Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand

Photo: Rachmat Lianda (@arhcamt)

Nigel “Moon Man” Sielegar is a pretty busy guy. In addition to running the Moon Man Indonesian desert stand at the Queens Night Market, and helming the award-winning Corse Design Factory, he teaches at SVA, and still finds time to eat his way across Queens. Be sure to stop by to say “‘Hello, Moon Man’ this Saturday night!” I’m not quite sure where he found the time to answer Seven Questions, but I’m glad he did!

1. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Queens?
I’m originally from Surabaya (for those who don’t know, it’s the second largest city in Indonesia). I moved to United States when I was 18 for college. I lived in Chicago for a good 5.5 years before I moved to New York in 2007. I’ve been living in Queens ever since and I love it here.

2. What do you like most about the neighborhood you live in?
To me personally, Queens (or in my case, the border of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst) is the model of a perfect neighborhood. The diversity of people is unbeatable, within the same block you can hear multitude of languages being spoken by passerby. Race, religion, and skin color don’t matter much. Everyone respects each other’s culture and embrace the myriads of differences. There’s a system of coexistence that you just can’t find in other places.

As it is true everywhere else in the world, when the culture is rich, the food is rich. The choices and quality of food in this neighborhood is incredible, and you can find anything from down to earth dumplings and kebab carts, humble family restaurants, all the way to fancy steakhouses all within walking distance. You can’t find this anywhere else in New York. (more…)

06/19/18 1:02pm

Spicy pickle ice, very very nice!

The other day after leading a food tour of downtown Flushing in the sweltering heat my mind turned to mush, well almost, it turned to a frosty treat. I was in the mood for Korean style shaved ice, or pat bing soo, but settled for a mango, coconut, and black jelly concoction at C Fruit Life, since I didn’t want to trek to the further reaches of Northern Boulevard in the heat.

It was refreshing, but after strolling Roosevelt Avenue—or La Roosie the stretch of Roosevelt lined with Mexican, Colombian and Ecuadorean shops, restaurants and street food and, at this time of year, all manner of World Cup regalia—I needed to chill out again.

My refreshment of choice? A nieves from Los Poblanos on Roosevelt Avenue. Even though eight wooden buckets done up in the colors of the Mexican flag lined the outdoor counter the only sign read, “mango.” (more…)

06/11/18 11:52am

Catch of the day: gooseneck barnacles at M. Wells Steakhouse.

I’m a big fan of raw seafood and indulge in oysters, clams, and other more far-flung marine fare as often as my wallet and constitution permit. I’ve savored Korean meongge in Murray Hill—briny, orange fleshed sea squirt—and sweet live razor clams on the streets of Arthur Avenue, but one thing I never tried until last night was barnacles.

Whenever I treat myself to M. Wells Steakhouse, I sit at the bar facing the oyster shucking station. So I immediately noticed the chalkboard trumpeting barnacles in all caps. (more…)

05/28/18 10:35pm

“We’re here at Flushing’s oldest food court,” I tell my Chinatown tour guests as we stand outside the Golden Shopping Mall before descending the stairs to the gritty wonderland of regional Chinese food. “When I first came here, I had no idea what to order because everything was in Chinese,” I continue.

Once downstairs I point out Chen Du Tian Fu, noting that it has wonderful Sichuan food. Typically we forego the fiery fare at this stall in favor of Helen You’s  Tianjin Dumpling House, which is a shame because Stall No. 31, downtown Flushing’s O.G. Sichuan street food specialist, is where a decade ago myself and many other non-Chinese speaking Chinese food nerds had our first experiences with Golden Shopping Mall thanks to a legendary Chowhound post by BrianS that translated the then all Chinese red and yellow wall menu. That translation ultimately led me to bring Chinese food expert and Sichuan food specialist Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Mall in the summer of 2008.

“They’re speaking Sichuan dialect. I love it, Sichuan dialect is so lovely,” Dunlop exclaimed as we tucked into a plate of fu qi fei pian, a tangle of tendon, tripe, and beef bathed in chili oil singing with ma la flavor. In the ten years since my visit with Dunlop, Golden Shopping Mall has been discovered. Zimmern, Bourdain, the Times, even Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien, who I once ran into dining there with his kitchen crew, have all taken a seat at the rickety stools.

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05/16/18 10:35am

When it comes to fried chicken sandwiches I’m easy. I’ve wolfed down everything from a sad hot mess at Wendy’s to a spectacular lunch only dazzler at Joseph Leonard in the West Village. So I’m quite glad that I ducked out of the deluge yesterday and into Urbanspace Vanderbilt because it gave me the opportunity to try the latest creation from Delaney Chicken, the Ranchwich.

