Flushing: Dumplings, hot peppers, oh my!
Lamb and green squash dumplings
The 7-train to Flushing was full of Met's fans, elderly Asian folks, random family members tugging on their children, and me. I was on my way to meet the one other person I know who loves to eat in Flushing regardless of the sweltering season. We arranged to meet at the Main Street subway exit at 12:30pm, and I was already hungry. I nibbled on a few almonds while I waited.
Our first stop was Tianjin Dumpling House, which I had seen written up in two blogs (Serious Eats and Chopsticks + Marrow). Located in the basement of a food mall, the unassuming open air shop was devoid of customers. In fact almost all of the tiny locations had few to no guests. I wasn't sure why but I had a feeling it may have had something to do with the inch of water on the floor. We stepped through it gingerly. We ordered the lamb and green squash dumplings, one plate for the negligible amount of $5, and then we sat on the little wood laminate stools to wait. I inspected the options we had for toppings: dense chili oil thick with seeds, brown vinegar and soy sauce. I laid out the napkins and pulled out two pairs of chopsticks.
The steaming plate looked unexciting but I knew it was the interior of the dumplings that would be the reward. I nibbled on a corner and opened up a hole to speed up the cooling process. It also allowed me to sweep it through the sauce and fill up the dumpling. The filling, pungent and lamby was the color of green meatloaf. It was a nice savory bite and we quickly plowed through them while we chatted about work, looking for work and summer in the city. We left one dumpling behind for good luck––something about dieting: never clean your plate––and moved on to our next venue. My review is that these are good, and the filling is a nice change of pace from the generic pork or veggie kinds, however, they're not better than the wontons at White Bear.
Out on Prince Street, we passed up Spicy and Tasty, another fine location I had been to before, and made our way to Lao Chengdu, a Sichuan restaurant I had read about in the latest Cheap Eats issue of New York magazine. The restaurant was sparkling clean, you could cool a side of beef in it, and it also has a dumbwaiter, which was way cool. We inspected the plastic menus, with the obligatory helpful photos. In the end we ordered exactly as the magazine had instructed: hot green peppers, double-cooked pork and cold noodles.
Hot green peppers
The hot peppers are incredible, a giant oval plate of medium-sized dark green hot chili peppers in a piquant, vinegary sauce the color of espresso. The skins, wrinkled with a plasticy sheen, had peeled and separated from the high heat. I could eat dozens. The cold noodles were good––better the next day––but part of me wanted the wheat noodles to be rice noodles. They sat in an earthy, thin brown sauce and were topped with sesame seeds and slivers of green onions. A tasty dish, but not earth shattering. The double-cooked pork, like thin slivers of bacon, came in a giant pile along with sautéed green garlic (and maybe leeks). Tasty and meaty, it was a good dish to round out a meal, like a character actor on an episode of Law & Order.
Cold noodles and double-cooked pork with green garlic
Go for the hot peppers and embark on your own for a few other dishes. Perhaps the cold jelly noodles and maybe the garlic chicken, which I am a big fan of from other locations. If you go, let me know how you do.