No offense taken. Thanks for the review. I'll probably hit it one of these days, if for no other reason than for the nostalgia.
Does anyone know of any other NYC transplants? I can name 2:
Babycakes (Downtown) is a great bakery if you love pastry and are allergic to all the things that are usually in it (i.e. milk, gluten, soy, etc).
Two Boots Pizza (Echo Park) was one of my favorite places to grab a slice, and they taste pretty much the same here.
A couple of weeks ago I read this Serious Eats article, "Where to Buy Chinese Ingredients in New York City” (http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/0...), and it got me thinking – of all the wonderful posts on the board, it seems nobody has written about the TWO CHINESE CONDIMENTS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT! So here is my public service announcement about these two miracle ingredients that will elevate your Chinese food to new heights:
1. Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce: Black Bean Nature Brewed
I know what you’re thinking, what’s so special about soy sauce, the most ubiquitous Chinese condiment there is?! This is what I thought too, until I read about this 100-year-old soy sauce company in Xiluo, Taiwan, which still brews all its soy sauces by age-old recipes, adding its trade secret fermentation starter by hand, and aging the brew in gigantic terra cotta urns under the sun for 4-6 months before filtering and completing the final product. The ingredient list is short: black beans, water, salt, and sugar – that’s it! No preservatives, no alcohol (which is surprisingly in a lot of soy sauces), and no wheat so you can still enjoy it if you’re allergic to wheat. (They also have a soy bean and wheat soy sauce, which I haven’t tried. But the black bean product does not have wheat.)
But most importantly, it tastes GREAT! I never thought I would even be able to tell the difference between soy sauces, but as soon as you open this bottle, you smell a rich aroma that comes from the naturally brewed black beans. Pour it out and you will notice that this soy sauce is more viscous than its mass market competitors. And the taste is rich and complex, not too salty, with a slight sweetness at the end. We’ve done blind smell and taste tests at home with this soy sauce and a Wei Chuan soy sauce that also claims to be “naturally brewed.” The Wei Chuan product has alcohol as an ingredient and, when compared with the Wuan Chuang, has an astringent odor when you take a whiff. It also tastes saltier and flatter compared with the Wuan Chuang. The difference is really startling, like the difference between a good, extra virgin olive oil that tastes like spring and smells of fruit, and a cheap olive oil from the corner minimart that tastes like, well, nothing.
When I first read about this brand on a Taiwanese blog, I thought casually, “That’s great, but I’ll never find out how it tastes because they won’t have it in the U.S.” But a couple of weeks ago, I found it at the new Great Wall Supermarket on Northern Blvd. in Flushing. Dumplings are AMAZING with nothing but this soy sauce. Taiwanese meat sauce (rou-zao) made with this sauce is a deep color and tastes rich and flavorful as if it had chocolate in it. And I could eat bowls of plain white rice with just this soy sauce and a few dashes of sesame oil. And this is just their everyday line. Next time I go to Taiwan I am getting a few bottles of their 正宗白曝醬油, handmade in limited quantities in summertime only, each batch taking over a year to finish, and only available directly through the factory.
2. Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Sauce
Again, an ingredient I read about on a Taiwanese food board (kind of like this one), then discovered at my local Queens Chinese grocery store. That was about 5 years ago, and since then my husband and I can’t live without this hot sauce. “Lao Gan Ma” means loosely, “Old Godmother,” named after the founder, whose stern face appears on every bottle. Because of her expression, we’ve dubbed it “Mean Woman Sauce” in our household.
I kid you not when I say that this sauce goes with just about anything. Dumplings are great with this (if you want yours spicy), so are rice, noodles, stir fries, blanched vegetables, and even Western dishes like baked squash, rotisserie chickens, and pizzas. (And I admit, a few times I just sat there and ate straight out of the jar.) It’s hard to describe exactly what this tastes like – it’s spicy, but also a little salty, a little sweet, and a little crunchy. For those Sriracha chili sauce fans out there, I say to you: you are totally missing out if you think that Sriracha is the best hot sauce there is.
