Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ghost Rolls, Cats' Ears, and Flies' Heads @ Pioneer: My Sweet Home | 我家食坊

Remember our first visit to Pioneer Cuisine? It was the perfect escape from the Wild Wild East that is 2016 Downtown Flushing. Today, Chef Michael Pai has returned from the Great American West, where he ran a meteorically successful sushi joint. 

This means at least two changes: (1) a commemorative addition* of this Pioneer Cuisine location as “My Sweet Home”** to herald Chef Pai back to Flushing; and (2) an expanded, upgraded menu that features East-West sushi rolls you cannot find anywhere else. Here’s a sneak peek at one "rare" creation:

…but back to traditional Taiwanese dishes.  There seems to be a common thread of naming dishes after animal parts. 

--We get it: colorful imagery to capture the look of the dish. Cute, too.

First up is an appetizer: the $7.95 cat's ears, or  炸醬貓耳 (zhájiàng māo ěr duǒ)

Think savory orecchiette noodles. 

Second up is $11.95 flies' head, or 蒼蠅頭 (cāngyíng tóu)

Think spicy minced pork and tofu with black beans, 
paired with the crunch of leek shoots and 
zest of pickled peppers. 

    But what does Pioneer - My Sweet Home do the same as before? In order of our first visit notes:
    • The interior is STILL homey/no-frills, mixture of cool greens. 
    • Parking is readily available, especially during weekends (right?!). This may be because Pioneer is situated near a hospital area, where most outpatient wards close over the weekends.  
    • The food (Taiwanese and otherwise) was AMAZING. Everything was fresh to the nines. If "#PainfullyPhotogenic was a thing, we'd say that applies @ My Sweet Home: 

Clockwise from top: $8.95 Taiwanese oyster pancake, 
$13.95 chicken with ginger and basil ("Three Cup Chicken"), and 
$12.95 vegetarian chicken roll.

May Flushing Food suggest: the ghost roll.  And buying frozen dumplings ($15.00 to $20.00 for batch of fifty handmade goodies) for those weeknights you can't be bothered to cook from scratch. 

* Name change on Flushing Food menu (and Yelp) pending approval from the Pioneer Cuisine team
** Chinese version stays the same and has almost same meaning: 我家食坊 (wǒjiā shífāng).

Media creditsHelen Y.
Gadget: Apple® iPhone™ 6

Software: Fotor

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Breath of Fresh Air: Hao Shi Lai

Craving the variety of a bowl of malatang but not in the mood for soup? Try Hao Shi Lai’s (好食来) soup-less versions of the celebrated soup bowl classic: 

$7.99 Beef Dry Malatang.
$7.99 Seafood Combo Dry Malatang.

Novelty of the “dry pot” dish aside, Hao Shi Lai is worth trying for sheer value per bowl of traditional or “dry” malatang. The super-chewy (“Q”) cellophane noodles took up less than a fifth of the bowl.* Instead, Chongqing chefs here go heavy-handed on a steaming array of vegetables, tofu skins, and mandolin-sliced potatoes:

Not razor-thin, but close.

If you need to cool down after your traditional or soup-less malatang bowl, consider trying the iced rose milk tea (玫瑰奶茶, or méiguī nǎichá). Hao Shi Lai uses rose jelly—made in-house from rosebuds!—and combines the jelly with green tea, milk, and honey. The taste is much like a milk green tea that finishes off with a delicate whiff of rose petals. 

From left to right: rosebuds, freshly-made rose jelly, and
final rose tea product. $3.75 for small; $4.75 for large.

Besides sparing you soup bowl fillers and infusing tea drinks with fresh ingredients, Hao Shi Lai also boasts a airy whimsical theme, reminiscent of Anthropologie and Free People’s bohemian brick and mortar stores:

May Flushing Food Suggest: Ordering Teaus drinks straight from Hao Shi Lai’s page.**

* As default, traditional malatang comes with mifen, while the dry malatang come with broad noodles (粉,or kuānfěn). 
** The same owner oversees both Teaus and Hao Shi Lai, the latter of which opened in 2015.

Media credits: Helen Y.
Gadget: Apple® iPhone™ 6 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cross that Bridge: Deng Ji

China's southwestern province of Yunnan remains most famous for its bold-tasting and fermented pu’er tea (普洱茶, or pǔ'ěr chá).

