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’Jever go to a sprawling Asian supermarket and load up a wagonful of ingredients in anticipation of a marathon of Chinese home cooking that portends hours in the kitchen but promises rewarding results, and then realize you don’t have any energy left to make something for yourself for that day because you’re exhausted from errand overload, so you trudge over to the freezer case and grab a package of frozen assorted dim sum figuring there’s absolutely no work involved – just steam the little bastards while you put away the real food?


Nai Brother Sauerkraut Fish

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Chinese Sauerkraut Fish seems to be a “thing” these days. I don’t know if it’s a surge in popularity or just better marketing, but I’ve been spotting it more frequently lately, if perhaps under alternate nomenclature.

Note that it bears no relation to the sauerkraut you get from the dirty-water-hot-dog cart stationed on every Manhattan street corner.

This dish, Signature Spicy Pickled Fish, came from Booth 21 in Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court at 136-20 Roosevelt Ave. The soup, faintly oily in a good way, arrives brimming with hefty chunks of fish fillet, tofu, and pickled mustard greens along with an array of fresh vegetables. It’s kicked up with hot red peppers and Sichuan peppercorns and manages to balance spicy and sour. The vegetable contingent includes thin slices of potato, barely cooked and crisp, mature bean sprouts, cabbage, celery, and sundry other greens. White rice on the side to offset the sting.

Nai Brother has partnered with YanYan Tea, also floating around Flushing, so there’s a wide selection of creative drinks available to cool your palate in case the soup turns out to be a bit spicier than you had anticipated.

Yi Mei Bakery

On a recent Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket, I picked up some satisfying snacks at Yi Mei Bakery, 81-26 Broadway.

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A variation on classic char siu bao. There was a subtle sweetness to these Roast Pork Pastries, a perfect combination of thin slices of juicy char siu, flaky dough, and black and white sesame seeds. If you buy one to take home, definitely warm it up for maximum enjoyment.

The Meat Floss Cake was indeed cakey per its name: pillowy soft, savory and salty but also with a slight overtone of sweetness. Each cake was coated with meat floss and comprised two halves married by a thin layer of creamy custard (see last photo).

If you’re unfamiliar with meat floss, meat (pork is common) is cooked in a sweetened, spiced mixture until it’s soft enough to be shredded and fried resulting in a final texture that’s fluffy and looks a bit like wool. It’s remarkably versatile and commonly used as a topping for rice or congee, as an ingredient for filling buns and pastries, or for just plain snackin’. You’ll see it in two similar variations at your local Asian supermarket, pork fu and pork sung, and based on my experience I think the shelf life is practically eternal.

Want to know if these treats will be part of our Elmhurst food tour? Only one way to find out. Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

Brobdingnagian Bargain Dining

(See what I did there?)

So progress continues at Elmhurst’s revivified HK Food Court but incrementally at best. They move things around as in a protracted game of chess and, with a few exceptions in the far right corner, I can’t really determine who the vendors are – or perhaps there’s only one, because the crew seems to wander freely among all of the stations. Each has some signage, but I’m not convinced that it corresponds to the contents of the steam tables beneath. None of which has anything to do with the food, of course.

But I have stumbled upon two items worth considering.

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Casa Fried Chicken, when it’s staffed and when the chicken looks reasonably freshly fried, offers unreasonably inexpensive fare: wings are 4 for $2 and big honkin’ chicken parts are $1 each. The piece on this plate was about six inches wide and 2½ inches thick. “Is that a thigh?” I asked incredulously. She enclosed it in a wax paper bag and answered, “One dollar,” avoiding my question. At home, my autopsy revealed that it appeared to be a thigh somehow firmly affixed to a breast based on the color of the meat but not on the skeleton or any anatomy I was familiar with. It was agreeably seasoned though, and for the price it was a genuine bargain.

