10/02/18 11:02am

Do the Keebler elves eat octopus?

Ceviche de pescado—fish, typically corvina in Queens, cooked in lime juice—is such a staple of Peruvian cuisine that until just the other day I’d never tried Peruvian style octopus. Sure, I’ve had pulpo in the exquisite cokteles from La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano. Octopus is probably  on the menu of every Peruvian place in Queens, but my eyes skate over it in favor of sexier seafood like jalea, that mountain of fried fish, shrimp, and calamari fortified by planks of fried yucca.

The other day pulpo al olivo jumped off the menu at El Anzuelo, spurring my friends and me to order it. Tender slices of octopus loll in a pool of mauve liquor flanked by some avocado slices and, of all things, five Keebler Zesta brand saltine crackers. (more…)

09/11/18 9:26am

Pay no attention to the an behind the bamboo curtain!

After trekking out to Bushwick on a raw rainy day to help my friend Cathy Erway kick off the fall 2018 season of her radio show Eat Your Words, I was ready for something hot and brothy.

I always get lost on the way to the Heritage Radio Network studio inside Roberta’s Pizza, even though it’s basically around the corner from the L train. Sunday’s detour took me past Ichiran Ramen where a patient local took pity on my hapless Queens soul to direct me to Roberta’s with his phone. I’d been meaning to try this Japanese import and its ramen isolation booth, so I blurted out, “What time are you open until?” I should point out that the helpful young man was Asian and was sporting a Sriracha T-shirt. “I don’t work here,” he said turning his back to walk into the ramenya, as I spun on my heel to high-tail it to the studio. (more…)

08/06/18 5:26pm


Karl Palma, the jovially brawny dude behind Karl’s Balls, a takoyaki stand that can be found at the Queens Night Market among other places around New York City, has been trying to get me to eat Sichuan food with him for at least three years.

“You gotta come with me to this place, it’s me and my wife’s favorite,” he would crow about Szechuan House, and I would say, “Yeah sure,” while thinking,  “I’m a Chengdu Tian Fu man myself.”

I finally caved in. I don’t know why I waited so long. Karl and I ate there a few weeks ago and I’ve been back several times with different friends to try at least a half dozen items, but there is one particular dish that has become the very stuff of my Sichuan food fever dreams, shredded fried beef. (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…)

05/15/18 10:32am

The more austere lugaw (left) and golden yellow arroz caldo at HOI with crispy tofu.

My mother is from the Philippines, which is why my family called rice porridge lugaw when I was growing up. Even my father now calls rice porridge lugaw even though he grew up in Taiwan calling it mai. The lugaw we made at home was usually a bland rice-and-water-only affair, without even salt. Occasionally, my mother would make chicken lugaw by braising drumsticks in the simmering rice, a rudimentary version of the chicken porridge known as arroz caldo.

On the all-day breakfast menu at the House of Inasal in Woodside, you’ll find both lugaw and arroz caldo. (If you order before noon, they come with free taho, Philippine-style dòuhuā, extra soft tofu topped with sago pearls and arnibal, a syrup made from brown sugar, ideally muscovado.) (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…)

04/04/18 9:33pm

When winter ain’t playin’, it’s time for Himalayan!

It’s been two years since Kamala Gauchan, my adopted Nepalese mother, decamped from Queens’ Himalayan Heights to Manhattan’s Curry Hill. Back when she held court in her shoebox of a restaurant carved out of a corner of Tawa Roti I ate her food weekly. These days I trek to her roomier spot on Lexington Avenue whenever I have a dental appointment. Which happened to be the case during Monday’s snow storm.
After a filling, it was time to fill my belly. When I entered Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, Gauchan and her crew had just opened for the day and a mantra to Ganesh—Om Gan Ganapataye Namo Namah—played over and over on the flat screen next to a signed photo of Andrew Zimmern. For a moment I considered jhol momo—dumplings in a spicy broth—but I knew soup was the ticket for a wintry spring morning. (more…)

04/02/18 10:32pm

Maddur vada, savory crisps of wheat and rice studded with spices and herbs.

One challenge of leading food tours of downtown Flushing is how best to showcase America’s Greatest Chinatown to Chinese guests. I still remember the day I met the Vanderschoors. Imagine my surprise when I rendezvoused not with a Dutch family, but a Chinese one. “Don’t worry, we’re from San Francisco,” they said. “We don’t know anything about Flushing, you’re the expert.” This brings me to the subject of today’s post: last Saturday’s trio of Indian clients—a lovely married couple who hail from Northern India and a young student from Chennai—and the crunchiest, savoriest Indian snack in downtown Flushing, maddur vada. (more…)

03/23/18 2:45pm

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. (more…)

03/13/18 1:39pm

Sariling’s belly lechon is only available on weekends.

Yesterday an article by food writer Ligaya Mishan positing that bagoong—a funky fermented shrimp paste—and other Filipino foods have entered the American mainstream dropped in New York Times Food. No doubt Mishan, who cut her teeth on Filipino food, knows more about it than I ever will, but bagoong being mainstream is a bit of a stretch. As for me, I’m still far too distracted by all of the cuisine’s glorious pork dishes. Which is exactly the position I found myself in on Sunday at Sariling Atin, a Filipino turo turo in Elmhurst.

My jaw dropped when I saw the twin cylinders of porcine goodness—encased in burnished crackling skin—sitting above the steam table. “How much,” I asked once I’d regained my composure. “Sixteen a pound,” the gal behind the counter responded as I stared transfixed at the rolled belly lechon whose inner folds held lemongrass and other aromatics. After forking over $15 for a combo platter—I chose laing, or taro leaves, from the steam table—I took a seat.  (more…)