Zhu Ji’s Eats

I discovered a new gem at Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. The mall itself is already a gem, so I guess I just discovered a gem inside a gem – sweet potato noodles!

The Golden Shopping Mall is a 2 floor “mall” (which is in quotes because it’s just houses a bunch of random Chinese vendors so not exactly your quintessential suburban mall) with the basement floor completely dedicated to food. It’s unadorned, dingy, and kind of sketchy, which is why I love it.

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You go down these super suspect steps to the glorious underbelly of Flushing…

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…and you are welcomed by this sight of so much good, authentic food. Check out some of these side dishes.

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Continue down this pathway to the end, and where that little white sign is marks the spot of today’s post – Zhu Ji’s Eats.

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They serve a lot of different noodles and dumplings, and I found out that they make a special type of noodle from sweet potatoes. How intriguing.

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I ordered mine with pork bone, and they brought me not just this bowl of piping hot noodles but also a plate, a plastic glove, and a straw. It’s so ridiculously thoughtful, I almost started laughing.

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Those tools are for tackling this giant pork bone. At home, I will be completely uncivilized and just dig in with my hands and end up with oil and soup all over my hands and face. Yes, I know. Very attractive. Here in public, I did really appreciate having a glove to not get my hands dirty and a straw for the bone marrow. The sweet potato noodles are springy and chewy, really great consistency.

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Upstairs, on the ground floor of the Golden Mall (right next to the sketchy staircase) is one of my other favorite stalls, Tian Jin stuffed pancakes, and I just couldn’t leave this post without touching on this place. They have all kinds of on-the-go eats from congee to crullers to steamed buns to traditional Northern Chinese pancakes.

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I highly recommend the 牛肉卷饼 beef crepe where they wrap roast beef inside this giant chinese style egg and scallion crepe. Trust me, try it! It’s amazing.

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St. Flushing, NY 11355

 

99 Favor Taste

After I hurt my ankle last month, my mom came up to mother me for a weekend. Her reaction to my apartment was that it was a lot cleaner than she expected. Not sure why, but I think she imagined a pig sty. Even so, she did a full scrub down of my bathroom and kitchen, down to the floors. She then proceeded to stock up my fridge and freezer with homemade soups and ready-to-eat meals. Looking at the mountain of food, I should be good to go for the next month. It’s times like these when I feel like I have absolutely no desire to grow up. Can time go backwards? Can I stay a kid forever? It’s so nice to be taken care of.

Of course we also went out to eat quite a few times that weekend. 99 Favor Taste is a hot pot and Korean barbecue spot that newly opened not long ago. The original restaurant is in Brooklyn, and they have done so well that they’ve now expanded into Manhattan. From the looks of it, this new location is a huge hit as well. The line Saturday night was literally out the door, with the entrance area teeming over with people waiting for tables. We made reservations for 8 pm and still had to wait about a half hour before getting seated.

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The first thing I noticed, aside from the line situation, was how beautifully decorated the interior was. High ceilings, red draped curtains, elegant throw pillows on all the seats – this is definitely not your typical dingy Chinatown place. This is what restaurants in China actually look like. Add on top of that really attentive service (almost TOO attentive), high quality ingredients, and affordable prices, this is hands down the best hot pot spot in Manhattan.

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You can pick up to 3 soup bases, and we went with half spicy and half pork bone. There’s one called congee style, which I’ll have to try next time to figure out what that entails. Congee hot pot? Interesting.

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The wall of sauces is an impressive lineup with everything from the classic sesame paste to chives sauce and several different hot sauces. It’s fun to experiment with a dollop of this and that. My go-to concoction is a mix of sha cha paste, soy sauce, sesame paste, chives sauce, and a dash of vinegar and chili oil.

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For the food, I was so impressed by the quality of the meats. The beef (upper right) and the lamb (lower left) were beautiful. Sliced extremely thinly, it cooks in seconds. I like to dip it in the broth a couple times and then take it out immediately so that it doesn’t overcook. The slivers of fat in the beef kept it especially juicy and tender. If you get no other meats, you must try the beef. Really excellent!

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There’s a slew of other meats, seafood, and veggies to pick up too. We loaded up on: pork, fish, crab, frozen tofu (a must!), fried tofu, tofu skin, wood ear, seaweed, enoki mushrooms, pumpkin, potatoes, taro (my favorite!), and vermicelli for the end. This is a waistline-busting amount of food. Beware. Come dressed for the occasion, which in my case means stretchy yoga pants.

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Something else I love about this place is the sweet soups that serve as great palate cleansers, giving you a break from all the spice and oil, or as a refreshing dessert at the end of the meal. On the top is a pumpkin soup, and on the bottom is a tapioca soup. I’m such a sucker for these. I must have had at least 4 bowls.

