01/22/20 12:09pm

Behold my new lamb rib crush.

It’s early days in 2020, but I’m confident to go on record that the Kashmiri lamb ribs that Chef Chintan Pandya just put on the menu at Adda Indian Canteen in Long Island City are the best lamb dish I’ve eaten this year. I am of course partial to the musky meatiness of lamb ribs, and still bemoan the loss of Peng Shun’s cumin-encrusted Muslim lamb chop.

There’s something about the combination of cumin, chili, and musky lamb that’s just perfect and Pandya’s lamb ribs are no exception. The two meaty specimens—available for $23 only at dinner—are stained red from a spice blend that includes cumin; red chili powder; and amchur, or dried mango powder. The combination of crunchy spice crusted mantle and tender meat is mindblowing. I gladly ate them as is, but the mint chutney did provide a nice cooling counterpoint.

“It is a very simple process to cook it’s just time consuming,” Pandya modestly says of his new creation. Part of that time is a leisurely simmer in a secret elixir for six or seven hours. Pandya says the inspiration for the dish is a Kashmiri classic called tabak maaz, where the lamb is first cooked in milk and then browned in butter.

“I don’t call it tabak maaz, I call it Kashmiri lamb ribs,” Pandya says because his cooking method is different. No matter, I call it delicious.

Adda Indian Canteen, 31-31 Thomson Ave., Long Island City, 718-433-3888

12/16/19 12:39pm

Tibetan stir fried beef with laphing conjures childhood memories of chow fun on Mott Street.

“The pork and mushroom was pretty good,” my friend Chef Jonathan Forgash said as we were deciding what to eat at Phayul, a Tibetan restaurant in Jackson Heights. We were at the new location, which sits across from the original second-floor location. For whatever reason they’re keeping them both open, which strange as it may seem businesswise, does means twice as much of Chef Chime Tendha’s delicious Tibetan food.

The menu at Phayul’s new, more elegant digs has several new items, including chicken tangkung, a soup of ginseng and jujubes that is Tibet’s answer to Korean samgyetang. We got the soup that evening, but didn’t order the pork and mushroom, instead opting for stir fried laphing with beef. Both of us are big fans of the slippery mung bean noodles, usually served cold in a sauce of vinegar and garlic, but had never had the hot version. (more…)

10/15/19 12:49pm

Beef sukuti chow mein comes with a sidecar of two-tone hot sauce.

The jhol momo—dumplings in a spicy soul-warming tomato and chicken broth—are so good at Nepali Bhanchha Ghar in Jackson Heights, that I often forget there are other things to eat at the homey spot whose name means Nepali eating house.

For a long time those other things consisted of sukuti thali—a platter bearing a mound of rice and funky goat jerky—ringed by various tiny heaps of pickles, including bitter melon and radish, and a bowl of buttery lentil daal. That and the rice and ghee doughnuts known as tsel roti.

Not onion rings, but rather tsel roti, a rice ‘doughnut’ that treads the line betwixt savory and sweet.

The other day though I found myself at Yamuna “Bimla” Shrestha’s restaurant craving noodles. I’d often seen the cooks frying up batches of chow mein, but ignored that part of the menu due to jhol momo monomania. (more…)

10/02/19 10:11am

Tong, a tiny festive Bangladeshi food stand, in Jackson Heights has the honor of being America’s first fuchka cart. This post is not about those amazing crunchy orbs though, it’s about aam bhorta, or Bangla style spicy mango.

For some 30 years I’ve been a fan of spicy South Asian pickle. It all dates back to a college roommate, Harold, who was the ringleader in many a Patak’s lemon pickle eating contest. Since then I’ve branched out to mango pickle. I’m especially fond of amba—the tangy Middle Eastern mix of pickled mango and turmeric—on my falafel. So when I learned Tong offered spicy mango, I had to try it. (more…)

08/28/19 5:02pm

Bacon and pork floss, part of a complete breakfast!

For a long time flaky pork pies, char siu bao, and sandwiches of pork floss with whipped buttery spread have comprised the holy trinity of porky breads available at Chinese bakeries in Queens. I’m happy to report the existence of a fourth: bacon bread. Yes you read that right, bacon bread. My admittedly unscientific survey of Chinese bakeries in Queens reveals that this marvel is available at only one shop, New Fully Bakery in Elmhurst.

