Yu Tea

Instagram Post 8/17/2018

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For all the times I’ve visited their neighbor, Pata Market, I had never made it into Yu Tea at 81-18 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens until now. Without hesitation, I went directly to the Cheese Fruit Tea Smoothie section of the menu and selected Cheesy Doubleberry (strawberry and blueberry). The three layers you see here are meant to be well stirred, but of course I had to sample each individually: the bottom was sweet and a little syrupy, the middle represented what the final mixture would taste like without the final fillip from the top layer which is where the salty, cream cheesy magic happens. If you’ve ever had cheesecake flavor ice cream, imagine a strawberry/blueberry combo of those; now liquefy it, thin it out, sprinkle in a bit of salt, and mix well. This popular admixture of cheesy-salty-fruity-juicy can be found in malls around your favorite Chinatowns, and yes, it totally works!

Q Town Asian Cuisine

There’s another new kid on the block in Elmhurst, Queens: Q Town Asian Cuisine at 82-87 Broadway. They specialize in Taiwanese cuisine, but their extensive menu (some 300 options) tiptoes into mainland cuisines as well. At the outset, I should report that we were a party of 14 with somewhat divergent tastes so our ordering attempted to cater to a cross section of palates. A few dishes we tried, in no special order…

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Beef Tripe with Hot Pepper Sauce. I know this dish as fuqi feipian (aka husband and wife lung pieces, although there’s really no lung in it). This Sichuan dish consists of spicy beef tripe with one other cut, usually tendon, but this seemed more like beef shin to me. Q Town Asian Cuisine did an excellent version of it.

Oyster Pancake. A classic Taiwanese appetizer.

Fly Heads. Another example of Taiwanese home cooking, this dish calls for garlic chives, bits of pork, and fermented black beans (the ingredient that looks like flies’ heads). On the downside, this version would have benefited from a slightly heavier hand with the pork; on the upside, for all the many times I’ve enjoyed this dish, I’ve never had a version that was quite this spicy. I don’t know about its authenticity, but I certainly liked that aspect of it.

Crispy Fried Shrimp. They did a great job with this one. Tempted to try their crispy fried oyster or cuttlefish next time.

Cuttlefish and Squid with Yellow Chives. I understand that this dish is subtle, but even with that, it was lacking in flavor. Fresh ingredients though.

Homemade Tofu Pot – Pork and Oyster. Delicious, but I wish there had been a little more pork or oysters in evidence. In fairness, that observation may be attributable to the fact that we were a convivial group of 14 and it’s truly difficult to portion out dishes like this one equitably, but their flavors made their presence felt. Or tasted, perhaps!

Clams with Basil. Tasty and flavorful. The basil flavor comes mostly from the basil leaves in the dish, not the sauce itself, but that’s fine.

Sautéed Squash – the loofah variety. It’s a gentle dish with a pleasant crunch, a change of pace for the palate; as such, it succeeded.

Kidney and Liver in Sesame Oil. If you’re an offal aficionado and a liver lover (like me), this one is for you. Perfectly cooked, tender meat with welcome slices of ginger to kick it up; excellent execution.

Three Cup Chicken. 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, sugar and red chili.

Sizzling Black Pepper Short Ribs with onions and bell peppers.

Striped Bass swimming in Spicy Black Bean Sauce dodging slabs of tofu. Very fresh and truly delicious.

Fan Fried Rice Bar

Instagram Post 7/6/2018

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A relative newcomer (about three months) to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and certainly a welcome one is Fan Fried Rice Bar at 525 DeKalb Ave. A cozy, sunny spot with only a few tables, they offer a number of Taiwanese delicacies like Popcorn Chicken, Fried Bone-In Pork Chop, Taiwanese Sausage, and Mushroom Mapo Tofu, but the real focus is on their novel fried rice variations.

[1] Numb Numb Pastrami Fried Rice with chili paste, scallions, pastrami, onions and peanuts. I get a pronounced Szechuan málà peppercorn hit delivered with a lot of char (as opposed to wok hei); the pastrami itself is salty, moist, and a little smoky, but unlike the deli style pastrami you might expect from the name. Definitely good eats.

