Elmhurst, Queens, my fair borough’s second, smaller more Southeast Asian Chinatown—after the sprawling wonderland of deliciousness that is downtown Flushing— is slowly awakening from pandemic slumber. In addition to Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants and shops, the neighborhood is home to the largest concentration of real deal regional Thai cuisine in all of New York City. Many of the shops and restaurants that have been regular stops on my food tours over the years are starting to reopen for takeout and delivery.
Two of my favorite Thai spots Khao Kang—a rice and three steam stable specialist where the offerings are indeed very special—and sister restaurant Khao Nom which excels in desserts as well as savory dishes recently reopened. Khao Nom has been offering set rice plates. I got there a little late today, so they were out of crispy pork, so I opted for dessert instead, more on that later.
Khao Kang’s steam table trays, however, were still quite bountiful. I always have to get the sweet savory caramelized pork with fish sauce. I paired it with fried fish filets with eggplant and basil, and pork ribs that the gal behind the counter assured me were quite spicy and topped the whole lot with a fried egg. When I sat down to my meal at home I momentarily regretted not having any of the fish sauce and chili mixture that sits on the tables at Khao Kang, but the brownish sauce on the pork ribs humming with chili heat and lime leaves had plenty of flavor.
For dessert there was more rice—khao niaow nahr goong, ข้าวเหนียวหน้ากุ้ง—from Khao Nom. The little tub of sticky rice stained yellow from turmeric topped with red coconut flavored with dried shrimp and slivers of lime leaf is the salty sweet Thai dessert of my pandemic fever dreams. Some days I wish this was all a dream. I know it’s not but Queens and New York City abide nonetheless, as does my hunger.
Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst
Khao Kang, 76-20 Woodside Ave, Elmhurst, 718-806-1807