A peek inside the burnished brown stromboli like wedge coated in sesame seeds reveals a spiral of American bacon interspersed with its Chinese cousin, pork sung. The fluffy slightly sweet bread has a nice salty kick from the bacon and filaments of pork floss. Along with a cup of sweet instant Malaysian coffee it makes for a decadent breakfast. New Fully’s meaty spiral is the savory answer to the over top chocolate croissant from Andre’s Hungarian Bakery. Not a bad deal at all for $1.60.

Incidentally, the Chinese name péigēn miànbāo means quite literally “bacon bread.” If the first word sounds like a transliteration that’s because it is. I suppose it is a good thing that the bakery is a few subway stops away from my house. If I could get away with it, I’d eat this bread  for breakfast every day. Then again I could always buy an entire loaf . . .

New Fully Bakery, 82-24 45th Ave., 718- 446-9058

08/17/19 9:14pm

When it comes to chicken the star of the show at Little House Cafe is surely the jia li mian bao ji, a gargantuan golden brown bun filled with curried chicken. That said, it may have just been eclipsed by a dish that made its debut today, chicken rendang. I learned about it while looking at the restaurant’s Instagram page, which called it dry curry chicken with biryani rice.

I’ve eaten my fair share of both Malaysian and Indonesian beef rendang, a soul warming curry, but had never heard of a chicken version so when I saw the photo of a sunny mound of rice accompanied by a generous portion of curry coated poultry, I knew what was for lunch. (more…)

08/07/19 11:42am

Is this plate from a trattoria or a Thai joint?

For years the running joke about this Italian-American boy’s love for Asian food has been that I’ve forsaken my pasta and red sauce roots to slurp noodles in the basement of what my dear departed friend Josh Ozersky lovingly termed “ethnic hell holes.”

Noodles—be they Thai, Chinese, or Indian, cold, stir fried, or in soup—are one of my favorite foods. The other day I had a Thai noodle dish—black ink spaghetti with nam prik ong—that seemed to have more in common with Bologna than Bangkok. (more…)

07/26/19 3:51pm

Now that’s what I call a Thai happy meal!

The Thai desserts at Elmhurst’s Khao Nom are so good that there’s a bit of a running joke between the ladies at the counter and me that all I eat is sweets. Truth be told, my Southeast Asian Elmhurst food tour usually ends there with dessert, but every now and then I find myself at Khao Nom alone craving something savory.

Such was the case last week when I tried the shrimp paste fried rice (khao klup kapi) with sweet garlic pork. The mound of rice—stained brownish-red from being fried with the funky kapi—was topped with two fried chilies and ringed with diced shallots; strips of omelet; chopped green beans; slices of fresh chili pepper; a wedge of lime; dried shrimp; cucumbers; and, of course, the bowl of sweet and garlicky stewed pork.

This DIY fried rice is one of my favorite ways to eat. Mix it all up and as little or as much of the dried peppers—in my case both—to the lot. The combination of sweet pork and shrimp infused rice shot through with veggies and burst of spice and the crunchy brine bombs of baby shrimp is particularly restorative on a hot summer’s day. Plus it comes with a sidecar of broth. Not a bad deal for $10.

Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst

07/11/19 12:30pm

Despite appearances, this isn’t a veggie burger with monumental French fries.

For all the eating I’ve done at various incarnations of Whitney Aycock’s cheffed up Rockaway pizza parlor Whit’s End the only seafood I’ve ever eaten is the little neck clams on the salciccia e vongole pie. His Instagram shows him to be an avid fisherman, but I suppose the lure of pizza is sometimes stronger than that of the sea.

The other day pescatarian appetites prevailed, so I gave Whit’s “quick ass ceviche” a try. I love ceviche on a sweltering summer day and the menu’s terse description—dayboat catch, charred pineapple, lemon verbena—was intriguing. The catch of the day turned out to be black seabass or as Whit called it “knuckleheads, one of the best fish ever,” so nicknamed for the bump on the back of their skull. (more…)

07/01/19 6:14pm

As in Bangkok, so in Elmhurst, well sort of . . .

As a white dude who’s made a career eating through the many Southeast Asian eateries of Elmhurst, Queens, I lack the same perspective on the food as those born in Thailand, or in this case Indonesia, and sometimes stay away from what I mistakenly perceive to be boring homestyle dishes. When I saw a picture of “Thai scrambled eggs” on the Instagram feed of my friend Nigel “Moon Man” Sielegar, who hails from Indonesia, I knew I’d be heading to Teacup Cafe soon to try this classic Thai comfort food. Sielegar and I are so likeminded or likestomached that our respective Instagram posts often spur one of us to try a meal—Southeast Asian or otherwise—that the other has posted. (more…)