Flushing Food Crawl

February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

Finally made the trek out to Flushing, Queens during a week off from work to sample some of the cheap, delicious ethnic food on offer. Wes (possibly the only white man in all of Flushing that day) and I started at Ganesh Temple Canteen, a cafeteria-style establishment in the basement of a Hindu temple, and helped ourselves to an enormous buttery Pondicherry dosa filled with potatoes, onions and spices as well as a spicy onion uttapam, both paired with sambar and chutney for dipping – perfect for the rainy, grey day ahead of us and just $7 for each dish.

Next, we walked back to the main thoroughfare in Flushing and began eating Chinese food in earnest. Our first stop was Golden Shopping Mall, a collection of food vendors off Main Street, where we dug into a giant bowl of hand-pulled noodles and beef from Lanzhou Handmade Noodles (again…just $7). So fucking good and made me realize how much I’d missed this kind of down-home Asian comfort food. Perfectly tender beef, super flavorful broth and addictive condiments in the pickled mustard greens and fiery chili oil.

Next, we wandered around for a bit to make room for our next meal and got lost in JMart, a giant Chinese supermarket with huge fish and meat counters, aisles and aisles of Asian condiments and one of the biggest selections of exotic fresh vegetables and fruit I’ve seen. The best part, though, was the small outpost of New Flushing Bakery, with its insanely good Portuguese egg tarts, slightly caramelized on the surface with a crazy flaky, fall-apart crust.

And because we are fatties, we then walked the few blocks from JMart back to Golden Flushing Mall and got a couple seats at Tianjin Dumpling House. For $6, we got a dozen of the lamb and green squash boiled dumplings (again, with a ton of chili oil), a combination I’d never seen before but really enjoyed. Normally, I like my dumplings pan-fried but these reminded me of the boiled pork and scallion dumplings that my mom always made at home growing up – guess it’s a Northern Chinese thing?

Needless to say, we were feeling stuffed from all the starch and meat we’d already eaten and decided to make a stop at Fang Gourmet Tea, a tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the street, for a charcoal roasted oolong tea tasting. The shop owner was super friendly and patient with our tea ignorance and after some browsing, we each ended up buying a tin of oolong tea that cost way more than all the food we’d eaten during the day.

After more than three years of living in Manhattan, was so glad that I’d finally made it out to Flushing (and to be honest, the train ride out there wasn’t even that bad) and couldn’t believe the amount and quality of food we’d gotten for so cheap. Really need to make sure I make an annual or semi-annual pilgrimage out there, especially when I’m missing food from home.

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Dim sum at Oriental Garden

January 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Christmas Day, our family eschewed staying at home like we usually do and drove into New York City for dim sum in Chinatown (now that’s a Christmas brunch I can get with). Our usual choice, Jing Fong, wasn’t available since there were large parties going in at noon, so we ended up at nearby Oriental Garden, where the staff seated us in a different, quieter part of the restaurant.

This was probably one of the most relaxed dim sum experiences I’ve ever had. Usually, customers wait eagle-eyed for carts of their favorite foods and dim sum ladies yell whatever they have in loud Cantonese, but in this section of the restaurant, waiters just circled around quietly from table to table and even let us order directly off the dim sum menu in batches.

As typical with dim sum, most of the food we got almost instantly, including shrimp “noodles,” Shanghai buns, taro shrimp puffs, baked pork wedges, and bacon-wrapped shrimp balls (something I’ve never seen in a Chinese restaurant). Overall, the dishes were quite good, with the super crispy and light taro shrimp puffs being my favorite.

The next go-around, we ordered Hong Kong-style dumplings, which were fried and a bit chewy for my taste, and a whole slew of the classics, like chicken feet, beef tripe, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, shrimp dumplings, shu mai, black bean steamed spare ribs, bean curd with pork, and lotus leaf sticky rice. Stand-outs were the flavorful yet delicate shu mai, the savory spare ribs, and the shrimp-stuffed eggplant, for which I always have a weakness.

And one of our final items and my favorite, was the humble (fried) turnip cake, which I always smother with hot chili sauce and wolf down like a baby dinosaur.

So even though we weren’t able to eat at Jing Fong, I’d say we discovered another solid place for dim sum in Chinatown, with better service than most Chinese restaurants. After looking it up online, I’m also curious to try their supremely fresh seafood during dinner hours.

Also, Happy 2012 everybody! May all your dreams come true in the new year. 🙂

Oriental Garden
14 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10013
212.619.0085

 

Making our own dumplings

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I was younger, I used to help my parents make dumplings. About twice a month, they’d take out the huge wooden board, dumpling wrappers, home-made pork filling, and methodically wrap them, each one looking exactly like the one before it. I remember for our elementary cultural carnivals, where each student would bring food from their country of origin, our dumplings would be the first to go.

