Heat Noodle – Second Heat

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

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.)

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

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.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

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:

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

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….
 
 

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! 🍨
 
 

It’s Durian Day! (Or Not…)

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

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! 🤞
 
 

Honeycomb Cake

I’ve written about this triumph of texture over gravity before; in that post I described Vietnamese Pandan Cake, Bánh Bò Nướng, easily identified by its emerald hue, but Honeycomb Cake, aka Beehive Cake, has its fans throughout Southeast Asia and in China as well. It’s easy enough to find a snow white version in Chinatown bakeries around these parts (sometimes even on dim sum carts) but less frequently a chocolate colored (notice, I said colored, not flavored) variety like this one from Dragon Bay Bakery at 5711 8th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Above, a slab cut from the loaf; this piece is about nine inches long. It’s sweet but not too sweet, which I know will be welcome news to many of you; its texture is the key to its charm.

How does it come to look like this? Recipes differ. I’ve read that the type of flour used can be rice (common), tapioca (often in the Vietnamese version), or even wheat; the leavening agent, yeast (common), baking soda, baking powder, or a combination thereof; even the method of preparation can vary from steamed (common), to baked, or stovetop pan “griddled”. But somehow, the results manage to be rather similar: springy, bouncy, airy, spongy, fluffy, chewy, and squishy.

(Which quite by coincidence, I think were the names of the Seven Dwarfs. But I could be wrong about that.)


A more modest slice revealing the light cakey-looking top layer and the virtually weightless honeycomb structure supporting it. Its color comes from the use of brown sugar instead of white.


Still don’t get the “honeycomb” part? Here’s a cross section of the above slice, cut against the grain.
 
 
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!
 
 

It’s a Fish Treat! It’s a Candy Treat! Stop! You’re Both Right!

Readers of a certain age will recall the television commercial that aired in heavy rotation for Certs breath mints/candy mints and its relentless, nagging refrain. (Readers not of a certain age can simply take this title at face value.)

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

These dried fish snacks are spicy, sweet, chewy and crunchy – sort of a sesame seed encrusted, sticky-sweet fish jerky. Made from dried fish, sugar, salt, sesame oil, and chili powder, they are utterly delicious and seriously addictive.

The backstory: I was prowling around Manhattan’s Chinatown still in the throes of pondering the destiny of ethnojunkets now that they might actually be feasible again. Many business have disappeared, but for every yin, there is a yang. Case in point: Mott Street’s Aji Ichiban, the Asian candy/dried fruit/preserved snack chain, closed last September, but five months ago Sugartown opened at 63 Bayard St to satisfy a similar audience in the neighborhood.

And that’s the provenance of the treats you see here: Spicy Fish Fillet, Spicy Yellow Croaker, Spicy Dragonhead Fish, Golden Pomfret, and Málà Whitebait. The seasoning recipe is nearly identical for each variety, only the fish differ; some are more gnarly than others, so you might consider starting with the fish fillet, or do what I did and load a few pieces of each into a single bag – it’s self-serve and they’re all the same price – see what you like and come back for more.


These are Black Sesame Fish Strips; in this case the fish is very mild cod. They’re soft, chewy, sweet, and you’ll be tempted to play pick up sticks with them, but they’re even more tempting as a snack.


Extreme close up.

At Sugartown, in addition to these fishy requisites, you’ll find dried and preserved fruits, other types of jerky, sour strips, gummies, jelly rings, crisps, Chinese, Japanese, and American cookies and candies and too much more to list here. It’s a shop full of sweet novelties for all tastes and you’re bound to find something that catches your eye and tickles your tongue.

FWIW, if I do revive the Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket, Sugartown will definitely be on the itinerary!
 
 

Crispy Prawn Chilli

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

At least that’s the way that Heng’s spells it on their label, and orthography notwithstanding, this stuff is outrageous.

On a recent visit to a market in Sunset Park’s Chinatown as I was ogling the infinitely many sauces and condiments, I couldn’t help but spot this product with its flashy reflective gold label. I suspected it might be a fishy requisite that could take its place beside the jumbo jar of spicy chili crisp in the fridge and I was not disappointed.

Remember when you first heard about sriracha and soon began dousing everything in sight with it – until you heard about spicy chili crisp and started slathering everything in sight with that? That’s where I’m at with Crispy Prawn Chilli now: I’ve even incorporated it into a dressing for seafood salad. There are other brands, of course (it’s not a new creation) just as Laoganma has its challengers in the spicy chili crisp division and Huy Fong has among sriracha rivals; Heng’s is a product of Malaysia.

The label lists its main ingredients as soybean oil, chilli, shallot, garlic, dried shrimp, sugar and salt; it’s spicy but not overly so, crispy and shrimpy, and can be used as a condiment at the table or in a stir fry as in this hastily flung together dish. For its maiden voyage, I decided to do a stir fry with Chinese cauliflower and peanuts to ensure that the prawn flavor wouldn’t compete with another protein in future applications, but now that I’ve experimented with it, I don’t think it would present a problem any more than fish sauce turns a dish “fishy”. Got a little delicate brown char on the cauliflower which played well with the crunch of the peanuts and the crispness of the prawn chili.


The verdict: delicious!

It’s also available in Fish and Cuttlefish versions, so now it’s back to Chinatown to sample its mates. (As if I needed an excuse. 😉)

 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

Quite literally.

I don’t usually report news here, but this event is special and deserves all the digital ink it can get.

After a devastating fire in January 2020, Xi’an Famous Foods’ outpost at 26-19 Jackson Ave in Long Island City was forced to close, much to the dismay of its multitude of fans. And now, in case you missed it on their Facebook page, they are excited to announce that they’ve reopened and take-out is available for their eager customers.

I can remember standing on line, appetite at the ready, back in the days when Jason Wang and his dad occupied only a tiny stall in the depths of Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing. Now they’re a mini-chain and I’m happy to affirm that the quality is as top-notch and the food is as outrageously delicious as the original. Old photos of two of my absolute favorites:

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

The N1 – Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles


The F4 – Spicy & Sour Lamb Dumplings

Find a Xi’an Famous Foods near you and go!