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King 5 Noodle House (Queens, NY) – A Taiwanese Breakfast Like Home

February 1, 2012

Everyone has meals that remind them of home; one of mine is a Taiwanese breakfast.

The family and I don’t dine out for breakfast very often but, when we do, we almost always go a Taiwanese restaurant called Yung Ho in the San Gabriel Valley, known for their soymilk and other Taiwanese breakfast eats. We only go maybe once or twice every year, at no particular time and for no particular reason, but I consider our inevitable yearly trip an unofficial family tradition.

Even though I now live far from the family, I like the idea of carrying on tradition (even if only with myself) so I found King 5 Noodle House in Flushing – a Taiwanese breakfast place to call my own.

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If you’ve never had a Taiwanese breakfast, let me give you the lowdown: Of all the things on the menu, I feel like there’s only one thing that you have to get, and that’s a bowl of hot soymilk.

When I was a kid, I actually hated soymilk. (I drank a lot of regular cows’ milk at the time so soymilk tasted funny in comparison.) I obviously learned to love it but, even now, I still prefer the sweet soymilk over the savory. Sweet soymilk is simply fresh soymilk sweetened with sugar while the savory soymilk is filled with bits of fried dough, shredded dried pork, pickled veggies and all sorts of other things. To this day, I’m still not fond of the savory version – the saltiness just doesn’t appeal to me.

Other than the soymilk, there’s a variety of foods you can order. My personal favorites are the following:

Fried Cruller (“you tiao”)

Literally just a long piece of fried dough, you can either eat it as is or get it sandwiched within a sesame pancake. I like giving them a quick dunk in the soymilk, just enough to get some flavor but not so much that they dough becomes soggy. (If you get the savory soymilk, pieces of it are already chopped up in the soymilk to begin with.)

Rice  Roll (“fan tuan”)

The rice rolls also come in both a sweet and savory variety; I only order the savory. It’s essentially a fried cruller wrapped in shredded dried pork and sticky rice, and sometimes includes pickled greens as well. It’s been so long since I’ve had a sweet one that I’ve forgotten what they’re even stuffed with! (Sugar? Red bean paste? Sesame? Honestly, I have no idea.)

Egg Roll (“dan bing”)

The last thing I always get is an egg roll – a soft green scallion pancake with a egg fried on it.

Besides the dishes shown above, you can also order for breakfast anything from sesame pancakes stuffed with beef to pork and/or  vegetable dumplings and buns to beef noodle soup. As you might have noticed though, most Taiwanese breakfast foods are heavy in carbs; therefore, as long as you don’t let your eyes order for your stomach, you’ll be good to go!

King 5 Noodle House
39-07 Prince St.
Queens, NY 11354
(718) 888-1268

King 5 Noodle House on Urbanspoon

The Arepa Lady (Queens, NY) – Arepa, Arepa! (Part II)

November 17, 2011

I get abnormally excited when I hear of a person defined by what they cook. If you’re know as “THE ______ man/lady”, I’d like to think you make a damn good ______ (whatever that may be).

The Arepa Lady was no exception. When I first heard of her, I immediately put her on my bookmarks list without doing any research whatsoever. (I mean, if you’re THE Arepa Lady, I’m going to assume your arepas taste like clouds stuffed with rainbows.) Only later, when I actually read more about her, did I realize that she’s:

  1. Sort of a big deal on the internet (the foodies, they love her!)
  2. Located on 79th and Roosevelt in Jackson Heights (a bit of a trek but okay)
  3. Only out late on Friday and Saturday, usually around 10pm or later (…wait, what?)

So if I wanted to meet this Arepa Lady, I would have to schlep out to Queens (a good 45+ minute train ride) in the middle of the night on weekend? Just to eat street food? Oh, great. This isn’t ever going to happen.

…But wouldn’t you know it, because of coincidence and a little bit of luck, I recently found myself in Queens at 11pm on a Friday in time to visit her cart! It may have taken me a while but I finally tasted the arepas from The Arepa Lady.

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Before I get to The Arepa Lady’s arepas, a little background about arepas in general: My first arepa experience was at Caracas Arepa Bar, where the arepas were hard and crispy on the outside with very little doughiness in the middle. After Caracas, I began seeking out arepas in LA; all the ones I found were also crispy on the outside. Therefore, I (mistakenly) assumed that that was just the way all arepas were.

