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Mini Food Tour of Flushing, Queens
I've ridden along NYC's 7 train countless times, but this was my first time going to the far east end of the line. Wikipedia writes:
Flushing's rise as the largest epicenter of Chinese culture outside Asia has been attributed to the remarkable diversity of regional Chinese demographics represented
Food-wise, Flushing has some popular NYC brands (Xi'an Famous Foods), locations which also exist in Manhattan Chinatown (Chinatown Ice Cream Factory), and several of its own treats. The main draws are hotpot and BBQ, but I am one person with one stomach, so I charted my own path.
I try foods from Wuhan, Xinjiang, and Taiwan and discuss that a bit in this post. With that, withdraw some cash and dive in:
Four Four South Village
When first visiting Manhattan Chinatown and Taipei, a Taiwanese friend had me try zhupai which is fried pork chop. This time around, I figured that I should find a highly-rated Taiwanese place and order what I know.
44's signature item is beef broth noodles, so I got an order with pork chop on the side. Super tasty. Another friend saw the photo and asked if I was in Taiwan!
Kulu offers many treats. I'm a fan of a bubble waffle wherever I can find one, so I got a Golden Durian sundae. This was a good way to try the popular but notoriously smelly durian fruit, because you're eating it with other sweets, and you could take out the scoop if you change your mind.
The first thing that I saw was an electronic ordering touchscreen, so I used that, but I also saw people talking over options at the counter.
Bonus round! Urban Hawker opened in Midtown Manhattan in September, inspired by Singaporean hawker centres and Anthony Bourdain's idea to adapt it for the NYC lunch crowd. The concept is several street food vendors in one food court. It's quite busy on weekends around lunch time. I liked the chicken satay burger, and if I returned I'd go for one of the Malaysian options.
If you want to do a deep dive into street food urbanism and health and living wages / housing subsidies, from what I heard Singapore has this on lock (see Netflix's series Street Food: Asia). Malaysia is also well-regarded, and Thailand is going through some upheaval, trying since 2017 to push food vendors off the street and into similar centres.
Joe's Steam Rice Roll
A Hong Kong breakfast dish (cheung fun) with meat and veggies wrapped in rice noodle sheets. It's usually compared to an omelette, but may be more of a lasagna? This is in a tiny indoor mall with a few stalls and a bodega. Joe's is the kitchen on your left immediately after entering. I ordered mine with pork and egg. For the veggies I said "any is OK" and they put corn, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
++ Would get these again - in fact I may try to cook this at home.
There are ~6 stools at the counter with people coming and going, but I got mine as takeout. Cash only
In February 2020 when times were getting unprecedented, a cartoon from the Chinese internet traveled over to US Twitter. Here we see food specialties from around China coming to offer well-wishes to Wuhan, represented by their own specialty: hot dry noodles.
Cartoon by Chen Xiaotao on "Wuhan Jia You!" - https://medium.com/@jingerzeng/how-chinese-fight-corona-virus-anxieties-with-noodles-66b75614632f
The noodles also featured in Laura Gao's "The Wuhan I Know" (now a graphic novel-memoir). So I became convinced to try this dish despite it being described as 'hot' and 'dry'.
Wuhan Foodie has the noodles and a salty doughnut:
From photos, I wondered if the noodles were like Burmese Shan noodles. Instead the bowl has a thick sesame sauce at the bottom; home recipes include tahini. The donut was fresh out of the fryer and was quite good. There is a container of red sauce which adds a tingly spice, and a cup of a bean or lentil soup.
This wasn't really to my liking, but from reviews online and work Slack, + + on authenticity.
I always talk up Malaysia because you have a combination of Chinese, Southeast Asian, and South Indian cultures and cuisines. One food that I never find in the US and had to make at home is roti jala, a kind of turmeric-yellow dippable crepe.
The reviews for PappaRich often featured the nasi lemak (big scoop of coconut rice in the middle, egg, meat, and veggies in orbit) so I went in that direction. There's another restaurant in Flushing named 'Malay' which is older and (based on food pics) is maybe more Chinese-Malaysian?
PappaRich is on the second floor of a mall. It must be awesome to eat at tables outside here during spring and summer. A friend and I split curry chicken and beef rendang, so my plate was a little messy for the pic:
Curry chicken, beef rendang, fried peanuts and anchovies, boiled egg, cucumber, rice, leaf is for contrast
Then cendol for dessert: shaved ice, palm sugar, and green noodles. One order was plenty for two people. I've tried this once before, in Penang.
Flushing has several bakeries which typically lean more French or Asian in their options. This is their one Colombian bakery… these are common across Queens, though my original go-to in Woodside later turned into a Chinese bakery. This shop has a waving cat statue but is otherwise very Colombian (I said good morning, they said buenos días, then I ordered in Spanish).
Pandebono are little rolls of cassava flour and cheese; get two or three for a tasty breakfast. I baked made some at home last year. I also tried their white arepa with egg and cheese, which also includes peppers.
Tarim Uyghur Cuisine
When I mentioned my trip at work, someone asked right away if I'd been to the basement food court. Tarim is one out of more than 20 options at this mall, so this post really is just scratching the surface.
This location has 'Uyghur' in the name and a halal sign.
I decided to get the diced noodles, because I've had something similar at The Handpulled Noodle up near the north tip of Manhattan. This made for a filling, lightly spicy, and affordable lunch.
Peking Duck Sandwich Stall
As mentioned earlier, one person = one stomach, so I appreciated the opportunity to try Peking duck via a bite-sized gua bao / sandwich. There is a takeout window in front of a dim sum restaurant, and you can get the buns for $2.50 each. Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are also available - minimum order of 6. There was a small line when I arrived around 8pm, but our orders were quickly filled. Cash only.
A Korean bakery with mochi donuts, "croffles" (waffled croissant dough with fillings, lemon was great), and corn dogs.
There is a significant Korean presence in Flushing. An H-Mart opened up last July (I added it to OpenStreetMap!). I picked up a box of chalhoddeok mix (Korean sweet-filled pancakes) and a Japanese brand of brownies.
Things which I missed
There's probably a lot which I don't even know that I missed, but this is what I knew.
Xi'an Famous Foods - a favorite across NYC and usually one of my first stops when I'm in town. I get biang biang noodles (specifically N2). Other people say you need to try the lamb burger. Their chili crisp oil and noodle-making kit are available online.
Fish With You / 鱼你在一起: this is a Szechuan restaurant and a new, first US location for a widespread Chinese chain. The fish options are either basa or snakehead, which had a viral moment here in the US as an unstoppable invasive species. I was researching this a lot but didn't have enough time, maybe chickened out a little.
One guy on Yelp described three of the five broth options, so that's a good starting point if you're going here.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - I enjoyed the Manhattan branch of Ice Cream Factory years ago. There's a small but sweet twist of their 'exotic' flavors menu being American mainstays and 'regular' flavors menu coming from Asian treats including durian. It has a super-long line in the summer. Watch the co-owner's Talk at Google.
Also Mochido - (I think this is the same location) for mochi ice cream. Both may still be cash-only.
I missed out on Korean corn dogs which are offered at Afternoon and at Ugly Donuts in Flushing. But I've also seen these in Chicago and even in Turku Finland. So maybe you can find those where you are.
El Chivito D'Oro - offers Uruguay's signature huge sandwich (chivito). It's closer to Jackson Heights, so not really Flushing, but it's worth a visit if you're in Queens.
More regional cuisines from Chongqing and Canton? Also Lanzhou noodles - I don't have great detailed info on these; the descriptions just sounded tasty.