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…)

04/22/19 9:51pm

While it’s tempting to think of samosa chaat as an Indian version of loaded nachos, it’s really its own thing as Sonny Solomon the man behind Astoria’s Kurry Qulture, told me over a cup of chai last week.

“It’s a very, very popular street food in North India, but now it’s all over India,” Solomon said. “People love it!” And it’s all over Queens too. At Raja Fast Food, always a stop on my Himalayan Heights food tour Vikh and his crew make a psychedelic supersized version consisting of several of the veggie turnovers showered with all manner of sauces and chutneys. (more…)

03/18/19 5:41pm

Ma po pig brains are an offal lover’s version of the classic Sichuan dish.

As a rule I never put new, untried dishes on a food tour except when I choose to break that rule. On those rare occasions, the new item comes from a trusted vendor. Like the other day when I took my friend Giuseppe Viterale chef-owner of Astoria’s Ornella Trattoria on a culinary research tour of downtown Flushing’s Chinatown with the aim of showing him how the Chinese eat pork offal. I had blood, feet, and ears covered, but wanted a larger dish to share at the end of our gastronomic adventure. So before I met up with Giuseppe I stopped in Szechuan House to see if my friend Linda and her husband had anything that might fit the bill.

Among a baker’s dozen new dishes I hit paydirt in the form of No. 5, listed in English as “ma po brain flower.” Surely this is a mistranslation I thought to myself, but Lisa informed me otherwise. “It’s like ma po tofu, but we use pig brain instead.”

(more…)

01/30/19 11:27am

I’ve been passing Moo Thai Food and its logo of a silhouetted black pig for months. The other day I finally tried it for lunch. Despite the name this tiny new spot from the owners of neighboring Eim Khao Man Gai makes only one type of Thai food, khao moo daeng, or pork and rice.

Moo, whose name means pig, offers several types of pork: sweet sausage, red tinged slices that call to mind char siu, and slabs of fried pork with incredibly crunchy skin. Both my dining partner and I chose Set 1, which combines all three. It’s served with a sweet, pork-enriched sauce, egg, and some cursory greenery. The sidecar of soup, which I suspect is the same broth used at Eim, rounded it all out for a nice lunch.

When it comes to roast pork and crunchy pork the first two cuisines I think of are Chinese and Filipino. Thanks to Moo I can now add Thai to that mix when the pork craving hits as it so often does.

Moo Thai Food, 81-20 Broadway, Elmhurst, 917-396-4163

01/07/19 7:56pm

Meaty pork spine lurks beneath a blanket of green chilies.

It’s no secret Arada Moonroj, the lady who brought Lanna cuisine to Elmhurst’s Thai Town is a fan of the pig. The menu at her restaurant Lamoon features every part of the beast, from brain and blood to belly and bits of ear in the sai aua sausage. The latest addition? Spine as featured in leng zabb, a spicy soup of slow-cooked meaty ribs and vertebrae.

The bones are stewed for hours until they give up their marrow and collagen and the whole lot is finished with fish sauce, fresh lime and showered in green chilies, cilantro, and garlic. The menu describes it as “brutally spicy,” but I wouldn’t characterize it as a challenge dish along the lines of the phaal at Brick Lane Curry House. It certainly got my attention and gave me the sniffles, but it’s more of a bright chili heat than the incendiary burn often associated with the phrase “Thai spicy.”

It was quite satisfying to suck every last but of meat and marrow from the bones, but it would be nice to have had some plastic gloves to aid in wrangling the bones. One thing’s for sure though, the lime juice, chili, and garlic should spell the end of this lingering midwinter cold.

Lamoon, 81-40 Broadway, Elmhurst, 917-745-1168

12/10/18 5:40pm

A verdant reminder of spring on a cold Elmhurst evening.

Despite all the writing I do about various international cuisines there remains a soft spot in my heart and stomach for pizza and pasta, particularly as served by New York City pizzerias. It’s a rarity to find homemade pasta at the corner slice shop, so I’ve been curious about the homemade pasta at Louie’s Pizzeria for years. The thing is I’m usually too full after eating two or three pieces of their award-winning grandma slice to enjoy it. (more…)