07/18/19 3:41pm

Downtown Flushing’s Chinese nougat man plying his wares on a hot summer’s day.

I can count the number of times I’ve added unknown foods to my Queens culinary walking tours on the fingers of one hand. This reticence to try new things with guests stems not from a lack of adventure, but rather the “all killer no filler” approach I take to the foods I showcase on the tour. Most of the time, unknown quantities prove to be severely lacking, but every now and then I come across a gem. Such a diamond in the rough appeared in the form of a streetside sweet on yesterday’s Flushing Chinatown food tour.

My guests and I were en route to the subterranean Golden Shopping Mall food court when I spied a Chinese gentleman with a streetside stand with a bunch of other Chinese folks surrounding him. I peeked over their shoulders, to see what I first thought was dragon beard candy because of the clouds of confectioners sugar, then I realized it was giant spiral of stretchy, sweet nougat. For a buck a pop the gent, who turns about to be from Fujian Province, stretched out the elastic peanut-filled sweet and then cut a fat finger sized length off with kitchen shears. It’s pretty tasty, but truthfully I was more amazed by finding a new street food than the flavor per se.

After my guests and I said our goodbyes, I hung out for a while and watched him ply his craft.When asked him his hours he shrugged and said he didn’t know. I bought a few more pieces to give my friends at Chengdu Tian Fu. I emerged from Golden Mall on to the street and went to say goodbye to the taffy master, but he was gone.

“Wow that was quick,” I thought giving myself a healthy mental pat on the back for having tried it. As I made my way northward on Main Street who should I see but my new friend posted up underneath the Long Island Railroad Station, with a small crowd around him. He hadn’t left, but had moved on to a busier spot. My new motto  is Carpe Via Cibus—Seize The Street Food—for you never know when it’s going to be gone.

All of this brings me back to the titular question of this post, what’s your favorite Queens street food these days? Let me know in the comments.

06/01/17 4:56pm

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my  teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.

1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights

 

2.  Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp,  minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate.  Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181 (more…)

04/13/17 10:25am
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Soul satisfying Fuzhou peanut noodles.

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…)

02/18/15 12:43am
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Sesame chicken and wonton soup, Brooklyn style.

PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED

When it comes to Chinese sandwiches in New York City there are few real standouts: gua bao as made by everybody from Eddie Huang to Taiwanese grannies, Xi’an Famous Foods’ cumin lamb burger, and the $1 Peking duck buns from Flushing’s Corner 28.  So I was very pleased to discover an outstanding American-Chinese mashup of a sandwich—Red Star’s sesame chicken ($8.50) —although I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I travelled to Boerum Hill to get it.

Red Star Sandwich Shop is the brainchild of brothers Gibson and Johnson Ho who grew up eating a combination of Chinese takeout and traditional Fujianese food that their parents and grandparents made. Sesame chicken was a childhood favorite says Johnson. “It’s so American.”

Red Star takes the American-Chinese classic and turns up the heat a bit creating a sesame chicken sandwich that got my attention without blowing my head off. The tender sesame-studded chunks of fried dark meat came with a sauce more spicy than sweet piled high on a roll from Carroll Garden’s institution Caputo’s Bakery. The whole lot’s dressed with pickled peppers, jalapenos, and lettuce.

I’ve eaten sesame chicken and wonton soup together, but not quite like this. Unlike the wonton soup from the corner takeout, Red Star’s is a delicate Fuzhou style version with thin skinned pork dumplings floating in broth made from pork and chicken.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Red Star’s stupendously good p’tater tots ($3.25), which take a school lunch favorite and elevate it to the zth degree. They are twice fried resulting in a fluffy interior and a crispy outside.

Before I left Johnson and I talked for a bit about Fuzhou food. “It’s not sexy,” he said. I nodded eating the last of the tots. And then I told him that if his brother Gibson, an alum of Ippudo and Momofuku Noodle Bar, could make such ethereal tater tots surely he could make Fujianese food sexy.

Red Star Sandwich Shop, 176 Smith St, Boerum Hill, 718-935-1999