Shanghai You Garden

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

From a visit in April 2017 to their Flushing venue at 135-33 40th Road.

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Soup Filled Bun. Yes, that’s a standard size drinking straw. Shanghai You Garden is famous for this Brobdingnagian novelty, but in addition to being a show stopper, this pillowy pouch is a taste topper too.


The inner workings.


Steamed Crab Meat Xiao Long Bao; these more modestly sized soup dumplings were tasty as well.


Spotlight on a soup spout.


Deep Fried Yellow Croaker with Dried Seaweed. If you’re a fan of fried fish like me, this will satisfy your cravings.


Ca-rrrunch!


Sautéed Tofu with Salted Preserved Egg Yolk and Shrimp. Instagram is fairly dripping with egg yolk porn, so its popularity seems to be universal. If you’re in that camp and you’ve never tasted salted preserved duck egg yolk in some form, you’re missing out on an intensely rich and flavorful experience that almost makes chicken egg yolks pale into insignificance. Once you go quack, you’ll never go back.
 
 
If you haven’t sampled Shanghainese food, Shanghai You Garden is the perfect place to get your feet wet; everything we ordered that day was a treat.
 
 
And a reminder: New York City boasts at least six Chinatowns and perhaps a few more depending upon your definition of what constitutes a Chinatown; just pick one and go! Now, more than ever, please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!
 
 
Shanghai You Garden has two locations: 135-33 40th Road in Flushing and 41-07 Bell Blvd in Bayside.
 
 

While in Kathmandu

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

While in Ridgewood or while in Bushwick, consider a stop at While in Kathmandu, the Nepalese restaurant virtually on the border of those two neighborhoods. When we visited in September 2017, they were the new kid on the block, but they’re still holding down the fort at 758 Seneca Ave, Queens and their menu has expanded significantly since the early days. Here’s what we ordered back then:

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Masala Wings, crispy fried chicken wings tossed in a homemade spice blend.


Breakfast! Fapar Ko Roti, a savory traditional buckwheat pancake, served with potato curry, soup, and a fried egg.


Chicken Choila, grilled chicken marinated in a blend of spices and served with chiura (beaten, flattened puffed rice) and aachar.


And, of course, no Nepalese meal is complete without Jhol Momo. Jhol means soup; I was told that mo means steam (then momo would suggest steam-steam so let’s just make the culinary quantum leap to dumpling and not look back: I’ve definitely heard more plausible explanations), hence soup dumpling. But despite what you might be thinking, there is no soup to be found inside these dumplings: rather the hot dumplings swim in a cold tomato-y pool that lies somewhere along the sauce <-> soup continuum and the two complement each other deliciously. They’re available in five of your favorite momo flavors: chicken (shown here), pork, shrimp, plantain (kera ko momo), and vegetable, each with its own characteristic shape. I understand that you can get them fried as well, so I guess that would be fried-steam-steam; I’m not going to go there linguistically, but I’m definitely going to go there for another delicious meal!
 
 
While in Kathmandu is located at 758 Seneca Ave, Queens.
 
 

Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip. This one originally appeared as two posts, published on March 28-29, 2018.

Ever been up for Southeast Asian food but couldn’t decide which cuisine would best tickle your tastebuds? Then Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan, has your answer with its dizzying array of Southeast Asian fare. They cover a lot of territory serving up dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, India, Singapore, and various regions of China, and perusing their colorful menu is like taking a survey course in popular street food of the region.

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We started with Original Roti, a dish you may know as roti canai, consisting of Indian style flatbread with a chicken and potato curry sauce for dipping. Properly crispy outside and fluffy within, it was the perfect medium for savoring the luscious sauce.


Roti Murtabak, another crepe, this time folded around a spiced chicken and egg mixture and also accompanied by the potato chicken curry, had a pleasantly spicy little kick to it. A cut above what we’ve had elsewhere.


Our soup course was Hakka Mushroom Pan Mee, a study in contrasts. Springy handmade noodles topped with silvery crispy dried anchovies, earthy mushrooms, chewy bits of minced pork, and tender greens in a clear broth that was richer than I had anticipated.


Spicy Minced Chicken, Shrimp and Sato – ground chicken and chunks of shrimp with sato cooked in a belacan based sauce. Sato, also known as petai and sometimes stink bean, is a little bitter, a little smelly perhaps, but quite enjoyable. Belacan is fermented fish paste; most Southeast Asian cuisines have their own spin on this pungent condiment, and it’s particularly characteristic of Malaysian food. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I think it imparts a subtle flavor that renders this dish delicious.


Spicy Sambal Seafood – plump and juicy jumbo shrimp sautéed in spicy Malaysian belacan sambal with onions and peppers was excellent – best enjoyed over rice.


Malaysian Salt & Pepper Pork Chop had a tiny bit of sweet and sour sauce gracing it. We’ve tasted versions of this dish that were crisper and thinner and unadorned by any manner of sauce. Not bad at all, but not what we were expecting from the name.