The Fried Rice Noodles are flavored modestly, well lubricated, and possess the satisfyingly chewy texture of an archetypical comfort food. And I’m addicted to the stuff. You’re looking at roughly a quarter of the large size which weighed in at over 2½ lbs: $5.75. I’ve fallen into the habit of bringing one of these home every time I visit because since they’re delicious but not overpowering, they’re easy to tinker with by adding other ingredients (meat, fish, veggies, etc.) and enhancing the seasoning appropriately thus creating something you didn’t dine on the day before while staying well within your budget. This meal cost about $2.50.

The remarkable feature of these noodz is that they are enormous! I’ve unfurled one in this photo; it measures about 7½ x 5 inches and that’s not the largest of the lot.

I see a fusion Chinese Lasagna in my future.

Royal Queen Dim Sum on Main Street

As I was hungrily exiting Jmart in Flushing’s New World Mall via the down escalator to the Main Street side, I spotted an array of dim sum on my right and a selection of Chinese roast meats near the window that overlooks the sidewalk. (My version of serendipity.)

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Peering a bit further in, I noticed a steam table array (the typical 4 dishes + soup + rice) and a small sign that read “Royal Queen”. Now, Royal Queen restaurant on the third floor of the complex has been around for a while, but this crowded niche was new to me. I pointed to a trio of crispy fried shrimp dumplings and brought my booty downstairs to the food court.

Each dumpling contained at least one whole shrimp and then some; no ground paste to be found – just deliciousness beyond my expectations.

Here’s how the window looked from the sidewalk on Main Street; it’s directly across from Mickey D’s as you can probably tell. 😉

White Rabbit Ice Cream

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My first taste of Chinese candy came about when I was a kid; it was so very long ago that I can’t even remember which Dynasty it was. The novel confection was White Rabbit, a chewy, creamy, milk-based taffy (although technically, it’s toffee because it contains dairy) and it’s a godsend to dentists world-wide.

Years later, when boba drinks were just becoming the rage in Chinatown and the line for the solitary Tiger Sugar in Flushing coiled around the block, an enterprising challenger, With Sugar and Tea (long gone but not forgotten), opened up nearby. The flavor of its signature drink boasted spot-on doppelganger rabbitude.

Three’s the charm, of course, and the ultimate rabbit out of a hat trick is this White Rabbit ice cream that I stumbled upon recently in SF Supermarket when I was prepping the 2023 version of my Elmhurst ethnojunket. It sports an ingenious lid that conceals a handy spoon and it definitely tastes like the real deal.

Which naturally raises the question (especially since this is the Year of the Rabbit) will we sample this delicacy on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket?

Only one way to find out. Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

Hong Kong Food Court Update – Part 2

As I indicated in my last post, some additional vendors have emerged at the new incarnation of Hong Kong Food Court (82-02 45th Ave in Elmhurst) and it’s my self-imposed duty to keep you informed about them!

I was encouraged to find a Burmese stall, Thar Gi, with a menu of about eight items including this Burmese Thick Noodle Chicken Salad.

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In addition to their standard menu, there’s a display case featuring a selection of dishes, mostly curries with various proteins and the same sauce, targeted for heating up at home. I asked if they could heat one up for me and this is their Beef Curry. They didn’t have rice. Go figure.

I’ve enjoyed a great deal of Burmese food over the years – even prepared some myself – and I’ve always been a stalwart fan. I was hoping for a little more personality from these two dishes. We’ll see if anything changes as they settle in.

And here’s one more from Lan Zhou Ramen, highlighted in my last post: Cumin Lamb Burger. Definitely tasty and on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour!


Hong Kong Food Court Update

It’s coming along slowly but surely – not as slick-looking as any of the food courts in Flushing, but it’s the cuisine that counts, right?

Some additional vendors have emerged at the new incarnation of Hong Kong Food Court (82-02 45th Ave in Elmhurst) since I last wrote about it and one of the second batch is an outpost of Lan Zhou Ramen. (If you’re not familiar with their other locations, you should know that they’re more than just ramen.)

