It's hard to beat a good guo tie (potstickers), and these ($5) are Joe's favorite in Flushing. They're one of the most unique in town, too: sporting an incredibly juicy filling, with paper-thin dough.
[Photograph: Joe DiStefano]
Frog Skewers from Dongbei Yanbian Feng Wei at the New World Mall
Living in Shanghai got me hooked on frog, but it's been a struggle finding good frog dishes in New York. The skewers here still were better then most of the frog I'd had stateside, but were in desperate need of some extra dry rub.
136-20 Main St, Flushing, NY 11354 (map); 718-353-0551;
The syrup-sweetened version is less complex but no less tasty. The sludge at bottom is, provided you've got the right kind of tooth, a real treat; I, for one, couldn't help but think of oatmeal with brown sugar.
Xiao Long Bao at Diverse Dim Sum
I'll admit to my preference for meatier pan-fried sheng jian bao to soup dumplings (xiao long bao, and I'll blame my time spent in Shanghai for making me a soup dumpling brat. Maybe I just think they're overrated, but it takes a good one to really get me going. And Diverse Dim's crab and pork dumplings, filled with a broth of deep, resonant flavor, are the best I've had in New York (Joe considers them New York's finest.) For all of the guests, some of whom had only sampled the delicacy at Joe's Shanghai, these were gamechangers.
13331 39 Ave Flushing, NY 11354 (map); 718-395-8188
Homemade Kimchi at Assi Plaza
Assi is kind of like a giant Costco, complete with an extensive (and cheap!) prepared foods section. Six types of kimchi are made here (nine more are also available in buckets of varying sizes) in addition to a huge variety of bonchon (small Korean dishes that precede a meal) and $6 lunch dishes. Not the best food in town, but at that price? It's worth well worth it. Though the fruit-flavored rice wines we picked up weren't such a hit.
Joe picked up a bowl of this dried seaweed ($4), flavored with salt, sugar, and sesame seeds. A common, and unexpected, tasting note was "Cracker Jacks," which—strange as it may seem—is dead on.
Peking Duck Buns at Corner 28
When it comes to value, you just can't beat these Cantonese style Peking duck buns. At a dollar a pop, they're in the city's ultimate cheap eat. The roast duck (kao ya) is joined by a smear of hoisin and green onion, a truly delicious trifecta of flavors and textures.
40-28 Main St, Flushing, NY 11354 (map); 718-886-6628
Goji Berries at NY Tung Ren Tang
The free ginseng tea and Chinese soft drinks outside withstanding, this medicinal market is an emporium of dried, medicinal foodstuffs. Joe pointed out some interesting and not always exotic items, such as dried goji berries, pictured here and a common ingredient in Henanese food—as well as stranger items like packaged lamb placenta.
40-34 Main Street, Flushing, NY 11354 (map); 718-461-9500
Chengdu Heaven at the Golden Shopping Mall Food Court
There are plenty of awesome bites to be had at this mainstay, like that killer house salad ($3.50) we hear whispers of, but an overflowing crowd meant no we couldn't get any ma la dou fu. Instead we opted for as plate of sliced "ma la sausage" ($3 a piece). It's a little fatty, but has a nice kick towards the end of the bite, and practically begs for some Tsing Tao beer,
41-28 Main Street (Basement of the Golden Shopping Mall), Flushing, NY 11354 (map)
Xi'An Famous Foods
Jason Wang has described his father's liang pi cold skin noodles ($4) as the only authentic version town. Joe, who has a storied relationship with the vendor, couldn't resist the opportunity of open tables and the order.
41-28 Main Street, Basement stall #36, Flushing, NY 11354 (map); 718-321-8000; xianfoods.com/
Down For The Count
The mounting list of causalities on our tour didn't stop anyone. No noodle was left standing.
Qingdao Jelly at Qingdao Microwave BBQ/Jin Feng Fish Ball Inc.
The vendor here touts his signature "microwave BBQ" with a definite pride, but we skipped the gamma rays in favor of his homemade Qingdao jelly ($2.00). Four words summed up the general reaction to this snack: "unexpected, bizarre, ... and very refreshing." The crunchy garnishes added a necessary contrast to the otherwise cool and smooth texture. Dig in.
At this Indonesian haunt, Joe ordered a steam-table sampler ($7.25) of rice, kale (an inexplicably common ingredient in stateside Indonesian kitchens, and what Joe thinks is a replacement for some kind of sea spinach), chicken cooked in coconut sauce, and an outstanding jackfruit.
86-10 Justice Avenue, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (map); 718-205-2166
Durian Cake at OK Indo
Joe's a big fan of the bak cang ($2), sticky race tamales wrapped in lotus leaves, at this Indonesian deli, but they've seemed to have disappeared with the heat. Instead, he ordered the more intimidating durian cake ($10). Some couldn't take the funk and—buyer beware—it lingers. But for those with an affection for the notoriously stinky fruit, it's a real treat.
88-15 Justice Avenue, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (map); 718-606-0104
Cold Tofu Strips at Uncle Zhou
Henanese restaurant Uncle Zhou has rightfully been cast up into the pantheon of Queens "must eats," thanks in good part to his excellent cold dishes. We sampled two, including these mild strips of sliced tofu ($1).
83-29 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (map); 718-393-0888
Linsanity and the Classic at Jo Ju
I'm still not a fan of their bread, which lacks the rice flour goodness of Sunset Park's acclaimed Ba Xuyen, but one can't diss the creativity at work behind sandwiches like the Linsanity ($5.99). Concocted at the height of the Jeremy Lin craze, it features three-cup chicken dressed in—now get this—Peruvian aji sauce. Talk about next-level. Joe explained the fusion was a product of the owner's affection for Peruvian food.
83-25 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (map); 347-808-0807; jojuny.com
Pickled Lemon Soda at Jo Ju's
The plastic cups say it all. Have you ever even thought of the idea of carbonating pickled lemon ($2.50)? Joe jokingly called it "Vietnamese Gatorade." I'm more inclined to suggest its unlike anything you've had before: salty and something like a like citrus-scented sea breeze. The flavor isn't overly aggressive; it really manages to capture the accessible but futuristic vibe of this sandwich shop.