The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Weegie Week, Day 1: Dim Sum and Shaved Ice in Flushing, Momofuku Pork Buns, and Otto

My Norwegian friends Morten, Behnaz, and Kåre visited New York City from September 24 to October 2. I skipped a few months of unblogged material to jump ahead to Weegie Week, which in turn will probably take another month or more to fully cover. ...Yes. Well. If you've stuck with me this long, you'll probably continue to hang around as I flail about in a sludgy vortex of aging memories mildly brought to life by my photographs, photographs that jab at my brain's weak memory nubbins so that I may slap together these strings of words. And that is how blog post is made.

This post originally took place on September 25.

Morten and Behnaz had been in New York City for little more than 12 hours—a period that was mostly spent sleeping—before I made them haul themselves on a hour-plus long subway ride to a neighborhood they knew nothing about. Why would I do that to my tired guests? WHYYYY?

dim sum eaters POINT AT THE FEET!!
Dim sum!

Aw yeah...that's the stuff. Dim sum. My favorite group brunchtime activity. Sit and wait for ladies to aggressively push their steamer and plate-laden carts to your table. Choose what you want. Eat it. Wait for more. Repeat 10 times.

I picked Dong Yi Feng for my Weegie friends' first New York City dim sum experience, not because I liked it, but because I had never tried it. This is opposite of how I usually choose places for friends visiting from out of town, but since I don't have a favorite dim sum restaurant (I'd estimate that I've tried about 10 of them in the city), I figure I may as well try all of them. So far I've learned that I'm incredibly unpicky when it comes to dim sum. And thus my Chinese heritage continues to leak from my soul.


As I didn't want to disrupt the flow of food into my hunger-crazed friends (I could see it in their eyes—Lee Anne, Diana, Tristan, John, and Kåre, besides Morten and Behnaz), I restrained myself from taking a photo of each dish. ...Eh, and I was lazy. But I'll do my best to remember.

There were a few plates of rice noodle rolls (filled with shrimp or beef), shrimp dumplings, crispy turnip cake (one of my all-time faves), sweet and fluffy roast pork buns, stewed tripe and daikon, spare rib nubbins, congee mixed with bits of thousand year old egg, and the good ol' dish to challenge dim sum n00bs with, knobbly, wrinkly-skinned chicken feet. Or, if a euphemism makes them any more palatable, phoenix talons. (I don't like chicken feet, by the way. My Chinese heritage, oh how it continues to leak.)

squishy little glutinous rice desserts
Sweet thing!

For dessert we shared delicately flaky mini-egg custard tarts, still warm from the oven, and the chewy glutinous rice-based blobs pictured above that I'm guessing were pumpkin-flavored.


Could we have eaten more? Ohhh yes. But knowing that more food awaited us, we kept our dim sum meal rather light for a total of only about $7 per person. (And with that admission, I can feel Zach Brooks's disappointed stare burning a hole of guilt into my belly. A one digit dim sum bill per person = FAILURE.)

row of meat sticks get thee meat sticks!

After a quick stop at the $1 duck bun stand (if you haven't tried it before, you should get on that), we checked out the Xinjiang BBQ Cart where you can get grilled chicken, beef, or lamb skewers for $1 each. Your reward for inhaling billows of smoke (if you stand right by the cart's open grill—perhaps you shouldn't) is a stick of crispy cumin-flavored meat nubbins glistening in fatty juices. At least, the lamb skewer we tried was plenty fatty. In a good way.

eat dem noodles
Noodle time.

No first timer's trip to Flushing is completely without checking out the Golden Shopping Mall and Xi'an Famous Foods in the basement. While there are other Xi'ans in Manhattan, I like the feeling of the original basement hovel the most. We shared an order of their cold liang pi noodles doused in that tingly-spicy oily sauce that makes every strip of thick, chewy noodle taste awesome. (PS: What to do with leftover sauce.) Besides being one of my favorite noodle dishes ever, it gets extra points for being vegetarian-friendly.

mm, ice eat it up
ICE! Shaved ice.

We ended our Flushing journey at Ice Fire Land to try their Taiwanese shaved ice, as given the number one spot in Lingbo's roundup of the best Taiwanese shaved ice in New York City. (Lingbo, one of our interns at Serious Eats this past summer, did the shaved ice testing over a few days, but I'll never forget the day she came back from Flushing after eating at five or so places in one afternoon. By herself. Her pained face said, "I am full of beans. Why I go do that?" She probably said that aloud as well, but with correct grammar. Ah, Lingo, you are irreplaceable.)

Taiwanese shaved ice
After a bit of nom-age.