Making dumplings is definitely a communal or family activity. Usually, we’d set up little stations. Since I was the most useless, I’d always end up being the one lining the dumpling wrappers with water so they’d stick when my mom or dad wrapped them. Once in a while, I was allowed to try my hand at wrapping one, but it’d always come out so ugly that I’d give up and go back to my original station.

This past Chinese New Year, I was especially homesick and decided that I’d not only make dumplings, but I’d go further than my parents ever did and make them completely from scratch, skins and all. The process was surprisingly simple, just flour and water with a little salt mixed together, and rolling out the individual skins became quite meditative, even though I’d occasionally freak out about the Chinese BBQ ribs in the oven.

I stuck with the filling that I’ve been eating since I was a kid – pork and leek. Except I didn’t have any leeks so I used scallions instead, and they still turned out great. Until recently, we always used to boil dumplings at home, but lately, my dad (maybe it’s a regional thing? He’s from southern China and my mom’s from northern) likes to pan-fry them. And I’m a huge fan of anything with golden crusty bottoms.

Pork and Leek Dumplings

2 lb flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
pinch of salt
1 lb ground pork
4-5 stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs

Mix flour, water and pinch of salt and knead to make a soft dough. Cover for 20 minutes with a damp paper towel.

Marinate ground pork with soy sauce, salt, chopped ginger, and sesame oil. Add the sliced scallions, vegetable oil, eggs and mix thoroughly. This is your pork filling

Knead dough on a floured cutting board and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 2 inches wide. Shape each strip into a round log, and cut into 3/4 in. pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle, and with a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper. Line the outer edges with water using your finger. Take 1 tablespoon of filling and put into the center of the wrapper, fold in half, and pinch.

Place dumplings in a fry-pan with 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away, uncover, and reduce heat to medium or low. Let dumplings cook another 2 minutes and then serve.

I like to serve my dumplings with a dipping sauce – soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, rice wine vinegar, minced ginger, scallions.

Chinese BBQ Ribs

February 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

And here’s the ribs recipe that I made for Chinese New Year. With really tender meat just coming off the bone and a great, sticky caramelized crust, these were a big hit that day. The recipe was adapted from RasaMalaysia.

Chinese BBQ Ribs (adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Marinade – For the marinade, the measurements of the ingredients do not have to be exact. Instead, make sure that you taste and season according to your personal preference.

3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

1 rack baby back pork ribs
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Add all the marinade ingredients in a sauce pan on med-high heat and stir until blended. Cool.

Rub the ribs on both sides with the chopped garlic and then marinate the ribs with 2/3 of the sauce, preferably overnight, though 6 hours should be enough.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil and place the ribs on top. Cover with another sheet of foil and roast for 2 hours.

Afterwards, take the top sheet of foil off, coat the ribs with the rest of the marinade, and set the ribs under the broiler for 5 minutes, so the crust gets slightly charred and crusty. (This is where I set off the fire alarm in my apartment). Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes, and then dig in.

Asian comfort food: sesame peanut noodles

October 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

It’s starting to get pretty chilly here in DC and the rain isn’t helping any.  On days like these, all I want to do is snuggle on the couch with a really good book and eat comfort food, which includes any type of carb. One of the dishes I start to crave the most is a sesame peanut noodle dish that my mom always used to make when she didn’t feel like making anything too complicated.

It’s great because you can customize it to your own tastes, and extremely simple so even if you’re living in a college dorm like me, it’s definitely manageable.  I usually like to add shredded soy-poached chicken leftovers and lots and lots of hot sauce, but if you’re vegetarian, the dish is filling enough to be eaten without any meat. The sauce is wonderfully creamy and the flavors balance so well, with sweet countering savory perfectly.

I’ve made it enough that I don’t really use formal measurements, but I adapted the original recipe from, who else, Mark Bittman in his book, The Best Recipes in the World.

Sesame peanut noodles, serves 4-5

12 oz udon noodles, linguine would be ok too
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
chili oil or hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
minced scallions as garnish
* the recipe also tastes really good with grated cucumber mixed into the sauce

1. Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until tender. Drain.

2. Whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, and salt.  Gradually pour warm water into the mixture and continue whisking until the consistency of the sauce resembles heavy cream. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

3. Toss together the noodles and the sauce and add any more seasoning if necessary. Drizzle with additional sesame oil, if desired, and garnish with scallions.

This dish tastes good both warm and cold, so save leftovers!

 

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