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Edible Queens

By Joe DiStefano

Ploy Thai’s miang

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kana: like a miniature Thai
grocery store wrapped up in a green bundle.

I am still in a state of wondrous shock over Monday’s first-ever Asian Feastival.It was quite an experience to see cuisines from all over Asia and all over Queens represented in one place. The Phoenix Ballroom at Flushing’s Sheraton Laguardia was packed with all manner of deliciousness ranging from the Thaisnack miang kana from Elmhurst’s Ploy Thai to freshly made xiao long bao from Flushing’s Nan Xiang Dumpling House. The former—filled with red onion, ginger, peanut, chili, and bits of pork—was one of the tastiest items I tried. The latter received a shoutout from ghetto fabulous Taiwanese wunderkind Eddie Huang as being his favorite soup dumplings in New York City. (It’s my favorite too, but I didn’t have any as there were plenty of other items to taste that day.)

Hahm Ji Bach’s short ribs helped it earn the honor “Most Delicious.”

When Chinese food expert Jackie Newman’s husband Lenny gets excited about a dish I usually agree wholeheartedly. So when he urged me to try Hahm Ji Bach’s short ribs I complied. They were tender and flavorful and helped the restaurant win the honor Most Delicious. (Nan Xiang’s soup dumplings took Most Popular, and Filipino newcomer Payag took Most Creative.)

Katsuno’s takikomi gohan: rice with chicken, mushroom,
carrots, bamboo, fried bean curd, and rice.

It was also a real treat to say hello to many of the restaurateurs and chefs who brought their A-game that day. Each of the offerings from Katsuno mackerel,kobucha, and takikomo gohan sang with clear, bright flavors. Next door Java Village’s Chef Dewi was ladling out daun kinkong, a wonderfully rich curried Indonesian kale in coconut milk. My friends at M&T were there too serving refreshing Qingdao cold noodles.

Himalayan Yak brought plenty of its namesake momo.

And then there was the terrace, which featured not only the opportunity to sample exotic fruits like durian and jackfruit, but a chance to savor creamy coconut milk-based Singapore laksa from Taste Good in Elmhurst, dosa from Dosa Place in Jackson Heights, and yak momo from Himalayan Yak, as well as those wildly popular soup dumplings.

With all of the sights, sounds, and flavors pleasantly buzzing in my head I almost forgot that I was to lead a walking tour of downtown Flushing called “Tastehunting” that day. (Actually I never really quite forgot and was more or less obsessing about it all day, which was probably a good thing.)

By the time 4:30 rolled I was getting pretty full, and truth be told pretty nervous, especially since the tour was to be filmed by eatTV. Adding to my jitters was the fact that the group had somehow doubled in size from 20 people to 40. Rather than run away to Ice Fire Land to calm my nerves with a frigid bowl of tai shi bao bing, I decided to man up and give the people what they wanted, which I had predetermined to be chou dofu, or Taiwanese stinky tofu.

Avid Tastehunters sample Taiwanese pork intestines and braised tofu
from Temple Snacks (left) and cold skin noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods.

Sadly when we arrived at the Flushing Mall Food Court the Taiwanese vendor, Temple Snacks had none of the stinky stuff to offer. Instead we got some pillowy braised tofu, which while delicious was not all funky. We also tried chewy pork intestines with a wonderfully bright chili sauce. Liang Pi of Xi’an Famous Foods also graciously provided a plate of his signature cold skin noodles, which were as slippery, chewy, spicy and as bright as ever.

Kian Lam Kho holds the Tastemob at bay outside Tian Jin Restaurant.

I felt sort of like the pied piper of Flushing as I led the group to the nearby Tian Jin Restaurant on Prince Street. Restaurant is a rather grandiose term for this hole in the wall, which is really more of a snack shop. Nonetheless it turns out some of the neighborhood’s tastiest roasted and braised meats. Rather than try to bring everyone inside my trusty translator Kian Lam Kho and I entered and asked after the owner Ma Gennian.

