Not too long ago a friend introduced me to the “hot pot“. Shortly after the introduction I discovered that the traditional Chinese stew prepared with a hot pot is an extraordinary thing. I simply had to try one myself. Salivating heavily, my dining partner and I hopped onto the 7 train en route to Flushing Queens. Our destination: Little Pepper (aka Xiao La Jiao Sichuan Restaurant) Climbing down a dark and dingy stairwell to the restaurant made us briefly hesitate, wondering if we had the right place. Then, we looked up at the smiling happy pepper painted on the sign. The jolly image reassured us that our location was correct.
We moseyed in and sat down, taking a look at our options. The hot pot was not listed on the menu. Our waitress approached us, although barely speaking a word of English, she understood exactly what we wanted. She returned to our table with a list of ingredients to cook in our stew- one side written in Chinese and the other in English. We checked off a long list of raw food items: beef, bean sprouts, shrimp, lotus root, spinach, and the list went on. After placing our order, she emerged from the kitchen holding a large concoction over flames. It was the first step, the hot pot broth. One side of the hot pot was spicy and the other milky. Next came the raw savory morsels we added into the boiling broth. We marveled at the mysterious brew. Picking up our selected items, we dropped each of the foods one-by-one into the mixtures. I chose to stick to the milky broth, while my dining partner, with no shortage of steam rising from his beet-red forehead, ate from the spicy side.
A beautiful amalgam of tastes and colors were presented as we ferociously bit into every forkful. The foods’ appearances changed drastically as we tossed it into the hot pot. Bright red peppers floated atop the hot side, tempting us with every gleam, turning our mouths into infernos. The gray shrimp went into the pot and surfaced as soft pink and white swirls. The brilliant green of the crispy spinach became a dark wilting forest, woven with shades of red. The tender slices of red beef turned into savory brown curls. And the once full-to-the-brim pot became empty within a matter of minutes. Although it didn’t take us long to devour this meal, eating it was an experience of its own, a “work-out” if you will. The ingredients fuse together to create a kaleidoscope of tastes. In other words, it was really good.
Little Pepper– 133-43 Roosevelt Avenue Flushing, NY 11354 (718) 939-7788
It’s the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in the heart of Flushing Meadows Park this weekend Saturday August 7th and Sunday August 8th. Watch the as the magnificent dragon boats zip through Meadow Lake while the competing teams race to the finish. You don’t want to miss this once a year extravaganza! Before you rush the kids back to school this year, take them to the event of a lifetime (well at least the event of the weekend) The celebration begins early Saturday and continues throughout Sunday afternoon with The Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, traditional Indian dance, Shaolin Kung Fu demonstrations, kite flying, jazz performances, the American Bolero Dance Company and much more!
Click here for a full schedule of events.
Dragon Boat Festival Aug 7 & 8 Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadow Park
Roaming around Flushing on a quest for some good Chinese food isn’t a difficult task. After checking out a couple of places, my dining partner and I decided on the Szechuan Gourmet. Although the name suggests an unimaginative standard in the category of Szechuan cuisine, the reality was anything but. We made our way into the casual dining room, decorated with paper lanterns and linen clad tables. As we settled into our seats our wandering eyes peered through an endless menu of enticing and intriguing items. We opted to start with the chilled, but spicy, diced rabbit and peanut with chili-garlic black bean jam. An amalgam of tastes rushed together leaving the mouth with a slight tingly sensation. At first bite this dish seems spicy, but then the cooling garlic and ginger take over while the peanuts dull the intensity of the chili. It was a feast for the eyes as well, with colorful bursts of reds, oranges and greens. The second appetizer was a refreshing mixture of cucumber slices doused in chili pepper sauce. For the main course we devoured the shrimp and yellow leek entree. Unlike the previous dishes, this meal was a delicate combination of stir fried shrimp and leek with a slightly smokey essence. The Szechuan Gourmet is a great place to eat an afternoon lunch or weekend dinner. Service is friendly, prices are moderate for quantity and quality of the food and they offer week day lunch specials.