As it turns out I wasn’t the only one who decided to duck out of the downpour. Hundreds of stranded commuters waylaid by a suspension of trains from Grand Central crowded the food hall, but that didn’t deter me from making a bee line for Delaney Chicken. I’d tried his classic sandwich a couple of years ago and was wowed by its juiciness and the nice hit of cayenne in the batter.

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05/11/18 10:19am

Behold: Elmhurst’s most elusive Malaysian layer cake.

A few weeks ago on the Voyages of Tim Vetter podcast I posited Instagram has replaced Chowhound, particularly when it comes to hyperlocal culinary exploration. Case in point, Little House Cafe. Had I not been seen my dear friends Food & Footprints posting about this Elmhurst bakery/cafe I’d never have known about its giant Singaporean style chicken curry bun and top-notch char kway teow. Nor would I have ever tried the elusive and epic taro pudding cake.

My friends and I first spotted the multilayer creation lined up in the pastry case and didn’t have the appetite for it because we’d just dispatched the aforementioned giant curry chicken bun along with several pieces of Malaysian brown sugar sponge cake and other goodies. When it was described as layers of coffee jelly, pudding, taro cake, and sponge cake we were all quite curious. (more…)

05/03/18 8:49am

HOI’s fish fryup feeds two normal eaters, or one very hungry blogger.

I count myself a big fan of Filipino breakfast and I was pleased to see a rundown of it on Saveur recently. When it comes to Filipino food, I’m usually all about the pork, but not when it comes to breakfast. When I find myself at a Filipino restaurant in the a.m. I forsake my affections for crispy pata and lechon kawali. At the Filpino breakfast table my heart and stomach belong to dasilog, a fried dried milkfish, served with sinagag—garlic fried rice—and itlog—a sunnyside up egg. Or at least they did until recently. (more…)

04/23/18 10:49pm

Many places in Queens serve wonderful Mexican food, but there’s none quite like Tortilleria Nixtmal. That’s because Fernando Ruiz—who grew up eating fresh tortillas in Veracruz—and Shauna Page make their tortillas the old-fashioned way from freshly ground whole corn. And that’s why the boys from Queens Dinner Club and I have chosen Tortilleria Nixtamal to host our next dinner on May 16th. Tickets are $45 and may be purchased here.

Join us for a very special feast as we help christen Tortilleria Nixtamal’s new salon para fiestas above their tortilla factory on National Street just steps away from the 7 train! The festivities begin with a visit to the factory to taste the freshest tortillas in New York City. And then it’s upstairs to the salon, where the kitchen is rolling out all sorts of Mexican delicacies for QDC, including a taco trifecta featuring trompa de al pastor (rotisserie style roast pork); chivo (slow-cooked young goat); and pollo rostizado estilo Ciudad de México (Guajillo chili marinated rotisserie chicken). You can view the full menu here.

Our friends at Black Label Donuts are creating Mexican-inspired treats especially for this dinner. It’s our most popular event to date, so popular that we might even add a second night.

04/18/18 10:41pm

“You got to try our Cuban,” George Landin owner of street wear boutique All The Right told me when I stopped by other week to sign his copy of my guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.”

Landin was referring to a Cuban sandwich on the menu of his latest venture, the Corona Diner, which opened this past summer. Just as my book is a love letter to Queens so is Landin’s diner. A mural featuring a who’s who of Queens—from rappers like Action Bronson, Run-DMC, and Nas to stars like Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, and Lucy Liu—lines one wall and the doors to the kitchen mimic those of the 7 train. (more…)

04/15/18 11:20pm


My usual routine for Songkhran, or Thai New Year, involves a visit to Elmhurst’s home of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram to partake of the food and festivities. Unlike in years past the weather was quite chilly, making for less than optimal conditions for a holiday that involves plenty of water splashing.

So instead of visiting the Emerald Buddha to ring in the year 2561, I partook of some Thai rubies. Not actual rubies mind you, but rather the Thai dessert called thabthim krub, which translates to crunchy rubies. I’d just polished off three bowls of boat noodle soup at Pata Paplean, when my dear friend Cherry, the cook and ringleader of the weekend noodle popup, dropped a half quart container on my table with the gruff affection she reserves for those she truly cares about. I poured the contents of the container—rubies, emeralds, jackfruit, young coconut, and coconut milk stained red from sala syrup—into a bowl.

The sweet, cold dessert soup was quite refreshing after a few rounds of of spicy noodles. The red and green jewels consist of bits of crunchy water chestnuts encased in tapioca. Even though it was freezing outside it warmed my heart and soul to eat this dessert made by one of the older ladies in the Thai community. Best of all its available every weekend, although I did feel especially blessed to be eating on the day of the neighborhood’s Songkhran celebration. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2561.

Pata Paplean, 76-21 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-651-2076