Like many of my fellow Queens food nerds I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of HK Food Court in Elmhurst. It’s been in the works for so long, that I didn’t think it was going to happen especially since the owner also operates a less than stellar food court in the basement of Hong Kong Supermarket in downtown Flushing.
Then last Saturday my buddy Ron and I poked our heads in to see almost all the booths set up. “Come back Monday,” a worker told us. So I came back. In fact I’ve been back four times so far. You might expect to find HK food, but the name refers to the fact that the culinary wonderland is built on the former site of Hong Kong Supermarket’s Elmhurst location.
The Chinese name “xiang gang mei chi cheng,” actually translates to “Hong Kong Gourmet Food Court.” Even thought it’s not even fully occupied I haven’t been this excited about a food court since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Shopping Mall. “It’s one thing to have to go to Main and Roosie for something like this, but to have this around the way is amazing,” I overheard someone say to their tablemate. Indeed! Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten so far.
Xinjiang House (No. 17) sits between one of the food court’s numerous Thai vendors and the sole Vietnamese outfit. It specializes in fare from China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. The Chinese name “Hui Wei Xinjiang” translates to “Xinjiang Muslim taste,” and the bill of fare features plenty of lamb. I tried a lovely Xinjiang lamb pilaf ($7.99), or polo as as the gent behind the counter called it. The fat grains of rice were shot through with fatty chunks of lamb, raisins, and barberries and just enough carrot for sweetness. Next time, I’m getting the spicy lamb feet ($15.99).
On the day I tried Xinjiang House I took a peek at Khao Ka Moo NYC, a Thai pork specialist to the left. A burnished pork shank redolent of five spice and other aromatics sat luxuriating in a steam table with eggs and greens. I was already full, but plotting my return.
Like many such stands in Thailand, Khao Ka Moo features a few options including the No. 2, which features fried pork and sausage. “It’s our best seller, it runs out” the lady behind the counter said convincing me to order her namesake dish the No. 1—khao ka moo—or roast pig over rice.
For nine bucks and change I received a generous portion of delicious stewed pig leg over rice, with pickled greens, a soy sauce egg, and Chinese broccoli and a sidecar of broth. It was really, really good. Turns out that it’s the latest venture from the lady who started Elmhurst Thai stalwart Chao Thai.
The other reason I know that the Thai pig leg was so good was that it was the second part of a bang bang, but I had no problem finishing it. Part one was a perfect bowl of yang rou hui mian or Henanese style hand-pulled lamb noodle soup from Mr. Liu (No. 25). It is nice to finally have a replacement for Uncle Zhou after all these years.
On yet another visit, I focused my appetite on Tibetan at Khawachen or “Land of the Snows.” I had a hearty plate of lam ribs with chili ($9). In lieu of rice, I had a pair of fluffy tingmo. Something about the flavor seemed familiar. Later I learned that the owner is none other than Sang Jien Ben, the man who started Lhasa Fast Food. The menu is quite similar to his other restaurants but he has added carrot momo and chive momo, which I am curious to try.
A fellow food nerd suggested that I do another post about the dumplings on offer and that may well happen. Despite its diversity there are some players from the Flushing food court scene present, notably the fake Japanese teriyaki stand and my good friend Mrs. Hong of Taipei Hong, who makes stellar Taiwanese comfort food.
“I think there’s something wrong with him,” Mrs. Hong told me the other day when I expressed my amazement that the same person owns the sister food court in Flushing where there seems to be no curation of vendors owns this exciting new culinary wonderland.
HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave., Elmhurst