We split two bowls between the nine of us (Flushing resident Chichi had joined our fooding party), which was plenty for our ever-bloating stomachs. I'm not sure what fillings came with our brown sugar syrup-soaked ice, but there was definitely red bean, taro chunks, and various jelly bits. For whatever reason, we didn't get condensed milk—methinks this was at the suggestion of our waitress, although it's hard for me top believe that condensed milk couldn't improve any shaved ice concoction.

Overall, I thought it was good, but not as memorable as I would've hoped. Although the ice wasn't distractingly chunky like so many other places, it wasn't superfine either. (I may be being too tough—shave ice in Hawaii has raised the bar to levels that New York City will never match.) It was acceptably somewhere in the middle, though. If I went back, it'd be to try their hot pot, not the shaved ice. ...But I'd still order the shaved ice.

hi y'all
Hi, y'all.

In case you were wondering if it's okay for a group of nine to go to a hot pot restaurant and just order two bowls of shaved ice, the answer is yes. Maybe. Ice Fire Land has this little cafe-like area near the entrance, and we took over two-thirds of it.

take a photo
Serious Poloroids.

Lee Anne, Diana, Tristan, Morten, Behnaz, Kåre, and I headed back into Manhattan to hang out at Ost Cafe, where Lee Anne used to be a barista. As I don't like coffee, I just lumpily sat there and did the inhale/exhale thing, while most of the others ordered something coffee-based because that's what you do in a coffeeshop. Diana broke out her old Polaroid camera to take some snapshots.

looking at Diana's poloroids .. ..
MAGIC. Bottom photographs by Diana.

And then POOF, they were tangible photographs, unlike these digital ones.

pork buns at Momofuku Milk Bar

After the caffeine refueling, we moseyed over to Momofuku Milk Bar for a pork bun snack. While the pork buns may be overhyped like everything else from the David Chang Empire, I do think they're deservedly praised. Each bun consists of meltingly fatty pork belly chunks atop a layer of thin cucumber slices, sprinkled with chopped scallion and wrapped in a hoisin sauce-smeared steamed bun-flap. Every bite is a balanced combination of all the components, but what really sticks out for me is the light crunch and shot of freshness from the cucumber. I wouldn't say the $4.50 pricetag per bun (an order is $9 for two buns) provides four and a half times the pleasure of a $1 roast duck bun in Flushing, but that's probably an unfair comparison since those duck buns are absurdly cheap.

meat sampler veggie sampler
Meats n vegs.

For dinner, we went to my favorite pasta and gelato spot, Otto. This isn't the place to go if you crave a big hunk of meat; the only meaty specialty on their menu is the meat antipasti, which is a much better deal if you get all five choices for $25 instead of one for $9. Our platter (they change periodically) came with prosciutto, lonza, coppa, testa, salumi. Overall, it wasn't bad, but if you're used to eating the best cold cuts and cured meats Italy has to offer like Morten, you'll probably be disappointed.

Don't pass up on the vegetable antipasti, though. There are over ten to choose from for $4 each. I couldn't tell you which ones are the best—you sort of just order what you like the most— but I always go with either fresh peas or corn, depending on what season it is. We shared the autumn corn & fregola, cauliflower "alla Siciliana", and radishes with bagna cauda (an anchovy and garlic-flavored sauce). The cauliflower was the best, surprisingly, although I probably ended up eating most of the corn because...I love corn.

linguine puttanesca

For my main dish I went with the linguine puttanesca topped with anchovies, capers, olives, chiles, and roasted tomato. As always, the pasta was al dente to the second power. They generally cook pasta to just a microsmidge past being undercooked, which is why I love Otto—their pasta is cooked just right, sauced just right, and is a great deal for $9 a plate. Only once out of over ten visits did my pasta actually come out unpalatably undercooked, but I try to forget that ever happened.


dessert menu


dessert time

Pastry chef Meredith Kutzman can do no wrong when it comes to squeezing the best flavors out of fruits, nuts, herbs, and chocolate and turning them into rich, silky smooth gelato and sorbetto. When I saw concord grape sorbetto on the menu, something deep inside me went, "AaaaaaAAAAHHHH FFGM [GURGLE] YES" and then little hearts pip-popped up around my head. So I ordered that, along with olive oil and hazelnut stracciatella gelato. And they were all fantastic. You don't just taste it or smell it—you can feel the gelato IN THE NOOKS OF YOUR BRAINMEATS. I suppose that's as close as I'll get to feeling the effects of recreational drugs.