The Arepa Lady opened my eyes to a totally different variety of arepas. All those arepas I’ve had in the past? They were Venezuelan-style arepas. The Arepa Lady, she serves Colombian arepas.

Unlike Venezuelan arepas, which are first cooked and then stuffed with filling, Colombian arepas are usually eaten with the filling either mixed into the batter before cooking or piled on top afterwards.  Filling on top vs. filling stuffed inside…doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? In actuality, it creates very noticeable differences in both flavor and texture.

For example, The Arepa Lady’s arepa de queso is made by mixing corn flour with mozzarella cheese and then topping it with butter and queso blanco once the patty has been cooked to a light brown. The resulting consistency is a soft and tender, almost doughy disc – a completely different texture than the crispy pockets you get at Caracas.  (Btw, I’m using the word “doughy” loosely. The arepa is neither gummy nor mealy nor does it taste undercooked, it’s just very, very soft because of the mozzarella cheese which melts while cooking.)

Then there’s her arepa de choclo, which is essentially a large sweet corn pancake. Sweetened plain corn batter is poured onto the griddle, cooked on both sides, then sprinkled with queso and folded in half. I found that, while the arepa de choclo is described to be the sweet to the arepa de queso’s savory, both arepas have a slight sweetness from the corn flour. The arepa de queso does have more cheese though, which means more salt to offset the sweetness.

Now if you really want something salty to go with your arepas, order a skewer of meat. She has chorizo and chunks of pork, which can be topped with either lemon juice, bbq sauce or hot sauce with your choice of a potato, small arepa biscuit or bread on the side. I’d recommend the potato – there’s something so satisfying about chowing down on a hot potato when it’s cold outside.

Lastly, if you don’t live in New York or don’t feel like trekking to Queens for arepas, she did publish her arepa recipe for you to recreate yourself. However, I think I’ll still make the trip the next time I get a Colombian arepa craving – after all, she IS The Arepa Lady.

The Arepa Lady
Roosevelt Ave and 79th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Website: http://www.myspace.com/arepalady
Twitter: @arepalady

Corner 28 (Queens, NY) – Duck for a Buck!

October 28, 2011

In Flushing, Queens, there are a lot of hole-in-the-wall stands. The city’s full of them – there’s one tucked away in almost every corner and alleyway, every street and shopping mall basement. You could walk by a gem of a place and not even know it. Therefore, I’m pointing this one out to you:

On Main St. and 40th, right next the bustling corner grocery, there is a stand (pictured above). Go there. It serves Peking duck sandwiches…FOR A DOLLAR.

That’s right, instead of buying a whole duck, you can buy a single fluffy bun with a slice of duck skin, a bit of meat, cucumber, scallions and a squirt of hoisin sauce for $1. Stick you head in the window and order one. (Maybe even buy two.)

There’s no seating so you’ll have to eat it standing on the sidewalk, most probably in between the trashcan and the lamp post. But that’s really a non-issue – I end up polishing off my bun in 2-3 bites anyway.

Note: There are people online who make a fuss about it not actually being a real Peking duck (that has been specially cooked to separate the skin from the body) and that it’s just a normal Cantonese-style roast duck sandwiched/finished the same way. In response to them, I say this: At $1, I don’t really care. I just know it’s affordable and tasty.

Corner 28
40-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355
(718) 886-6628

Corner 28 on Urbanspoon

Rockaway Taco (Queens, NY) – A Hunt for Fish Tacos in NYC

August 3, 2011

Finding Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Los Angeles was a life changing moment for me. As soon as I took that first bite, I knew I could never go back to the fish tacos of my past. No more Rubio’s, no Baja Fresh…Honestly – and this is no exaggeration – ever since I had that first bite, every single fish taco I’ve eaten has been made by Ricky himself.

His fish tacos were delicious; life was good…that is, until I decided to move to New York.

Up until this past Sunday, I had not had a fish taco since moving to New York. Not a single fish taco in nine months. I needed to find good fish tacos, stat.

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My requirements for fish tacos are straightfoward: The taco must be Baja style. It must use white fish that is battered and freshly fried – if the fish is breaded or grilled, it’s an automatic no-go. I want nothing more than the basic toppings – shredded cabbage, a bit of crema, some fresh salsa and a lime. I refuse to pay $5 for a single fish taco (as I recently saw at Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food market). Lastly, and most importantly, I expect this taco to taste good.