I should have known that this product is popular with the Chinese population by the fact that it is found in almost every Chinese grocery store. However, this fact really hit me in late 2007/early 2008, when all of a sudden, Lao Gan Ma disappeared from all the grocery store shelves. All one could find were the numerous copycats – Old Godmom, Old Godfather, etc. We bought a couple of these but they tasted nothing like our beloved Mean Woman. We asked everywhere – in Manhattan, in Brooklyn, in Chicago, and even asked my family in Hong Kong and Sichuan – but no sightings. A store clerk in a Chicago told us that the supply stopped because the factory in Guizhou, China burned down. When they heard the news they had two cases of this sauce left in stock. They sold the 1st case at 150% the normal price, and it flew off the shelf. Then they sold their 2nd (and last case) at 200% the normal price, and it again flew off the shelf. This depressed us greatly. Apparently it’s no secret to anyone that this is the BEST hot sauce around, and now it was (for all we knew) gone forever, and there was probably not a single store in the U.S. that would have any in stock.
But then in 2009, Lao Gan Ma came back on the market, and is again available in just about every Chinese grocery store. Having gone a few sad months without it though, every time we finish a bottle we buy 2 more, just to stock up in case of another supply chain mishap. Because we can’t live without our Mean Woman.
—Bonus: My Recipe for Spicy Noodles—
So you need some inspiration for what to do with your newly acquired miracle ingredients? Let me share a simple dish we call simply, “Spicy Noodles,” which is a weeknight favorite for when we feel like comfort food but can’t be bothered to cook, developed in my own kitchen.
(2) While the noodle is cooking, mix together in a bowl 1/2 Tbsp Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Sauce (or more or less, according to your preference), 1 Tbsp Wuan Chuang soy sauce, 1/2 Tbsp black vinegar, ½ tsp sugar. Finely chop some scallions, set aside.
(3) When the noodles are done, add the noodles to the bowl of condiments, and mix to combine well. If you like peanuts, adding ½ to 1 Tbsp of peanut powder at this point will give the noodles a thicker texture and a pleasant peanut flavor. Garnish with scallions and, if desired, a few dashes of Sichuan pepper corn powder.
**For a deluxe version, add Taiwanese meat sauce (rou-zao), preferably made with your Wuan Chuang soy sauce, to the noodles. The results rivals the dan-dan noodles of the late J&L Mall, if I do say so myself.**
We just returned to the Roosevelt Food Mall last night and found a few new additions:
Temple Snacks now has not 1, but 2 English menus posted on the wall in front of the stall. The items are all numbered so ordering by number should be no problem. However, the menus only include items on their regular food (not drinks) item, and does not include seasonal specials, such as 麻油雞 (sesame oil chicken) and 紅豆/花生湯 (red bean or peanut soup) 紅豆/花生湯圓 (red bean or peanut rice balls), none of which I got to try last night. (Waiting for reviews from follow Chowhounds.)
But more importantly, the dumpling stall (我家食坊), which is the last stall on the left opposite the Korean-Chinese stall, now has homemade rice milk (米漿)!!!! Unlike the pathetic white stuff that comes in a paper carton from your local grocery store/health food store, what we're talking about here is a thick, brown sweet liquid made of rice and roasted peanuts, served hot or cold (only hot at the dumpling stall, but I suppose you could take it home and put it in your fridge), usually as an alternative to soy milk at breakfast. Until now, I've only found this drink in cans or bottles at the Chinese grocery stores, which are worthy substitutes, but never been able to find the freshly made variety. So I say, unless you have a peanut allergy, get ye to the dumpling stall at the Roosevelt Food Mall and try this special Taiwanese drink.
Between the stalls in this food court and Yi Mei Fang Bakery a few doors up the street, Roosevelt Avenue has now become my Taiwanese food heaven!
Or try this compressed jpg image:
Sorry - the file was too big. I posted the picture to flickr instead:
We went to Temple Snacks today and I was very pleased. Being from Taiwan, I miss the variety of Taiwanese street food but can rarely get my fix. Temple Snacks did a great job with the dishes I ordered today (namely, Bamboo shoots and pork belly over rice, Taiwanese stir-fried rice noodles, Fried chicken roll, and Taiwanese burger) , and the way the staff all spoke Taiwanese and played tacky Taiwanese music in the background just makes me homesick.
