Great Taste Dumpling

Instagram Post 9/14/2019

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The sign read “Streaky Pork Old Bamboo Shoots Steamed Bun”. Kinda makes ya just wanna drop everything and rush out there and grab some, don’t it? Not me. Kinda made me just wanna drop everything and translate the Chinese characters.

See for yourself:

Here’s what I got:

手工切 = hand cut
五花肉 = pork belly
與筍 = with bamboo shoots
小籠包 = xiao long bao

Well, not quite the xiao long bao soup dumplings most of us associate with those characters, these are steamed buns filled with the aforementioned ingredients and Great Taste Dumpling at 4317 8th Ave in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s got ’em. $2.75 for 6. And please, don’t ever change that glorious sign!

A quick snack for someone who was just passing through in search of Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes. (You did read my detailed “Chinese Mooncakes Demystified” post about that, didn’tcha?)

Qin Jin Taste

Instagram Post 8/28/2019

Qin Jin Taste (秦晋味道) is the latest addition to the New York Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, ensconced in stall #26. I went shortly after they opened so they didn’t have many of the dishes I was eager to try (“Next week!”), but they were able to provide their signature item, the Crispy Burger; I opted for the cumin lamb, one of six choices.

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It struck me a little as fusion cuisine: the deftly seasoned lamb and the perfectly crispy roll clearly declared Shaanxi but the lettuce, tomato and type of mayonnaise delivered a distinctly American accent. Truth be told, it could have use more sauce of any stripe since it was rather dry (I requested an additional dollop); still tasted good though.

Crispy and flaky. A fine example of this style of roll; tasted freshly made.

Cute and authentic. My research indicates that there’s at least one more of these restaurants in China, at Nanshi Jie Station in Suzhou.

I’ll definitely return to explore the extensive menu, but…“next week!”

Istanbul Bay

Instagram Post 8/25/2019

As I was eating my way through Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge in search of candidates for my Little Levant ethnojunket, I stopped by Istanbul Bay, the Turkish café and restaurant at 8002 5th Avenue.

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Here’s their version of Karisik Pide; the Turkish word karışık (note the undotted letter I, a giveaway that you’re reading Turkish) means “mixed” and this pide is topped with a mix of Turkish sausage (sucuk, aka sujuk), savory seasoned air-dried cured beef (pastırma, root word bastırmak meaning “press”) and their spin on mozzarella cheese. A generous measure of meat and a nifty boat within a boat presentation too.

The obligatory cheese pull.

Lan Zhou Ramen

Instagram Post 8/24/2019

Quick note regarding three items from last month’s Elmhurst foray with friends to begin exploring Lan Zhou Ramen’s extensive menu – stall #23 in HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave in Queens.

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In addition to noodz, they do an admirable execution of BBQ skewers: this plate was for the veggie lovers, beautifully blistered green beans and eggplant with a touch of char – not too shabby.

Of course, we followed the mellow slick road to Cumin Lamb Stir Fried Rice Noodle. Something for everyone: noodles and veggies and lamb, oh my.

BKU Food Hall

Instagram Post 8/23/2019

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Foodies sometimes argue about how many Chinatowns New York City actually has; some reports make a case for as many as nine. One sure sign that a burgeoning Chinese community has established itself in the neighborhood is the presence of a food court hosting purveyors of a variety of regional Chinese cuisines.

Two such developments under a single ownership have been in the works for months in Brooklyn, one in Bensonhurst (BK Food Court, 2227 86th St) and the other in Homecrest (BKU Food Hall, 1809 Avenue U) where I was reconnoitering the organization’s progress yesterday.

Needless to say, I was delighted to see that headway has been made since my original photo was taken last spring.

A peek inside reveals palpable evolution. I’ll continue to check in; my experience with similar venues is that once the ball gets rolling, things happen fast. Stay tuned: many reports to come!

Khao Ka Moo

Instagram Post 8/21/2019

I confess to having a few favorite booths at HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave, Elmhurst, and Khao Ka Moo, the Thai food vendor ensconced in stall 16, is one of them. These top notch dishes from two separate occasions were delicious, hearty and assuredly recommended.

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Khao Moo Dang & Moo Krob: that’s two items in one dish with a mix of components. Khao means rice, moo means pork (easy to remember because of the barnyard irony), dang means red, and krob means crispy, so what we have on this plate is pork in multiple guises (sausage, crispy pork belly, red sauced) over piquantly seasoned rice with the classical accompaniments of cucumber, cilantro, perfectly complementary sauces and broth, and garlic and green Thai hot peppers wrapped and at the ready. And a hard-boiled egg.

Khao Ka Moo from the eponymous Khao Ka Moo: braised pork leg over rice (ka means leg, see above for the remainder of today’s glossary). Slow cooked in a sweet soy sauce blended with five spice and other seasonings until the meat is falling off the shank bone. Served with fresh greens and pickled mustard greens. And a hard-boiled (soy sauce) egg.

Thai street food at its finest.