Finding a fish taco that meets all those above requirements is difficult in New York. People have recommended many a restaurant to me. “Their fish tacos are great, you should go there!” I get really excited, then go online and look at its website/read the reviews and – BAM! – disappointment. Sometimes the fish is grilled, sometimes it’s fried but looks like a soggy fish stick, sometimes it just looks downright unappetizing…These fish tacos will not do. I don’t even bother going. That is not going to be the taco that is going to appease my Ricky’s craving.

Then a friend recommended Rockaway Taco.

Rockaway Taco was different. Pictures from Rockaway Taco depicted bountiful tacos, filled with crispy fish and cabbage. They showed promise.

Off the A/S, by Rockaway Beach on 96th Street is the tiny shack of a Mexican restaurant known as Rockaway Taco. The signage for DiCosmo’s Italian Ice and Veggie Island may overshadow that for the stand at the end; however, you can’t miss the line. Go any later than 1pm and you’ll definitely see one winding around the corner.

The tacos are reasonably priced – $3 apiece or you can make one “deluxe” by adding guacamole for a dollar more. Knowing that, if this actually turned out to be THE ONE I would want as many fish tacos as my belly could hold, I ordered three tacos (one with guac, two without).

And, the verdict? These tacos are good. Damn good. Dare I say it? These tacos are LA standards good.

If I really wanted to be picky, I’d tell you the batter is not as light and the fish is not as moist and flakey as Ricky’s. But honestly, I’d just be nitpicking at that point. Rockaway Taco serves a solid taco. It is exactly as I pictured it: The batter on fish is crispy. The fish itself is tender. The amount of cabbage and crema is just right to compliment the fish. If you decide to add homemade salsa to your taco, you can choose between their light and tangy tomatillo or smoky chipotle. Both are good options.

Guacamole may not be a standard topping on fish tacos but I’m not going to complain – especially since their guac is rich and thick, the way a guacamole made from lots of ripe avocados should be. It’s missing just a hint of citrus, but that’s what the wedge of lime is for.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a side to your tacos, grab a bag of cucumbers, jicama and mango, marinated in chile and lime. The water-dense cucumbers and jicama are refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.

I have to say, I can only find one real problem with Rockaway Taco – it’s only open during the summer. Where am I going to get my fish taco fix during those cold New York winters…?

Rockaway Taco
9519 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
(347) 213-7466
Website: http://www.rockawaytaco.com/
Twitter: @rockawaytaco

Rockaway Taco on Urbanspoon

M. Wells (Queens, NY) – Brunch Food of My Dreams

March 16, 2011

So let’s talk about brunch. Brunch is a big deal in NYC. Like, a big effing deal. Crowds congregating outside, lines out the door…Seriously, you don’t mess with brunch.

M. Wells doesn’t mess with brunch. Although they now serve dinner, there was once a time when this little diner in Long Island City only served food from 10AM-4PM. Basically, it served brunch. But brunch food here isn’t your typical eggs and toast or pancakes and maple syrup. Oh no, with a chef formerly from Au Pied de Cochon, a restaurant in Quebec known for its liberal use of foie gras, this is the brunch food of my dreams.

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Upon ordering, the originally indifferent waitress gave us a little smile. “I love the way you eat!” (Btw, I love the way I eat too.)  What did we order? Well…

We started brunch with bone marrow with escargot…

Plump escargot on the bottom, fatty marrow on the top. Give me this instead of butter and toast any morning.

Followed that with a plate of frog legs in a garlic cream sauce…

The crispy frog legs were fantastic, but the garlic cream sauce was the deal sealer. Don’t let them take away your plate unless you’re positive you’re not going to want any more – they took ours away early in the meal (granted, the frog legs were all gone) but we eyed every subsequent plate of cream sauce with longing faces.

Then moved onto the beef tartare…

It’s like steak and eggs! Only not.

And ended brunch with the daily special: a blood sausage hash with braised leeks.

Deliciously offal, the blood sausage was luxuriously smooth and had none of that graininess that I’ve experienced with other blood sausages. The braised leeks and apples in the hash were a sweet compliment.

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Like I said before, brunch is serious business in New York, and M. Wells is serious about brunch. (Now to go back to see if it’s as serious about dinner…)

M. Wells – CLOSED
21-17 49th Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 425-6917
Website: http://www.mwellsdiner.com/

M Wells on Urbanspoon

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