Dong Yi Feng
135-29 37th Ave, Flushing, New York NY 11354 (map)

Peking Duck Sandwich Stall
Main St & 40th Rd, Queens, NY 11354 (map)

Xinjiang BBQ Cart
Main St & Kissena Blvd (or thereabouts; if you roam around you'll probably see it/smell it), Queens, NY 11354 (map)

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St, Queens NY 11355 (map)

Ice Fire Land
13511 40th Rd, Flushing NY 11354 (map)

Ost Cafe
441 East 12th Street, New York NY 10009 (at Ave A; map)

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd Ave (around the corner on 13th Street), New York NY 10003 (map)
212-254-3500; ‎

1 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003 (at 8th Street; map)


Jellytea / October 11, 2010 2:36 AM

Hehe, it's funny. Out of all my Chinese friends, I am the only one who likes chicken feet and I'm Black. They are the best things on the dim sum cart. I will honorably soak up your leaking Chineseness and inhale your share of coffee goodness.

Nicholas / October 11, 2010 3:08 AM

I can assure you, the Momo pork buns are not 4.5x more pleasureful than the $1 Corner 28 duck buns. Because pleasure is 100% quantifiable haha. I said so.

Seriously though, Momofuku pork buns (while I won't deny they're deliciousness) are the most over priced pockets of bliss I've ever enjoyed. Contradictory statements, I know.

Morten / October 11, 2010 6:41 AM

Two things:
$9 for two pork buns is a fair deal. The fact that they are amazingly good (although, not the best thing I had a NYC) sure makes them a great deal. $1 duck buns is simply something else.

The cured meats disappointed me at the time, but I wasn't sure how unimpressive they were until I had Prosciutto di San Daniele at Eataly. After returning to Norway I've basked in great cured meats so as to not the disappointing memory linger and taint my love of all things cured.

P.S. Everything else at Otto was very good, and I would certainly recommend the place, but I'd also advice against the cured meats.

Belinda / October 11, 2010 8:22 AM

Goodness you ate your way through the city! You named some new places I haven't gone before. Thanks. I will have to seek out that $1 duck bun!

kim / October 11, 2010 9:42 AM

That is definitely pumpkin fried cakes. Have you ever tried durian puffs? Of course, they're an acquired taste.

Did your foreign friends enjoy the Flushing crawl? Too bad there wasn't enough stomach space for Xian eats. :)

How was the pasta flavor at Otto? I've heard about the oversalted issues...

Angeline / October 11, 2010 10:33 AM

Why why why did you go to Momofuku Milk Bar and not order Crack pie!!! WHY!

Of course now I'm wondering how I could go and not order pork buns. :(

Did anyone have the guinness gelato?

Also, you know what else is vegetarian? Crack pie. :D

roboppy / October 11, 2010 11:04 AM

Eclair: I would gladly give you all my chicken feet.

Jellytea: Out of all my Chinese friends I seem to be the only one who doesn't like them! D'oh.

Nick: If Momofuku's pork buns are the most overpriced bliss pockets you've ever had, that's not bad. They definitely do not fulfill that title for me (I'm not comparing them to how much stuff costs in Taiwan, of course); I can think of at least two other times when I had pork-centric buns in the city that probably cost almost as much and were larger, but were faaaar less tasty and not worth the money. And then there are cheaper porky buns that are perfectly good, but not quite as memorable as Momofuku's. So with all that in mind, as someone who will probably never recreate Momofuku's pork buns in my own kitchen, I'm perfectly fine with paying someone $9 to make me two of em.

Belinda: Hope you like the bun!

Kim: I've tried durian puffs....just once. That was enough for me. :) I'm afraid I'm not into durian, although it doesn't make me gag or anything. It's Acquired taste, yup.

Yup, my friends enjoyed the Flushing crawl! We did make a stop at Xi'an, although I'm not sure if you meant we should've eaten more dishes from there...wish we could've!

I don't have a problem with the salt level at Otto, but if you're adverse to salt you might. I loooove salt.

Angeline: I don't know if my friends were in the mood for seemed to be focused on getting something savory. (Behnaz tried one of the bun sandwich things.) But if I had to choose between pork buns and crack pie, I'd say the pork buns are better. My favorite dessert at Milk Bar is their cakes, but since they don't do slices we couldn't try them. :(

Nope, no one got the guinness gelato!

adelyn / October 11, 2010 12:06 PM

I love those pumpkin fried cakes so much! But my stomach can't handle glutinous flour. And dairy, who rules out gelato too. AHH, so many things I can't eat - why oh god why?! *sobs*

Nicholas / October 11, 2010 2:25 PM

I guess my comment wasn't really clear in what I meant. I love their pork buns, I genuinely dooooo. They're certainly not authentic, but they're as good as I've had this side of the Pacific. I can also understand that $9 is fair in pricing in the grand scheme of things, but it tears at my heart every time I do (that's something wrong with me, not with their pricing scheme).


Where are these cheaper/just as good pockets you speak of?

