Elmhurst Ethnojunkets Are Back!

Onward and upward!

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago (a big thank you to all my guests!) and now Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst is joining the lineup; Flushing and Bay Ridge are just around the corner.

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works. For the time being, I’m only scheduling Little Odessa and Elmhurst.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Elmhurst, Little Odessa, Flushing, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Elmhurst?
A: We cover a lot of geography on our Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst adventure! We’ll savor goodies from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and parts of China. And if you’re into cooking, we can explore a large Pan-Asian supermarket along the way.

Here are just a few of the delicacies we usually enjoy on this ethnojunket. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

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

Thai Pork & Peanut Dumplings

Taiwanese Pineapple Cake


Nepali Momos


Zaab Chicken Wings


Malaysian Silver Noodles


Pandan Tart Cake


I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

Chinese Snowflake Crisps

More from the sweet snack aisle at the Chinese supermarket, specifically Snowflake Crisps (aka Snowflake Cakes) this time.

Yes, it’s a thing – if I am to believe what I’ve seen on the interwebs. They’re a popular dessert in parts of China and Taiwan (based on the number of recipes to be found) and a favorite commercially packaged treat as well (borne out by the number of varieties I see in Chinese markets).

On my last Flushing excursion, I chose two of the many selections vying for shelf space, Strawberry Snowflake Crisp (with Chinese and Japanese labeling)…

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

…and Boba Milk Tea Snowflake Cake.

They’re pleasantly sweet but not overly so; they share a common texture, at once a little crispy and perhaps a bit melt-in-your-mouth, marshmallowy-chewy like junior varsity wannabe nougat; and they’re feathery, gossamer – so lighter-than-air that it compelled me to scrutinize the ingredients on the label, but helium was not among them.


The Strawberry Snowflake Crisp had a little crispy, snowy white “icing” on top but only the merest suggestion of a crunch, somewhere along the candy <-> cookie continuum.


The Boba Milk Tea Cake was less chewy – but that’s acceptable because the boba, appropriately, were very much so; the bobas do taste like those in ubiquitous bubble tea.


One factor to keep in mind is that because of their fragile nature, you’re also buying a lot of packaging. Each 1¼-inch square is individually wrapped ensuring a protective cushion of air, then verrry loosely packed in a bag or an eminently reusable container (peeking out at the bottom in the first photo).
 
 
More snacks from the Chinese market to come. Stay tuned….
 
 

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.
 
 

New Fully Bakery

Instagram Post 11/6/2019

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

I often stop by New Fully Bakery, 82-24 45th Ave in Elmhurst, on my way to HK Food Court for these Guangdong/Hong Kong treats: wife cake, husband cake and sun cake (nope, neither a typo nor a pun). The three share a common flaky exterior since they’re all based on a rice flour dough enriched with lard and painted with egg-wash for sheen and flakiness. They’re sweet but not too sweet, which I know will be welcome news to many of you.


Clues as to their inner nature. Wife Cake (aka Sweetheart Cake 老婆饼, lao po bing), top, is filled with a paste made from candied winter melon. Diverse recipes are legion (these are slender compared to others I’ve enjoyed) as are tales of how they got their name, but they invariably conclude with a love-conquers-all happy ending. Recently they’ve taken on a fresh identity as an emblem of resistance in Hong Kong.

Less common around these parts is the Husband Cake (老公饼, lao gong bing), bottom. At New Fully Bakery, they’re similar to the wife cake except for a swap-in of pineapple for winter melon plus a few almonds on top; elsewhere they possess a considerably burlier flavor profile due to ingredients like garlic, red bean paste, and star anise.

Sun Cake (太陽餅, tai yang bing) has its roots in Taiwan. Its chewy center, crafted from malt sugar and butter (perhaps honey and milk), arguably makes it the most satisfying of the three.


Close-up revealing sun cake’s delightful filling.


And speaking of Taiwan, I’m told that the owner of New Fully Bakery hails from there which didn’t surprise me because of these thick, sweet Pineapple Pies on display. (Taiwan was once the third largest exporter of pineapples worldwide and they’re still a significant contributor to their economy.) I might like these even more than their family of family cakes.
 
