Manting Restaurant

Instagram Post 1/21/2019

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Mala Tang and Mala Xiang Guo are Sichuan dishes that are underrepresented in Manhattan’s Theater District, but those are the specialties at Manting Restaurant, 150 W49th St. We were invited to taste their renditions amid a selection of other items on the menu, and we happily obliged.

[1] They feature eight kinds of Mala Tang, the spicy, soupy hot pot, in ready-made versions such as beef, lamb, fish (pictured), seafood and vegetable. When I see “málà”, I expect numbing, spicy Sichuan peppercorns but the best I could tell was that this was ignited only by dried red chili peppers. Not complaining though: we requested very spicy and we actually got it. Spoon some of the sauce over rice for maximum enjoyment.

[2] Mala Xiang Guo, spicy dry pot, is a stir fry in which diners can choose from among 35 items that include meats (beef, lamb, chicken, tripe, kidney, for example), seafood (shrimp, fish fillet, squid), and a garden of vegetables (like mushrooms, cabbage, cauliflower, seaweed) and tofu. Choose your favorites, specify a spice level, and you’re set. Read the menu carefully regarding portion size and pricing: it’s priced per pound with a 1.5 pound minimum and a surcharge for orders under 2 pounds, but you’ll probably exceed those anyway if there are at least two of you. Common sense dictates that if you request many ingredients but the size of your order is modest, you may find only one piece of something you desired in the bowl. We decided to get two of these, one with meats and [3] the other fish based. Both filled the bill.

[4] We opted for the Scallion Egg Pancake appetizer, sort of an omletized scallion bing.

谢谢, Manting!
 
 

Shaanxi Tasty Food – Cumin Fried Noodles with Beef

Instagram Post 1/20/2019

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A couple of months ago, I wrote about Shaanxi Tasty Food, stall 27 in Super HK Food Court, 37-11 Main St, Flushing, in the basement of Super HK Supermarket. Shaanxi Province is in the northwest region of China and “tasty” describes the cuisine precisely. In that post, I raved unabashedly about their Oil Spill Noodle, aka Oil Splashed Noodle, so when my dining buddies and I were in the neighborhood the other night and about to embark on our second of three dinners (long story), it was a clear choice.

This time, we opted for the Cumin Fried Noodles with Beef (C3 on the menu, also available with chicken) and it was another hit. Now and then I have a taste for noodles that aren’t slathered in sauce or swimming in soup. These are dry – in the best sense – boasting a perfect chew, redolent of cumin, touched with a toss of bean sprouts, scallion and carrots plus a little kick from green pepper.

More to come from Super HK Food Court….
 
 

Farmers Restaurant – Part 3

Instagram Post 1/11/2019

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The more I post about this place, the more I want to return, if only to have another go at establishing a communications link with the folks at Farmers Restaurant, 1692 86th St, Brooklyn. Everything we tasted at this eatery in Bensonhurst’s Chinatown (yes, that’s a thing) was wonderful and I’m keen to sample some different dishes next time despite the language barrier. It’s worth noting that verbal exchanges aside, the take-out menu differs from the online menu which differs from the heavily redacted in-house menu – not to mention any specials of the day. I like a challenge.

Here’s Crab with Sticky Rice from the Chef’s Specialties section of the take-out menu. This kind of dish looks deceptively simple, but it’s not always easy to get it right; working with sticky rice requires some finesse and the chef had plenty.

This one is for friends who accuse me of never posting photos of vegetables (let alone ordering them 😉): water spinach, aka water convolvulus, aka water morning glory plus a frustrating litany of increasingly misleading names, served here with garlic sauce (another vegetable!) – tasty, green, and good for you. Right? It grows in water and its hollow stems are the clue to positive ID; they provide the buoyancy that keeps the leaves afloat. I’m not entirely sure if this was on any of the menus!

Looking forward to going back!
 
 

Farmers Restaurant – Part 2

Instagram Post 1/9/2019

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More from Farmers Restaurant, 1692 86th St, Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst’s budding Chinatown where the food was delicious and the language barrier insurmountable. I’m certain about the first dish shown here, Crab and Fish Maw Soup. Fish maw is swim bladder, dried and then reconstituted for soup; if you frequent Chinese markets, it’s easy to find in transparent cellophane or plastic packages. It has little flavor of its own, but is quick to take on that of other ingredients. See second photo for a closer look.

Apologies if you are troubled by the sight of disembodied birds’ heads but there’s a carefully placed specimen on our serving of tasty Crispy Fried Pigeon.

Despite the communications difficulties, I’d definitely return to Farmers Restaurant; it was a meal to remember.
 
 

Super HK Food Court

Instagram Post 1/7/2019

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Another visit to Super HK Food Court, 37-11 Main St, Flushing, in the basement of Super HK Supermarket, this time to Stall 21. I didn’t catch the English translation of the name (if it was even there to be caught), but the Chinese characters are 客來勤 (Ke Lai Qin) literally: Customers Come Frequent. That last character can also mean diligent or hard-working; either way, the name is surely aspirational.

[1] This is Fried Fish Belly, not to be confused with fish maw (swim bladder). I’ve had fish belly elsewhere, particularly in some dim sum parlors where I suspect the bellies were from smaller fish since they were significantly more tender than these. Their unanticipated texture is a little difficult to describe – they’re soft but resilient and chewy, not really crunchy (peanuts are crunchy), not really crispy (chips are crispy), but you can easily hear the sound of your tablemates chomping down on them; definitely a tasty dish though.

[2] Braised eggplant, a classic crowd pleaser; they did a good job with this one as well.

Stay tuned for more from the depths of Super HK Food Court….
 
