Choice Rice Cakes and More in Flushing’s Koreatown

Even Chowhounds, who keep up with this kind of news, hadn't all heard about the rebranding of one of their favorite Korean comfort foods, the savory rice cakes they know as tteokbokki or ddukbokki. Make that topokki, advises a rice cake R&D institute near Seoul (and no, we don't make these things up). The idea is to add to the dish's international appeal by subtracting daunting double consonants from its name.

However they spell it, 'hounds have discovered a superior version at Shin Hwang Je Topokki, a newcomer to the city's richest territory for Korean dining, which stretches east from downtown Flushing along Northern Boulevard. ZenFoodist, one of Chowhound's most clued-in correspondents from this quarter, is partial to its Royal Court topokki, made with beef, vegetables, and a soy-based sauce instead of the more common spicy bean paste. She also recommends seemingly greaseless fried pork cutlets, or donkaseu, and pan-fried flat dumplings, filled with little more than scallions and vermicelli but addictively good nonetheless.

This place also makes terrific kimbap, seaweed-wrapped rice rolls with fillings nearly as generous as those at nearby Emo Korean Family Restaurant. Emo's kimbap, ZenFoodist adds, "CRUSHES" those from local competitors Nolbu Sushi and Song's Family Food. Meanwhile, a couple of doors from Shin Hwang Je, there's news from Mad for Chicken, where the fried chicken is as solid as ever and a new chef is turning out tasty happy-hour specials before 6 on weekdays: $6 crab or chicken salads, $7 kimchi fried rice or spicy cheese ramen, and more.

This corner of Queens has surfaced on 'hound radar from time to time, including four years ago with word of a relative rarity: Korean-style goat at Bangane. The restaurant has since changed hands, and some say the kitchen has slipped. But a recent update suggests that the goat courses still deliver the goods.

Boiled goat meat, shredded and steamed tableside with scallions, wrapped in lettuce with condiments, and dipped in an irresistible spicy, smoky, tangy sauce, is tender, agreeably gamy, and "one of the more exciting dishes I have had in NY in a while," Lau writes. The meat's also served in a spicy jungol, or stew (add hot sauce and vinegar to taste), and finally in fried rice made in the leavings of the broth. The resulting feast is varied, deeply satisfying, and is believed to have restorative powers in hot weather, especially for women. "My sister-in-law explained the medicinal purpose," says another 'hound, el jefe. "If you read in the papers about a 55+ year old man having a successful pregnancy ..."

Shin Hwang Je Topokki [Flushing]
157-22 Northern Boulevard (between 157th and 158th streets), Flushing, Queens
718-939-8080

Emo Korean Family Restaurant [Flushing]
In Murray Hill Plaza shopping center, 156-28 Northern Boulevard (between Roosevelt Avenue and 157th Street), Flushing, Queens
718-886-8100

Mad for Chicken [Flushing]
157-18 Northern Boulevard (between 157th and 158th streets), Flushing, Queens
718-321-3818

Bangane [Flushing]
165-19 Northern Boulevard (at 166th Street), Flushing, Queens
718-762-2799

Photo of Shin Hwang Je Topokki's special sauce rice cake (with fish cake, sausage, egg, glass noodles, and ramen) by Mark Hokoda