Heat Noodle – Second Heat

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Resist the urge to expect this to taste like some kind of bagel. Despite outward appearances, this morsel of savory perfection is not bready, but more “potatoey” for lack of a better description, and even that doesn’t quite nail it. You’re looking at two orders (one flipped) of Heat Noodle’s delicious Fried Sweet Potato Doughnut. (Don’t expect it to taste like a doughnut either.) Topped with black sesame seeds, crispy at the edges, soft and creamy-chewy within, it’s another must-try.


The inner workings.

It’s easy to walk past Heat Noodle (aka Wuhan Foodie, Inc.) at 135-21 40th Road in Flushing – even more than once! Here are a few window and door images to help you find your way.

You can read the first Heat Noodle post here.
 
 

Vegetarian Alert

And while we’re on the subject of vegetarian meat (isn’t that an oxymoron?), I’ve concluded that Suniupai Vegetarian Beefsteak has even more possibilities for incorporating into a dish than the skewers from the previous post; I can easily see how these could figure into a stir fry. (For the record, I’m not necessarily looking for a meat substitute, just experimenting.)

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Like the skewers, this “Dried Beancurd Chunk” is available in several flavors; I chose the one labeled “Cumin” and it was surprisingly delicious. I also tried the “Spicy” version and it lived up to its descriptor perfectly.


The bag contains nine foil packets (about 3" x 4"), each of which encloses a single slab (about 2" x 1¼") of pressed wannabeef with similar shredding capabilities as the skewers; they possess an unmistakably (unmisteakably?) meat-like texture, although perhaps with just a bit of processed meat chew – a little too much bounce, but I’m quibbling.


Actually, just biting into a chunk wholesale definitely misses the mark and I don’t recommend it, but shredding brings out its formidable potential. I see a Home Cookin’ post in the future.

More from the snack aisle coming up – next time: sweets!
 
 

If It Looks Like Meat, and It Shreds Like Meat, and It Chews Like Meat…

…and it’s in a Chinese supermarket snack aisle, then it probably isn’t meat.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time in Flushing lately reworking my local ethnojunket, so I have the freedom to wander through every single aisle in sensational supermarkets and tell myself I’m working rather than just indulging my culinary whims. I confess to being a sucker for the snack aisles at Asian supermarkets; the treats are subdivided into savory and sweet categories and frankly, it’s a bit of a gamble – some are truly remarkable and beg another bag, some, well, not so much. More about that in an upcoming post.


These diminutive wannabeef barbecute skewers fell into the former category; the two chunks impaled on each wooden stick measure about 3¼ inches taken together. The four “flavors” available on this visit were Exoticism, Passion, Enjoy, and Soar; I selected Enjoy because they were identified as spicy on the back label: “Beancurd String (Spicy Flavor)”. Aside from the incredible shreddable texture and true chew, it was sufficiently spicy to give it a pass as well-seasoned meat.


I understand that these are marketed as snacks, but I’m inspired to incorporate them into some home cookin’. We’ll see. Of course, there are actual dried fish and meat jerkies to be found in the same aisle as well, but I’ll save those for another post.

More Flushing snacks to come. Stay tuned.
 
 

Heat Noodle

It only seems like decades ago when I was a regular visitor to the hallowed food court in New World Mall. Back then, I was drawn to stall #10, Heat Noodle, and their Wuhan cuisine, and had every intention of eating my way through their entire menu (like I do). Then COVID-19 entered the picture. Full stop.

Although the pandemic isn’t over yet, I’m back in Flushing a couple of times a week making up for lost time and restructuring my ethnojunkets since some businesses have closed, but happily, there are new openings in the neighborhood as well. (Regular readers know that an ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves.)

Heat Noodle has since graduated into its own venue at 135-21 40th Road and their talent in the kitchen is top notch. For many reasons, I’m jazzed that Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in the eastern central part of China, is getting some culinary love.

Our group was keen to try a variety of noodle dishes on offer. Sesame paste figures into many of these but sufficient additional ingredients provide differing, if subtle, shades of flavor. The chew of Wuhan style noodles is key, and the variety of toppings such as preserved or fresh vegetables kept redundancy to a minimum.