Tofu, rabbit, and chicken were served streetside, along
with an offal-rich board of fare that included pork tongue and trotters.

Once we tracked him down Gennian went to work with a cleaver and proceeded to prepare seeming endless variety of morsels which he placed on a table outside his shop. We marveled over firm tofu, succulent chicken and rabbit as well as a plethora of offal including chicken gizzard, chicken necks, and pork tongue and trotters. All of it was imbued with a wonderful five-spice flavor thanks to a technique called flavorpotting. It’s a shame that Gennian’s crew wasn’t cooking anything when we stopped by. When they are, the aroma emanating from the tiny shop is intoxicating.

Our next stop was New York Tong Ren Tang where we sampled some ginseng tea and took a gander at some of the aromatic herbs used to make Taiwanese hotpot. The Tastemob’s last stop was one of my favorite places of all: the Golden Shopping Mall. Here we sampled Eric Ripert’s favorite Chinese head cheese at Xie’s Home Cooking, or Xie Jia Tsai, where Mr. Xie, who also hails from Tianjin was kind enough to provide each of us with a taste.

All in the Feastival itself as well the chance to take 40 foodies through the crowded streets of Flushing down into the Golden Shopping Mall was beyond my wildest dreams. So much so that I did ultimately calm my nerves with a bowl of shaved ice and vowed not return to the hood for at least a week. So much for that vow. I was back at Golden shopping mall last night for some fiery Sichuan fare from Chengdu Heavenly Plenty.

Many thanks to Tina Wong of The Wandering Eater and Suzanne Glickstein ofeatTV for providing the images that accompany this dispatch. A full list of the Asian Feastival participants can be found at Dinevore.


Asian Feastival, Sep.6, 2010

I met a lot of interesting people, tasted plenty of diverse, exotic food, and learned a lot about Asian vegetables. My mission for the event was to demonstrate 2 kinds of Korean kimchi making: perilla leaf kimchi and spicy stuffed cucumber kimchi.

One of my readers came up to me: “Maangchi! I’m your reader! Do you need any help?” His name was Samson Woo and he was a Asian Feastival volunteer.
“Sure, I may need your help!”
I asked Sam: “How long have you been my reader?”
He said: “For years! Long time.”
I asked: “Have you ever left any comment on my blog?”

“No, I’m a silent reader, but I’ve made some Korean food with your recipes.”

I was lucky to meet Sam there because I really needed his help. He helped me set up the table, took some photos for me, and even cleaned some bowls and my cutting board after I finished the demo. Thank you, Sam!

Sam and Me

a blogger and my reader, Lori Lee

yummy perilla leaf kimchi with multi-grain rice

ooh hoo hoo! It’s fun to wrap rice in this spicy leaf!

yummy! Now I know what Korean kkaennip kimchi is!

oisobagi (spicy stuffed cucumber kimchi)! “What is oi?”
“oi is cucumber and also my Thai friend’s name! ” lol

yes, yes! I love kkaennip kimchi (perilla leaf kimchi), me, too~~

“Did u taste it?” “Yep! my stomach is on fire now!” : )
very good!!

Before and after my cooking demo, I was at the

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vegetables and fruits table on the Hotel terrace with 2 other panelists: Kian Lam Kho and Cathy Erway. We explained the name of the fruits and vegetables to those who asked and if they wanted to taste some, we helped them with it. There were all kinds of fruits like Korean melon, jack fruit, durian, and dragon fruit. There were a lot of familiar items there, but some Chinese vegetables I had never tasted. Of course I asked Cathy and Kian so

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many questions.

“What is this?” Cathy says, “yes, it is…”

Durian: the most popular fruit that people wanted to taste

Qingdao cold noodles (my number one favorite among all the dishes!)