[2] Breakfast Fried Rice is good any time of day with tasty thick cut bacon, eggs, peas and carrots, and everything-bagel seasoning. No numbing peppercorns in this one, but plenty of salt, intensified by the toss of potato chips atop.

And yes, I’m a fan of the Fan. 😉

Bake Culture

Instagram Post 6/14/2018

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As I continue to update my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket, I find that there’s always a new bakery that has popped up, and although they sell many similar items, there are often a few surprises. Bake Culture at 48 Bowery has a branch in Flushing and its roots in Taiwan and presents a clean, sleek image to its millennial customers. The brainchild of three Taiwanese boy band members, they offer items that are touched with whimsy like Seashell Bread, Chocoholic Bread, Hot Dog Bunnies, and this Chocolate Dipped Coconut Sheep Bread. It’s actually not bad; chocolate dipped horns and candy eyes with a tasty version of that eggy yellow coconut filling that you’ve probably sampled before.

Photo #2 – To reacquaint yourself with the filling.

Photo #3 – They simply call this one German Pudding, a common name in Singapore for this kind of custard tart; it sports a crust that’s a bit more sturdy and flavorful than a standard Chinatown dan tat and a filling that’s a little lighter and less dense than others I’ve tried around these parts. Good stuff!

(I guess this is how these former musicians are making their bread these days! 😉)

Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet

My Instagram posts are usually brief takes on restaurants accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But folks sometimes ask for fuller reviews and more photos, so in response, here’s a more comprehensive report on one of my favorites.

One of my favorite ways to dine is with a large group of foodie-type folks. There’s a method to my menu madness, of course: if you gather a crowd of eight or ten around a mountain of ethnic food, everyone gets to taste a bit of everything. (That’s essentially the idea behind my ethnojunkets as well.) And that’s exactly what we did at Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet.

Here are some photos of the extensive indulgence we enjoyed. (Click to enlarge.)

Braised Ribs

Duck Tongue

The meat is tender and a little fatty and envelops a bone that runs down the middle of the tongue. You’ll encounter these in other Chinese cuisines as well (at Cantonese dim sum parlors, for example). Go ahead. Try some. I promise you won’t leave quacking.

Oyster Pancake

Budzu Steamed Fish

Budzu is often seen as “Putz” on Taiwanese menus and it isn’t what you think it is. Budzu are manjack berries, little olive colored globes with a single seed, and are a standby in Taiwanese cuisine.

Clams with Basil

Basil frequently factors into Taiwanese cuisine as you can see in some of the other photos. It was the perfect fillip for these tender clams.

Crispy Sautéed Chicken

Squid with Ginger and Scallion

Stinky Tofu

An acquired taste? You be the judge!

Intestine with Garlic Chive

You might think you’ve never eaten intestines, but that, after all, is where natural sausage casings come from. The garlic chives and medium spicy sauce are the perfect complements; great with rice.

Sa Cha Beef

And yes, everything was absolutely delicious!
Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet is located at 59-14A Main Street in Flushing, Queens.

Taiwanese Specialties

Instagram Post 4/7/2017

Their website refers to it as Taiwanese Gourmet, their menu reads Taiwanese Specialties, but a rose by any other name, etc. Over the years, I’ve dined here more times than I can remember, à deux with a friend, as part of a group, and as the organizer of a few other groups and I have never been disappointed. Here are some of the dishes, in no special order, that we enjoyed on one such occasion.

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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, there’s no bacon to be found.

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

Squash with Dried Scallops.

Sauteed Live Eel with Yellow Chives. (“Live” simply means fresh.)

House Special Stir-Fried Rice Cake.

Hakkanese Style Pork & Dried Bean Curd.

Ginger Chicken with Sesame Oil, formally known as Three Cup Chicken. 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 and ginger.

Fly’s Head. Or Fly Head, Flies Heads, Flies’ Heads – you get the picture. Another classic Taiwanese dish. No flies were harmed in the making of this dish: the dark spots are fermented black beans that accompany the minced pork and Chinese garlic chives.

Taiwanese Sausage Fried Rice.

Beer Duck. Duck that’s been braised in beer, of course.
Taiwanese Specialties Gourmet Restaurant (take your pick) is located at 84-02 Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens.