As many C+M readers know, I love Asian snacks and chips—some more than others—and some less. There’s even a Chinese Lays potato chip taste-off on my food tours of Flushing Chinatown. We walk down the third snack aisle—yes there are three—of the vast Jmart Chinese supermarket until we hit the Lay’s lineup.
“Does that logo look familiar?” I ask as everyone’s eyes go wide with wonder over flavors like numb & spicy hot pot, pickled fish, spicy crayfish, and beef noodle soup.
Usually we’ll pick three or four to try, some savory and/or spicy and some downright strange, like the one I like to call “mystery fruit.” My friend Daniele and her husband, Christian who run Arthur Avenue Food Tours, know a thing or two about Italian food, so when they joined a recent adventure, I insisted they try the “Italian Red Meat Flavor,” .
“It tastes like barbecue sauce,” Daniele exclaimed after a few bites. Everybody really liked the Sichuan-inspired hotpot crisps, which sung with the signature ma la flavors of Sichuan peppercorn and chili. (For the record Sichuan peppercorn is listed on the ingredients, along with sesame and artificial flavors.)
“It tastes like bubblegum,” said another guest who gave a thumbs up to the mystery fruit, but I think he was just goofing around for the camera.
I’ve always suspected that the mysterious fruit was some type of berry. When I sent her a picture of it my Chinese speaking IG pal heyheyyuchen excitedly told me that it is yangmei or Chinese bayberry and that the packaging reads sheng jin yangmei or “mouth watering Chinese bayberry.”
Truth be told, these pink speckled treats are no more mouthwatering than other potato chip, perhaps even less so. I think they taste like Sweet Tarts, which I rather enjoyed as kid, but not so much in a chip. The only potato chip stranger than this one that I’ve tasted is Lay’s Do Us Flavor Cappuccino.
Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.
Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!
1. Kanikko Like many Japanesedrinking snackskanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220
Festive tangles of Thai taro.
2. Thai taro crunch Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)
Best logo stamped fast-food breakfast sandwich ever.
“Do you eat fast food?” the physician’s assistant asked me yesterday during my annual checkup. For a moment I wondered whether cumin lamb skewers consumed on Queens street corners qualified and decided they did not fit the fast-food bill.
“About two or three times a year,” I responded. Most of those times are on road trips and the idea of the food—be it a Big Mac, Whopper, or Taco Bell Burrito Supreme—always far exceeds the end product. It’s as if I’m trying to capture some mystical childhood fast food experience. I’m convinced that if Hardee’s, which I recall as having magnificent char-grilled flavor, still existed in New York City I would be a happy man. Call it chasing the fast food dragon. (more…)
I don’t often eat American chips, for I find Thai and Indian junk food far superior. Every now and then though I find myself in a gas station convenience store and bad decisions ensue. That’s how I happened to try Doritos Jacked Test Flavors. Apparently there are three varieties: orange, red, and blue. Presumably the last one tastes like menthol, or more likely blue cheese. I wouldn’t know because my pals and I were only able to sample the orange (404) and red (855) flavors. (more…)
Can you give me a recommendation for a place in Queens to eat oxtails? Paul Z., Bayside,N.Y.
There are many good West Indian places to eat oxtails in Queens, but I suggest that you go Chinese. The stewed oxtail over rice special at Liang’s Kitchen (133-51 39th Ave., Flushing, 347-506-0115)is quite lovely. For a spicier approach I highly recommend the oxtail and hand ripped noodles atBiang! (41-10 Main St., Flushing, 718-888-7713.)
Whenever I go to the Golden Shopping Mall I find myself very overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds,and aromas. What’s the best thing to eat there? Baffled in Brooklyn
You are not alone, the first time I went there I left without ordering a thing because I was completely overwhelmed. (more…)
Thai potato chips by way of Billyburg and Great Britain.
