02/02/21 3:56pm
These savory sweet Phoenix cookies are known as little chicken cookies in Malaysia.

Longtime C&M readers know Little House Cafe, the wonderful Malaysian restaurant/bakery run by Helen Bay—who handles the baking, including the infamous Golden Pillow, a food tour favorite—and her husband, Michael Lee—who handles the savory dishes, like a bangup chow kueh teow and such creations as salted egg chow fun with shrimp—is one of my favorite places to eat in Queens.

After the pandemic hit they closed for a bit and reopened in May, but just for takeout. Since I moved to Elmhurst, I have taken to strolling over to the mini Chinatown spur of Corona Avenue to get some takeout and treats from the little house with the yellow awning.

My go-to treat is something the shop calls “Phoenix Cookies.” Each container holds some two dozen mahogany colored, crunchy sweet-savory biscuits studded with black and white sesame seeds. Toasty, and not too sweet with a hint of pepper they’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee, which is how I enjoy them most every day.

The Chinese on the label reads ji zai bing, or “little chicken cookie,” as they’re commonly known in Malaysia, specifically in the the small town of Kampar, where they are said to have been created. Bay makes hers with fermented bean curd, candied melon, and pepper among other things.
Whether you call them chicken biscuits or Phoenix cookies, the irregularly shaped brown crisps are decidedly Southeast Asian.

Like all of the noodles at Little House the Singapore fried mee hoon is excellent.

As I mentioned I’m a big fan of all of the stir-fried noodles at Little House, so when I saw on the restaurant’s Facebook page that they were offering something called Singapore fried mee hoon, which bears a striking resemblance to one of my favorite noodle dishes, Singapore mei fun, I had to try it.

The tangle of vermicelli gone yellow from curry, shot through with fish cake, shrimp, beef, and squid is the best version of the dish I’ve ever had. Since it came from a Southeast Asian restaurant and had a different name, I thought I had discovered the mysterious origins of this American Chinese takeout classic. “No, it’s the same thing, mee hoon is just the Fujianese way of saying it,” my Malaysian pal Danny schooled me.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner my sincere hope for Little House Cafe and every cafe, dim sum house, restaurant, and hawker stand in every Chinatown is that it rises like a phoenix from COVID. Like many other Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants Little House Cafe offers many treats that are only available during this festive season, check their Facebook page for details.

Little House Cafe, 90-19 Corona Ave., Elmhurst, 718-592-0888

01/27/21 10:47pm

“Good sandwich,” my pal Rocky said between bites, “but Sandwich Therapy’s kind of a goofy name.” Those bites consisted of crunchy chicken schnitzel studded with sesame seeds; thick slabs of fried eggplant smoky and sweet; a shmear of tahini; pickled daikon and carrots; and matbucha, a spicy Moroccan tomato and pepper stew all packed between two slabs of challah.

I first encountered the Sandwich Therapy stand, which sets up on the median of 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights just outside Travers Park, about a month ago. I’d already had lunch that day and didn’t take note of the name, but I did buy some lovely Georgian Shakarlama cookies, enriched with ground walnuts and almonds and perfumed with cardamom. I forgot all about it until Rocky texted me an image of this crazy looking dreadnought of a sandwich last Friday. (He in turn had heard of the stand from fellow food nerd Dave Cook of Eating in Translation.)

And that’s how we came to be eating a fried chicken sandwich with a decidedly Israeli accent on a blustery Friday in Jackson Heights. “Maybe he’s a social worker I mused,” taking a pause before tackling the second half of this truly masterful sandwich.

“We’re going to have it every Friday,” said the Master himself Mark Blinder, who operates the stand on Friday’s from 2 to 6 and 11-3 on Saturday and Sunday with his wife, Esthi Zipori. “It’s very popular in Israel right now, they even call it the Friday sandwich.”

As for the stand’s name, it turns out that Blinder does have a Masters degree in Social Work. He’s been sidelined due to COVID, so in November he and Esthi decided to sell set up shop near their local park. They often get their bread from Variety Bakery on 80th Street and Northern Boulevard. It bears pointing out that at $12 the Friday sandwich is among the most affordable of the many modalities of gustatory therapy available in the Heights. And the tahini chocolate chip cookies I scored were pretty damn good, too. To pre-order your very own Friday sandwich e-mail Mark and Esthi at sandwichtherapy77@gmail.com.

01/28/16 11:18pm

WOHOPWONTON

The perfect amuse for American-Chinese.

As someone who often spends every waking moment seeking out and ingesting “authentic” Chinese food—Muslim lamb chops, gui lin mei fen, Sichuan cold noodles, Shanghai xiao long bao, to name a very few—I sometimes forget where I came from. I cut my teeth on Long Island strip mall Chinese—chow fun, lo mein and General Tso’s—along with dishes with names like “happy family.” To this day I think my mother—ever the peacekeeper—ordered the stir fry of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, and scallops mixed with vegetables just because she thought the name had some sort of magical powers. Whatever domestic strife there may have been growing up, we were mostly certainly a happy family when eating Chinese food whether dim sum, Peking duck, strip mall Chinese, or one of my favorite spots of all, the subterranean den of American-Chinese splendor that is Wo Hop.

I blame monthly visits to Wo Hop with my parents and basement Thanksgiving feasts for engendering an obsession with delicious food served in basements that would reach fruition with my forays into Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall decades later.

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