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A Flushing Feast Part 2

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Lisa Antinore Oct 5, 1998 06:30 PM

Belgium’s pomme frites wrapped in newspaper- fashioned cones . Mexico City’s
lime-bathed, chili-swathed, stuck-on-a-stick roasted corn on the cob. Italy’s steaming,
salted chestnuts served in little paper parcels. Thailand’s sugar-dipped,
pepper-sprinkled tart mango wedges. Paris’ chocolate-filled crepes. Bombay’s spicy,
deep-fried samosas. Israel’s grilled kebabs. Malaysia’s mammoth prawn satays. New
York City’s hot dogs and pretzels. Street-treats capture the soul of a city and the
delicacies sold on the sidewalks of the world are relished by rich and poor alike. The little
carts that dot the side streets of downtown Flushing offer an array of sumptuous treasures
that, from a culinary standpoint, are the city’s greatest allure.

When it comes to locating your favorite street vendor in downtown Flushing the ancient
“change is the only constant” insight becomes rapidly apparent. There are about four
carts that make the downtown rounds and three of them are a bit nomadic. Locating these
particular three carts-- fresh soy milk, Shanghai noodles, and crescent dumplings-- isn’t
always an easy endeavor. When you do, load up on the four-for-a-dollar pot stickers,
dollar portions of thick, doughy Shanghai noodles sauteed with pork and vegetables, or
sweetened soy milk. You never know where the vendors will be next time.

One thing that is always certain however, is that as long as it’s not tremendously hot or
hailing, a certain stainless-steel fry-cart will be stationed on Fortieth Road between Main
Street and College Point Blvd. next to the small municipal L.I.R.R. parking lot. This cart
contains the definitive street food of Flushing. The lovely Chinese woman who fries the
dumplings, spring rolls, and scallion pancakes reminds me of an Asian Meryl Streep. She
is absolutely adorable and makes the most succulent dumplings in Flushing. Stand in line
with regulars from the neighborhood and snack-seeking students on break from the
Taiwanese Academy across the street. Crescent-shaped pork and chive filled pot-stickers
are brown and crispy and extra-yummicious with a squirt of hot sauce. Spring rolls are
crisp and filled with an assortment of tender julienne vegetables. The piece de resistance,
however, are the chubby little Shanghai pork buns-- browned on the bottom, stuffed with
juicy steamed pork and onion and showered with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a
handful of scallions. Shangri-La. These would be part of my “three-things-only” desert
island deal.

Up Fortieth Road a couple of hundred feet to your left, built into the side of Chao Zhou
(40-52 Main Street/718-353-7683) restaurant is a dumpling kiosk that had formerly been
a cart as well. The same dumplings are sold here and are quite good, however not as
fresh or lovingly prepared as those from the aforementioned dumpling cart. The main
reason being that the kiosk has an abundance of space and can make dumplings faster
than they sell. As a result there is sometimes a glut that lays out for awhile. Fresh is
better with dumplings. This, however, is the place for hot and sour soup. At a mere two
dollars a quart it is the perfect snack to bring home on a cool autumn day. This is not the
corn-starchy, gelatinous, flavorless mess (low-tide at Rockaway Beach) to which so many
of us have become accustomed. It is, instead, the perfect balance of sourness and spice
and the hot pepper portion lingers in your mouth long after the last drop has been sipped.
Absolutely loaded with black mushrooms and generous slabs of bean curd, it is a most
satisfying treat. Also worth trying here are large, bready scallion pancakes that are rich
with flavor and sticky white rice buns into which dried pork and vegetables have been
stuffed. Everything is between fifty cents and a dollar.

Turn left at the end of Fortieth Road onto Main Street and walk down a quarter of a block
until you are in front of MayFlower Bakery (40-46 Main Street/718-359-6655--just to
the left of Kentucky Fried Chicken). I am almost always the only non-Asian customer so
you know it has to be authentic. Baked goods are sublime here-- roast pork buns at a
mere sixty cents are crammed with hoisin-sauce accented onion and pork pieces, fresh
from the oven coconut buns have a sweet, crumbly exterior and a warm, creamy,
coconutty center, sponge cake is light and airy and goes well with one of the sweet
tapioca pearl and coconut milk libations from the refrigerator case. Another soothing
potable is the iced “milk-tea,” just that-- sweetened tea with milk and sugar that has been
chilled. A nice change from all the frappucinos and coolattas that are ubiquitous these
days. But that’s just the beginning. Venture to the back of the bakery and peer into the
steam trays that flank the left wall. Three dollars and seventy five cents gets you a
heaping helping of any three selections accompanied by a big mound of white rice and a
soup du jour (caveat emptor: the soups, often seaweed based, are an acquired taste. I
usually pass or put it on top of a pay phone for a homeless person). Choose from the
twelve or more daily selections-- sauteed cauliflower in a light garlic broth (my fave),
stir-fried greens, eggplant slices in a sweet sauce, little pieces of golden chicken on the
bone with peppers, thin bean curd skin stuffed with a melange of either vegetables or
pork in a rich brown sauce (absolutely delicious, an Asian stuffed-cabbage of sorts...)and
a multitude of others. Everything is extremely fresh and the turn is quick so nothing lays
for more than a few minutes. This is my regular take-out place and because of many of
the clientele’s penchant for smoking I don’t recommend dining-in.

Steam-tables are very popular with both the Chinese and Taiwanese and it is not
uncommon to see long lines of suit-clad business people loading up on steam table
offerings at day’s end. The freshness and variety simply can’t be beat. In addition to
MayFlower, Kam Sam Food Products (41-79 Main Street/718-939-2560) boasts a
diverse assortment of specialties-- about twenty-five ever-changing delectables each day.
Super delicious bean-curd cutlets with shiny black mushrooms atop in a rich brown gravy
quell even Porterhouse cravings, and beef pinwheels in a black pepper marinade are haute
Chinese cuisine with a French-twist. Noodle dishes are stellar and chilled fava beans in
their shells doused with a sweet sesame oil marinade make for an interesting side dish.
Everything is for take-out and best part is you can do your Asian grocery shopping here as
well.

The office of my internist, a native of Taiwan, is located among these restaurants and
shops of downtown Flushing. She, too, is a great lover of food and we constantly trade
restaurant picks. “People who love to eat, love to live,” she is fond of saying. I couldn’t
agree with her more.

There’s a whole lot of life to be loved in downtown Flushing, so get started soon!

Happy Eating!

Lisa Antinore

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  1. j
    Jessica RE: Lisa Antinore Oct 7, 1998 01:43 PM

    Ooh boy. Reading your posting about Flushing made me
    so hungry, and here I am at work with my boring yogurt.
    I am determined to go eat a street food lunch in
    Flushing soon, but i want to know how to get to the
    main drag/area of downtown, by subway. I guess I can
    take the 7, or maybe the N/R or the G - but what's the
    best stop? Thanks...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jessica
      j
      Jeremy Osner RE: Jessica Oct 8, 1998 09:55 AM

      No, not the N, not the R, not the G, only the 7 goes to
      Flushing. Take it to the end of the line (Main Street),
      and when you get out of the station you'll be right in
      the thick of it.

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