The Flushing Mall isn't a dead mall, but it's not exactly bustling. As far as I can tell, most people go there for the food. Or to get wedding portraits taken. Or to learn chess. (The cornerstones of being Asian!) If you walk out of the food court to the second floor and make your way towards the eastern part of the mall, you'll come across the more retail-oriented section that veers on dead-ness. But unlike conventional malls, it has a secret weapon, buried somewhere past the clothing and near the "not quite 99 cents, but still cheap" store.
HANDMADE DUMPLINGS! And noodles. But I had my mind on dumplings.
Here are the dumpling choices:
- Fives kinds: Sea cucumber, shrimp, pork, egg, crab meat
- Four kinds: Sea cucumber, shrimp, pork, egg, napa cabbage (...yeah, that's still five; I dunno)
- Three kinds: Shrimp, pork, chive
- Pork with chive (surprising not called "two kinds")
- Five kinds vegetable (no idea what the vegetables are)
With enough eaters, I'd totally want to order every kind of dumpling. But seeing as each minimum order was for 18 dumplings (if only I knew why), I would've needed to bring way more people than Serena and Jason (who are great eating buddies—and just my luck, neither of whom live in NYC). Just because you can eating 18 dumplings in one sitting doesn't mean you should. And I can. Oh, how I can.
...But not on that day.
Our order of boiled pork and chive dumplings (my favorite kind) came with a side of crunchy shredded cabbage kimchi. Some crunch and fibrous matter to go with your dumplings is always a good thing.
The dumplings were plumply stuffed with juicy pork and chive meatwads. OH THE MEATWADS, how they glistened. Even better when dipped into the spicy soy sauce. As much as I like living in South Williamsburg, it will never have anything as awesome as these homemade dumplings, unless I track down a Asian mother/grandmother with culinary skills and convince her to adopt me.
Although we would've happily eaten more dumplings, we limited ourselves for a reason—with each of us only carrying six dumplings each in our bellies, we had plenty of room left for more.
In particular, we had room for the taiyaki and takoyaki at the west end of the food court. It was surprising to find these Japanese snacks in a primarily Chinese mall. That probably should've put up some red flags for us. But we had so much hope! So much hope for soft fish-shaped cakes with hearts of red bean and little balls of runny, octopus bits-studded dough goo.
Unfortunately, if the woman behind the counter hating us wasn't bad enough, the taiyaki totally sucked. It wasn't just a factor of not being fresh; even if they had been fresh, they probably still would've tasted stale. Not warm, not moist, not pancake-soft, not especially tasty in any way.
We still ate a good deal of it though, with the hope that maybe the next bite would taste better. Fail. Jason gave the evil eye to the taiyaki carcasses.
Like the taiyaki, the takoyaki also suffered from lack of freshness. The skin was much too chewy and the filling was cool, nothing like the molten core of octopus flavored goo it should've been. There must be a point where one can get these fresh, but I don't know if they'd even taste good then.
Our day was saved by an angel in the form of a small tub of shaved ice covered in mango goodies: the Mango Special from the shaved ice vendor. I prefered it to the random jelly and bean-based substances, which I mostly enjoyed as an adventure in trying to identify the compositions and flavors of the unidentifiable things that I have no problem shoveling down my throat. Everything in the Mango Special was easily identifiable: ripe mango chunks (Pinkberry could take some advice in the "using ripe fruit" department), sweet condensed milk, and a fist-sized ball of creamy mango ice cream. The shaved ice was disappointingly chunky, but the ice cream and mango bits more than made up for that. I say down with the frozen yogurt craze and up with shaved ice.
On the way out, Jason bought a bag of freshly made custard-filled dough nugget things from the Delimanjoo stall. Think of a taiyaki if it were made to look like a weenie stalk of corn and were about two inches long. Way better than the taiyaki.
To help burn off some of our lunch, Jason led us on mild trek to Yeh's Bakery in search of mooncakes for the Mid-Harvest Festival.
We hit the mooncake jackpot. Yeh's had little else besides traditional pressed mooncakes and flaky Taiwanese mooncakes, and judging from their stacks of special mooncake boxes and constant flow of customers, their mooncake-making skills were well known. Unfortunately I was too full from lunch to think of getting any mooncakes (when I'm full I tend to forget that my body will soon deplete of energy stores and want more food), but Jason bought a few boxes to share with his family. What a bad Chinese daughter I am.
We only got a couple of feet away from the entrance of the bakery before the three of us ripped into one of Jason's mung bean paste-filled Taiwanese mooncakes. It's a mess to eat since the super-light pastry flakes get everywhere, but the flaky pastry is the main reason it tastes so good (a related flaky pastry of awesomness is the sun cake). ...Besides the filling. I preferred the mild mung bean paste over the strong, earthy jujube/date paste.
I didn't eat anything significant for the rest of the day. That's how I like my weekends: full of long periods of grazing without set meal times. Productivity at its best.
13331 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
5725 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355