Korean rice cake and rice cake balls (gyeongdan)

“kyaaa! Taiwanese beer tasted good!” : )

I was happy to meet my readers there. “Maangchi, can I take a photo with you? I’m your reader!”
Yay! awesome! I was going to take a photo with Cheryl Tan who was one of the New York kimchi contest judges, but I missed her.

It was great and fun day, but I was really tired when I got home. After dinner, I fell asleep until 8:00 am today! : )

I met Akira Back executive chef at Yellowtail Restaurant & Bar at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and he gave me his book. He’s a very down-to-earth person! Once we started talking, he said, “hangukmalo haeyo?” “Let’s talk in Korean” Cool guy! : )

Jenny and me. Jenny is a culinary arts student and she also has a blog. She made rice cake soupwith my recipe and posted it on her blog.

Ravi Jolly, one of my long time readers. I actually met him last year at a festival in Brooklyn by chance which means I meet him often? : ) He loves healthy and delicious food. Ravi! I was delighted to meet you there!

James, Julie, and me! It was great meeting u guys! : )

aww! cute smile! Wonderful photo! don’t u think so?

My cute readers! : )

Lori and me

New York Times Diner’s Journal

At the Asian

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Feastival in Queens

Photo: Nick Fox
Nan Shian Dumpling House prepared their specialty at the Asian Feastival on Monday.

As with so much in life, you get what you pay for in food festivals. Or feastivals.

Want a free ride to Governors Island for your pick of cheap food from vendors at BklynYard’s Parked on Sunday? Wait an hour and a half for the ferry and who knows how long for the food. (Anyone? How was it?)

On the other hand, if you paid $50 in advance ($60 at the entrance) at theAsian Feastival in Flushing, Queens, on Monday afternoon, you had your pick of food from 20 of the borough’s restaurants, serving about a dozen cuisines.

Granted, that’s not a cheap lunch. But the price wasn’t unreasonable given the variety and quality of the food, and it also included panel discussions and demonstrations on Asian cooking as well as a tour of the neighborhood with the food writer Joe DiStefano.

Some of the borough’s traditional big draws weren’t there at the Sheraton LaGuardia East hotel, but Wendy Chan, the marketing consultant who organized it, said one of the goals was to “give a boost to up and coming and deserving restaurants in Queens.’’

So there was no Sripraphai, but Ploy Thai, (81-40 Broadway in Elmhurst, 718-205-2128) served a rarely seen snack called miang kam — pork, coconut, peanuts, ginger and lime wrapped in a betel leaf.

Payag, (51-34 Roosevlet Avenue in Woodside, 347-935-3192) is probably a bit too new for even some Filipinos to have heard about its “redefined Filipino cuisine,’’ but the crowd on Monday — about 600 people showed up, Ms. Chan said — seemed to love its humba tartlets with shredded pork; kinilaw canapes with a coconut ceviche of tuna on cucumber slices, and chunks of lechon — roast pig.

The only thing that passed for a line — a dozen people at most — was at the booth where the folks from Nan Shian Dumpling House (38-12 Prince Street in Flushing, 718-321-3838) assembled their specialty.

There were also numerous Chinese and Japanese desserts, tastings of Laotian beer, sake, wine, Golden Star tea and Bruce Cost’s ginger ale.

At the small Asian farmer’s market table you could try durian — yes, it tastes better than it smells — and at the Himalayan Yak stall, you could try yak dumplings. Who knew there was a yak farm in Vermont?

But as Ms. Chan said in explaining her hopes that the festival would draw more people to Queens to try the different cuisines, “It’s hard to know what’s what if you don’t have a guide.”


Asian Feastival continues to strive at promoting the diverse foods and cuisines from Asia through experience and education. Currently, plans are under way for a more involved campaign and events in 2012.

Our decision is to focus our efforts on producing something that presents greatest value, meaning and impact, collaborating with strategic partners.

If you're interested in sharing your ideas, please contact us.

Please stay tuned, and deeply appreciate your continued interest and support of Asian Feastival.