The owner told me that business is not great (even though when we went around 6:30/7pm on a Saturday night there were quite a few customers). Apparently people don't really come through until evening, and then mostly on the weekends. This is not good news -- I want them to do well and stay in business so I can continue to get my fix!! So, as a matter of public service, I've translated the food (not drinks) menu to the best of my ability and posted it below.
A few notes:
1. The "herbs" in what I call "pork ribs and Chinese herbs soup" are the Chinese medicinal herbs, not cilantro, thyme, scallions and the like. It's supposed to be good for you, but it's an acquired taste. If you know you don't like Chinese medicinal herbs, you probably won't like this.
2. "Qie-zai" noodles refers to a type of very simple noodle dish from Tainan, Taiwan. The basic idea is to bring together boiled noodles, blanched bean sprouts (and maybe some other vegetables), and a light sauce in a bowl. Temple Snacks offers them dry or in a soup.
3. The "Spanish Mackerel soup/noodle soup" and "Meat soup/noodle soup" are two variations on the same idea. It's basically thin strips of pork or fish battered with fish paste, and then cooked in a corn starch-thickened soup. Okay, I know it doesn't sound tasty, but it actually is. The soup is usually based on pork or seafood stock, and has bonito, shitake, bamboo shoots, and cilantro in it, although I have not tried Temple's version so will have to report back on what exactly they put in theirs.
4. Tempura here is not the light and fried version you think of, but rather something battered and fried, then usually cooked in a soup. Think somewhere between soft and chewy.
5. Don't ask me what the assortment of appetizers consist of -- I don't know because the menu doesn't say. It's what we call "hei-bai-qie," which literally means cut-up whatever. It's whatever appetizers are available that day, cut up and arranged on a plate. Usually something like braised seaweed, braised pig's intestines, braised pig's ears, etc.
6. And finally, a plug for the "Taiwanese burger." It's a generous piece of braised pork belly and pickled vegetables sandwiched in a white, tender bun, seasoned with a little sauce, peanut powder, and a little cilantro. It's delicious, and not something I see in a lot of restaurants, so go get yourself one now!!
We've been there twice and have been pretty happy.
We were skeptical at first because we always go to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao a half block away on Prince St. for their soup buns, and didn't see a reason to go to another Shanghainese place, but one night we got to Flushing quite late and Nan Xiang was already closed, so we decided to give this place a try.
First off, of course we ordered the soup buns. I will say I prefer the ones at Nan Xiang, which had more delicate skin and soup. That said, A Taste of Shanghai makes a pretty decent soup bun too. The soup is flavorful and plentiful, and not as greasy as that at Joe's Shanghai (which we haven't gone to since we found Nan Xiang), and the skin is pretty thin but holds up pretty well.
We also ordered their fried buns, which were delightful. Fried just right. Has a crispy bottom but the bun is not dried out. I don't think they have dried buns at Nan Xiang.
For appetizers, we ordered the San Huang Ji (literally, "three yellow chicken"), because they had the name of this dish made into a neon sign on the window, meaning they're pretty proud of it. You can order this as either a half-chicken portion or a quarter-chicken portion. The chicken looks pretty plain, like it's only been steamed and cut up, but the meat is really moist and flavorful. It also comes with a slightly sweet dipping sauce that makes the chicken taste even better.
For substance we ordered another Shanghainese standard, the scallion oil noodles. Very good noodles with just the right amount of sauce, carmelized scallions, and dried shrimps. Not sure whether Nan Xiang does it better or A Taste of Shanghai -- I guess we'll have to head back for a taste test.
Bottom line: a solid Shanghainese option that's open a little later than other places, and has more options on the menu than the nearby Nan Xiang. Definitely worth a try.
Note: the place is cash only last time I checked.
We love the bbq beef with chili, mint & lemon juice. If you get this, be sure to get the coconut rice too -- The beef tastes even better with hot and fragrant coconut rice!!
Here's one of my photos...
We went there Saturday around noon. The place seemed to have good business. There were shelves full of breads behind the counter, cakes in the display case, and cookie jars full of cookies on top of the display case. On one side of the counter were apple pies, pear tarts, pecan pies, panettones and stollens. There were also rainbow cookies in a jar -- is this French or Italian? (But I guess this doesn't matter, as panettones and stollens are definitely not French either.)