 

Deluxe Food Market

Instagram Post 1/6/2019

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I promise to write more about the redoubtable Deluxe Food Market in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It’s one of my favorite locations for inexpensive prepared food (it’s a market as well), a place I always bring people to on informal Chinatown ethnojunkets, and will forever hold a place in my heart for its contribution to the day I played hooky from work with a special friend.

For today though, just a postlet about a couple of carbobombs I grabbed to stave off hunger while passing through. And I mean “through” literally since even the layout bears mentioning: Picture a capital H (actually, you don’t have to picture it – it’s right there before the parenthesis) where the vertical strokes are Mott and Elizabeth Streets and the crossbar is the store with means of egress on both sides; 122 Mott and 79 Elizabeth are reciprocal.

Deluxe Food Market is always exceedingly crowded but that’s part of its charm; if you’re there for the ready-to-eat goodies, your patience will be rewarded. In a way, it’s the next best thing to dim sum in terms of tasting a little bit of a lot of things: point to the items you want (assuming you don’t speak the language), pay at the register, and (at least in my case) carry your bag over to nearby Columbus Park and enjoy.

Its size isn’t evident from the photo, but this massive “beef cake” is 6½ inches across and 1½ inches thick.
[2] Photo depicting a deceptively meager amount of meat inside.
[3] Photo depicting a deceptively generous amount of meat inside.
Take the average.

[4] Their “scallion cake” is the chewy, not crispy, variety with a touch of sweetness.

More to come from Deluxe Food Market….
 
 

Farmers Restaurant – Part 1

Instagram Post 1/1/2019

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Every now and then, I pull up a photo of something that was absolutely delicious but that I failed to post about. There was always a good reason for my ostensible lack of diligence and in this case it was a language barrier. Here’s what I can tell you: it was one of the excellent dishes we enjoyed at Farmers Restaurant, 1692 86th St, Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst’s nascent Chinatown, and I’m fairly certain it corresponded to what the menu identified as Sautéed King of Fry with Summer Fruit, a pretty literal translation of 夏果小炒王 (Xia Guo Xiaochao Wang). A Cantonese dish, it combined sweetly fresh seafood, green beans, scallions, macadamia nuts and, I suspect, XO sauce and it was wonderful. In researching, I’ve seen a couple of dubious references to it or something like it in dusty corners of the interwebs but there’s not much else I can tell you since I couldn’t elicit much firsthand information. Still, everything we ate was positively droolworthy and yes, it warrants a return visit.
 
 

Battle of the Baos

Instagram Post 12/28/2018

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Soup dumplings, Xiao Long Bao, XLB, 小笼包, call them what you will, are universally prized regardless of the appellation. Literally “little basket bun” because they are steamed and served in a little basket often made of bamboo, the wrapper encloses a tasty meatball (usually pork), sometimes with the addition of crabmeat and/or crab roe, swimming in a rich broth (usually pork).

Fans champion just the right skins (a little elasticity, not too thick but not so thin that it breaks upon dislodgment from the steamer), just the right filling (flavorful, proper consistency, and moist unto itself), just the right soup (savory and porky, not playing second fiddle to the meat), and just the right ratio of soup to filling. In short, sort of like Goldilocks’ appraisal of Baby Bear’s personal effects: “juuuuuust right.” Shown here are three representatives:

[1] The Bao, 13 St Marks Place in the East Village, sister of Flushing’s Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao
[2] Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown
[3] Diverse Dim Sum, Stall 12 in the New York Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing
[4] A peek inside an example from Joe’s

My original intention was to do a roundup of favorites but there are already enough of those bouncing around the interwebs (along with innumerable treatises on the “right” way to eat them), that I decided that rather than proclaiming a subjective winner (spoiler: there isn’t just one), I’d like to hear from you! Where are the best XLBs in your opinion?

Perhaps a crawl is in the offing!
 
 

Dating Shop

Instagram Post 12/23/2018

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It was the tiniest of booths in the miniest of malls at 136-37 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing. Its cutesy pink sign purred “Dating Shop”. Not what I – understandably – had speculated, it turned out to be a miniature venue that sold Chinese edibles, a little of this and a wee bit of that. Ironically, Instagram’s geocoding for the diminutive location calls it Flushing Department Store, a rather grand name, but it did hold this great surprise.

I can read enough Chinese to decode 老式大辣片 “Old Fashioned Large Spicy Slice”, a temptation sufficient to make the purchase. Diving into the interwebs, I was able to loosely interpret some other words that alluded to processing methods like natural juice stock and, more important, something like “memories of long ago childhood tastes”.

Beautifully translucent, spicy with a resilient chew, absolutely delicious and a real find IMHO, I have never seen this particular brand of bean curd skin anywhere but Dating Shop despite my best efforts to track it down. My next challenge is to determine how to use it optimally. Yes, it’s delicious just as a straight-ahead snack, but it begs to be rolled around something (sticky rice and cut like Japanese maki?) or sliced into matchsticks and mixed into fried rice; dozens of ideas come to mind. Have any of you seen this brand or do you have some thoughts about culinary treatments?
 
 

Super HK Food Court – continued

Instagram Post 12/1/2018

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Quick bites from the opening of the new Super HK Food Court, 37-11 Main St, Flushing, in the basement of Super HK Supermarket.

[1] The Signature Sesame Ball with Red Bean Paste from Mom’s Kitchen, stall 18, was top notch.
[2] Steamed Pumpkin with Raisin bun (yellow) and Red Date bun (white) from New York Xiao Jiang Nan Bun, stall 12.
[3] Pork bun from New York Xiao Jiang Nan Bun was good; its mate was a vegetable and egg bun (vented top).
[4] An inside peek.

So much more to try; I’m going back soon!