup. There’s no soup to be found in the tray though. Instead find hacked up bits of bird and chunks of potatoes atop a bed of hand-pulled noodles. The whole thing is crowned with fresh cilantro and shot through with dried chilies awash in a curry-like concoction with just a touch of star anise along with pleasant bursts of saltiness from preserved beans. The noodles are a perfect vehicle for all that sauce. Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup, No.28, New World Mall Food Court, Flushing (more…)

03/11/14 10:15am
LIANGPI

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…)

01/22/14 3:43pm

When I was lad there was no such thing as a “polar vortex,” we called it winter—and reveled in it. Decades of relatively mild winters have spoiled me and many other New Yorkers. As a public service to help you thaw out from Winter Storm Janus, C+M presents a bone-warming roster of some of our favorite soups in Queens from Long Island City to Flushing, and points in between.

YUNNANPORKRICESOUP

1. Yunnan rice noodle soup with pork at Crazy Crab
Find this lovely bowl at New York City’s only crab shack/Burmese/Yunnanese  spot. Warm up with tender chunks of pork and a spicy broth enlivened by a fresh squeeze of lime. It’s a taste of Southwestern China by way of Flushing. Not a bad deal at all, for $8.99.  Crazy Crab 888,40-42 College Point Blvd, Flushing 718-353-8188

MUTONKOTSU

2. Tonkotsu 2.0 at Mu Ramen
When the sun goes down and it’s brick cold out, head to over to Bricktown Bagels, which turns into Long Island City’s only ramen-ya. Joshua Smookler’s Tonkotsu 2.0 ($15) is made from six different types of pork bones, including shanks that cook for more than 20 hours. Topped with a slick of mayu (black garlic oil) and wobbly bits of tontoro (pork jowl), the soup is rich and complex. Best of all it has plenty of marrow thanks to all those shanks. Mu Ramen, 51-06 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, Tues-Sat 6:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (more…)

10/25/13 11:11am
The stewed oxtail lunch special at Liang’s.

The stewed oxtail lunch special at Liang’s.

Can you give me a recommendation for a place in Queens to eat oxtails?
Paul Z., Bayside,N.Y.

There are many good West Indian places to eat oxtails in Queens, but I suggest that you go Chinese. The stewed oxtail over rice special at Liang’s Kitchen (133-51 39th Ave., Flushing, 347-506-0115) is quite lovely. For a spicier approach I highly recommend the oxtail and hand ripped noodles at Biang! (41-10 Main St., Flushing,  718-888-7713.)

Whenever I go to the Golden Shopping Mall I find myself very overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds,and aromas. What’s the best thing to eat there?
Baffled in Brooklyn

You are not alone, the first time I went there I left without ordering a thing because I was completely overwhelmed. (more…)

06/05/13 10:00am
The unfortunately named Chinger opened about two a month ago.

The unfortunately named Chinger opened about a month ago.

Xi’an Famous Foods, with its Silk Road inflected fare featuring plenty of cumin-laced lamb and flatbreads, has been such a success story that it was only a matter of time before copycats started emerging. Nobody has been bold enough to bootleg the entire concept. A couple of places have tried their hand at rou jia mou, the Chinese flatbread sandwiches that David “Liang Pi” Shi used to tell me were “Chinese hamburgers” back when Xi’an Famous Foods’ operation was limited to a humble stall in the 36th Chamber  of the Golden Shopping Mall. The worst copycat Chinese burger I’ve had tasted more or less like a lamb sloppy joe. And the best comes from a newish place in Elmhurst named Chinger.The shop’s name, an unfortunate portmanteau of Chinese and a mispelling of burger, sounds vaguely like a racist epithet or a Mexican cuss word. (more…)