Inside the refrigerated case were chocolate cakes, yule logs, some kind of cake decorated with sliced fruits, and this coconut cake that we were told had a pineapple filling. The top shelf of the refrigerated display case was still empty. We hope secretly that it will soon be filling with our favorite French pastries -- millefueille, opera, macarons, etc. They were also giving out samples of their chocolate mousse cake, which was really tasty and not too sweet.
On the other side of the cash register were more delicious goodies -- muffins (lemon, bluberry and something else), croissants (plant and pain au chocolat), almond cakes, cheese danishes, etc. The cheese danish appeared to be very popular, as there were only three of these left.
We ordered a lemon muffin, a cheese danish, and a pain au chocolate, together with a cup of coffee and capuccino. The lemon muffin was light, moist, and citrousy, but it paled in comparison to the cheese danish, which was flaky on the outside, and moist and pleasant on the inside when I bit into the lightly sweet cheese. The pain au chocolat was everything you would expect to find in a neighborhood patisserie in Paris - light, flaky, buttery, with not too much chocolate but enough to make you happy. The coffee was good too, and the capuccino very tasty -- the espresso was not bitter at all. I also noticed that they have a large selection of teas from Harney & Sons, a tea company in Connecticut. The man behind the counter (apparently one of the partners) said that he was friends with the guy at Harney & Sons. I did not have the opportunity to try any (having already ordered my cappuccino), but I have heard that the Tropical Green is a great flavor -- one that I haven't yet seen anywhere else in NYC except at Cannelle.
We were delighted by the experience, and decided to extend our Cannelle experience by bringing home a specimen of their French baguette. It was perfect at midnight with a little cheese. We'll be coming back.
See my flickr album for photos:
We loved Anna Mia's in Middle Village and had been going nearly every Saturday for her heavenly cannolis. We forgot about going after seeing a vacation sign some time in the summer. When we recently tried to go there in Oct/Nov, it has been closed with no sign on the door explaining why. We tried calling but the phone has been disconnected.
This is so tragic as there is simply NOWHERE ELSE that one can find the special cannolis that Anna makes. Does any one have any information on what happened to Anna Mia's? Or whether there is a restaurant that still sells her pastries???
For the best Chinese option in Elmhurst, I would recommend "Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House" on Whitney Avenue, 1 block East of Broadway. This is NOT a fancy, white-linen-and-wine-list sort of place. In fact, it sort of looks like a typical Chinese take-out place. But it makes AWESOME dumplings -- both boiled and pan-fried -- with special flavors like "hui xiang" (fennel?) and "ji cai." The skin is hand-made, and have a good texture -- substantial and slightly chewy. The pan-fried dumplings are especially amazing. The skin is golden and crispy on the bottom, but still moist and slightly chewy otherwise. They are full of delicious hot juices so be careful when you take the first bite! The boiled dumplings are cooked to order and the pan-fried dumplings are so popular that they never sit there and get stale.(That said, if they're at the end of a batch I would really wait for a new batch -- they are off-the-charts delicious when they first come out!) Be sure you eat them with some of their homemade spicy chili sauce if you can take a little heat. They're not SUPER spicy (these people are from Shenyang in the Northeast, not from Sichuan), but really fragrant. The fried dumplings are 4 for $1 and the boiled ones 8 for $2.50 or so (depending on the flavor).
In addition to dumplings, they also make fresh hand-pulled noodles, by which I mean they take a piece of dough and pull your noodles after you place the order. If you like cold noodles, I recommend the sesame sauce noodles (ma jiang la mian), which is served with a refreshing cool sesame sauce. I usually add a little of their spicy sauce to mine, but it's a personal choice.
Last but not least, order "chai1 gu3 rou4" if they have any available. This is a cold appetizer of delicious cooked pork pieces shaved off from close to the bone, and tossed in garlic, cilantro, and some other blend of yumminess. It is delicious!!! Unfortunately, it is hard to find suitable pork bones for this dish so the daily supply is very limited. They do not write this dish on their menu, and keep it out of sight behind the counter, so you will have to ask for it specifically with conviction. But your adventurousness will be rewarded when you taste this awesome treat!
