Many guests on my food tours of America’s Greatest Chinatown—aka downtown Flushing—have had soup dumplings. Xiao long bao virgins get a quick tutorial. Since the wrappers at my favorite spot in New York Food Court are super thin, I encourage people to avoid using chopsticks and gingerly pick up the package from the top with their fingers and place it on the spoon.
They may or may not choose to cool their dumpling in the accompanying black vinegar, but the next step is always the same: “Bite a tiny hole in the side like a vampire and slurp the soup out.”
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…)
The year that just drew to close was a year of personal challenges—coping with chemo via congee—and achievements—publishing a guidebook to Queens—all while eating my way through New York City’s most delicious and diverse borough. Herewith, are 17 from 2017.
1. Most Super Soup Dumplings
I’ve been a fan of Helen You’s dumplings since long before she became the empress of Dumpling Galaxy. My favorite at Tianjin Dumpling house in Golden Mall remains the lamb and green squash. Yang rou xiao long bao, or lamb soup dumplings, are one of the off-menu stars at Dumpling Galaxy. The little packages bursting with unctuous lamb broth are so good that they have become a staple of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. Dumpling Galaxy, 42-35 Main St., Flushing, 718-461-0808
2. Choicest Chang Fen
I cut my teeth on Cantonese steam rice rolls at Mei Lei Wah in Manhattan’s Chinatown, so this breakfast staple will always have a special place in my heart and stomach. About a year ago Joe’s Steam Rice Roll opened in downtown Flushing and I knew right away that it was somethings special. For one thing he’s grinding fresh rice as opposed to using rice flour like everybody else in New York City, which imparts a delicate flavor and texture. Turns out that Joe himself went to Guangzhou to learn his craft and brought the equipment back with him. My favorite is the shrimp and egg with green onion. Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, 136-21 Roosevelt Ave., #A1, Flushing
3. Duckiest Thai Arancini
OK fine, they’re not quite Italian rice balls, but the trio of crispy sticky rice balls served with Thailand Center Point’s larb duck with crispy rice ($13.95) do a great job of soaking up the piquant sauce. The shredded meat—mixed with roasted rice powder and shot through with herbs and just the right amount of chilies—is superb. Thailand’s Center Point, 63-19 39th Avenue, Woodside, 718-651-6888(more…)
Surely Lhasa Fast Food’s “cold skin sushi” deserves Michelin recognition.
Earlier this week Michelin released its 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees, which “denotes establishments where diners can enjoy a great meal for a good value.” I’m glad the crew of inspectors from the little red book is focusing more attention on the so-called outer boroughs and happy to see they added my dear friend Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy to the list, but the Queens roster is still lacking. What’s more, Brooklyn and Manhattan are broken out into subareas (Upper East Side, Williamsburg, etc.) while the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens lack such distinction. If any from Guide Michelin is reading this, do look me up I’d be glad to consult with you on neighborhood geography for a modest fee. (For the record I live in the one called Rego Park.)
“I can name five more Southeast Asian restaurants that should be on that list,” read a quote from me in The Wall Street Journal’s piece on the Bib Gourmands. I can, but I won’t. Instead here’s a list of seven places of varying cuisines that should have made the Michelin cut.
1. Lhasa Fast food Everybody who’s into food knows about this spot, which Jeff Orlick hipped me to years ago. Call it a momo speakeasy if you must, but really what Lhasa Fast Food is is a window into another culture and cuisine that just happens to be tucked away behind a cellphone store. I like the spicy yellow liang fen done up to look like sushi and of course the momos, including the classic beef and the rarely seen chu tse, or chive version. . 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
For dessert there’s the pride of College Point, Cascon Cheesecake and old school confections from Schmidt’s in Woodhaven.I’m offering you dear reader/eater a chance to win 2 VIP tickets to this festive evening. Here’s what you need to do: write a haiku about international cuisine in Queens and leave it in the comments. The winner be selected a week from today. Good luck!!
“Wow, you look very healthy,” my friend Helen You told me the other day when I brought a tour group to her restaurant, Dumpling Galaxy for lamb soup dumplings. “It’s like you lived two lives in one,” she said when I told her about my recent recovery from colorectal cancer. You’s words made me tear up a bit as did the premiere episode of Last Stop on The 7, which details her own story of living two lives in one. The video, which was produced by the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Sixty First Productions, features absolutely mesmerizing shots of You’s flour coated hands rolling out wrappers and folding them to create pork and chive dumplings.
Why not have a large-format Dongbei lamb feast for Easter?
