Awesome Sichuan Dumplings (Flushing Food Court) - long
I am embarassed to admit it, but I had never been to the Flushing Mall Food Court until Sunday. Since I haven't lived in NYC for more than three weeks at a time in the last two years, a trip out there just never happened for me.
I went out to Queens on Sunday to check out the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races, which was a disappointing bust. Well, I'm sure it was fun if you were in one of the races. Besides the many tents set up for the teams, however, there was barely a festival to speak of. The only booths were from banks giving away promotional junk. There was a Mr. Softee truck and a bakery booth with some wan looking items. The only food line was for... corn on the cob (and not on a stick, I might add). Very disappointing.
So I trekked back to the 7 train and made it to the Flushing Mall. After surveying the offerings several times, I finally settled on the Chengdu booth in the far right corner. What I really wanted was a nice bowl of ma la noodles in soup. From the cryptic descriptions, I wasn't sure I'd find them.
My first order (#6 on the menu) misfired. It turned out to be cold noodles in peanut sauce, with crushed peanuts, sprouts and cucumber ($3.25). Despite the cashier's promise, these were NOT spicy. They were delicious, but not what I wanted, so I had them packaged and ordered #27 -- wontons in hot oil ($2.75). Not noodles, but definitely "ma," the cashier assured me.
These were AMAZING. It had been so long since I had eaten fresh wontons. Filled with pork and chive, these golf-ball size dumplings were loosely formed and served in a smallish bowl of devlishily red oil (and maybe some broth) with a heaping of minced raw garlic tossed on top.
The dumplings were so fresh, they almost had a xiao long bao effect of gushing their broth in to the liquid. The garlic gave the dumplings an awesome kick (though I had to chomp through two pieces of gum afterwards to get rid of the flavor). And I got my "ma" fix.
I also found out after I ordered that probably what I wanted was #5 on the menu (Hot and Sour Noodles). I saw someone order a giant bowl of dark red broth heaped with scallions and cilantro -- next time!!!
Also, I was ecstatic to find a street vendor serving spicy lamb + lamb fat kebabs, Xinjiang style on 38th Ave off of Main Street. There is another guy on 39th Ave too. I talked to the vendor on 38th and lo and behold -- he actually is from Urumqi.
I may be late to the Flushing game, but I am psyched to find a place in NYC to fulfill my my cravings. If you (and you alone) are craving Sichuan ma la food in NYC, these offerings very well could satisfy your craving too.
The beef noodle soup at Chengdu is very good. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to spiciness, so it was a little too hot for my taste, but you'd probably like it.
I went to Grand Sichuan in Manhattan the other day and got essentially the same meal (plus fried dofu with spicy "family style sauce", which was essentially hot pepper and green pepper). The meal was tasty but inferior in every sense. The wontons were just not as fresh.
Grand Sichuan is good for a Manhattan Sichuan fix. But damn... I need to get back to Flushing.