Eggcellent Soufflé Pancake

Instagram Post 8/15/2019

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There’s a new addition to the lineup of quality vendors in the mini-mall at 135-15 40th Road in Flushing. Keeping company with the likes of local luminaries Legend Chicken, Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, and the Flushing Ice Cream Factory, Eggcellent Soufflé Pancake opened on August 4 and their soufflé pancakes are outstanding. Possibly the lightest yet richest dessert in the neighborhood, they’re fluffy, spongy, custardy, foamy, eggy, bouncy, moist, creamy and sweet. (I think that pretty much covers it.) The flavor list compels me to return for multiple visits: Original (with a kiss of maple cream), Crème Brûlée, Strawberry/Blueberry Yogurt Cream, Red Bean/Matcha Cream, Mango Yogurt Cream, and Chocolate/Banana/Caramel (with marshmallows, yet). With roots in Japan and Taiwan, these puppies are prepared from scratch (like apparently everything in that mini-mall if the immeasurably long lines are any indication, grumble, grumble) and you’ll be advised that there will be a significant wait.

Mine went well beyond “significant” but I was the first customer of the day and those soufflé pans (see photo) must be heated to a precise temperature (she used an LED equipped digital surface thermometer) before the airy batter can be plopped down without deflating, lightly cooked on one side, carefully flipped à point, transferred to a serving dish and dressed.

But it’s absolutely worth the wait. We’re talking about a real soufflé pancake, not some ersatz premade doppelganger, and a delicious one at that. I tried to smoosh it a little for this photo you so you could see what I was getting at with that parade of adjectives earlier. Artwork against the back wall captioned “Soufflé from the Sky” depicts the dessert floating heavenward on a lacy doily. Trust me. It fits.

Al Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant

Instagram Post 8/12/2019

It was an interminable wait (but that’s not unusual for this neighborhood at lunchtime) in sweltering heat (but that’s not unusual for this city in summertime), and I was keen to explore this new-to-me ethnic restaurant (but that’s not unusual for this gourmand at any time).

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Al Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant, 6917 5th Ave in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, proudly (see second photo) serves Middle Eastern cuisine with a Palestinian flair. I was eager to try the “Mix Shawerma” which combines chicken and lamb, perfect for me because it obviates the need to make a decision. Packed with the two meats and veggies, it was worth the wait.

Since I was unfamiliar with it, I was curious about a dish on the menu called “ejjah”; Wikipedia describes eggah (from research, I don’t think the spelling is an issue) as similar to a frittata with rather elaborate seasonings and fillings. I ordered it but was disappointed to receive basically a plain omelet fried in oil with an inconsequential amount (a pinch or two) of onion and parsley. I dunno. I should return though to check out their assortment of breads and cookies that are baked on the premises; those certainly looked appetizing.

Happy Wheelie

Instagram Post 8/9/2019

Happy Wheelie, known to some as Taiwanese Wheel Cake because that’s what they sell, can be found in Landmark Quest Mall, 136-21 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, and the experience is as much about watching the process of making these traditional Taiwanese treats as it is about eating them.

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Using a modest batter and a variety of fillings, they’re prepared in this custom apparatus whose roots are in Japan’s Imagawayaki (今川焼き) where they’re often filled with adzuki bean paste. Here, they’re stuffed with options that run the gamut from savory to sweet (I haven’t tried anything that would provoke the “it’s too sweet!” contingent yet). These little snacks are best when freshly made, a little crisp outside, soft and warm inside – but they’re still fine as delayed gratification.

The eight available flavors include custard cream, red bean (with or without cream) taro (with* or without cream), black sesame and cream*, Oreo cookie, and dried radish*. All that I’ve tasted are yummy but I’d recommend starting with the dried radish: savory, a teeny bit spicy; if this appeared on a dim sum cart, you’d be happy. Then work your way up on the sweetness scale; I admit to not having tried the Oreo, but I’d guess that one falls at the outer boundary of the sweeter meter.

Vivian, super friendly and helpful, told me that most of the back section of this narrow mini-mall is populated by Taiwanese vendors with an eclectic selection of goodies from beef noodle soup and dumplings to crystal shaved ice, and that all of their distinctive wares are crafted from natural ingredients. So obviously, more to come….

(* shown here)


Just Noodles – Leng Zaap

Instagram Post 8/8/2019

I spotted the sign months ago on one of my visits to HK Food Court at 82-02 45th Ave, Elmhurst, when it initially opened. The photo, pinned up at Stall #12, Just Noodles, was vaguely reminiscent of Devils Tower, the recurring mountain image in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For some reason, I felt compelled to order it.

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This is Leng Zaap, stewed pork spine, culinary and anatomical cousin to pork ribs, and one of those dishes that requires a certain amount of patience and time to navigate thoroughly. The spicy broth/sauce in which the bones were steeped conveyed the quintessential flavor of Thailand that you’d expect from folks who clearly know their way around the kitchen. Good eats.

I brought home what remained of the spine along with any meat that was still clinging to it and concocted a Thai bone broth amped up with some of the remaining sauce; it wasn’t bad considering the bones had already given their best to the stew. I noticed that Instascribe gustasian also ordered this dish on another occasion and hers was presented in a decorative shiny silver Thai hot pot style tureen. Mine just came in the plastic bowl you see here ☹️. Musta been something I said.

The aforementioned sign.