I first came across the British potato chip brand Walkers at Butcher Block, the Irish grocer in Woodside. Actually to be more precise Walkers makes crisps as they are called in the U.K., in such flavors as roast chicken and prawn cocktail. So when I spotted the stylish black bag of Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli Crisps at Bedford Cheese Shop I immediately forked over $1.75 and took the Southeast Asian flavored potato chips back to Queens for a Taste Drive. (more…)
Ligaya Mishan of the Times weighs in on Salt & Fat in Sunnyside whose pork belly buns are capable of “evoking not so much a Big Mac as your best childhood memory of it.” Mishan’s takeaway: “. . . not every dish is hellbent on living up to the restaurant’s name.”
Over at The Atlantic Michael Moss writes about a food that is hell-bent on the use of salt, fat, and sugar: the potato chip. Apart from an incisive analysis of why chips are so addictive, or craveable as snack industry gurus like to say there’s this revelation: ”chip companies spend a lot of effort creating a perfectly noisy, crunchy chip.”
The Village Voice offers a hit list of the city’s 10 best French fries, including Mile End’s wonderful looking smoked-meat poutine fries. Sadly the only entry for Queens is Huajio fried potatoes at Little Pepper.While the Sichuan-accented fries are quite good, surely Joju’s ultracrunchy bizarre banh mi fries deserve a spot.
And Tejal Rao makes me incredibly hungry for the pristine flavors and jewel-box presentation of Japanese vegan cusine as served at Kajitsu in Midtown.
O.G. ethnic food enthusiast Robert Sietsema files a dispatch headlined, “Shanghai Newcomer Full House Brings Back Soup Dumplings.” I’m sure the xiao long bao at this Bowery spot are quite good, but here in Queens soup dumplings never left.
Over at Esquire’s Eat Like a Man John Mariani writes about his bromance with the Bronx hood, Belmont where one can score fresh mozzarella that’s still warm and slurp clams on the sidewalk. Sign me up, John.
Max Falkowitz endures the wrath of a surly paesan working the counter at Little Italy’s Parisi Bakery and orders a dreadnought of a sandwich: a potato and egg on an 18-inch loaf of lard bread. Now why didn’t I think of that.
I suspect Lays Do Us A Flavor campaign potato chips are made with unicorn meat. For more than a month I have being scouring convenience store shelves searching in vain for the three flavor finalists: Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, and Sriracha. A few weeks ago I spied the Chicken & Waffles flavor at a convenience store, but didn’t buy them, partly because I wasn’t that hungry, but mostly because chicken and waffle chips don’t sound all that appealing. I had just about given up any hope of trying these crowd-sourced crisps, when I saw the Sriracha flavor in a Flushing convenience store. I immediately snatched up three packs for $1.50.
The first thing I noticed when I tore into them was that they seemed crunchier than normal Lays chips. The next thing I noticed was the distinctive chili and garlic flavor of Sriracha. I still prefer the chips from Lays Thailand that I tried a while back. Nevertheless I’m casting my vote for these spicy chips. I haven’t tried the other two flavors and I doubt that have chance to before this crowd-sourced potato chip campaign ends on May 4. So here’s what I’d like to know, have you tried Lays Sriracha potato chips yet? Moreover how do you feel about this most American of Asian hot sauces? And how do you pronounce it? I have grown accustomed to pronouncing it shree-RATCH-AH. Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.
In about two weeks it will be Chinese New Year, specifically the Year of the Snake. Around C+M headquarters I have taken to calling it the Year of The Snack. It’s with great pleasure that I introduce a new column, Midnight Snack. Sometimes I think that I eat meals between snacks, instead of avoiding between-meal snacks as I was told to do in grade school. Often these treats fall into the category of irrestible international junk food. That’s certainly the case with today’s entry, Kurkure. Think of it as India’s answer to Cheetos. I think Frito-Lay may have discontinued the Kurkure Extreme flavor. Not to worry, the flavors that are available—Masala Munch, Chilli Chatka, and Hyderabadi Hungama—with ingredients like ginger powder, black salt, and chili powder are plenty extreme,with a great crunch and serious heat level. I score mine at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, Queens, but you can find the this unique Midnight Snack at any decent-sized Indian grocer.
Patel Brothers, 37-27 74th St., Jackson Heights, 718-898-3445