Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dumplings, Noodles, and a Chinese Burger

How much food can you by for $20 at Flushing? Enough to feed two people breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you read our last post on Flushing, Queens you can gather by now that we probably had the best Chinese food of our lives there (and before this visit, Chinese food was our least favorite cuisine). Flushing is definitely the best place to taste the local flavors of the different regions of China and to find dishes that won't be available anywhere else in New York, or perhaps most other U.S. states for that matter. Folks there don't cook to accommodate the Western palate. We spent a full day wandering around the following streets: Union Street, Main Street, and Roosevelt Avenue. We started off by having some Chrysanthemum Tea sold outside an herbalist's shop. The flavor was unique - lightly sweet and slightly medicinal.

Our main goal and first stop was to find Xi'an Famous Foods (1-28 Main Street, Basement #36). We had read enough positive articles about the place to wet our appetites. The challenge was in trying to locate the place. We literally walked up and down Main Street several times trying to locate the Golden Supermarket. When we finally found it, we realized we had unknowingly passed it twice. The fact that the location was described as a "Shopping Mall" really threw us off. This is clearly not a shopping mall.

The entrance to the lower level where Xi'an is located. At this point we didn't know what to expect.

Finally we found Xi'an Famous Foods! Since Xi'an had a website, we presumed this was a large restaurant. We were pleasantly surprised when we learned it was a tiny food stall.

The lady in the green shirt with her New York hat tipped to the side couldn't speak one word of English, which was just fine since they luckily had pictures on the wall you can just point to. A few of the most popular dishes were also numbered.

We had one order of the Liang Pi Cold spicy noodles. The noodles were absolutely wonderful - the texture, the springiness and firmness were just right. The noodles were mixed with cilantro, bean sprouts, vingegar, and what was described as wheat gluten chunks (which looked like some strange tofu sponge pieces).

And the red chili oil was made made this dish perfect. The spice creeps up on you with each bite, but it wasn't unbearable. A phenomenal deal for just $3.50.

We also ordered one lamb burger or zi ran chao yang rou jia mo. The lamb was sauteed in cumin and served in a bun. The hot peppers gave this burger the added spicy kick. It was incredibly tasty and we still can't believe they were only serving this for $2.50. If they served this at any restaurant in Manhattan, they could have easily charged $8.

We're absolutely not stalking Bourdain, although we like to follow his food footsteps. We read about Xi'an before we knew he had recently eaten at Xi'an.

Xi'an will be featured on the New york City Outer Boroughs episode of No Reservations on September 7th.

Directly across the street from the Goldne Supermakret is Sun Mary Bakery.

They were selling Chinese Bridal cakes, Taiwanese Peanut and Seaweed Rice Cookies, and Egg White & Dried Pork Cakes.

This would be the most excellent birthday cake. Can you imagine how great this would look if you put the candles on each spike?

Their pineapple cake was recommended in an article and described as a Chinese Fig Newton. I normally don't like pineapples or anything pineapple flavored but this was chewy, sweet goodness.

Our next stop was to eat dumplings at Flushing Mall. Although there were doznes of food options in the food court, we chose this food stall (M38) located on the upper level, completely separated from the food court.

The three Korean ladies hard at work making dumplings.

Ordering here was also somewhat of a challenge and luckily we ended up doing it right. We ordered a plate of their dumplings with a side of kimchi.

This plate of dumpling was more than enough to feed two people. We could not believe they only charged $6.50 for the large amont of dumplings and kimchi. The dumplings were one of the tastiest dumplings we've ever tried. The kimchi was sweet and was the perfect compliment to the dumplings. The sauce was also nice, not too spicy.

The outer texture was the perfect combination of firm and soft and the filling was moist.

At this point we were both in heaven (we just ate some damn good, cheap food) and hell (we were full beyond belief and could not stand up).

After we consumed the above listed foods, we were ready to call it quits because we didn't want to be on the 45-minute subway ride back home with sore stomachs and restroom issues. So we decided to walk a bit more around Union Street when we walked past this restaurant that caught our attention.

What made us stop at this restaurnat was that we had a feeling this could be the restaurant that was recommended to us about six months ago by a man that lives in Flushing but works at one of our local laundary places in Chelsea. One day when we took our clothes to get dry cleaned, I asked him and his boss (the owner) where we could go to get Za Za Men in New York since we hadn't seen one in Koreatown as well since they're Korean. The worker told us there was a good place in Koreatown, but the best place was on Union Street between Roosevelt Avenue and 41st Street in Flushing. So we walked in and asked the lady, "do you sell za za men?" and sure enough they did. Then we looked around and saw these two older Korean ladies scarfing down za za men. We had to stay and try it, especially since we had crossed Za Za Men off our food list because of lack of time.

The waiter brought the normal precursor to the Za Za Men dish and we knew we were in the right place.

We were excited to get this. We had been searching for this all year in New York it came down to the tailend of our trip here before our quest for Za Za Men in the city was over. Unfortunately, unlike what the man at the laundry place told us, this wasn't the best Za Za Men we had. The sauce was nice but the noodles tasted as though they were cooked too long. However, it was still pretty good, especially for $6, and we were just delighted to have the place.

Great food, great prices, and a great experience stepping off the train to what seemed like another country. Read more about the food offerings in Flushing in this New York Times article Finding Beijing in Flushing. They also have a great interactive map of food spots to try.