What far less of us know is that ethnic minorities (non-Han Chinese) such as the Ba, Dai, Miao, and Tibetan peoples constitute upwards of 34% of Yunnan's population. Also pretty cool is that Yunnan happens to border Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.

Given Yunnan’s sheer cultural and ethnic diversity, it seems near-impossible to find an American-based Chinese restaurant that could come anywhere close to offering even a sampling of this province’s range of culinary treasures.

But, Deng Ji (at 46-22 Kissena Boulevard) can be a start. Deng Ji offers Yunnan’s signature dish: Cross the Bridge Noodles (過橋米線, or guòqiáo mǐxiàn).

Deng Ji’s $14.99 Zhuang Yuan GuoQiao Rice Noodle (狀元過橋米線, or Zhuàngyuánguò qiáo mǐ xiàn) is amazing for its broth, a masterpiece that father and son (Mr. Deng and Deng Jr.) composed and revised to near-perfection.

The soup taste seems simultaneously complex yet light on oils and spices (qīngdàn, or 清淡), finishing off with notes just something shy of sour. 

With the dish, you and your friends/family also receive lean chicken, sausage, shrimp balls, crab meat, tofu skin, corn, and white fungus (另加銀耳, or lìng jiā yín'ěr):

The way your bridge noodles are cooked is like an abbreviated, hands-off version of hotpot (or shabu shabu). The raw ingredients and noodles arrive in separate dishes; the soup comes in a Chinese earthen clay pot. Your server first fills up your earthen clay pot with the noodles, then arranges the other ingredients on top. She closes the lid and instructs you to wait a minute. Shortly, she returns to lift your clay pot lid, revealing a cooked ZhuangYuan GuoQiao Rice Noodle dish.

One more thing about your ingredients: you'll try (maybe for the first time) something new: 

If you’re ordering delivery, there is one major procedural difference: your ingredients are pre-mixed into the soup, with the noodles in a separate container as to not become soggy during transit.

Final notes are ambience and service. The kitchen was near-immaculate, which partially explains Deng Ji's current A rating:

Service from the (non-Yunnan) servers was hands-off post cooking the noodle dish. However, both were reasonably accommodating once you waved for help.

May Flushing Food suggest:
·       Asking the staff to skip on cilantro if it’s not your thing;
·       Reserving the seaweed until ordering your Cross the Bridge Noodles because the seaweed is extremely salty;

·       That if traveling to Deng Ji from Downtown Flushing, taking the Q17 or Q27 and hopping off at the Holly Avenue stop on Kissena Boulevard 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gastropub Gourmet: Arang's KJD

I used to think of rice cakes (, or dduk) as tofu’s chewier cousin. Bland and painfully uninspiring. But Arang*, a Korean gastropub located in Flushing at 161-16 Northern Boulevard, casts doubts on this worldview: 

Kimchi Jaeyook Ddukboki.
$17 for half portion.
$25 for full portion (pictured above). 

—In seriousness, the "KJD" (김치제육떡볶이와 치즈, or kimchi jaeyook ddukboki) takes the “cake” for certifying that rice cakes can be the crowning achievement of a menu with other formidable cheesy and/or carnivorous offerings, two of which are pictured below.**

$9 Kimchi cheese fries (gimchigamjatwigim, or 김치감자튀김).
Beef tempura meatballs (sogogitwigim, or 소고기튀김).
$10 for half portion (pictured above).
$19 for full portion. 

This shouldn’t surprise many Manhattanites. Before Arang set up post in Flushing, the KJD made up 70% of menu sales at the original 9 West 32nd Street Arang location for going on eight years.

And you might very well be converted too; that instant you bite into your first #kimcheese-y pillow. Each slightly-oversized puff of dduk sits in a sizzling bed of cheese, kimchi, and pork. Yet, the dduk retain all of their exquisitely airy texture. 


Heavenly rice cakes aside, there's plenty else worth savoring at Arang. Service couldn’t be better; Sunny expertly guides you through the menu to best pair up your day’s cravings with the menu’s offerings.

From left to right: Helen, Sue Song, and Sunny Lim.

As for décor, this establishment is nothing short of a labor of love. Someone tasked each and every wall fixture, choice of lighting and color temperature, accent material, and piece of tableware a role in creating the moody interior whole.

First floor, or "gastro" level.
Second floor, or "pub" level.

And let’s not forget the alluring stairway lady creature seguing your party between floors or bidding you adieu on the way out:

"Hello. See you."