Four of a Kind Belacan – to me, the only thing these four vegetables have in common is that they’re all green! Beyond that, the flavors, textures, and even the shapes differ radically – and that’s a good thing in my opinion. String beans, eggplant, okra (not at all slimy), and sato are united by the medium spicy belacan sambal; stink bean and belacan play well together and the combination is a singularly Malaysian flavor profile.


Stir Fry Pearl Noodle featured eggs, bell pepper, Spanish onion, scallion, and bean sprouts with pork. This is actually one of my favorite dishes and not all that easy to find. Pearl noodles, sometimes known as silver noodles, silver needles, and other fanciful names, are chewy rice noodles that are thick at one end and then taper to a point at the other (look closely at the little tail at the bottom of the photo and you’ll see why one of those fanciful names is rat tail noodle). They’re generally stir-fried to pick up a little browning and a lot of wok hei (aka wok qi, the breath of the wok) that ineffable taste/aroma that can only be achieved by ferocious cooking over incendiary heat. Not at all spicy, this one is always a favorite.

Due to a communications mix-up, a couple of dishes came out that weren’t what we ordered. Everything we tasted that day was very good, but I want to make sure that you don’t end up with two or three similar dishes – for example, one belacan and/or sato offering is plenty for the table – because I want you to experience a broad range of flavors, and Wok Wok is most assuredly up to the task. Choose a wide variety of disparate dishes, perhaps even from different parts of Southeast Asia, and you’ll go home happy and satisfied!
 
 
And a reminder, once again, to please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!
 
 
Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen is located at 11 Mott Street, Manhattan.
 
 

Great N.Y. Noodletown

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

A fixture in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Great N.Y. Noodletown, 28 Bowery at the corner of Bayard St, is an absolute must-do (and you know I seldom say that) for two of their signature dishes in particular:

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“Salt baked” (read “delicately fried”) menu items like shrimp, scallops, squid, a couple of kinds of fish, eggplant and bean curd, pork chops, etc. are certainly excellent, but Great NY Noodletown is justifiably famous for their mind blowing (and you know I seldom say that either) Salt Baked Soft Shell Crabs. Of course, their eponymous homemade noodles are delightful as are so many of the other dishes they offer, but these are hands down (claws down?) the best soft shell crabs you will ever eat, the standard to which you will hold all other soft shell crabs henceforth and forever. Get ’em while they’re in season. Two orders on this plate, two crabs to an order, and trust me, you won’t want to share.


Extreme closeup: plump and delicious! And yes, they were all like that.

As to the other notable entry, you’ve probably gazed at the awesome roasted/BBQ meats (and sometimes cuttlefish if you’re lucky) hanging in the windows at Cantonese restaurants: roast pork, roast pig, roast duck, and so many more. The collective term for these favorites is siu mei (燒味), not to be confused with the popular dim sum dumpling, shu mai (燒賣). On our visit back in August 2017, we indulged in these three treats, all very different from each other:


Spare Ribs


Even though it’s not truly roasted, it proudly takes its place in the window and belongs with this group – the aforementioned Cuttlefish, aka squid.


Roast Baby Pig


And Sautéed Pea Shoots because you will surely want some greens to go with this!
 
 
And a reminder, once again, to please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!
 
 
Great N.Y. Noodletown is located at 28 Bowery, Manhattan.
 
 

Spicy Village

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

Spicy Village, a little off the beaten path at 68B Forsyth St, is one of Manhattan Chinatown’s hidden gems. Showcasing Henan (not Hunan) cuisine, it’s one of those restaurants where the cognoscenti whisper, “Don’t miss this place! And when you go, order the Spicy Big Tray Chicken (Da Pan Ji) and be sure to get an extra order of their wonderful hand pulled Hui Mei wide noodles to go with it.”

Here’s what we ordered back in August, 2016:

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Soup Dumplings


Spice Scallion Sauce Dumpling, captioned here as it appears on the takeout menu.


Spicy Big Tray Chicken. A classic dish, classically prepared.


Pancake with Pork


Spicy Lamb Hui Mei from the Dry Hand Pulled Wide Noodle section of the menu (as opposed to Lamb Hui Mei from the Hand Pulled Wide Noodles Soup section of the menu); IMHO “spicy” and “dry” are the way to go. For soup lovers, there is a choice of Flour Line Noodle, Yam Noodles, Rice Vermicelli, Rice Thin Noodle.


Garlic Chinese Baby Bok Choy, also captioned here as it appears on the takeout menu.


Beef Brisket Huimei, same options apply.
 
 
And a reminder, once again, to please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!
 
 
Spicy Village is located at 68B Forsyth St, Manhattan.
 
 

Happy Stony Noodle

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

From a visit to Happy Stony Noodle, the Taiwanese restaurant located at 83-47 Dongan Ave, Elmhurst, Queens, on March 19, 2016.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)Three Cup Chicken. This appears on the menu as Chicken with Ginger & Basil but the Chinese characters, 三杯雞, are the giveaway. A Taiwanese classic, theoretically made using one cup of soy sauce, one cup of sesame oil, and one cup of rice wine, but usually tweaked a bit and fleshed out with additional ingredients including garlic, ginger, and in this case, basil. Good eats.