Here are a few of the items we tried, in no special order:

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Hot Dry Noodle. A1 on the menu and a must-eat, Hot Dry Noodle (rè gān miàn, 热干面) is famous as the breakfast of champions in Hubei Province. Preserved veggies (pickled radish and chopped long bean, I believe) and fresh scallion topped the chewy, slightly sweet, slightly spicy noodz.


Cucumber Salad with Garlic Spicy Sauce. You may have ordered this dish (or one similar) in Sichuan restaurants – it’s a palate cleanser in some ways – and I almost ignored it, but this was the best rendition I have ever tasted; I’m glad I didn’t pass it up. Lots of black pepper, scallions, and cilantro and tons of flavor.


Wuhan Style Cool Noodle, a touch sweet and tangy. The artfully shredded strips of pink are Chinese ham.


And the obligatory noodle-lift.


Wuhan Doupi. My understanding is that the outer wrap is a pancake made from bean powder, eggs, milk, and flour; it cradles a sticky rice filling and is served with diced meat and bits of seasoned tofu. Tasty, like everything else at Heat Noodle.


Closeup of the three elements.


Burning Noodle. Not fiercely spicy, but you can kick it up if you like. Another variation on the theme of al dente noodles with sesame paste, soy sauce, and (I’m guessing) garlic and chili oil. These are more slender than the Hot Dry Noodles and therefore bring a different texture to the dish. Topped with peanuts, sesame seeds, scallions, and pickled vegetable.
 
 

So that concludes round one, but I’ll return for another heat in the very near future. Gotta try some other, different dishes – and they have quite a few of those.

Remember: These are not your mama’s noodles – unless, of course, your mama is from Wuhan. They’re different enough from what you might have experienced elsewhere, so curb your assumptions and head over to Heat Noodle; you’re in for a treat.

Stay tuned for more….
 
 

Panshi Restaurant

For me, one of life’s pleasures is wandering into a steamtable-equipped ethnic restaurant with compliant eager eaters in tow and pointing at a succession of trays filled with often unidentifiable goodies until we decide that we’ve probably ordered enough to stuff everyone to the gills. (I know. I’m easy.) In this case, it was Panshi Restaurant at 168-37/39 Hillside Ave in Jamaica, Queens. I had been craving Bangladeshi food, their specialty, and what came to the table was potent and satisfying.

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In addition to rice, dal, roti, and salad, we selected four vegetable dishes, pumpkin, borboti (long green beans), palak vaji (spinach), and alu vaji (fried shredded potato).


We opted for two kinds of bhortha (you may see bharta or similar spellings), potato (aloo) and eggplant (baingan). Bhorta is an intensely flavored vegetable mash, usually redolent of mustard oil, that’s used as a condiment: check out the two bowls at the top of this photo.

And speaking of gills, if you go to a Bangladeshi restaurant, you do want to order fish. (Why? Examine the unobstructed access to both fresh and salt water on a map. From Banglapedia: “In Bangladesh there are 401 species of marine fishes and 251 species of inland fishes in fresh water and brackish water.” Not bad for a country the size of New York State.) The three bowls at the bottom of the photo are shrimp and vegetables, a dish she called “small fish” and another dish she called “small fish”. The check read “shoal fish”, but from photos on the interwebs, those are considerably larger than these. Still, very tasty.

Panshi also touts a catering service and a menu including Chinese and Pan-Asian fare, but stick with the dishes from Bangladesh if you go.
 
 

July is National Ice Cream Month! Celebrate Globally!

The story began here:

Every August, as a routinely flushed, overheated child, I would join in chorus with my perspiring cohorts, boisterously importuning, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Little did I realize that rather than conjuring dessert, I was conjugating it and probably laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fascination with foreign languages and world food.

We lived in close proximity to one of the best dairies in town; it was known for its wide assortment of locally produced natural flavors, certainly sufficient in number and variety to satisfy any palate. Perhaps my obsession with offbeat ice cream flavors is rooted in my frustration with my father’s return home from work, invariably bearing the same kind of ice cream as the last time, Neapolitan. Neapolitan, again. My pleas to try a different flavor – just once? please? – consistently fell on deaf ears. “Neapolitan is chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s three flavors right there. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.” Some kids’ idea of rebellion involved smoking behind the garage; mine was to tuck into a bowl of Rum Raisin….

