01/05/22 4:33pm


“We don’t eat pork or drink alcohol,” some guests on a Flushing Chinatown food adventure told me when asked about dietary restrictions for their upcoming tour. “Perfect time to check out that oyster omelet at the Fujianese joint in the New York Food Court that Dave wrote about,” I thought to myself, for you see, I don’t like to put anything on my tours that I haven’t vetted myself.

Oyster omelets are a hawker food eaten throughout Southeast Asia, but most famously at Taiwanese night markets. The first time I ate a Taiwanese one I had a raging hangover and couldn’t really stomach the gloppy consistency from the sweet potato starch. I wasn’t sure to what to expect of Minnan Xiaochi’s Fujianese version.

Unlike its Taiwanese cousin, the Fujianese version was almost paper thin and super crunchy from the egg itself as well as the plenty of green onions that were fried until crispy. What starch there was wasn’t gloppy so much as a binding agent. Hai li jian as it’s known in Southern Fujian made for a fine meal with a bowl of rice and an especially novel stop on a food tour.

Minnan Xiaochi, No. 13, New York Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing

12/10/21 6:43pm
Lamb neck and pig face from Mandalay Club whose kitchen is ensconced somewhere in the odd looking Sunnyside Eats.

“After five or 10 minutes of trying to figure out how to order a guy my age will give up and go around the corner and get a slice of pizza,” I quipped to my new friend Calvin. “And not come back,” I thought to myself.

Thankfully my urge to try the Burmese food from Myo Moe’s newly opened Mandalay Club outweighed my frustration with technology and the disconnect I experienced at Sunnyside Eats, a ghost kitchen/food hall that as best as I can tell opened earlier this fall. Part of the disconnect was due to the use of the word “Food Hall” on the outdoor signage. I’d expected to walk around a food hall. Instead I found myself in a room that looked somewhat like a cross between a taxi dispatch office and the set of Squid Game.

“Is Mandalay Club open today?” I didn’t see them on the tablet. “Oh yeah, they’re new. You have to order from Uber Eats,” the guy behind the dispatch window told me.

After installing Uber Eats and fiddling around with it for another five minutes only to realize that Mandalay Club was not on the platform Calvin came over. By this time I’d figured out Mandalay Club was on DoorDash. “It should be about 20 minutes,” Calvin informed me after checking on my order. That order consisted of wettar thoke ($14)—a cold melange of various parts of pig face, cucumbers chilies and veggies that I hadn’t enjoyed since Crazy Crab in Flushing shut down a few years ago—and anya lamb curry seit thar natt ($18), an intriguing sounding lamb neck dish.

While I waited, I amused myself by seeing how many photos I could take in the lobby despite the fact a sign expressly forbids any photography and video. (For the record it was two.) And then I remembered that my friend Kazuko Nagao of Oconomi had opened at Sunnyside Eats, so she came downstairs and helped me pass the time as I waited for my meal.

The meal itself was quite excellent. The pig head dish was a wonderful balance of crunchy bits of ear, squidgy nose, and creamy cheek meat with cucumber, green chili, red onion and other veggies. The lamb neck was amazing too. Moe told me she sources it from D’Artagnan and then cooks it for an hour and a half in a gingery masala along with yellow split peas.

All in all it made for a fine meal on a chilly evening. In fact I’m looking forward to part two tonight. That said, I’ll stick to frequenting real food courts instead of ghost ones, which leave me hungering for human interaction. Guess this very very late adopter will be ordering Oconomi as well as the rest of Moe’s menu via DoorDash.

Mandalay Club, 40-05 Skillman Ave., Long Island City

11/29/21 7:48pm

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas with Chef Bimla and the belt, this year’s map, and a bowl of buffalo johl momo.

“I can get momo any time. It’s just too much of a scene for me,” is usually what I say when asked about the Momo Crawl. “I prefer to pay my respects to the winner afterwards.”

“You could say it’s the SantaCon of momos but I prefer to say it’s the WrestleMania,” tweeted Jeff Orlick founder of the annual event, which brings hundreds of fans hungry for Himalayan dumplings, to the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Woodside, in a reference to the coveted Momo Crawl trophy, which is modeled after a championship wrestling belt.