And what is the price for this giant meal? A whopping $22 per person! I don’t know another all-you-can-eat hot pot place in Manhattan that can top this. I will be back (well, technically, I’ve already been back since this particular meal happened haha).

99 Favor Taste
285 Grand St (btw Eldridge & Forsyth) New York, NY 10002

XO Kitchen

Fast, cheap, and with enough hustle and bustle to transport you to Hong Kong. XO Kitchen’s walls are plastered with different menu items and daily specials. There are pictures of menu items all over the place. In my opinion, the best course of action if you’re not too familiar with Cantonese food, is to look and point. Forget about reading the menu, it’ll just confuse you.

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That’s how I found this dish: zong zi with XO sauce. I saw a picture on the wall and said I want that. Zong zi is sticky rice and various fillings wrapped and cooked in bamboo leaves. The filling can be sweet or salty. In this case, it was the savory variety with pork, peanuts, and bits of egg. My biggest complaint with zong zi is when the sticky rice that doesn’t touch the filling has no flavor, and you have eat through several bites of it before getting to the filling. Here, the XO sauce solves this problem. XO sauce is a spicy cantonese seafood sauce made from dried shrimp, fish, and scallops. It pairs nicely on the sticky rice.

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My friend got her usual braised beef he fen which are the wide rice noodles. It looked really good.

XO Kitchen
148 Hester St (between Bowery & Elizabeth) New York, NY 10013

Noodle Village

This weekend, I twisted my ankle going down the subway steps. My ankle promptly swelled up to the size of a tennis ball, and I was confined to my apartment for the rest of the weekend. It was a weekend of especially nice weather too, which we haven’t had around here for a long time. Sitting around feeling sorry for myself makes me crave comfort foods like noodles and congee and made me remember this meal at Noodle Village.

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Soup dumplings hit the spot every time. These are the ones with minced crab. Honestly, I should probably stick with regular soup dumplings going forward rather than trying these crab ones. I haven’t seen any place in New York that uses real crab, so there’s not really extra crab flavor. Not worth the extra dollars, so just stick with the original pork.

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The waiter highly recommended this sha tin chicken congee, which they supposedly only have a limited number per day. I have no idea why because it did not taste anything special. In fact, it was bland and the pieces of chicken too large. I would not recommend this one.

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Congee is not complete without its partner you tiao or fried crullers. Did you know that there is a theory claiming that churros originated from these bad boys? The Portuguese went to China, saw these you tiao, took it back, and then changed it to be sweet rather than salty and voila! Churros!

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And because we definitely don’t have enough carbs on the table already, here are some cheong fun or rice rolls in a blanket of peanut and plum sauce and a light sprinkling of sesame seeds. I can eat this whole thing by myself. So delicious!

Noodle Village
13 Mott St (btw Chatham Sq & Mosco St) New York, NY 10013

Bryant Park Holiday Market

Merry merry Christmas! Wishing everyone many days full of cozy blankets and Christmas cheer!

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d share some snapshots and eats from the Bryant Park Holiday Market.

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Even though everyone’s Christmas shopping is done, the market is open till Jan 5, so you can still pick up some goodies to pamper yourself or perhaps for some post-Christmas gifting. The gorgeous skating rink is open till March.

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The park is lined with at least 100 different vendors, selling anything from handmade jewelry to earmuffs and gloves.

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Just wandering around and window shopping is a lot of fun.

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See? Pretty displays of pretty necklaces.

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Next, you can check out that skating rink…

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…which can get crowded, so be prepared for that.

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And after you’re all tired out from the walking and skating, check out some of the many food vendors. Hong Kong Street Cart has a simple menu of 6 items: 2 noodles, 2 buns, fried oysters, and tempura shrimp.

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The pork belly noodles is their version of Chinese zha jiang mian, with minced pork belly, five spice dried tofu, and cucumbers. I like this interpretation. The noodles are springy, and the sauce is lighter without compromising on flavor.

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But don’t forget dessert!

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Head to Max Brenner for some chocolate therapy. They sell chocolate syringes, hot chocolate, and…

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…their O.M.G. chocolate chip cookie. Super warm with melty chocolate chips! These are huge and good for sharing, although it’s fine if you want the whole thing to yourself too. That’s what I would do.

Bryant Park Winter Village

Hong Kong Street Cart

Max Brenner

New World Mall Food Court

Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court has come up in previous posts, but I wanted to do a different roundup. There have been numerous articles and blog posts that you can find all over the internet talking about this food court and what to eat here. Everyone knows about Lanzhou Handmade Noodles and the Sichuan Ma La Tang place. This time, I am going to concentrate on a couple of my favorite places that I think haven’t gotten as much attention and coverage as they should.

