Half a lifetime ago Zak Pelaccio taught me to ball up khao neuw or Thai sticky rice and dredge it through the bracing liquour that sat at the bottom of a platter of papaya salad. We were gathered around the table at what was then the best Thai restaurant in Queens, Zabb Elee. Zabb is gone and Zak decamped for Hudson, New York, a while back. As for me I’m still in Queens, and have watched the Thai restaurant scene in the environs of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside blossom.
Whenever I’m at a Thai table there’s always sticky rice. Sometimes it acts a foil for savory dishes. Sometimes it’s the centerpiece of a dessert as with the pandan-scented sticky rice that acts as the foundation for Sugar Club’s over-the-top mango sticky rice.(more…)
For added crunch tuck the homemade krupuk into the crab sandwich.
I’ve been eating on and off at Zak Pelaccio’s Malaysian-inspired restaurant Fatty Crab for years. And until very recently I’ve never eaten any crab in the joint. You might think that I sprang for the joint’s signature chili crab, but you see I’ve got this thing where I have to write about a sandwich every Wednesday. So I walked in and ordered a lobster roll. “We have a crab roll,” the dude behind the bar said. “OK I’ll have the lobster roll,” I said laughing at my misremembering the restaurant’s new sandwich. At $19 the crab roll isn’t cheap, but it is quite tasty. Cool chunks of lump crab slicked with an intense crab aioli are nestled in a split-top bun. Best of all there is a goodly sized pile of homemade krupuk, crunchy Malaysian shrimp crackers. You’ll want to take these and tuck them into your sandwich. They also come in handy to scoop up the errant bits of crab that will fall out of the sandwich. Cool, crunchy, and spicy it’s a perfect late summer snack, but I still want a Malaysian-inspired lobster roll.
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.