The food court is an assuming spot on the corner of Mott and Maple in Flushing.
Most of the food court is one long hallway. Stalls are numbered one through eight from back to front. There's a small seating area in back, but the food here is packaged to go as much as not. "To go or stay?" is the most common English you'll hear.
Red Chili Carpet
Once you step inside, and you're greeted by piles of food in every direction. Such as this mountain of fried chicken and chiles in a pool of red chili oil.
That inviting red chili oil also makes an appearance in a bowl of fried, spiced fish.
Seed-studded pancakes and tea eggs off to the side.
Stall number one, Steam Dumpling, is the vendor to visit. The dumplings are exceptional: plump, juicy numbers in substantial but tender and delicate wrappers. These boiled lamb dumplings weren't billed as soup dumplings, but they were so brothy that they could have been. A plate of these lovelies will run you $4.
The soup dumplings, on the other hand, are painfully disappointing. Tough skins, dry pork, bland, meager broth. Stick to the others.
Some mid-afternoon green bean prep.
Stall number two sells Fujianese hand-pulled noodles. The noodle dough is made up front on the counter.
I never get tired of watching these get made. It's a kind of poetic dinner theater, to watch a rough clod of dough get stretched into something so glossy and bouncy.
You can hear frequent thwap sounds as the noodles hit the counter.
Sadly these are noodles best seen and not eaten. This order arrived overcooked with bland broth; ample condiments of chili oil and pickled greens weren't enough to save it. You can do far better elsewhere in Flushing.
Stall number three, Taipei Hong, sells Taiwanese snacks, including this salt and pepper chicken. It's awesome: moist, well-seasoned dark meat in a crunchy coating with some nice chew. Is the coating a little too salty? Sure, but that just makes you want more. Buy one of these for the table and take it down like popcorn.
Down the vendor line
I didn't see a clear name on stall number four, but it sells Henan dishes like this cumin lamb pancake. The lamb here is gorgeously gamey and fatty, almost uncomfortably so, the both cumin and chili smack you with heat. I don't like to bring words like "sinful" into my food writing, but a bite of this spicy, rich wrap gave me the distinct impression that god doesn't exactly approve.
The pork burger is less successful. It's also tremendously fatty, but there's no spice or garnish to cut through the fat, only sticky traces of the pork's sweet braising liquid and semi-melted collagen.
Twins eating noodles
Because. Adorable children. Eating noodles.
Pancakes and crullers
Stall five sells Sichuan food, including this bowl of tripe and tongue. I'm sure there are good things to be found here, but this wasn't it. The tripe was too funky for its own good, and the sauce was surprisingly mild.
Dan dan noodles were similarly disappointing. Head across the street to Chengdu Heavenly Plenty in the Golden Shopping Mall for a much better version.
Be sure to snag a pancake to go on your way out. This plain one came from the vendor to the immediate left at the entrance, and it's flaky, bready, and doughnut-y in equal measure. The pancake doesn't need anything else to be a great snack, but some fresh soy milk from the same vendor wouldn't hurt.