Until very recently I’ve always thought Little House Cafe—with its yellow and red awning that reads “Bubble Tea. Bakery. Teriyaki Express. Asian Cuisine” —was just another of Elmhurst’s many bubble tea spots. Despite appearances Little House is actually a stealth Malaysian restaurant, with a very big secret, a jumbo curry chicken bun the size of my head.
I learned about it from a breathless Instagram post: “The first unique and delicious handmade ‘Jumbo Curry Chicken Bun’ in the United States- Only from us!!” The other day I stopped by hoping to try the jia li mian bao ji, as it’s known in Chinese.
“You have to order one day ahead. $15,” the shop’s owner, Helen Lee, told me as she boxed one up for an advance order. “Try the curry bun, it has the same filling but no chicken.” So I grabbed one of the small golden brown buns with a red dot on the top. It was filled with a potato curry mixture that was quite delicious even at room temperature.
I was so eager to try the ginormous curry bun that I called two days in advance; and phoned the morning day of, lest the spring snowstorm foil my plans; and showed up half an hour early. At the appointed time of 2:30 Helen emerged from the kitchen bearing the jumbo curry chicken bun on a yellow tray. It had a wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread and as I waited for my third dining partner, Jane, I placed my hands on the warm brown orb mesmerized à la Woody Allen’s Sleeper, while my pal Dan, snapped a shot of me.
In Singapore, where it originated at a joint called Golden Pillow 933, it is known by that name and I was tempted to rest my head on it and take a nap, but luckily Jane arrived and we gave the jumbo chicken bun back to Helen for surgery.
We watched at the door of the kitchen like hungry dogs while she expertly made eight slices in the orb. Now the bun resembled a giant flower, with a scent of delicious curry emanating from a plastic bag that had been further encased in foil, the entire lot baked in the loaf for several hours.
In short order we peeled back the bready petals, using them to scoop up the savory innards. The chicken curry inside is the among the best in Queens and the bun itself was a great vehicle for sopping it up. I might even prefer it to the ubiquitous roti canai.
I am really not a fan of giant novelty dishes or Instagram fodder, but the jumbo chicken curry bun won me over. Bring at least three people if you plan to try it. As mentioned the bun may be Singaporean in origin, but the Lee family is Malaysian. I am told that their char kueh teow, is amazing and we almost got a plate, but thought better of it. Instead we went the sweet route, with a block of Malaysian brown sugar sponge cake. It was good on its own and, even better dredged through the remaining chicken curry.
Little House Cafe, 90-19 Corona Ave., Elmhurst, 718-592-0888