Chef Wang Pei Xin sits on a rickety stool in front of Wang-Zheng's Halal Snacks (王郑清真小吃), his stall in Flushing's Golden Shopping Mall. He's wearing the same maroon nylon apron as when I saw him last week, smiling and serving his Tianjin snacks.
His surroundings are humble. The menu is printed in Chinese only on a hanging board; Flushing's Golden Shopping Mall is hardly the grand hotel restaurant he used to run in the 90's. Amidst a jumble of transient shoe shops and hair salons, his stall offers what he remembers tasting growing up in Tianjin, a Chinese city near Beijing famous for good eats.
Sunday throughout Saturday, he presses out made-to-order shaobing (the Chinese equivalent of a samosa) and drapes bowls of rice noodles with with slices of beef chuck cooked tender.
When I first talked to him, he excused himself to take out a wrinkled brown plastic bag.
He started placing its contents on the table, one by one, telling his story.
I could tell they were some of his most treasured possessions: his red, government-issued occupational certification; newspaper clips praising his skills as head chef at Panda House in Lenox, MA; and a scan of his 1993 silver medal in a national Chinese cooking competition.
He told me it'd been over a decade since he left China. He dreams of one day opening his own restaurant—a grand one to accommodate his myriad skills preparing Hunanese, Cantonese, and Sichuanese dishes.
His main obstacle, he notes, is that he can't speak English.
After chatting for awhile, I tried his Tianjin-style shaobing, one that doesn't resemble the pastry-like Shanghai version. Instead, you'll get a greaseless flatbread pocket filled with meat and rice noodle filling. You eat this with a splash of black vinegar available on the table.
The chive pie is similar, albeit calzone-shaped, filled with what I identified as chives, eggs, and chopped rice noodles.
I had missed one thing. "There's you tiao in there," he announced as I took another bite of the chive pie. I took another look and realized he was right—I'd overlooked the bits of fried dough laced throughout.
Address and directionsStall C6 (on the right, halfway in. Directly before the stairs and the shop with the orange sign, sharing a space with Old Wang Ji.)
41-28 Main Street
Shaobing: A Chinese flatbread, often filled with sweet or savoring stuffing. Kind of like a samosa or empanada.
Flatbread: Chinese "bing" is a flat, tortilla-like pancake comparable to crepes and root. In this case, it's made with flour, stuffed with filled, then sealed and griddled.
The menu is Chinese only, so translations are my best approximations.
Print out this menu and bring it to order so you can point to what you want. If you don't have Chinese characters installed on your computer, download our translated Wang-Zheng's Halal Snacks menu.
Main dishes ($.75-2)油酥烧饼 Flaky pastry shaobing
麻将烧饼 Sesame paste shaobing
芝麻烧饼 Whole sesame shaobing
牛肉陷饼 Beef flatbread pie
韭菜合子 Chive flatbread pie
牛肉夹饼 Beef layered flatbread
Side dishes （$8－12）酱牛肉 Beef with sauce
酱牛筋 Beef tendon with sauce
酱牛肚 Tripe with sauce
水爆羊肾 Boiled lamb kidney
凉拌羊杂 Cold lamb offal
凉拌羊肚 Cold lamb stomach
凉拌三样 Three types of cold prepared meats
Soups ($4-8)羊杂汤 Lamb soup
牛肉白菜粉丝汤 Beef and cabbage with rice noodle soup
羊肉白菜粉丝汤 Lamb and cabbage with rice noodle soup
羊肾汤 Lamb kidney soup
羊肚汤 Lamb stomach soup
羊心汤 Lamb heart soup