The New York Times recently had an article about lamb overtaking ham on the Easter table. Here in Queens I don’t wait until that springtime holiday to eat lamb. Just in case you don’t yet have Easter plans, please enjoy this selection of Chinese, Indian, and Uzbek lamb delicacies. If I left your favorite out please let me know in the comments.
1. Roast Lamb Leg, Desired Taste International
There are many, many places in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown to get juicy lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and red pepper, but there’s none quite like Desired Taste International. That’s because it’s star skewer—kao yang tui—is an entire leg of lamb. Salt, cumin, and sesame form a delicious crunchy crust that encases succulent purplish-red flesh. Ask for some cumin and ground red pepper to use as a dip for an extra burst of flavor. Desired Taste International, 35-20 Farrington St., Flushing, 718-888-9622
2. Lamb Chops, Kurry Qulture
“My lamb chops are getting very famous,” says Kurry Qulture’s Sonny Solomon. “A Greek guy came in and ordered 50 for Easter, he loved it so much.” Marinated in yogurt, black pepper, garam masala, coriander, and cumin the Astoria restaurant’s chops are indeed delicious. Tandoor-cooked, they’re the tenderest, most flavorful Indian lamb in Astoria—and all of Queens. (Photo: @restaurantfairy) Kurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212(more…)
There are many tasty things at Arcadia Mall on the southern end of Main Street in downtown Flushing. A good majority of them—hearty lamb soup dumplings, delicate seabass dumplings, and crunchy fried spare ribs—can be found at Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy. If only Cin Cheese Back Ribs were so so tasty. Sadly the bizarre Chinese Korean rib fondue mashup is not so great. Suffice to say the people who I eat with never leave food on the table. A redemption meal was needed and quick. So Daphne suggested we head over to the Fujianese joint next door for some peanut noodles. (more…)
Gong xi fa cai! Happy Year of the Rooster! One of the best things about Chinese New Year is that the celebration lasts for 15 days. So here on this fourth day of the Lunar New Year festivities, C+M presents a list of our favorite Chinese dishes in Queens, some old, some new, all decidedly delicious. Normally this column contains seven entries, but we’re giving you one for good luck!
1. House special ribs with spicy sauce, Fu Run Even though it’s the restaurant that introduced Chinese food fans to the cumin encrusted glory that is the Muslim lamb chop I’ve been over their version for quite some time. It stopped being good the moment the restaurant decided to prepare the racks of ribs in advance and reheat them. So I was very pleasantly surprised by the house special ribs with spicy sauce ($14.95) that I tried the other day. La xiao le pai, literally little spicy riblets, turn out to be deep fried Dongbei style rib tips shot through with fried peanuts, chilies, and cilantro. They’re the best pork ribs I’ve ever had in Flushing. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince St., Flushing, 718-321-1363
2. Hakka hot chicken, Tangra Masala I have it on good authority that there’s nothing wrong with eating chicken to celebrate the Year of The Rooster.; it’s only unlucky for the chicken. And, since it’s the Year of the Fire Rooster, there’s no better dish to celebrate than the hakka hot chicken at Peter Lo’s Indian-Chinese restaurant Tangra Masala. The dish of hacked up bits of fried bird is coated in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. Shot through with chilies and sautéed onions the succulent pieces of poultry call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
3. Sesame biscuit with fried jelly bun When I first saw the hawker stand set up across the street from the Golden Mall I thought it was yet another skewer specialist. Turns out the lady running it specializes in a vegetarian sandwich, sesame biscuits stuffed with fried bean jelly. A shao bing jia liang fen will set you back a mere $5. The bun’s filled with wobbly blocks of bean jelly that have been fried on a flat top and slathered with a profoundly garlicky sauce. Shao Bing Jia Liang Fen stand, 41st Rd, across form Golden Mall(more…)
The lamb and green squash dumplings at Helen You’s Tianjin Dumpling House were a revelation when I first tasted them years ago at Flushing’s Golden Mall. The tiny packages filled with lamb emit a puff of ovine aroma and burst with juices when bitten into. They remain a feature of my food tour to this day. Three years ago she opened Dumpling Galaxy, a sit-down restaurant. While I love the variety it offers—100 kinds of dumplings—sometimes, really most of the time, I prefer the hawker stand.
When I heard You was offering off menu lamb soup dumplings at Dumpling Galaxy, I forgot all about my preference for the hawker stand and hightailed it over to the restaurant. After all I am as big a fan of lamb as I am of soup dumplings. To the best of my knowledge she’s the only one in New York City offering yang rou xiao long bao.(more…)