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Their extensive menu included this admirable Cumin Lamb Noodle. The chef hand-pulled the noodles for my dish as I watched each step in the process; the noodz were as thick and chewy as I had hoped, the spice level was good, and the only thing I might have wished for was a bit more cumin presence – still, it was as satisfying as any I’ve enjoyed elsewhere.

And from the What-A-Long-Strange-Trip-It’s-Been Department: Their brightly lit signage, artistically inscribed with vivid red Chinese characters and identifying it as booth #23 looked familiar; certainly there are not 22 other stalls in HKFC’s current configuration. So when I got home, I checked the photo I had taken during their glory days back in 2019 and sure enough, it’s the selfsame sign.

Here’s hoping that’s a good sign!

Passing the wide assortment of dim sum on my way out of the food court, I couldn’t resist this Ham Sui Gok (咸水角), always one of my favorites. It’s crispy fried on the outside…

…with a chewy glutinous rice dough enveloping pork and perfectly sauced veggies on the inside; it’s sweet and savory at once and definitely filling.

Stay tuned for more new vendors – some I’m happy to report, are unique. And yes, of course, it’s a major stop on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour!

Hua Yi Jia

I love a Chinese restaurant menu where the English names of the dishes are so obscure that I want to try them all. Now, I’m not referring to misspellings like balck for black or drued for dried. If I could write in Chinese a fraction as well as they write in English, I’d be thrilled. Respect.

I’m talking about dishes with names like Pot Edge or Meter Hour or Old Wine and Old Man. And when I scanned the Chinese characters on the menu in the first example (謝謝, Google Translate), it returned “Side of Pot” – not particularly enlightening. But that’s precisely why I need to go back.

So when we visited Hua Yi Jia (aka Huayijia) at 5616 7th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, we selected three items that were intriguing in either name or content.

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Fried Eel with Lees

We’re assuming Fujianese cuisine is the order of the day because of the neighborhood and the presence of red wine lees in this dish. Wine lees are the sediment from fermenting and aging rice and red rice bran to make red glutinous wine, sort of the dregs. (But they’re not bitter dregs, Mr. Spock; they’re actually in-your-face umami brokers.) Look closely past that crispy coating on the pieces of fried eel and you’ll see the characteristic red color. Definitely tasty, but beware of tiny bones – it was worth taking a moment to establish an anatomically informed strategy for each piece.

Dried Mutton with Razor Clam

Served in a Japanese bowl, this soup was flavored with an abundance of rehydrated mutton and a paucity of razor clam. No matter, I’m sure it was the luck of the ladle and it was worth trying once.

Pot Edge

Of course we did. Turns out to be another Fujianese soup, so called because it’s made by pouring rice flour batter around the side of a wok to form a thin noodle which is then scraped into simmering broth enhanced with shredded greens.

Looking forward to my next visit!

Zheng Jin Ji

Sometimes only an elaborate production with an extensive cast of dishes can appease your appetite – think dim sum. But there’s a lot to be said for a simple dialog on an uncluttered stage as well, if the players are exceptional.

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In the window of Zheng Jin Ji at 4915 8th Ave, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, I spotted a photo starring these two sesame seed studded buns that was sufficiently compelling for me to venture inside. It’s a modest venue where Fuzhou snacks and soups are in the spotlight; I’m guessing they do more take-out business than sit-down.

On the left, a Pickled Pork Sesame Bun with Preserved Vegetables, a Guhuai Sesame Bamboo Shoot Bun on the right. They’re prepared in advance, deep fried to order, and they were an undisputed hit: spot-on seasoning, a study in contrasting textures, and definitely worth more than the price of admission ($5.50 for the pair).

So Bravo to the folks at Zheng Jin Ji for an enlightening performance that day. Take a bao!

(I know. I went a long way for that one.)