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One of my favorite food stands has the funniest English name: Casserole. Big Bowl of Noodle. Unsurprisingly, hey specialize in stews and noodles cooked in clay pots. You can see the clay pots lined up on the stove, filled with to the brim with stock and bubbling over as it stews. It’s a mouth-watering sight.

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This braised pork ribs and vermicelli in a clay pot is out of this world. The wait time is a little long because they cook it to order, so you have to let it stew for a while. I assure you, though, that the wait is worth it. The ribs were tender and juicy and balanced off with a good portion of napa cabbage, wood ear, and mushrooms. The vermicelli was cooked to order, so it doesn’t get soggy and limp.

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They also have an array of Chinese su bing, which are pastries with this flakey, crumbly skin that can be either sweet or savory. The sweet ones might have red bean or black sesame in the center. I bought a savory salt and sesame pastry, which made for a perfect breakfast the next day.

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Another mom and pop shop in the food court is No. 10 Xiang Ba La, for which I can’t think of any translation that doesn’t sound weird and awkward. “Yummy Aroma” is what I’m going to go with. They make really homey, Northern Chinese food. Comfort food! The Ba La Chicken is basically a chicken and potato stew with peppers and onions and a hint of spice. The flavors are homey, something out of a mom’s kitchen rather than out of a restaurant kitchen. They also carry Beijing style yogurt, which is tangier and has a more liquid consistency than American yogurt. I love this stuff and haven’t found it anywhere else in New York, so I will buy a ton to stock up. Does anyone know of a grocery store that sells this?

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Dessert at the New World Mall presents you with a lot of choices as well. Inside the JMart Grocery store is a small bakery stand called the New World Bakery. They specialize in egg tarts, which are best when they’re fresh out of the oven. For a slightly more indulgent treat, get this Portuguese egg tart, which is creamier and sweeter version. If you like creme brulee or flan, you’ll love this.

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Back downstairs to the food court, Snopo does shaved ice. Light, fluffy ice drizzled with condensed milk and topped with tapioca balls and red bean, this is a giant dessert made for sharing. You can custom make your own combination of ice flavor and toppings, or they also have set combinations with cute names like Snow White or Cinderella. The thing is that I can be a witch, so the cuteness is a bit much and gets on my nerves. Only complaint though.

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My favorite dessert place here is Manji or their weird sounding English name “Beautiful Memory Desserts,” which has an amazing menu ranging from sago to durian. Above is “black pearl” in vanilla sauce with green tea ice cream. Black pearls are really just chia seeds. The vanilla sauce is an icy mix with a hint of vanilla – it’s like an icier vanilla ice cream. Mix it all up with a bit of real ice cream, and it’s delicious.

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Manji has a lot of variations of sago, such as this refreshing mango pomelo sago.

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Continuing with this mango theme, thai black glutinous rice with mango in vanilla sauce. All of my favorite things in one place!

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I asked them what their most popular items were, and they suggested the mango glutinous balls. Fresh mango dices in the center and dusted with coconut shavings. I’ve seen these in bakeries before, but the freshness here puts Manji a step above those bakeries. I can definitely eat two orders of these.

Hope that was a useful guide to some of the shops in the New World Mall food court. Try them out and let me know how you like them!

New World Mall Food Court
136-20 Roosevelt Ave. Flushing, NY 11354

Casserole Big Bowl of Noodle

Xiang Ba La

New World Bakery

Snopo

Manji Dessert

Cha Chan Tang

Cha Chan Tang translates to “tea cafe,” which is a common, casual type of restaurant originating in Hong Kong. With fast service and simple food, it’s like the Hong Kong equivalent of American diners. Due to the early British influences in Hong Kong, these cafes serve both Cantonese and Western food, or rather the Cantonese version of Western dishes.

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The menu ranges from sandwiches and spaghetti to fried rice and bubble tea. We shared a pretty eclectic spread of different things. A plate of potstickers comes with a sweeter soy sauce for dipping.

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I’ve never had satay sauce in noodles before, but this beef satay wide vermicelli was really good. I associate satay sauce with hot pot or grilled meat, but I think I will be ordering satay noodles more now.

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You can’t ever go wrong with chicken wings, especially garlic and black pepper chicken wings. Crispy and juicy, these were quickly demolished.

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My favorite and what I will come back for are the fried mantou. Mantou is Chinese steamed bread that’s usually a replacement for rice at meals. However, they can also be served almost as a dessert: fried and then dipped in condensed milk. The perfect mantou already carries a slight hint of sweetness to it, so I am usually light-handed with the condensed milk. It’s hard to find fried mantou, so I was very excited to see these on the menu. Definitely give this a try if you’ve never had it before!

Cha Chan Tang
45 Mott St (btw Pell St & Bayard St) New York, NY 10013