Other than Lao Bei Fang, I would recommend "Jin Yuan Xiao Guan" (formerly known as King 5 Noodle House, which also has a branch in Flushing) on Broadway, half a block North of 45th Ave. They're a Taiwanese beef noodle place basically, but they also have other dishes. The beef noodle soup is the closest I've been able to get to those of my native Taipei (although of course you are NOT going to get the 100% real thing outside of Taiwan), with tender beef, spicy broth, and pickled vegetables in a jar to go with your noodle soup. The noodles are generally good -- the kind of width and texture you usually get in a Taiwanese beef noodle house -- but sometimes a little overcooked and limpy if you're unlucky. Order the spicy one if you like some heat (IMHO better than the non-spicy one, but again this is a matter of personal taste). I recommend ordering either half beef/half tendon or all beef tendon. The beef tendon is cooked low and slow for hours so it's fall-apart tender. This is a real treat because I personally never have the patience to cook my tendon long enough to achieve this texture -- and I don't have to because I can just go to Jin Yuan!
I also recommend the weekend brunch menu, which is served until 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and includes typical Chinese breakfast items like shao bing, yiou tiao (fried dough), sweet or savory dou jiang (soy milk), dan bing (what I call Chinese omelettes), fan tuan (the Taiwanese answer to the Japanese onigiri), etc. My favorite is their "niu rou bao bing" (beef rolled in scallion pancake, not to be confused with "niu rou jia bing," another item on their breakfast menu that is beef sanwiched in shao bing). Slices of stewed beef (lu niu rou) is rolled in their scallion pancake with julienned scallions and tian mian jiang (somewhat like hoisin sauce). It is superb and we always order it -- this item is available seven days a week.
If you're into hot pot, Jin Yuan just recently started serving hot pot for this winter (this is a seasonal thing). From past experience theirs is not a communal pot but an individual-size shabu shabu pot. But they are pretty good (compared to other places in Flushing) and the standard plate of items that comes with your pot will more than fill you up, although you can order additional items a la carte. While I like the spicy soup base of Little Pepper in Flushing better, Jin Yuan's condiments/sauces (e.g., peanut sauce) are better in that they are not watered down.
If you want the glitsier, sit-down type Chinese experience, go to Ping's or East Buffet (off Queens Blvd not far West of Ping's). But I think for yumminess, you would do far better at Lao Bei Fang or Jin Yuan Xiao Guan.
I believe the stall you are refering to is called "Lao Suen Yang Rou Huei Mian." I have yet to try it, but it sounds very good. If the dish you ordered is the their namesake, I am guessing it is actually not a noodle soup per se, but one that comes with a soupy gravy? The name is "Yang Rou Huei Mian," which means something like lamb gravy noodles. "Huei" usually means a thickened broth/gravy over either rice or noodles. As in "Niou Rou Huei Fan," which means beef gravy/stew over rice.
But there is only one way to know for sure -- I think I am due for another Flushing visit very soon.
Dan dan noodle is number 4 from the middle (fun, noodle, dumplings) column.
RE: the spicy noodles that Brian S. originally wrote about, it is #14 from the middle column. We actually ordered that too today. It was good, and every bit as spicy as Brian described it, but outdone by the dan dan noodles, IMHO. We were on a mission to eat as many different things in Flushing as humanly possible in one afternoon, and had to reserve space in our bellies for food at the next stall, and the next, and the next. The #14 (suan la fen, which literally means "sour and hot mung bean noodles") was good in its own right, but being we had already eaten at lot by then, we decided to finish the dan dan noodles and eat only half of the suan la fen. The dan dan noodles were dry (not soup) and had a more complex blend of flavors and textures. The suan la fen, on the other hand, was a noodle soup that was predominantly spicy, and not, as I had expected after having suan la fen on Ching Cheng Mountain near Chengdu, as sour as I had hoped.
Next time I want to try the duck. Never seen one quite like it....