May Flushing Food suggest: Did you read the first four paragraphs?! While Arang is a gastropub, staff note that patrons will come here just for the dduk

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dumpling Rising

Want handmade dumplings but not in basement settings? Try Dumpling Galaxy (42-35 Main Street, on first floor of Arcadia Mall). This newly-minted, above-ground space delivers the same caliber of made-to-order juiciness you’ve come to expect from Flushing-famous Tianjin Dumpling House.*

But don’t take Flushing Food’s word for it. New York Times and Times Ledger have already featured Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy.

Dumpling Galaxy’s modern, fiery-red décor belies the menu complexity.**

Let’s say you order pork dumplings. Your pork dumpling options include cabbage, eggplant, lotus root, cucumber, green squash, string bean, pickled veggies, mushroom, hot peppers, bamboo shoots, bitter melon, and even pumpkin!

Flushing Food settled for some simple $6.95 pork and chives (豬肉韭菜, or zhūròu jiǔcài) dumplings:

Before the dumplings arrived, Flushing Food started out with $7.95 green bean noodle with assorted vegetables (大拉皮, or dà lā pí):

For veggies, our server recommended trying the $14.95 sautéed black wood ear mushroom with Chinese yam (木耳山藥, or mù'ěr shānyào).

Finally, we feasted our eyes and bellies on some $18.95 crispy sweet and sour fish (松花魚, or sōnghuā yú).

May Flushing Food suggest: ordering online if you’re spending under $30 to avoid paying for parking. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

On Demand Hot Pot from Szechuan House

Do you:
(1)  have to feed four or more people?
(2) live within the Queens delivery zone?
(3) have a portable butane stove?

The restauranteurs at Szechuan House have you covered. Thanks in part to their connection with a Flushing-based warehouse, you’ll get some of NYC’s choicest hotpot ingredients, sourced from the corners of Brooklyn and Long Island. 

Provide $20 to "rent" a stainless steel pot for your cook-off outing! Just return the pot in the same condition within a week to get back your collateral.

Even with five hungry people in tow, Flushing Food could not finish the $43.95 half-and-half hot pot (鴛鴦火鍋, or yuānyāng huǒguō). The below pictures suggest why: 

Pictured above are thinly-sliced beef, fresh crab (some with roe), fish balls, shrimp, beef tripe, fish cakes, fish dumplings, black fungus (黑木耳, or hēi mù'ěr), spinach, corn, Korean corn (has purple kernels resembling that of American maize), cabbage, lotus root, taro, clear (also “glass”) noodles, bean curd and bean curd sheets, pig’s blood, and golden mushrooms.

$11.95 fried capelin roe (奇味多春魚, or qi wei duo chun yu).

$18.95 spicy soft shell crab (麻辣軟壳蟹, or ma la ran ke xie).

$15.95 white tuna hot and sour soup (白吞拿魚酸辣湯, or bai tun na yu suanla tang).Pickled veggies and potent chili peppers pair with milky-textured white tuna. 

May Flushing Food suggest: using the code "SH5" at checkout to knock 5% off orders totaling over $50.00. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Short and Sweet Return

It's gotten a bit warmer since Flushing Food's last visit to Sentosa. Naturally, we were craving a Malaysian spin on shaved ice desserts

Sentosa's ABC (or in Penang, air batu campur; also known as ais kacang) satisfied our sweet/cold tooth (teeth? tooths?) to the max:

$4.00 yields this concoction of shaved ice with red bean, corn, palm seed, 
a mix of chewy Asia-sourced jellies, red rose syrup, and coconut milk.

And for you Taiwanese Americans, remember  the prepackaged boxes of apricot-based, coconut-flavored annin tofu (杏仁豆腐, or xingrendoufu) that Mom or Dad served in summers past?

Substitute agar in for pre-packaged gelatin. Re-package the pudding within a young fresh coconut, and you get something like this:

$9.00 for this glorious monstrosity of coconut pudding AND coconut meat.

For drinks, ask for an Malaysian iced coffee. Think of this drink as a stronger brew than other Asian counterparts, swirled together with condensed milk and a dash of sugar. Or for something with a cooling effect, try some lychee*:

$4.00 lychee drink and $3.50 Malaysian iced coffee.

May Flushing Food suggest: scraping every last bit of tender coconut meat out of the shell.