Kimberly / October 11, 2010 3:32 PM

Aw good pictures! I am eating dimsum and shaved ice with you guys in spirit!! -.-

Hugs from the 'Zona!

Donny / October 11, 2010 5:00 PM

if i make you pork buns will you give me $9? =)

you know not liking chicken feet doesn't make you any less Chinese. some of my Chinese friends don't like chicken feet either. heck i hate shaved ice and taro and red beans. we could share a bowl of shaved ice topped with chicken feet? everybody wins!

and i'm glad i'm not the only one that can't seem to find my favorite dim sum place.

roboppy / October 11, 2010 5:56 PM

Adelyn: You can haz...sorbet? ;_; [pat pat]

Su-Lin: We've got lots of dim sum trolleys here! I love me a good dumpling trolley.

Nicholas: Ah, I thought I would explain why I think it's not overpriced. :) Not that it's budget-priced either, although compared to the rest of the savories from Momofuku it is. As for other porky buns, I'm just thinking any regular Chinese pork bun, baked or steamed...they're fine for the deliciousness-per-dollar value, but they ain't like Momofuku's.

Kimberly: Come do it FO REAAL.

Donny: You should make them for me out of FRIENDSHIP!!!! Or for $9 if you want.

Oh man I love me some red beans! But I know other Chinese people who don't. Ahhwell.

And don't let me forget that we gotta get dim sum time..whenever..that is!

reeseboston / October 11, 2010 7:54 PM


Don't worry about your Chinese soul leaking out of you just because of those Chicken's feet. I am Chinese too and I don't eat them myself. No favorite dim sum place, now that is another matter. You should try a couple more of them and you will find one. Let your inner Chinese-ness leads you to it.


Danny / October 12, 2010 11:35 AM

i'm with you, for the most part, the dim sum places in new york generally are around the same level. which to me is "pretty good" but of course folks like to say we got nothing good. oh well.

also that's quite a day of eating!

Julie / October 12, 2010 11:53 AM

Lucky Weegies! I bet you could make some good money hosting food tours through NYC.

Those pork buns slide up and down my "must-eat" list, mostly because their repuation precedes them, partly because I've never had pork buns and can't find any in Phoenix. All that said, for some reason, it's a relief that you say they're overhyped.

roboppy / October 13, 2010 1:57 AM

Meister: Aw yeah, I ALWAYS get the olive oil. Sooogoooodduhh.

Reese: I will conquer ALL THE DIM SUM IN THE CITY! And then...possibly still not have a fave. But we'll see.

Danny: I'd love to try the BEST DIM SUM EVER someday...I suppose...I'll have to go to California or HK or something. ;_;

It was a good amount of eating, although everything pales in comparison to what I've been eating on my work trips. I think I'm done with those marathon eating days...last trip was last Wednesday when I went to Phoenix and ate at 8 places in 12 hours. Or something. Probably could've done more if we reallly wanted do though!

Julie: I'm too lazy to do tours for money. Only for friends! :)

I don't wanna give you too-high expectations on the pork buns. But..they are...verrrry..tasty. Perhaps you can make em at home?

carolg aka pb / October 14, 2010 6:42 AM

Hey Robyn!!
I need a guided tour of Flushing sooo badly!
I've been..I looked...I came home
Too many choices.
I haven't been to MomoF either
I'm a dunce :)
WAIT! I have had Otto's gelato..but it was too long ago..
I'll never catch up :(

kasseopeia / October 16, 2010 11:21 AM

Whoa... you have very very lucky friends!

I will definitely pass by your neighborhood when I do my coast-to-coast US tour (I've been planning this for years!) and most of my bookmarks come from you and Kathy YL Chan. Heehee...

(long-time lurker here)

Lingbo / October 16, 2010 11:50 AM

OMG Robyn! These look amazings! And sorry the shaved ice wasn't the best thing ever... :( (but you haven't eaten 11 bowls in two days though haha.)

I wish I were in NYC so I could go on an eating adventure with j00!

roboppy / October 16, 2010 10:48 PM

kasseopeia: Coast to coast trip sounds awesooome! If you need an eating buddy here, let me know. :)

Lingbo: 11 BOWLS IN 2 DAYS, YOU CRAZY. I still trust your taste buds!

Next time you are here we can eat...crap..tons?...yay!

Florence / October 17, 2010 4:12 PM

What's funny about this was that I was at that exact dim sum place this morning (and ordered many of the same things, particularly tripe and chicken feet--the latter was fun to wrestle with), and I had plans to go to Xi'an tomorrow. Now I just have to find that duck bun place...

Ulla / October 25, 2010 7:47 PM

Your version of New York is the one I love. You really capture it so well with your writing and photos. The chicken feet look fantastic!

Something random from the archives