For the past four years that trophy has graced the wall of Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, thanks to Chef Bimla Hamal Shreshtha’s piping hot momos, served in a fiery jhol broth humming with ginger, chili and other spices.
This year though not only did I pay my respects to the winner, I attended the crawl itself, and I’m glad I did. I ran into many dear friends old and new and frankly felt a sense of liberation despite my general distaste for crowds.

I tried only four of the 29 places on the crawl and couldn’t make sense of Momo Crawl mastermind Jeff Orlick’s map. “It’s a real Jeff Orlick special,” my pal Drew said with a chuckle. Later we sampled the winning momos from Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, which proved to be the hottest and freshest of the ones I tried, with lots of variety. I went for a trifecta of beef, buffalo, and goat with plenty of broth. The broth proved too spicy for my sweetheart Hannah’s daughter Vera, but that didn’t deter her appetite for more of the dumplings. In fact if she had her way I think she’d have done at least a half dozen more stops.

“They try very hard to win, and that makes a huge difference,” Orlick said of this year’s winner. “People seemed very happy to be there. Being outside also gave people some relief from being so concerned about coronavirus.”

This afternoon I took a long walk through the Heights to work up an appetite for a bowl of Chef Bimla’s momo. I opted for the buffalo. With a nip in the air and the second snow of the season falling it seemed like a perfect choice. Congrats again to Chef Bimla and Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, but most of all to Jeff Orlick for showing this sometimes jaded culinary king the joy of community in action.

Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, 74-15 Roosevelt Ave., (917) 745-0533

11/22/21 11:37am


The chef recommended I try the No. 12 at the newly opened Burmese bites, shown here unmixed.

Myo Lin Thway and his family who run Burmese Bites at the Queens Night Market, a specialist in palata—airy stuffed roti like bread made by Myo himself—and other goodies like ohno kaukswe, a wonderful coconut chicken noodle soup, have long been one of my favorite stands. I almost always get their noodles or palata on every visit to the market. There’s only one problem; I wish there were more options as well as the ability to get their Burmese cuisine year round. Well, thanks to the crew’s new location, which opened about a week ago in the Queens Center Mall Food Court, a venue better known for Panda Express than Burmese delicacies, both of these problems have been solved.

“What do you have that’s not at the Night Market?” I asked, looking at the roster of more than a dozen dishes. “You should get the Number 12, the shan kaukswe,” he said. “I know you’ll like these noodles because you appreciate Burmese food.”

In addition to the noodles I ordered tea leaf salad, or laphet thoke, a riotous blend of textures and flavors that along with the fish soup mohinga is considered by many to be the national dish of Burma. Just as Myo handed me my food who should I spy taking photos but none other than my dear friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation. (We have been running into each other in my various Queens stamping grounds for years now and Dave joked that we need to develop a bat signal so we can know when an impromptu eatup is about to occur.)



Each dish came in a cardboard takeout box, the components waiting to be mixed. The shan kaukswe container simply labeled “Shan” held rice noodles topped with ground chicken and peanuts surrounded by pea shoots, scallions, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and a little cup of dried chili. I started to mix the lot with fork and spoon, but quickly realized that closing and vigorously shaking the box—albeit carefully—would be more effective. This newly created Shan shake didn’t work so well for the tea leaf salad, which I tossed with utensils.

I’m glad I took Myo’s recommendation. The combination of the noodles along with the salty pickled vegetables, chili, garlic, and other components was utterly transporting. Dave ordered the shrimp curry and mango salad and subbed in tea life rice for white rice. All in all it was a great first meal at Myo’s new digs.

For a long time I’ve groused that the mall’s food court, known as the World’s Fare Café, was hardly deserving of the moniker since it didn’t reflect the delicious diversity of Queens. Now thanks to Burmese Bites along with its newly opened neighbor C Bao, a purveyor of Chinese pork and duck buns, it’s on its way to becoming a food court worthy of the World’s Borough.

Burmese Bites, Queens Center Mall, 90-15 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst