10/30/15 12:20am

Gemmeli were a childhood favorite for Mamma Gianna Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica.

This year marks the 100th birthday of Ronzoni, the venerable pasta maker that was started by one Emanuele Ronzoni in 1915. To celebrate its centennial the company chose a chef from each New York City’s borough to be the face of Ronzoni. When I received an e-mail stating that Chef Gianna ‘Mamma Gianna’ Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica was named the Ronzoni chef for Queens, I couldn’t help but smile, her restaurant is one of my favorite Italian spots, and, just like Ronzoni, she got her start in Long Island City, Queens.  (more…)

04/14/15 9:50am

Shanghai noodles and xiao long bao at Diverse Dim Sum.

They were easily my favorite xiao long bao in downtown Flushing. I’ve missed the juicy, translucent packages of pork and crab these past four months as much as I’ve missed warm sunshine. Before Flushing Mall closed back in January I asked Diverse Dim Sum’s owner where I could find their soup dumplings. He said they were going to reopen on Kissena Boulevard. I’m pleased to say Diverse Dim Sum is back and it’s a lot closer than Kissena. They’ve set up shop at New York Food Court.  (more…)

05/20/14 10:46am

There’s a reason miang kana is number one on the chef’ specialties.


“Do you have miang kum?” I asked the chef of Ploy Thai. She was chatting outside the kitchen door chatting with her staff. I don’t usually accost chefs while the gates are still down, but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends who were joining me for a Thai food crawl in Elmhurst. My Thai is beyond limited, but I definitely  heard her say something with the word miang. I was very excited to introduce my pals to the savory flavor bomb that is miang kum—dried shrimp, tiny skin on lime wedges, chilies, peanuts, dried shredded coconut, and a sugary fish sauce spiked paste—designed to be wrapped up in a leaf and enjoyed. (more…)

02/11/14 11:03am

DIY Thai takeout via Elmhurst.


On weekend mornings the counter at Sugar Club, a Thai grocer/video store, is lined with dozens of containers of prepared foods. Many of these come in the form of a kit to be assembled at home. Last weekend kao krup kapi ($7) caught my eye. Onions, sliced raw green beans, and Thai chilies occupied one side of the container. Slivers of unripened mango and a tangle of sliced omelet and dried shrimp filled the other quadrant. Reddish rice and a baggie of sweet pork formed the base. I could hardly wait to assemble this DIY Thai takeout. (more…)

10/01/13 10:28am

1962 Tofu has its roots in South Korea.


The real K-town in New York City is in Queens, stretching for about five miles from Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing all the way out to Manhasset . This vast K-tropolis is lined with dozens of BBQ restaurants, kimbap joints, large Korean supermarkets, fried chicken spots,  a store that sells Korean stone beds, and even a Korean-run Third Wave espresso bar. There are so many places it would take an entire lifetime to document them all. So it is with some trepidation that I announce a new feature on C+M: K-tropolis. Today, a look at 1962 Tofu a Korean soft tofu chain that opened its first U.S. branch over the summer. (more…)

07/18/13 11:55am
There's no need to add extra hot sauce.

There’s no need to add extra hot sauce.


Yesterday the high temperature in Monrovia, Liberia was 83. Queens was substantially hotter than West Africa,  the mercury hit 97. And the heat from the pepper shrimp ($12) at Maima’s Liberian Bistro was at the same constant lip-blazing level it always is, approximately Fahrenheit 451. Maima’s is my type of place. The city’s only Liberian eatery is presided over the grandmotherly Maima. Many of the restaurant’s patrons call her mama. (more…)

05/14/13 9:48am
The newly opened Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.

Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.


At one of the many recent Southeast Asian lunar New Year festivals  my good friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation spoke excitedly about a new spot in Flushing, “Mama Khao’s.”  At least that’s what I thought he said, until he informed me that the new Malaysian joint is named Mamak House, after the mamak who as I just learned from Wikipedia are “Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago.” As Dave explained that the joint was started by a gal who runs a mamak-style catering outfit I thought, “Boy my Singaporean friends are gonna be excited about this place.” Whenever I talk to them about Malaysian food in New York City, they always say something to the effect of, “It’s OK, but it’s not the same as back home. The Indian influence is missing.”

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Last week Dave and I met at Mamak House for a late lunch. As I walked in I recalled that it used to be a Dongbei joint with table cooking in fact, several of the grill tables remain. The menu, is filled with mamak specialties, including an intriguing weekend only dish: nasi ulam utara, rice mixed with more than 10 types of herbs and roasted shrimp. The back of the bill of fare is adorned with pictures of spices from the aromatic to the fiery. The murtabak ($6.95) , savory envelopes filled with ground beef, were subtly flavored with clove and other spices. A sidecar of sharp pickled onions accompanied the mellow Malaysian beef blintzes. (more…)

04/19/13 11:51am
Shrimp cocktails in the sun, a taste of Mexico City on Roosevelt Ave.

Shrimp coktels  in the sun, a taste of Mexico City on Roosevelt Ave.

I recently wrote about the return of Pedro El Cevichero to the streets of Jackson Heights. This past weekend I checked out his new digs. Pedro has taken his old sign reading La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, or “the corner of Mexican shrimp,” with him and he’s gained three helpers. By the time I got to him I felt like I’d already eaten my way through half of Thailand. So in lieu of eating a coktel de camaron, I took a mouth-watering photo of a pair of freshly made ones. I can’t wait to go back and try the first coktel of what are sure to be many. Shrimp coktels are available in three sizes ($8, $10, $12). The excellent mixto, shrimp and octopus is ($6, $8, $10). Find Pedro on weekends at Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

02/19/13 12:00am
A crunchy, spicy, fishy snack from Malaysia.

A crunchy, spicy, fishy snack from Malaysia.

One of the reasons I love Curry Leaves apart from the fact that it’s the closest thing Flushing has to a Malaysian night market is all the snacks and desserts that line the counter. The other day I spotted a package labeled “spicy shrimp knots.” Inside the clear plastic container were dozens and dozens of tiny wontons tied in knots. “It’s for Chinese New Year,” the lady behind the counter said as I handed her $8.

The delicate fried bundles have a shatteringly crunchy skin filled with intensely shrimpy dried shrimp. There’s just a hint of chili heat. Crunchy, salty, fishy they are in my Malay junk food wheelhouse. For the first few days I controlled my appetite for these intensely flavored treats. “They’d make a great topping for soup,” I thought to myself, being sure not to polish off the container. Tonight I threw self-control to the wind and polished off the rest. I will probably check back at Curry Leaves this week to see if they have anymore. If not I’m sure I’ll find some other form of Malaysian munchables.

Curry Leaves, 135-31 40th Road, Flushing, 718-762-9313

02/11/13 12:32pm
Slated to be one of the tastiest seafood preparations in the East Village.

Slated to be one of the tastiest seafood preparations in the East Village.

When it comes to certain dishes less is more. I’m all for a complex curry with a dozen spices brimming with all manner of goodies or an overdressed báhn mì. For grilled seafood though simplicity is the best approach. That’s why today’s dish of the day is the charred head-on shrimp ($12) at Ducks Eatery.

Four generous specimens are grilled on skewers and lavished with multiple brushing of whipped lardo. And before they’re grilled  the head are injected with a mixture of  anise and chili. Simple, but just complicated enough to keep it interesting.  Served on a slate shingle  over a bed of arugula that wilts slightly from the hot shrimp it’s some of the tastiest—and messiest—grilled seafood I’ve had.  You’ll want to take your time licking every last bit of seafood infused pork butter from your fingers before heading out into the cold East Village night. I know I did.

Ducks Eatery, 351 East 12th St., East Village, 212-432-3825