It’s the pescatarian response to the Muslim lamb chop.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
It’s a good thing I don’t have a cumin allergy. Otherwise I’d never be able to enjoy the many delicious Dongbei dishes that liberally employ the spice. Perhaps the most famous is a meaty marvel that goes by the name Muslim lamb chop. It is an entire rack of lamb that’s been braised, deep fried and then rolled in cumin, black and white sesame seeds, and hot pepper. And it is spectacular. The other night at Rural I learned there is a fish version.
All the crunch of a potato chip with one million times the cumin.
Cumin flounder ($15.99) lands on the table coated in plenty of its namesake spice, plus a copious amount of chilies. Gawk at it for a moment and Instagram if you must, but then let the waitress cut up into rectangles using a spoon. Crunch into it while it’s still hot. Each swatch of flounder is perfectly fried. In addition to cumin there are pickled chilies lending a nice flavor to what I’ve come to think of as a Dongbei potato chip of sorts.
The Chinese name translates to noodle hat, but there are no noodles here.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Dongbei cuisine, which got me to thinking about Minzhongle, a bygone Flushing spot. Like most Dongbei places the Korean influence was evident on the menu with dishes like naeng myun. The refreshing cold Korean noodles in an icy beef broth, are one of my favorite things to eat come summertime.
So when I saw “special Korean cold noodles” on the menu at Minzhongle, I had to find out just what was so special about this $17.99 bowl of noodles. Minzhongle is closed but the dish whose Chinese name translates to “noodle hat,” remains one of the strangest things I’ve ever eaten. For one thing there were no noodles in the icy beef broth. It did however contain the standard slice of beef shin. It also had many things which seemingly have no business being in a cold noodle soup. There was practically an entire produce stand’s worth of fruit in the bowl: watermelon, grapes, oranges, strawberries, and Korean pears. It was as if someone had spilled a quart of naeng myun broth into a fruit salad. To this day it remains one of the strangest things I’ve ever eaten.
Gimme that Dong Bei filet o’ fish. Gimme that fish.
PLEASE NOTE THIS VENUE IS CLOSED
Lao Dong Bei is one of the newer, if not the newest, Northeastern Chinese joints to open in Flushing. The name means “old Dong Bei.” One of my favorite things to eat here is the cumin sliced fish ($12.50). The fish fry-up is dusted with red chili and strewn with cumin seeds. A crunchy, spicy exterior gives way to tender flounder flesh. That spice mixture may look familiar to fans of Fu Run’s Muslim lamb chop. That’s because the man behind the wok here used to be the head chef at Fu Run. I have taken to calling the combination of cumin, sesame, and chili Old Dong Bei Seasoning.
Many thanks to my pal Peter Cuce for the mouthwatering photo.
Lao Dong Bei, 44-09 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11355, 718-539-4100
I’ll cop to ordering—and even liking—the occasional container of General Tso’s from my local takeout. I never thought I’d eat it at one of Flushing’s increasing number of Dong Bei eateries, specializing in the cuisine of northeastern China. Actually it was “chicken in orange flavor” ($8.50),which in any case sounds like something from an American Chinese takeout rather than Lao Dong Bei.
When my dining companions suggested chén pí jī for dessert I thought they were kidding and just wanted to try one more dish, as is often the case with food fanatics. It looked like something from the corner takeout, but it was a sweet and savory surprise. Pieces of chicken had been fried and coated with hot sugar syrup. Crunchy and sweet they were interspersed with bits of fragrant dried orange peel and chilies that clung to the bird. Think of it as the poultry version of bá sī píng guǒ, a popular Dongbei dessert of apples in sticky hot syrup that forms a crunchy candy coating when dipped in cold water. Next time I’m having the fried pork in orange sauce for dessert.