 

Nuan Xin Rice Roll

Instagram Post 9/10/2019

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

While scouting Sunset Park’s Chinatown in search of more mooncake madness for my massive Chinese Mooncakes Demystified post (which if you haven’t read it, please do), I passed Nuan Xin Rice Roll at 5103 8th Ave, one of five locations in NYC. For some time, I’ve been curious about their purple rice fàn tuán (飯糰) so I grabbed one to go.

The décor is targeted to young folks, as is the heavy-handed use of mayonnaise, but I’m not complaining; I absolutely enjoyed it and wished I had purchased a few of the other 14 varieties. As it happened, I was in a rush so I let the phrase “Special Rice Roll” do the deciding for me. Deconstructing it at home, I tasted pork floss (rou song, 肉鬆), shredded lettuce, and tiny bits of pickled mustard greens within the nori wrapper. They also tout Sea Salt Beverages (next time) and an ocean of other tea-based beverages. Good stuff.
 
 

Eggcellent Soufflé Pancake

Instagram Post 8/15/2019

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

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.
 
 

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.

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

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)

 
 

Hey Chick

Instagram Post 8/3/2019

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

As part of the prep for my Elmhurst food tour, I decided to do a compare-and-contrast exercise between Taiwanese style popcorn chicken vendors at HK Food Court at 82-02 45th Ave. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Salt & Pepper Chicken at Hang (stall 15). This post examines the differences between theirs and that of Hey Chick in stall 3.

Given a cursory glance, it’s easy to assume they’d essentially be the same, but there are a few key distinctions. Hey Chick’s chix seems to be a bit juicier, attributable perhaps to slightly larger chunks of chicken. Hang’s hangs its hat on the fact that it’s Salt & Pepper Chicken, not the more ubiquitous and gentler flavor profile. And finally, when I was there at least, Hey Chick has taken a leaf from other popcorn chicken purveyors I’ve visited and was more generous with their fried basil.

Note that IMHO, both were good – it’s just an assessment of the fundamentals. In other words, if you’re a seasoned popcorn chicken lover, it will be a basal comparison.
 
 

Hang

Instagram Post 6/29/2019

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In Elmhurst’s new HK Food Court at 82-02 45th Ave, the Chinese characters on Stall 15’s marquee translate to “Hang”. More to the point, on the left it reads “Taipei”, on the right, “snacks”, and therefore likely a potential stop on my Elmhurst food tour, but taste testing always comes first. (Well, right after the photos, I guess.) Taiwanese style popcorn chicken and its marine mate, squid, are hallmarks of the cuisine around these parts; crispy yet juicy and traditionally topped with a bit of fried basil, they’re easy to track down and everyone has their favorites.

Shown here, serviceable fried [1] Salt & Pepper Chicken and [2] Salt & Pepper Squid; the chicken was marginally better, the squid more attractive by the same degree. A few more decisions to make before the Elmhurst ethnojunket goes live – but we’re close!
 
 

Legend Chicken

Instagram Post 2/25/2019

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Seems like I always discover tremendous treats in the teeniest mini-malls when I visit Flushing; Legend Chicken, tucked away in stall number 2 (of only 4!) at 135-15 40th Road in Queens, is a notable case in point. They obviously take pride in offering cage-free, hormone-free, halal-certified poultry, but the fact that all their Taiwanese street food is truly delicious and cooked to order is what won me over. Three examples:

[1] Leg Cutlet prevailed over Legend Pops and Legend Chicken in the “which one should we get” deliberation. Tasty – and there’s always a Next Time to try the others.

[2] Blood Rice Cakes. Don’t be shy, you might like ’em. You won’t know until you try.

[3] Hashbrowns. Your comfort zone reward for trying the blood rice cakes 😉.

There are additional chicken variations on the surprisingly extensive menu along with specialties like Taiwanese sausages, taro and turnip cakes, Venetian tofu and a few items I had to ask about: amid avian accessories like gizzards, necks and hearts, spades made the cut. Nope, not card suits. Turns out those are tails, aka the Pope’s nose, aka the part that goes over the fence last. The real deal.