It's 10:30 a.m. in Flushing. What do you start your day with?
Pork soup dumplings from Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao. Thinly skinned, semi-translucent pouches cradling a pork meatball in a pool of porky juice that will burn your mouth if you eat it too quickly, and if you're you're like me, that's what you're doomed to do. Good thing mucous membranes tend to grow back pretty quickly.
Next up at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao: beef-filled scallion pancake, a scallion-studded flatbread with a crisp, flaky crust and chewy innards, folded over a layer of thinly sliced beef flavored with a sweet sauce, methinks hoisin. In my world, scallion pancake beef sandwiches would dominate easily accessible breakfast menus instead of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Alas, that world is probably in China. (Or Flushing.)
The last time I went on a mega-tour of Flushing, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao was the last stop of our day, but due to its popularity, we thought it'd be better to start there and beat the crowd. Today's crew of intrepid eaters blessed with digestive fortitude: Greg, Jess, Diana, Tam, Al, and—our new enthusiastic eater ripe for a Flushing devirginization—Foster.
Second stop of the day was Imperial Palace, which was still in the process of opening when we ambushed them at 11 a.m. So we loitered until we were allowed in as the first customers of the day.
We hoped that too.
We ordered what seemed to be their most famous dish, Dungeness crab with sticky rice.
And not knowing how massive one order was, we got two of them, Oops. (Not that seven people can't polish off two orders, but keep in mind that this was merely one stop in a day of many fooding locations.) But it was tasty, so none of us was going to protest the mountains of rice and crab before us.
Admittedly, I was more into the sticky rice than the crab. The sticky rice was well seasoned with...something savory, and just a smidge sticky with a bit of chew. I've never been much of a fan of shellfish—I don't dislike it, but I'd never crave it since I generally fail at digging meat out of thick, prohibitory exoskeletons. But it can be worth it if you can get a clump of the tender innards, and not the sad bits and shreds my inept hands generally end up with.
Greg victoriously got a clump of claw. Here, he attempts to eat it in a seductive manner. That's nice Greg...that's nice. [pat pat]
Also part of our second meal, tofu casserole with seafood, seafood being shrimp and squid, other stuff being broccoli, mushrooms. and goopy sauce with some sort of flavor that I can't remember.
There was also stir fried squash thing, or spongy porous loofah thing. It glistened.
After lunch, we killed some time at Hong Kong Supermarket across the street, where we found such gems as...
Jars of fruity goo and jelly goo and beany goo. Essential ingredients to an Asian shaved ice concoction.
Pimple solution tea, because...that will totally unblock your pores.
Cheerful crackers! Alas, you have to add the happy face yourself.
For post-lunch dessert, we tried the shaved ice from Ten Ren topped with multiple sorts of colored jelly nubs, red beans, and sweet syrup. The ice was not powdery-fine, but it was shaved more finely than the version at the Flushing Mall. THUMBS UP!
At Tam's insistence, Foster got a $1 roast duck bun from the stall on the corner of Main Street and 41st Avenue. For one measly dollar, you get a soft steamed bun wrapped around sliced, tender roast duck and scallion shavings topped with a plop of hoisin sauce. "This is one of the best things you can get for $1"—Tam is right on.
And just because it seemed like a cool photographic opportunity, here's a kid on a box-laden bike.
Next meal was at Gu-shine Taiwanese Restaurant, where we happened to order the most food despite having the least number of stomach power—Foster had to leave and Diana's stomach was nearing explosion point.
Our favorite dish was the pork stomach with pickled greens soup. Guess what was in it! Admittedly, by this point I forget why it was the favorite of the bunch, but the soup must've tasted...good...in conclusion, I need to take more notes.
I probably fail at being Taiwanese for not liking oyster pancakes (omelets) (I don't really like oysters). If you like oysters and eggs, then here's your winning combination of soft briny nubbins in a thin blanket of almost-chicken.
I also fail at being Taiwanese for never having eaten stinky tofu before. Oh, I've smelled it; I recall eating lunch at a restaurant in Taipei over ten years ago and smelling something funny. My mom told me it was from the stinky tofu...from the restaurant cross the street. Jebus. My pre-teen self didn't want in on the stinky tofu action, and I guess my parents weren't very fond of it either.
It doesn't taste nearly as bad as it smells though, at least not in this instance, which was probably pretty mild compared to what you could get in Asia. It smelled a bit garbage-y. Putrid. Rot-like. It tasted like fried tofu cubes, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with a bit of that putrid sour flavor that I could sort of ignore with enough dipping sauce. Of course, I'd rather just eat fried non-fermented tofu.
We ordered a few non-Taiwanese dishes, such as spicy cold Chengdu noodles, which tasted fine.
Double cooked pork wasn't as good as good as the one from Famous Sichuan, but that probably makes sense since this isn't a Sichuanese restaurant.
And I don't remember the name of this diced chicken dish, but Tam said it was far off from what it was supposed to be. However, it was tasty as is—tender, moist chicken bits in a spicy sauce. Aside from the soup, this was my favorite dish.
Yes, there were many leftovers.
..But we weren't done yet. It was time for second dessert.
Buckets of multicolored viscous goo can only mean one thing.
Shaved ice (or baobing) from the food court at the Flushing Mall. We didn't go too crazy with this bowl, just lots of jelly bits, including grass jelly, and good old ice chunks. Yup, their shaved ice is more chunky than shaved, but considering a massive bowl costs less than $4 it's a good deal compared to other places. The six of us halfheartedly polished it off, thus completing the stratification of food in our bellies from dumplings to sticky rice to crab to ice shavings to soup to stinky tofu to chicken to more ice shavings and all that other stuff that filled in the nonexistent cracks.
There's something about Flushing that allows your stomach to expand to unhealthy proportions. The consequence is when you go back to non-Asia-dominated civilization, you immediately pass out and take a nap. At least, that's what I did.
Flushing Like I've Never Flushed Before
I Think I Want to Eat Everything in Flushing, Mostly at Golden Shopping Mall
The Good and the Bad at the Flushing Mall, Plus Mooncakes
Beef Noodle Soup and Ginormous Shaved Ice in Flushing
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
38-12 Prince St
New York, NY 11354
Hong Kong Supermarket
3711 Main St
Flushing, NY 11354
Roast Duck Bun Stall (Corner 28)
4028 Main St
Flushing, NY 11354
133-31 39 Ave
Flushing, NY 11354