Szechuan Gourmet Flushing Queens 135-15 37th Ave 718-888-9388
The opening of the Roosevelt Food Court (Pan Asian Cuisine- Chinese, Indian, etc) has been all the buzz lately. Eating in Translation Guy ate there a few weeks ago, Jamie Oliver has even been there- I can’t say I’ve been, but I can’t wait to go!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Sago Tea Cafe (corner of Main & 39th Avenue. Flushing, NY 10038. Tel: 718-353-2899) is not just a standard teenage hangout. Its trendy atmosphere with multi colored hanging lamps is a great place to gather with friends. You can also stroll up to the take-out window and get tea to-go. Sago offers a large slection of flavored hot and cold and bubble teas. Flavors like mango, green and black teas, peach and ginger. My favorite is the hot ginger tea with milk– with real bits of ginger it is a delectable marraige of spicy and sweet taste . Sago has inexpensive small plates like dumplings that are average in taste, but you really go for the tea. Though crowded at times this place is full of energy and even better to visit during the colder months.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
King Yum 181-08 Union Turnpike Flushing, Queens 11366 718-380-1918 E train to Union Turnpike- then bus to 108th Street) You won’t find fire eaters or contortionists at this place, but you will find loads of fun, food and history. Nestled into a lackluster strip mall in the middle of suburban Queens is one of the oldest living tiki bars in New York. Established in 1953, this bamboo and pineapple wonder ain’t going nowhere. Stuck in the era in which is was built, King Yum impresses all with its tacky decor and extensive “Chinese/Hawaiin” menu. The bamboo bar, hanging ceiling ornaments and carved wooden tiki statues greatly compliment the food you will receive when dining here. They both consist of lively lavish displays that aren’t meant to be taken too seriously. The pineapple and cherry chicken, one of the many King Yum special entrees consists of a fried, gooey plate of fried chicken with the sugary fruits toppling over the rim of your plate. Not for the health conscious. The honey garlic chicken is a tasty delight of the sweet and savory kind with tender fried pieces of chicken smothered in honey sauce. The shrimp with ginger and scallions is a healthier fare- with fresh seafood that isn’t put through the deep frier. Whatever you order- whether it’s from the hunan, szechuan, cantonese or hawaiian influences, the food ranges from mediocre to “amazing”- according to one of my dining companions. The dishes are hearty and full of taste, but don’t over impress with the preparation and ingredients. There are also a wide selection of affordable specialty cocktails like the King Yum Special made with rum and pineapple juice (pictured below)– that at a couple of sips will have every bite tasting that much better. The Lover’s Gold Cup and Aloha Delight are just a few of your choices on the tiki inspired drink menu. King Yum’s location may be out of the way for some but is definitely worth the trip. From the minute you walk into this place it is overflowing with charm and character- great to sit at the bar on a cold winter night and imagine you are somewhere on a far off island listening to the waves crash or bring some friends and grab seat in the classically styled dining room. Whatever the case- your life in Queens will improve drastically once you have been to King Yum.
Yi Mei Fung Bakery (135-38 Roosevelt Ave Flushing & Elmhurst 81-86 Broadway)
Flushing is the perfect place to go for traditional Chinese baked goods. As soon as you step off the #7 train you see a plethora of of Chinese bakeries to choose from, but one stands out for its quality. Yi Mei Fung bakery has every kind of authentic Chinese pastry imaginable as well as single slices of cakes and tarts. There are multi grain breads, pork buns, mini garlic loaves, green tea pastries, coconut buns, chocolate cake and that’s just the introduction. Not only is the service fast and friendly, but this place is as convenient as bake shops get. Each piece is freshly made and individually wrapped- ready for you to grab and eat. This shop is cute and clean and offers tables for sit in, but it’s best to not stick around too long. The shop gets crowded.