NYC is one of the best places in the world to explore (and, some would say, the greatest city in the world). Most people come to NYC and just see Manhattan, but some of the most interesting places are in the boroughs. That's because the majority of NYC's 8.3 million residents actually live in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx, and are from all over the world, creating ethnic enclaves that are fascinating to visit. You can always tell at any given time which ethnicities are well represented in NYC by which languages are on city signs. For example, the current subway notices are in English and translated into four main languages--Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Russian.
I know I'm lucky to live here (and even luckier to have left and been able to move back), so from time to time, I plan on highlighting a different part of NYC.
Today, we're going to Flushing, Queens. According to Wikipedia, NYC is home to more than one million Asian Americans, greater than the combined totals of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the highest total Asian population of any U.S. city, with nearly a quarter of the nation's Asian Indian population, 15% of all Korean Americans, and the largest population of overseas Chinese outside of Asia. Over 40% of these Chinese live in Queens and many say that the Chinatown in Queens is now larger than the one in Manhattan.
Flushing, Queens is a neighborhood I have (embarrassingly) never been to. To get there, you take the 7 train to the end of the line and you'll be downtown. It has approx 200,000 people, 44% of whom are Asian. Two of the largest ethnicities are Chinese and Korean, so it's no surprise that the food is really great there. When it looked like I'd have a reason to go to Flushing, I was very excited. :)
My husband is a Tae Kwon Do student and instructor. As a result, he has a few aches and pains and his master recommended he go to his acupuncturist in Flushing. Great excuse for a dumpling excursion!
In preparation, I mapped out a few places to visit.
In the end, we ended up at two Chinese restaurants and one Korean grocery store with plans to visit more often. I would have taken pics of Flushing itself, but it was pouring rain and snowing while we were there. What you need to know is that it is very crowded, many of the restaurants are cash only, and most of the signs are not in English, so it really does feel a bit like you have travelled to another country (until you pass by the all-pervasive souvlaki cart).
This unassuming restaurant often has a waiting line, but we were lucky to get in right away due to the bad weather. Because we knew we were making another food stop, we stuck to ordering the two dishes Nan Xiang is best known for -- scallion pancakes and soup dumplings.
The scallion pancakes were unusually light and crunchy, but the real stars were the soup dumplings. There is an art to eating these. I put one on my spoon with a bit of soy and chili sauce and then make a small hole in the dumpling with my teeth. This allows me to easily slurp some of the yummy soup that is inside while some of the hot steam escapes. Then, I eat the rest of the dumpling in one large bite. Heaven.
Next up was a visit to Biang, the team that created Xi'an Famous Foods. This is a much different restaurant than Nan Xiang--it has been suitably hipsterized with its wooden tables and sleek decor. It has been written up quite a bit lately, so the clientele was mixed. At 4pm on a Saturday, we were still able to get a seat, but by 5, there was already a line, so come here during an off time unless you don't mind waiting.
The dishes everyone raves about here are the noodles and the lamb dumplings. We were too full to eat the noodles this time, but we tried a few smaller dishes and they were all good. I actually liked the spicy cumin chicken skewers the best. Usually, I don't eat red meat, but because everyone raved so much about the lamb here, I had to give it a try. The lamb sliders were almost like a Chinese gyro. The bread was not fluffy and sweet like you might find with a Chinese bun (say at a dim sum restaurant for example), but instead was more like a plain flatbread with a bit of crunch. The spicy and sour lamb dumplings were savory and tasty, although quite rich.
This specialty Korean grocery is smaller, but closer to the 7 train, than the other Korean markets in the area. It is very clean and bright with a broad selection of Korean ingredients, as well as produce and a good seafood and meat counter. Excellent prices too. We got a few things and hightailed it back to Brooklyn. I definitely recommend coming here if you are on foot, rather than trekking all the way to H Market.
Looking forward to next time!