At first glance Auttharos, the brand spanking new Thai spot that replaced Zabb Elee in Jackson Heights looks much like its predecessor. After all the menu’s appetizers include Esan sausage and the joint keeps much the same late night hours as the once Michelin-starred Zabb.
Things start to get interesting in Auttharos’ roster of papaya salads. There are more than a dozen permutations of som tam, from the fairly farang friendly—dried shrimp and peanuts—to the funkier and fishier —pickled crab and pickled fish. The really interesting stuff appears at the end of the list: cucumber salad with boiled egg; long bean salad with pickled fish; corn salad with salted egg, and strawberry salad with salted egg. Let’s let that last one sink in: strawberry salad with salted egg!! (more…)
“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…)
“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.
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
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…)
Fermentation is gastronomic alchemy. It can turn grains into intoxicating elixirs and cabbage into kimchi. And squid guts into something so foul it should be weaponized. Japanese home-style squid guts are not my cup of sake. Thai fermented fish, pla som, on the other hand, is one of my favorite things.
It’s made by taking a fish, salting it, and packing it with rice and garlic and leaving it unrefrigerated for three days to let nature take its course. I do not intend to undertake what’s probably a very simple process in my home kitchen. So in Queens I like to eat pla som at Zabb Elee, the wonderful Northeastern Thai spot. A fried piece of tilapia pla som runs $9. It’s crunchy sour, slightly funky and absolutely wonderful with the accompanying fried shallots, galangal, and chilies.
Until I get to Thailand Zabb will likely remain my go-to spot for this dish. Lucky for me they’re open quite late and are only a short subway ride from my place. One can never tell when that late-night fried fermented fish craving’s gonna hit.
Zabb Elee, 71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, 718-426-7992
Pelaccio and I enjoy a ‘Lady and The Tramp’ moment.
Last summer I had the pleasure of showing my pal Zak Pelaccio progenitor of the Fatty Crab Empire around some of the Southeast Asian and Chinese spots in what I like to call SEA Elmhurst. One of our stops was the venerable Uncle Zhou Restaurant, a Henanese hand-pulled noodle specialist. As you can see his cold “dial oil noodles ,” are worth fighting over. The thin noodles are splashed with hot oil and dressed in a vinegary, garlicky sauce.
These days Zak has left the Fatty Crew and is hard at work on a new restaurant in Hudson, N.Y. I wish he would come to Queens to hang out again some time. It was he who taught me to roll sticky rice into a ball and use it to mop up the funky fermented fish liquor from som tum at Zabb Elee.To this day whenever I do that in a Thai restaurant the waitress will sometimes ask, “Have you been to Thailand?” To which I respond, “No, just Queens.”
Many thanks to ace shutterbug Zandy Mangold for furnishing the above shot.