There’s lots more to the story, of course. Click here to get the full scoop! 🍨
 
 

My LGBTQ Sandwich!

I can’t let Pride Month slip away without sharing this treat that I created some years ago, my culinary contribution to the cause.

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You all know the classic BLT, of course: Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato; those ingredients are all present and accounted for in the LGBTQ. It’s customarily dressed with mayonnaise but I upped the ante by using Guacamole instead of mayo and added a hint of sweetness with Quince paste (aka membrillo) to balance the touch of tart lime juice, aromatic onion and garlic, and spicy jalapeño pepper – how I do guacamole.

Usually, I serve this on marble rye bread so I can include swirling carbs of color, but I couldn’t score any recently, so this version has a slice of rye bread on the bottom and a slice of pumpernickel on top.

And for those who prefer the acronym LGBTQI, well that is Iceberg Lettuce in there! 😉


And here’s something sweet to celebrate Pride Month: a rainbow bagel with mixed berry cream cheese and local (and by “local” I mean from a garden three blocks from my apartment) blackberries, pink champagne currants, and strawberries.
 
 

 
 

It’s Durian Day! (Or Not…)

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Durian happens to be one of my favorite fruits, and while June 26 isn’t officially Durian Day, I agree with Fly FM, an English-language radio station based in Malaysia, that it should be.

You’ve probably heard the oft-quoted aphorism about it, “Tastes like heaven, smells like hell” but if you’ve never sampled durian, you might discover that you actually like it; a number of folks I’ve introduced it to on ethnojunkets have experienced that epiphany. There are gateway durian goodies too, like sweet durian pizza (see below), durian ice cream, candies, and freeze dried snacks and they’re all acceptable entry points as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s a post from the past, Durian’s Best Kept Secret, that recounts the story of a little known venue in Brooklyn where an assortment of durian cultivars can be purchased and enjoyed – and I did both, of course.


And a while back, it was my pleasure and privilege to write this piece, Durian Pizza in Flushing, for Edible Queens Magazine.

Happy Durian Day! 🤞
 
 

Smorgasburg, Prospect Park

First pre-post-pandemic (because it’s not over till it’s over) foray into an open-air food market. If such events proliferated like chain stores, ten year old Smorgasburg would be the archetype; last weekend, we visited their outpost in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, currently open from 11am to 6pm on Sundays.

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“Lobster Garlic Noods” from Lobsterdamus called out to me the loudest from among the 35 vendors. Legitimate lobster, not surrogate surimi; had I noticed the “Add extra lobster meat $4” sign, I would have gone for it. Destined in the stars to be the first pick of the day, I predict you’ll like it too.


“Rooster Nuggets” from Rooster Boy; umami-rich koji marinated karaage fried chicken bites. You can choose from among six sauces, but for me the flavorful chicken didn’t need any help.

 
 

Schav

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In my last post, when I enumerated the odds and ends of greens that were dwelling in my fridge, I didn’t mention the two bunches of young sorrel that had been keeping them company. That’s because I had set them aside to try my hand at making schav, an Eastern European soup sometimes referred to as green borscht.

The character of sorrel is sour – in a good way like lemons are sour, but in this case not citrusy or floral – due to the presence of oxalic acid; its tartness is mitigated by cooking. Since I had never made schav before, I set out to do an utterly basic version, reserving any culinary experimentation for future investigation. Some recipes include potatoes or eggs (beaten and added to the soup as it cooks to thicken it or hardboiled as an addition for serving), but I went with just a bit of diced carrot and onion sautéed at the outset.

Instead of relying on raw eggs and the tempering technique required to thwart their propensity for scrambling when added to hot soup, I opted for a flour and butter roux cooked with the aromatics, added a few cups of very light chicken broth (very light because I didn’t want it to dominate the flavor), brought it to a boil and then down to a simmer, added the sorrel and stirred in a little sour cream which also softens its acidity. (Those of you who have been following me lately know that that was not sour cream. 😉)

I plopped a dollop of “sour cream” in the middle and scattered some herby garnish and cracked black pepper on top and that’s where I stopped.


The inner workings. Pretty good considering it was a maiden voyage.

Schav can be served warm or cold but I had been tasting continually as I was going along, so sadly, it was gone before I had a chance to sample it chilled.

Parting is such sweet sorrel.