Ji Vegetable and Pork with Rice Cake. You might see ji cai (cai means vegetable); this Asian green is also known as shepherd’s purse because of the shape of its fruits. Just the right addition to this stir fry of pork and rice cake. Looks like comfort food to me!

Pork & Dried Bean Curd, Hakka Style. Two of my favorites tastes. With veggies even!

Oyster Pancake. A classic Taiwanese appetizer. If you’ve ever had Hangtown Fry, a dish dating from the days of California’s Gold Rush, you’ll see a connection, but in this case, sans bacon.

Pork Roll. Bean curd skin stuffed with succulent pieces of pork and more, fried to crunchy deliciousness.

Pickled mustard greens, an essential condiment at every table.
 
 
Happy Stony Noodle is located at 83-47 Dongan Ave, Elmhurst, Queens.
 
 

Mokbar

Oh, how I long for bygone days of frequent peregrinations to New York City’s treasured international restaurants, days now temporarily quarantined in abeyance because of the damndemic. But some clouds do conceal silver linings: in this case, I uncovered a trove of photos that indeed belong here that I had posted on the Insta when I was playing that gram back in the day.

In recognition of the January 13th celebration of Korean American Day, the anniversary of the first Korean immigrants to arrive in the US in 1903, I offer some pix from Mokbar, the Korean restaurant at 212 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. A bit of research reveals that Mokbar is still holding strong at that address and has a newer venue at Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue in Manhattan; you can order online from either.

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear; here’s what we enjoyed on September 29, 2017.

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From the jipbap (“set menu”), we couldn’t forgo the Jaeyook – crispy pork belly with caramelized kimchi and onions. Easy to see why.


Kalbi Mandu – dumplings filled with marinated beef, caramelized onion, and garlic chives.


Tteokkboki – brown butter rice cakes with bacon, minced pork, white kimchi, and poached egg.


A particularly delicious Ho’ Cake (Mokbar’s spin on hotteok, Korean sweet pancakes); these delights are filled with braised pork belly and served with a kimchi dipping sauce.


Mok Wings – crispy chicken wings with spicy gochujang.


Pajeon – Korean pancakes with charred scallion and garlic chives.

Longing to return!
 
 

Black Owned Restaurants and Eateries in NYC

Here’s an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is – literally!

Go to this continually updated spreadsheet of Black owned restaurants, bars, bakeries, wine stores, coffee shops and pop-ups in the five boroughs of NYC.

And then support them – not just on this day, but from this day on.

🖤
 


Props to Hannah Goldfield, food critic for The New Yorker, and Rachel Karten, social media manager at Bon Appetit, for creating this incredible document.

Hawa Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/13/2020

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We headed out to Hawa Restaurant, 410 Lenox Avenue in Harlem, for their West African cuisine. This is Senegal’s national dish, Thiebu Djen – spellings vary widely but pronunciation is close to Cheh-boo Jen – and to call it “rice and fish” is an understatement even though that’s the literal translation. It’s made from “broken rice” (easily found at African markets) and if you look closely you’ll see its short grains, but it begins its life as the standard long grain variety that breaks in the field or during processing or milling; the shards are sorted by size and are highly desirable since they cook faster and absorb flavors more readily than whole grains. The rice, combined with chopped onion and garlic, is cooked with tomato paste that imbues it with its deep red color and rich flavor; this version had a pleasant little kick to it, possibly from propping up that Scotch Bonnet pepper. Vegetables accompanying the tilapia were cabbage, carrot, cassava, and eggplant, spent from having given their all to flavor the dish.


The tomato sauce in which the fish had been stewed was served on the side.


Sticking with West African specialties (they also have Caribbean cuisine), we ordered Maffe (you might see mafé), lamb stew (the menu also offers a smoked turkey alternative) in a tomato/peanut butter sauce. Their recipe isn’t overwhelmingly peanutty but it was tasty. No surprise that the lamb was so tender it was falling off the bone.
 
 

Gorkhali

Instagram Post 3/11/2020

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It only seems like we’d been waiting forever for Gorkhali, the Nepali restaurant at 77-04 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, to open its doors. Any time I was in the neighborhood with extra time on my hands, I’d head over to see if the promise had been fulfilled, only to hear the sound of my crest falling. But not long ago as I was rushing past between pre-lunch (which had run late) and lunch-lunch (which was about to commence), wouldn’t you know it, the kitchen was truly in full swing. “How long would it take to get an order of Jhol Mo:mo to go?” I panted. “Ten minutes,” came the reply.

So totally worth the wait. Even after a microwave reheat later at home, they were excellent. Herby and spicy with a unique flavor profile, they were unlike some of the standard regulation versions I’ve had in the neighborhood. Obviously, I’m keen to return with more time and a tableful of pals to run the menu – which currently is more like a long, undifferentiated list of the usual suspects: choila, sekuwa, sandheko, thukpa, thenthuk and lots more begging to be tasted.

Stay tuned.


The inner workings.