I suggest Mi-le Su Shi (Mi-le Vegetarian), in the National Taiwan University area. I don't know the exact address, but here's how to find it:
Take Green subway line to Gongguan station
Mi-le is not a fancy place, but its food really fresh and good, with much variety to choose from. Self-serve at the buffet table, and bring your selection to the cashier, who will tell you how much it comes to. Oh, and here you ask for rice too -- white or mixed grains. Soups are free.
If you've ever eaten street food in Chengdu, Szechuan, you will know what I'm talking about: those bowls of white noodles, innocently decorated on top with peanut powder, scallions, and the staple of Szechuan cuisine -- Szechuan peppercorn powder. Stirring it up a little with your chopsticks, however, reveals the firey red goodness hiding underneath the noodles, the addition of which completes the dish.
I am, of course, talking about dan dan noodles, perhaps the most famous of all Szechuan street food, and certainly the dish that convinced me, at first bite, that Szechuan cuisine is really that -- a cuisine, not just a regional style, and that Chengdu is a food lover's paradise.
Alas, my trip to Chengdu last year lasted a shabby 3 days, and included only 3 tastings of the heavenly noodle. I have been missing it ever since.
This afternoon, however, I had the good fortune of eating in the J&L Food Court, at 41-82 Main St., Flushing, and found the perfect bowl of dan dan noodles that tastes exactly like they make it in Chengdu.
I'll start with the noodles -- they were not too thick, about the thickness of the Lanzhou hand-drawn noodles I recently had at Super Taste (in Manhattan's Chinatown). I did not ask, but my guess is there were not hand-drawn, as they were less chewy than they were, how should I describe it, doughy/floury. By which I mean more like the Northerner's type of noodles, with that satisfying substantialness that warms a Northern girl's heart when you bite into it, despite the relative thinness of the noodles (I generally prefer thicker or wider flour noodles). They were perfectly cooked -- not undercooked but not overcooked and lifeless, as the noodles sometimes are at the otherwise decent King 5.
The noodles were topped with a mixture of what I believe to be peanut powder, Szechuan pepper power, and minced ya-cai (a kind of pickled vegetable that is very typical in Szechuan cuisine, often seen on the Szechuan string beans dish, if the place is authentic). They also threw in some spinach, which was blanched along with the noodles.
The bottom of the dish was spicy, but not overpoweringly so. And by that I don't mean it wasn't spicy -- I like spicy -- I mean that, when mixed together with the noodles and the toppings, you get a very balanced, very complex flavor in your mouth. Your tongue tingles, but does not burn. A fragrance covers your taste buds, and the textures -- the doughiness of the noodles, the chuckiness of the ya cai, the smoothiness of the red chili oil, and the almost undetectable graininess of the peanut powder -- work together like magic. One bite, and you think you've gone back to Chengdu.
The humble stall sells not just the famous dan dan noodles, but indeed most, if not all, of the Chengdu street food standards: fu qi fei pian (spicy beef organs), ma la niu jin (spicy beef tendons), ma la tu ding (spicy diced rabbit), suan la fen (hot and sour mung bean noodles), zhong shuei jiau (Zhong's spicy dumplings), long chau shou (Long's spicy wontons), etc. The stall also makes its own Szechuan-style sausages, 1 link for $3, which I plan to try on my next visit.
It may not have the ambience and cleanliness of Spicy and Tasty, but the food is darn good. I'd say the dan dan noodles is better than S&T, as I had recently sampled this dish at the much-adored establishment, and had felt impressed, but was not transported to Chengdu as I was today. I guess you have to have the crowded alleyway environment to replicate the pinnacle of street food.
Where to find it:
There is, unfortunately, no English on the sign hanging over the stall, not much English spoken by proprietors, nor, at least while I was there, any non-Chinese people in the food court other than my eating companion, who was very conspicuously caucasian (which explains why the lady sitting next to us stared at the spicy noodles in front of him with surprised curiosity). To aid fellow chowhounds in stall-identification, here's a picture of the sign/menu hanging overhead:
And here are our best shots of the unforgettable dan dan noodles -- it was hard to stop eating and take any pictures, when such yumminess stares you in the face. As a result, the photo quality is not great... but leaves much to the imagination:
Noodles, before mixing: