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Northern Chinese breakfast, really.

h
HLing Nov 17, 2005 10:51 AM

It used to be that I only know the Taiwanese Shaobing Youtiao and soymilk as Chinese breakfast, but after going to China twice in the last year, I've come to crave more variety of Chinese breakfast.

I was in Flushing last weekend. When I walked into this little strip of Chinese eats I thought I was back in China again. Narrow, crowded spaces, cheap tables and chairs, the muted colored suites that medium to tallish Chinese men wear, the old hair styles, the northern accent and tones. The mall has food from more than one region, but the hopping place is in the back where the Qing Zhen (Muslim) place is serving up breakfast.

I sat down and one man in a group of 4 readily asked if I'm "also from Tian Jin". That's one clue of the customers there I guess. Then I see people eating this thick soup with muted green/yellow ribbon-like noodles and dark,goopy, hot and sour-looking soup and a swirl of dijon mustard-colored sauce (their peanut sauce)plus a smaller swirl of mute pink sauce. "I want that!What's that?!" I asked one of the guys bring stuff out of the kitchen. "Guobian..." Guobian something or rather. Guo1 means Pot, Bian1 means side. Good stuff.

Then I saw someone eating the soft soybean curd in a similar type of broth. They call it Dofu Nao ("Tofu brain") as opposed to the Taiwanese's "Dofu Hua" ("Tofu flower"). Of course I gotta have that. It really hit the spot. I knew there was a reason why just a week before this I suddenly had a craving for the "HuLa Tang" (translated to be goopy and spicy soup)that I had for breakfast in Zheng Zhou. It was a premonition of what I would find in Flushing.

The group of four was enjoying their breakfast. One was talking about how the soup in the Guobian isn't quite right, yet, but I couldn't understand his speech enough to get the whole meaning. Two of them were breaking off pieces of the steamed Chinese roll (like the steamed buns but twirled and braided) into the soup(dunking) and then eating the soup with chopsticks.

The other two each had half of the Da Bing (closest to the big sesame pancake without the sesame)in their hands and a huge, paper thin, dark brown and blistered sheet of deep fried wheat dough (think they called it Shao Mai) that they insert into the many folds of the Da Bing. I have to explain that this Da Bing (which I had purchased and tried the night before) is one of the two versions. The "Shou" Da Bing is the one they're having. It's not as wide, but thicker with several spiced layers inside. It was explained to me that you could eat it as is. (Where as the "shen" Da Bing is not flavored and is used to shred into soups like noodles).

I don't want to give false impressions when I said it's not as wide. The Shou Da Bing is about 10 inchs in diameter. It's pretty darn big. It is perfectly constructed for a Chinese Muffaletta sandwich should one decide to make one, because when cut open there are so many layers partitioned and ready. Also, it tastes better than any of the best sesame pancake to me.

I don't want to leave out the red bean filled golden fried glutinous rice pastry. I don't like most glutinous rice things because they are too thick. This one was thin and again blistery on the outside. You barely notice that it's glutinous rice flour. The red bean filling was plentiful, scented with guihua maybe(?) and not too sweet. I had again done the stop-the-moving-tray point-and-ask routine, and so had one fresh out of the fryer. New crave item.

Oh, did I mention the steamed lamb buns? 3 for a dollar. So lamby and juicy that I can only eat at the most 2 in one setting. But it's good.

Other stuff I hadn't tried is the triangular steamed hamantache (sp?)shaped buns filled with yellow sugar. I hear it's really good, but I'm saving it for next time.

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  1. j
    jen kalb Nov 17, 2005 05:11 PM

    sounds terrific! - where is this place in flushing?

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb
      s
      squid-kun Nov 18, 2005 02:52 PM

      Shot in the dark: It sounds like a place I stumbled into a few weeks ago, west side of Main, somewhere between the LIRR tracks and Sanford (I think). Bare-bones stalls, some with a few chairs, line a narrow space that winds back some distance from the street. More than one vendor sold snackish-looking things that could be the triangular steamed buns described above. I'd just eaten so I didn't try anything. I've been meaning to return.

    2. j
      J-dawgz Nov 18, 2005 07:25 AM

      How do you get there by train?

      1. s
        Spoony Bard Nov 18, 2005 01:21 PM

        Whoa! Did you just discover what I think you just discovered? Though I'm a newcomer, this is the first Islamic Chinese place in NYC that I've heard of. Hooray!

        Am I right? And do they have the sesame bread with leeks (sze ma da bing, I believe)? I know you mentioned a flavored and an unflavored da bing, but what about the sesame-and-leek one? Based on China Islamic and Tung Lai Shun in the San Gabriel Valley, these are some of the heartiest, most substantial and delicious breads anywhere.

        Thanks, HLing!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Spoony Bard
          e
          EJC Nov 18, 2005 01:25 PM

          You're forgetting the Halal Chinese takeout place on 4th Ave around Dean/Pacific. :)

          1. re: EJC
            s
            Spoony Bard Nov 18, 2005 04:59 PM

            Not forgetting- never knew about! So thanks. This is Brooklyn, of course; I'm surprised- thought I'd have to go to Queens.

            Anywhere else in the 5 Buroughs?

            1. re: Spoony Bard
              b
              bobjbkln Nov 18, 2005 07:15 PM

              The Dean/Pacific place (I also think that there may be others) are Halal, but they serve very ordinary Chinese take-out, just with no pork and halal produced meats. It has no real relation to the place described in Flushing which I assume serves food from the Muslim provinces of China..

        2. h
          HLing Nov 18, 2005 03:18 PM

          The simple question first: J-Dawgz, you can get there by taking the 7 train all the way to the last stop: Main Street. Or the LIRR Port Washington line to Flushing, Main street.($3 city tickets on weekends, 17 minutes from Penn)

          As to exactly where and which: I have to get the street names to be sure. For now I can only say that there are two Qing Zhen places with the same name of "Shen Jin", one in each strip mall. One of them serves very tender lamb hearts and kidneys. The other does more of the various bings (of which I forgot to mention "Shaobing Guozi", another item I've read about but have yet to try). It was the one who served lamb hearts who told me to get the Da Bings from the other "Shen Jin" further along Main street toward the Botanical Garden.

          Those of you who speak Chinese will have better luck at at least communicating what you want to them. The menus are not in English.

          I will be back with street names.

          1. l
            lwong Nov 20, 2005 12:31 AM

            From the description of the red bean pastry, we think the food stalls that Hling is discussing is on the west side of Main St. between Sanford and Maple, across the street from the Chinese Supermarket Kam Sen. It is roughly in the middle of the block. The vendor who sells the fried red bean pastry and the lamb buns is roughly in the middle of the mini-mall on the left side. There will be a small table in front of their stall with breads and other foodstuffs on display. The fried red bean pastry is indeed very good, which has a very crispy and crunchy outer layer and a good amount of red bean filling inside. We can vouch for not eating the unflavored large pancake “Shen Da Bing” bread by itself. We had bought the “Shen Da Bing” pancake and made the mistake of trying to eat it by itself, but it was quite dry and lacked a chewy texture. :Later, however, we cut it into long thin strips and stir-fried the Bing bread with meat and vegetables, which was much more satisfactory. Thus far, we have not tried the other vendors, but have only bought the various buns and breads at the fried red bean vendor.

            But the environment is definitely a Chinese experience (we doubt if any of the vendors speaks English). As described by Hling, it is exactly like being in a back alleyway with everything out in the open. You are literally in their kitchen watching them make and cook the food. Sometimes trays with piping hot food are laid out to cool almost in the aisle. Food aromas and oil smells are everywhere. Seating arrangements are almost an afterthought with seating primarily at the back of the store. But we would guess that prices at most of the stalls are commensurate with the surroundings (quite low). For adventurous non-Asians planning a foray into Flushing Chinatown, this food mini-mall might be an interesting brief stop-off to sample a very Chinese experience, but you might have to blank out the surroundings and concentrate only on the food. In the 5-10 times that we have been there, we do not remember seeing a non-Asian there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: lwong
              b
              Brian S Nov 21, 2005 07:46 PM

              I just got back from Flushing, where I had a lovely meal at Spicy & Tasty. But before I went, I sought out the mall. It is at 41-82 Main Street. It is exactly as you describe. It would have been worth the trip to Flushing just to stroll around it. It reminded me of the food malls on Nathan Rd in Kowloon (the ones that inspired the film Chungking Express) But this one seemed more Chinese, less Western. Thank you.

              "You wrote: But the environment is definitely a Chinese experience (we doubt if any of the vendors speaks English). As described by Hling, it is exactly like being in a back alleyway with everything out in the open. You are literally in their kitchen watching them make and cook the food. Sometimes trays with piping hot food are laid out to cool almost in the aisle. Food aromas and oil smells are everywhere. Seating arrangements are almost an afterthought with seating primarily at the back of the store. But we would guess that prices at most of the stalls are commensurate with the surroundings (quite low). For adventurous non-Asians planning a foray into Flushing Chinatown, this food mini-mall might be an interesting brief stop-off to sample a very Chinese experience, but you might have to blank out the surroundings and concentrate only on the food. In the 5-10 times that we have been there, we do not remember seeing a non-Asian there."

              1. re: Brian S
                Polecat Jan 6, 2007 09:00 PM

                Brian, I am reviving this thread to ask:
                When you refer to the mall as reminding you of "Kowloon", do you mean the now-extinct Kowloon City?
                P.

                1. re: Polecat
                  Brian S Jan 6, 2007 09:21 PM

                  I just meant some of the malls along Nathan Road. I never went to the Walled City. Don't tell anyone, but I was a little scared of it.
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowloon_...

            2. Polecat Jan 8, 2007 07:41 AM

              HLing,
              I just had two mini-versions, I think, of what you call Shao Da Bing, at this stall this past weekend. They give you two for a dollar. It appeared, at first, like a pumped up, thicker version, a regular bing but stacked higher. Inside were layers of thin dough, like papers in an old book stacked on top of one another. To the touch, greasy - to the taste, somewhat like butter. I found them to be better, slightly less greasy the next day. To clarify, though, I am assuming that the Shao Da Bing you describe is like something of a wide bubbly Chinese pizza - or, as another poster noted, muffaletta - of sorts in appearance, being cooked with water in a perfectly circular jet-black device, the kind i've seen in countless visits to Dumpling House on Eldridge Street. I've just gotten used to calling them scallion pancakes, which can then take a meat filling or not.

              So, GuoBian is the name of the hot and sour soup that you had? You wouldn't happen to remember which number item it was by any chance?
              P.

              20 Replies
              1. re: Polecat
                h
                HLing Jan 26, 2007 11:39 PM

                Sorry, just seeing your post today. I've been chowhound board hopping recently (Atlanta, now LA) and didn't always have access to a computer...

                I'd like to make sure of the name: "Da Bing" is the general "Big Bread" that the northerns make. "Shou" (please note the spelling) means cooked. At the Chinese Muslim place they just call the thicker one "Shou" Da Bing, and the other flater one "Shen" Da Bing.

                Last time I checked they sold these bread for 1 or 1.25 a piece...a whole big round disc that when busy they'd say, "come in and cut it yourself..." and I'd cross that time beyond the cash register and cut the just cooked, piping hot bread into 6 pieces with the cleaver on the big, round, wooden cutting board, slide them into the paper bag and say good bye, in a big hurry to take a couple of bites of the freshly made bread, with layers of cinnamon-y spices. These are not greasy at all. Nor are they two for a dollar (g), so, I'm not sure which you had.

                Sorry to be a sticker about the spelling, but it gets confusing if let say you try to relay this term to a Chinese speaking person, and he or she would just be wondering what you're saying...and the confusion roll like a snow ball ...and pretty soon nobody knows what the orginal name was or what you're really referring to.

                As for GuoBian, I don't remember where it was on the menu. If you want to order it, say the two syllables in the same pitch, sort of in the fashion of the opening of the song, "Michelle, Ma Belle...." on the words "Michelle".

                Or if you have a picture of the menu taken I can translate it for you.

                I have yet to try getting the fried wheat sheet to put inside the bread. It's this dark, blisstard thin sheet of deep fried cracker that I've seen people put into the big bread along with other stuff to make a sandwich...but i do miss the other deep fried sticky rice bars filled with red bean paste. If you ever see them coming out, freshly fried, get one!

                1. re: HLing
                  Polecat Jan 27, 2007 05:42 AM

                  Thanks for the clarification and spelling. What is the Chinese name and pronunciation of the pancake where they put the egg in the middle?
                  P.

                  1. re: Polecat
                    Polecat Jan 27, 2007 05:49 AM

                    Okay, check that. Erase it. I just re-read your original post. P.

                  2. re: HLing
                    squid kun Jan 27, 2007 08:19 AM

                    Is this the place? (Sorry about the crop; happened in upload.)

                     
                    1. re: squid kun
                      squid kun Jan 27, 2007 03:49 PM

                      http://i127.photobucket.com/albums/p1...

                      OK, this does seem to be the place HLing discovered more than a year ago. It has several things mentioned in the original post, including lamb buns, dofu "brain" and the shao mai that you eat with da bing. The lamb buns were 40 cents when I was there, up from three for a buck in '05. These guys must think we're made of money!

                      Here's a rough translation of the menu, based mostly on help from my visiting Chinese in-laws (who were amazed to find a place like J&L Mall here in the States). Corrections and additions are appreciated.

                      COLUMN 1 (breakfast): Soy milk (50 cents). Bean curd "brain" ($1.50). Lamb organ soup ($3). Jian bing guo zi (griddled pancake filled with egg and fried dough) ($2.50). Guo ba (crisp rice crust) ($2.50). Lamb or mutton chop clay pot ($5). Winter melon-dry shrimp clay pot ($3).

                      COLUMN 2 (clay pots): Bean curd clay pot ($3). Fish clay pot ($4). (Meat?) ball clay pot ($4). Beef clay pot ($4.50). Young chicken clay pot ($4.50). Sliced lamb clay pot ($5). Sour vegetable and fish head clay pot ($5). Seafood clay pot ($6).

                      COLUMN 3 (not sure; anyone?): Wo tou (steamed corn bread) (50 cents). Man tou (steamed bun) of some kind ("rain" "knead" "dough" or something) (50 cents). Shao bing (sesame wheat cake) (50 cents). Soy sauce beef ($4). Shao mai (three for $1). Soy sauce tripe ($3.50).

                      Can't make out all the handwritten stuff below the main menu (some of it appears to repeat items from above), but here are a few:

                      WHITE SHEET (right): Da bing ($1.25 apiece, 75 cents for a half, 50 cents for a quarter). ??? vegetable bun (75 cents). Cabbage bun (75 cents). Red bean bun (75 cents). Shao bing (50 cents). Lamb bun (40 cents).

                      PINK SHEET (right): Mung bean or red bean congee (50 cents).

                      YELLOW SHEET (second from right): Chive ??? boiled dumplings (four for $1).

                      YELLOW SHEET (far right): Lamb boiled dumplings (four for $1).

                      1. re: squid kun
                        h
                        HLing Jan 27, 2007 07:23 PM

                        Nice of you to write out all this. I have to say, either I have a bad memory, or they added the 2nd column because I don't recall those items.

                        In Column one: "...COLUMN 1 (breakfast): Soy milk (50 cents). Bean curd "brain" ($1.50). Lamb organ soup ($3). Jian bing guo zi (griddled pancake filled with egg and fried dough) ($2.50). Guo ba (crisp rice crust) ($2.50). Lamb or mutton chop clay pot ($5). Winter melon-dry shrimp clay pot ($3)...."
                        The fifth item, is Guo1 Ba1 Cai4 (note you forgot about the Cai character)and isn't what we know as the crispy rice crust, but is that thing I wrote about in my original post, where it's hot and sour type of soup with strips of the hardened Shen Da Bing as noodles. I don't know why they call it Guo ba instead of Guo Bian. Maybe I heard wrong the first time.

                        As for "COLUMN 3 (not sure; anyone?): Wo tou (steamed corn bread) (50 cents). Man tou (steamed bun) of some kind ("rain" "knead" "dough" or something) (50 cents). Shao bing (sesame wheat cake) (50 cents). Soy sauce beef ($4). Shao mai (three for $1). Soy sauce tripe ($3.50...."

                        The 2nd item is a mistery but it says Liang3 (two, not "rain" as you had thought) He2 or Huo4 (combined) Mian4 ("face", but probably meaning "noodle", or flour product) Mantou. The next item says Shao Bing, but it's not the kind of sesame wheat cake as in the usual breakfast wheat cake w/cruellers. At least, when I was there, their version was various round baked wheat cake. I think if your post earlier you were describing one of them:

                        "...HLing,
                        I just had two mini-versions, I think, of what you call Shao Da Bing, at this stall this past weekend. They give you two for a dollar. It appeared, at first, like a pumped up, thicker version, a regular bing but stacked higher. Inside were layers of thin dough, like papers in an old book stacked on top of one another. To the touch, greasy - to the taste, somewhat like butter. I found them to be better, slightly less greasy the next day....,

                        About the "Shao Mai" - here it's the deep fried sheet that adds a crunch to your sandwich, and NOT what we think of when we hear Shao Mai, which in Cantonese food is one of the steamed dim sum item.
                        Next items, what you called "Soy sauce beef" and "Soy Sauce Tripe" are not really "soy sauce" per se, but it means Sauce. "Jian4". I think it's a bit more complex than just soy sauce.

                        On to the

                        "...WHITE SHEET (right): Da bing ($1.25 apiece, 75 cents for a half, 50 cents for a quarter). ??? vegetable bun (75 cents). Cabbage bun (75 cents). Red bean bun (75 cents). Shao bing (50 cents). Lamb bun (40 cents)..."

                        The question marks are Jiu3 vegetable bun, or Chive & meat bun. What you have as "Cabbage bun" is napa valley cabbage with meat. And again, the Shao Bing here is the same as I had explained earlier.

                        The two interesting looking thing are the yellow sheets on the LEFT side (you have already translated the yellow ones on the RIGHT):

                        Leftmost, Hui4 Bing3 - I'm wondering if this is what I saw the Tian Jin people eating, the Muffaletto looking thing with the shao mai (fried wheat sheet) and other things as filling.

                        2nd left, "Bing3 Si1", a dollar a bag. I think it's the dried cut up Shen Da Bing (the flatter and wider bread) that you can put in your hot and sour soup.

                        I think someone should be brave and order the Hui4 Bing3, or just point to the $4 item on the yellow sheet of paper to the left and see what happens :)

                        They left out the deep fried red bean sticky rice thing on the menu. I hope they still make them.

                        1. re: HLing
                          squid kun Jan 27, 2007 11:57 PM

                          Thank you thank you!

                          I kinda thought the guo ba (and also cai - d'oh!) might be the dish you mentioned, but I wasn't sure. This stuff seems to be big in Tianjin. I speculated that people might order it alongside one of the soupish dishes for dunking. Do you suppose those casseroles (column 2 and the bottom of column 1) are meant to be eaten with the various breadish things?

                          Appreciate the clarification on the "shao bing." (I took a guess that they were sesame cakes, neglecting to notice that Polecat had actually checked them out and posted on them.)

                          I saw some outside references that said those "cabbage" buns were actually pork-and-cabbage buns, but they weren't so clear. Thanks for that correction too, and for shedding light on all the other items. The code is just about cracked, it seems, and I look forward to going back to this stall.

                          Couple other tantalizing mysteries: Are wo tou those big yellow conical things? And about those bean congees ... would you guess they're savory or sweet?

                          1. re: squid kun
                            h
                            HLing Jan 28, 2007 12:52 AM

                            Don't mention it.

                            I think the Guo Ba Cai is still not too clear in your mind, though. In different regions the terms have different meanings. Even though "Guo Ba" generally gets associated with the deep fried burned rice cake that sizzles when you pour hot gravey over, Guo1 just means Pot, or Wok. Ba1 means scab, Cai4 means vegetable, or just a general term for a dish. Yet, at this Northeaster breakfast place, GuoBaCai (still think it's GuoBianCai) IS that whole bowl of hot and sour soup. Order it and let's find out.

                            Wo Tou is make of corn. It's supposedly very coarse peasant food and has no taste of its own that's easily acceptable if you're not prepared. The Empress Ci Xi had eaten it out of extreme hunger while in exile. When you're starved, anything taste good. After her safe return to the Palace, she craved this "wonderful" food she had. The Chef wasn't going to make her eat peasant food, and so modified the recipe to include something like chestnuts and stuff. I think here at the Mall it's not the fancy brand.

                            Breakfast congees are usually neither savory nor sweet. It's to be plain to help the other stuff go down easier. By the way, they often don't have the two congee. I tried to order it once or twice, but they never have it.

                            I hope you have fun with this mall. If anything taste good to you, go for it. The good thing don't always last. Also, it's fun to eat street food as long as you are mentally prepared to be underwhelmed...I mean it IS cheap!

                          2. re: HLing
                            s
                            surly Feb 16, 2007 03:14 AM

                            hling, just wanted to respond to your post from jan. 27th above where you said the following:

                            *******
                            "The two interesting looking thing are the yellow sheets on the LEFT side (you have already translated the yellow ones on the RIGHT):

                            Leftmost, Hui4 Bing3 - I'm wondering if this is what I saw the Tian Jin people eating, the Muffaletto looking thing with the shao mai (fried wheat sheet) and other things as filling.

                            I think someone should be brave and order the Hui4 Bing3, or just point to the $4 item on the yellow sheet of paper to the left and see what happens :)"
                            *******

                            so i went back to the j & l mall a couple of weeks ago and decided to try the hui bing at the qing zhen islamic stand; as you'd indicated this dish was listed on the yellow sheet on the far left. i was feeling adventurous and wanted to try something new for once. of course i came with a mandarin-speaking friend, who placed the order (along with some of the buns and bings we normally get here). my friend wasn't able to read the chinese characters on the yellow strip, so he just pointed to it when placing the order.

                            what came out, though, was totally different from what we'd expected. we thought we were going to get some sort of bing or "muffaletto" as you'd surmised, but instead we ended up with a bowl of generic pan-fried noodles. to be more specific, the noodles were thin but flat, and there were slices of cabbage and pieces of scrambled egg. there was also a distinct soy sauce taste to the dish, but no broth; this was strictly a noodle dish, not a noodle soup. like i said, totally unexpected, and more generic than i would've thought for the j & l mall.

                            what's funny is that when the dish came out, my friend and i were kind of stupefied, as we'd expected something else. we actually didn't touch the dish at first, thinking that we'd been given the wrong order. and several people actually stopped by and flat-out stared at our dish, murmuring to each other as if they'd never seen this before, or at least were shocked to see this. one elderly lady was staring for quite a while and kind of smiling, so my friend decided to ask her what we'd ordered. she called it mun bing (her pronunciation was hard to decipher - she may have said "man bing" or "min bing", actually) and identified it as a tianjin dish. she also mentioned that she's originally from tianjin and that this was typical food of the region.

                            still not convinced, my friend went back up to the counter to ask the proprietor what we'd ordered. my friend told him that he'd wanted the hui bing, but wasn't sure if this was it. in response, the proprietor seemed to have said that he doesn't serve the hui bing anymore, although my friend wasn't sure if he understood him correctly. he also suggested that hui bing is the soup-based version of mun (man/min?) bing - in other words, it has a broth, which our dish did not. but again, my friend may not have understood him correctly, so we're not 100% sure.

                            here's a picture of the dish - maybe you can identify what it is?
                            http://farm1.static.flickr.com/160/388973054_d2c253c59b_b.jpg

                            and here's the yellow strip (the $4.00 one on the left) that my friend pointed to when placing this order:
                            http://farm1.static.flickr.com/152/38...

                            thanks again for any help and clarifications you can provide. as always, much appreciated.

                            1. re: HLing
                              s
                              surly Feb 16, 2007 03:25 AM

                              "They left out the deep fried red bean sticky rice thing on the menu. I hope they still make them."

                              oh btw, just wanted to mention that we got the deep fried red bean pastry during our most recent visit to the qing zhen stall. it doesn't appear to be on the menu, and it's not always available, but on this particular occasion it was. it was still pretty good even though i think it had been lying in the case for a while.

                              on the same visit, we also went to the sichuan chengdu xiao chi stand. we ordered the chengdu liang mien (#3 in the second column of the menu, i.e. "Noodles and Dumplings") and received a dish that pretty much came out as we expected, except that there weren't any whole peanuts on top - only crushed bits. we were a little confused by this, since on our previous visit to the j & l mall we'd seen someone get a cold noodle dish from this stand topped with whole and crushed peanuts, among other things. when we'd asked the proprietor what that dish was, she'd said "#3 above", pointing to the chengdu liang mien. we vowed to get that dish on our next visit.

                              so on this most recent trip to the stall, we feared that we'd ordered the wrong thing; we specifically wanted the noodle dish topped with whole peanuts that we'd seen on the previous visit. when my friend mentioned this to the lady behind the counter, she said "ok" and a few minutes later brought out the dish we were looking for. i have no idea if she made a completely new dish for us or simply tossed some whole peanuts on top. is there a difference? are whole peanuts an optional topping for the chengdu liang mien, or were these two completely different dishes? we never were able to find out conclusively.

                              anyhow, here's a picture of the dish we eventually received:
                              http://farm1.static.flickr.com/169/388973058_fae453d4a5_b.jpg

                              the dish consisted of thin white noodles topped with whole and crushed peanuts, crushed sichuan peppercorns, bean sprouts, and scallions. all of this sat on top of a healthy dose of sichuan chile oil.

                              here's a picture of the same dish after it was mixed up:
                              http://farm1.static.flickr.com/98/388973060_ed034fe5cf_b.jpg

                              and here's a shot of the bowl after i finished it:
                              http://farm1.static.flickr.com/165/38...

                              obviously, this was a very, very spicy dish, as you can see by the red pool of sichuan chile oil that was left behind. it was so hot that i had to get some bread from the qing zhen stall to offset its tongue-numbing effects. absolutely delicious, though.

                              1. re: surly
                                Polecat Feb 16, 2007 04:46 AM

                                Surly,
                                "Tongue-numbing effects" is a good way of describing the heat given off by the Hot and Sour soup as well, which is #14 on the middle menu at Chengdu. My tongue and lips were actually vibrating, buzzing almost. The second time I had it, the heat pretty much overwhelmed the flavor.

                                I had also forgotten to mention that, as per HLing's highly informative posts above, I finally got around to trying a Da Bing at the stall you mentioned. Absolutely delicious, especially if you get it hot off the circular heating device (which isn't too hard, seeing as how they seem to be making them pretty much all the time). Recommended to one and all. I just wish there was a stand in this mall that served up a hot, strong cup of coffee.
                                P.

                                1. re: Polecat
                                  s
                                  surly Feb 16, 2007 10:37 PM

                                  it's amazing - generally i can handle spicy foods just fine, being that i've eaten korean food my entire life and usually ask for it to be prepared as spicy as possible. never had a problem with indian, thai, or other spicy foods as far as my tongue getting numbed-over. but something about sichuan peppercorns, esp. in combination with that sichuan chile oil, really does me in. don't get me wrong, i love sichuan food and welcome the spiciness, but i've come to realize that in order to enjoy the really fiery dishes, you have to balance it out with some more mellow ones. you simply can't order a table full of super-spicy dishes like the ones you and i ordered at sichuan chengdu. plenty of dishes aren't that spicy in sichuan cuisine anyways, so i definitely think it works out best to mix and match.

                                  or in the case of j & l mall, mix and match from other stands, which in my case meant getting bread from the qing zhen stand. i always tell korean food novices who are getting whacked by the spiciness to eat some white rice rather than down a pitcher of water to calm their tongues. in the same vein, the bread at the islamic stall did the job nicely for me.

                                  when i went to xiao la jiao recently with some other chowhounders (prunefeet, driggs, steve r.) we had a nice balance of spicy and mild. made for a great meal with plenty of different flavors and contrasts.

                                  1. re: surly
                                    Polecat Feb 17, 2007 07:23 AM

                                    Let me know if you get up a group again - I would definitely like to be in on that action.
                                    P.

                                    1. re: Polecat
                                      s
                                      surly Feb 18, 2007 07:31 AM

                                      polecat, check out prunefeet's profile. email her at the address listed there to get contacted w/more info. about dinner at florence's on friday and any future chow get-togethers.

                                      1. re: surly
                                        Polecat Feb 18, 2007 08:10 AM

                                        Thanks. P.

                                    2. re: surly
                                      h
                                      HLing Feb 17, 2007 11:19 AM

                                      Those Liang2 Mian4 looked really good with the peanut ground and all! Next time if you want to get peanuts just as for Hua1 Sheng1 花生. If you say Jia1 Hua1 Sheng1 加花生 it means to ADD peanuts.

                                      This reminds me of those $2.50 cartons of Ma La peanuts i used to get from Mayflower plaza.....pan fried peanuts with numbing pepper and salt.

                                      Speaking of the numbing peppers.. most of us think Sichuan pepper. In Zhengzhou city of Henan the hot paste most missed by the Henanese in the States is one that's made with fried chili pepper + the numbing peppers and ground up into dark powdery paste. The numbing pepper is a needed ingredient to prevent the chili pepper from hurting your stomach. That's the wisdom of the culture, I guess. In fact, i think in too many Sichuan places the numbing pepper is over used, kind of takes over instead of assist.
                                      It should be numbing the mouth, but rather the stomach.

                                      I agree with your strategy of ordering spicy food. If I go to Spicy and Tasty, it would be one really spicy dish, then maybe the tea smoked duck, and the loofah dish...and lots of rice.

                                      My foil for spicy food is Avocado Shake. Nice if you can find one...works wonders.

                                  2. re: surly
                                    l
                                    Lau Feb 17, 2007 10:09 AM

                                    looks amazing...making me hungry as hell, looks like i need to make a trip to flushing soon

                                    1. re: surly
                                      h
                                      HLing Feb 17, 2007 11:17 AM

                                      "...one elderly lady was staring for quite a while and kind of smiling, so my friend decided to ask her what we'd ordered. she called it mun bing (her pronunciation was hard to decipher - she may have said "man bing" or "min bing", actually) and identified it as a tianjin dish. she also mentioned that she's originally from tianjin and that this was typical food of the region...."

                                      You provided good clues to this mystery. Men1 Bing3 燜餅 is the soupless version of Hui4 Bing3燴餅. 燜 Men1, means to smother. The Bing3 here is the large bread, (the flatter one) cut up or shredded up and used as noodles, much like the Bai2 ji2 Mo2 from the Xi An place you've discovered. Now I don't know how delicious it was the plate you got, but according to a description online, it's made with a technique like Risotto and Paella where you keep adding a little bit of water/broth at a time to let it absorp as you cook it in a pan (I forget what the name is for a pasta dish cooked like this...anyone?)

                                      There was a Chinese chowhoundish writer who wrote about this dish 壇子肉燜餅 he ate in Zhengzhou, Henan where the broth used to make the Men1 Bing3 came from a fantastic pork stew, bits and pieces of which are topped on the dish. In the article he was saying how it's difficult to get the noodles just right. How was your dish? It looked pretty good. I thought at first it was the Shanghainese rice cake.

                                      Zhengzhou has the famous Hui4 Mian4 that's the Lamb noodle soup (with hand made noodles). I think then Hui4 Bing3 is as they told you, that same type of noodle soup, except the "noodles' here is the shredded strips of the large bread, and probably had been cooked much the same way (gradually adding water) to get a noodle consistency, instead of "soggy bread" consistency.

                                      1. re: HLing
                                        s
                                        surly Feb 17, 2007 06:15 PM

                                        wow, i would've never guessed that the "noodles" were actually cut-up pieces of bing. my friend and i were saying that every time we think we've got this stand figured out, it throws another curveball at us. really, we're learning on the fly every time we go there (with ample help from you, squid kun, eade, and others who have shared lots of helpful info in the past). thanks again.

                                        as for the men bing, well, i have to say i was disappointed upon seeing it, as it didn't look like anything special. but it ended up tasting a lot better than it looked. would i order it again? i'm not sure, because it didn't necessarily "wow" me. but then again, maybe it's deceptively simple. at the very least, i'm glad i got to try something new.

                                        do you by any chance know which chinese province the qing zhen muslim guys hail from? just curious if their food is typical of a specific region, or if it more accurately represents the typical qing zhen muslim way of eating/preparation.

                                        1. re: surly
                                          h
                                          HLing Feb 17, 2007 08:54 PM

                                          Well, judging from what i read, making Men Bing is a real art. It's hard to get it just right. If I'm ever in Zhengzhou again I'm going to that place the guy described!

                                          I was under the impression that they were from Tian Jin, 天津, I'm not sure though. I know at my first visit some of my neighbors were from Tian Jin..so maybe that's why I think the owners are from there, too.

                                          In Zhengzhou I've had Qing Zhen food from Chinese (Han people) Muslims but i've also had them from Muslims from XinJiang. They are well integrated into the culture.

                          3. m
                            Matt M. Jan 8, 2007 06:04 PM

                            If Chinese breakfast is what you crave, I highly recomment a place in norther NJ (I know, it's not the outer boroughs, but...) Pettie (sic) Soo Chow in Cliffside Park. I think the address is 67 Gorge Road.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Matt M.
                              Brian S Jan 8, 2007 07:24 PM

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/315124

                              1. re: Matt M.
                                s
                                surly Jan 8, 2007 08:03 PM

                                pettie soochow is on 607 gorge rd in cliffside park. went there recently with friends and enjoyed it very much. awesome xiaolongbao - we all thought pettie soochow's version was better than anything in the city - and very good northern chinese breakfast (shaobing, youtiao, and two types of soy milk), though not as good as at j & l mall or king 5 noodle on prince st.

                              2. BMartin Jan 26, 2007 02:13 AM

                                There used to be a Petite Soo Chow in Chatam Square in Manhattan--the very beginning of East Broadway. But it closed fifteen or twenty years ago. Are they the same? It was the only Soo Chow restaurant in Chinatown and had I particularly remember the soup crab dumplings and the "roast pork wuxi style," which was really just pork fat.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BMartin
                                  Brian S Jan 27, 2007 08:25 AM

                                  Yes they are apparently related. The Manhattan one was on Catherine Street. I used to love it.

                                2. e
                                  eade Feb 21, 2007 05:58 AM

                                  I am a bit confused here. . . this place is islamic / halal. Presumably the specialty is a western region, not northern.

                                  Although even this is open to question; the city is littered with places that claim to be some certain regional cuisine, but are run by people not from that region who do not really know how to make that region's food (e.g. sichuan).

                                  We are on an eternal search for authentic jian bing guo zi (and welcome any leads), but when we saw what it looked like at this place we did not order it.

                                  Just because they have some northern breakfast fare on the menu or there are patrons from the north (having to take what they can get with, alas, even in Flushing otherwise slim pickings from their own region) doesn't mean it qualifies as real deal northern breakfast.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: eade
                                    h
                                    HLing Mar 29, 2007 08:46 PM

                                    I didn't see your post until now...and this has been one of those days where everywhere I look i see the same type of assumption about the so-called "regional" food.

                                    It would be extremely limiting and misleading for example, to assume if the restaurant is Islamic, the people have to be from the western region in order for the food to be "authentic". People travel. People go to large cities for trade, for work. There are some cities in China that have been the capitol cities of many dynasties, for example, and those become the cosmopolitan places where all ethnic, all regional people mingle, and yet still keep their own faith and their own cuisine. Not only do they keep their own cuisine, they may even make things better to compete with other providers of that cuisine.

                                    Beijing, Tianjin, places in the north are places that have been the important cities for the later dynasties, (the older ones are over closer to the Henan province) depending on the Emporer at the time, the Tibetan Lamas at one time were a huge and important part of the culture. Beijing supposedly at one point had the best Islamic cuisine as far as their cooking of the lamb is concerned..that's the general consensus in the culture.

                                    Anyway, the reason that you won't like their Jian bing guo zi may be due more to the lack of the right equipment and ingredients than to where they are from. Some things just aren't duplicatable, and some people just aren't as much a stickler in wanting to fully recreate what they've had from home.

                                    1. re: HLing
                                      e
                                      eade Mar 30, 2007 11:51 AM

                                      Thanks, HLing.

                                      You're right, and after I posted that I realized that Tianjin has a sizeable Hui population. Or they could be from Tianjin of a minority group that does not have a sizeable population there, or they could be serving halal food for any other number of reasons. . .

                                      As for the jian bing guo zi, that sounds like the correct assessment.

                                      The search for the long lost jian bing guo zi continues.

                                  2. h
                                    HLing Oct 15, 2013 07:15 PM

                                    I can't believe it's so long ago that I first craved the Zhang Zhou city Hu2 La4 Soup 胡辣汤, and today , 8 years , a few food courts and restaurants later, I got to taste it.
                                    This is at the sister location of the Lamb Noodle Soup (in the Golden Mall) in the New World Mall across the street from Macy's. Today I got to taste the humble Hu la soup, with an order of 9 pieces of 水煎包 "lightly fried Chinese bun", perfectly crisped bun with a savory, dark sauced meat filling. It was the breakfast I had in Zheng Zhou city of Henan Province 郑州 河南, except that when there, the version i had was the poor man's version. My soup didn't have any of the bits and pieces of lamb, peanuts, mung bean thread.., but was only a hot, peppery glob of soup that warmed you from the bottom of your belly all the way up to your face. I didn't have room in my stomach for the lamb noodle soup, but it looked very good, even better than a few years ago.
                                    Having been out of the loop for so long, it was also strange to see Anthony Bourdain's video playing in the background. Food can really be the universal language, it seems.
                                    *tried to post a picture of the buns but no go.

                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: HLing
                                      l
                                      Lau Oct 15, 2013 07:46 PM

                                      Wow sounds wonderful and hopefully another gem in the New World Mall (i've been sort of disappointed with most of the offerings). Thanks for the report!

                                      1. re: Lau
                                        Brian S Oct 15, 2013 08:03 PM

                                        Zhengzhou is old old old. It was one of the biggest cities of Shang Dynasty China. When I first read this post I was wishing I could be in Hong Kong instead of NYC. Now I'd give almost anything to be back in Flushing.

                                        1. re: Brian S
                                          l
                                          Lau Oct 15, 2013 08:55 PM

                                          Brian S wow i haven't see u or HLing in ages!

                                        2. re: Lau
                                          h
                                          HLing Oct 15, 2013 09:39 PM

                                          Lau, I can only say that the Taiwanese place 小圆環's 肠旺 was pretty bad with the ubiquitous weirdly sweet tasting brown sauce that many places seem to use these days. It was made worse served in a styrofoam plate. Their stinky tofu had good texture, but seemed so squeaky clean that it's almost tasted bitter. Unfortunately, I only saw the Lamb Noodle place after I'd already eaten at the Taiwanese place, otherwise I would have followed my Hu La soup "breakfast" with the lamb noodle soup. That said, I have to say, my perspective (from not eating out much) is not too ambitious these days. I'm just amazed at how time flew, and how much more accessible things are these days.

                                          1. re: HLing
                                            l
                                            Lau Oct 15, 2013 09:47 PM

                                            yah when i looked at the food at 小圆環, it looked pretty crap so i never tried it. it was a bunch of really young taiwanese kids working there who looked like they could really give a crap about working there haha

                                            i havent been going to flushing much recently for some reason, sounds like i need to go soon

                                        3. re: HLing
                                          wrayb Oct 15, 2013 09:32 PM

                                          I don't know why chow mail alert told me that I am part of this discussion, but glad to read the update. As for out of the loop, I've gotten lazy and don't make it out of my Jackson Heights area very often. I should go taste Flushing offerings again. Thanks for the info filled update.

                                          And, as for the A Bourdain reference. Often his show is on the tv when I am in the laundrymat and interesting to that my Nepali and Korean and Colombian and so on neighbors task on him is not dissimilar to my own.

                                          1. re: wrayb
                                            jen kalb Oct 16, 2013 12:08 PM

                                            I cant believe who all popped up with the revival of this thread! great to see everybody.

                                            1. re: jen kalb
                                              h
                                              HLing Oct 16, 2013 04:31 PM

                                              Jen Kalb, wrayb, Brian S,Lau and ..all who love to eat, Chow on :)

                                              1. re: HLing
                                                l
                                                Lau Oct 16, 2013 11:59 PM

                                                haha thanks!

                                              2. re: jen kalb
                                                Brian S Nov 16, 2013 10:37 AM

                                                Finally after years of deprivation, I found 2 Chinese restaurants in Tulsa (yes, Tulsa) I can be proud of.

                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/924411

                                                (I am including this link because there are one or two Sichuan dishes I never saw in Flushing, such as Mao Xue Wang, that are worth looking for in Flushing.)

                                                1. re: Brian S
                                                  l
                                                  Lau Nov 16, 2013 11:35 AM

                                                  haha nice...life without chinese food would be very weird! ive never lived anywhere that didnt have a fairly significant chinese population, that would be super strange for me

                                                  1. re: Brian S
                                                    m
                                                    mookleknuck Nov 18, 2013 06:04 AM

                                                    Brian S, lovely write up of your meal on CH and also at your not-crosspost on tulsafood. It's great to hear about real Chinese food making its way across the country! If I'm ever in Tulsa and want good Chinese food, I will be sure to stop there.

                                                    Just wanted to mention that I can think of at least four, but probably more (maybe six?), Sichaun restaurants in the Philadelphia area that have maoxuewang on their menus... Some of the other dishes you list (lazi ji/chicken with chilis, koshuiji/mouth-watering chicken, fuqi feipian/beef and tripe, ziranrou/cumin lamb, shuizhuyu/water-cooked fish) are also really frequently seen in those restaurants. I know I've seen most of them at Sichuan places in Manhattan and Flushing.

                                                    I'm always sad when I can't get good Chinese food readily...

                                                    1. re: Brian S
                                                      Brian S Apr 4, 2014 11:54 AM

                                                      Finally and unbelievably I had a Chinese meal in Tulsa worthy of being served in Flushing! Here are 19 photos.

                                                      http://tulsafood.com/reviews/pig-brai...

                                                      1. re: Brian S
                                                        scoopG Apr 4, 2014 01:51 PM

                                                        I've always wanted to visit Tulsa. Thanks Brian!

                                                        1. re: scoopG
                                                          d
                                                          diprey11 Apr 4, 2014 02:20 PM

                                                          Scoop-
                                                          Was it for food or any other reason? :-)

                                                          Brian-
                                                          Great album! Makes me hungry

                                                2. re: HLing
                                                  DaveCook Oct 21, 2013 08:24 PM

                                                  Sounds interesting, HLing. I'd like to try this, but I'm not sure which stall you have in mind. Do you have a New World Mall stall number, or can you be more specific about the location? Thanks.

                                                  Dave Cook
                                                  www.EatingInTranslation.com

                                                  1. re: DaveCook
                                                    squid kun Oct 22, 2013 12:56 AM

                                                    Haven't been yet but I'm guessing #28. Little or no English signage there at last report, but Zhengzhou does appear right up top in this pic from New World Mall's website.

                                                    HLing: Thanks for this tip (as always). How would you suggest a Chinese-challenged visitor order this soup? My plan A would be to show them the characters you've provided above.

                                                     
                                                    1. re: squid kun
                                                      h
                                                      HLing Oct 22, 2013 06:01 PM

                                                      Dave, I don't know the number but Squid kun has the right picture. When you come into the mall, it's straight to the back. Squid kun, I don't think there are many items on their menu. You can order Hu2La4 Tang1, (think "Hula" hoop). The buns are named "lightly fried Chinese buns", or something of the sort, with 9 in a order for $3.
                                                      Now, I'm a bit confused though, I thought you guys (who have continued to Chowhound while I took a break) had all been to the Lamb Noodle soup place in the Golden Mall, I think this is their other location, and if so, wouldn't you all have had the food?
                                                      Anyhow, I like it for nostalgic reasons..your mileage may vary :)

                                                      1. re: HLing
                                                        DaveCook Oct 22, 2013 08:47 PM

                                                        Thanks to you both. I recognize the stall (whatever the number), but I didn't realize that it had any connection to the Golden Mall lamb noodle soup place. I'll make this an early stop on my next visit to Flushing!

                                                        Dave Cook
                                                        www.EatingInTranslation.com

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