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all-day flushing mall trawl - long

first of all, big ups to Colin the Pathetic, and Anne the Harmony of the West for handling the quest across Flushing for the best in dumplings, buns, noodles and whatever else they happen to sell in Flushing's three food malls (Golden Mall at 41-28 Main Street, J&L Mall at 41-82 Main Street: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/339644, and Flushing Mall near College Point Blvd).

I just got back from a food trawl which started at 1:45pm at the Golden Mall. Having navigated MTA's suspect train schedule on the weekend, we finally met in Flushing and headed immediately to the "Fantastic Lamb Noodle Soup" (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/350358), Straight to the back, I was planning to order the lamb fried dumplings that come 18 to an order, but they ran out, so we just got a bowl of small noodles each, and their summer special, cold noodles in sauce. We also had an order of the pork and cabbage fried dumplings from Shandong Dumplings as well. the noodles, which I've had, were continually fantastic; great portions of meat, wonderful noodles, great broth. the cold-style noodle was also a wide noodle, cold, doused with bean sprouts, tofu, a bunch of spice and basically, a hot and sour cold noodle salad, with a lot of liquid. delicious, and perfect for the heat. the room, btw, had no a/c, except for some fans. painful.

the guo-tie from Shandong was great, the filling was a bit crumbly, but there was a nice crust on the bottom and it almost seemed as if the bottom of the dumpling was thicker than the top, better to fry the bottom and steam the top I suppose, there was also the signature lacy cobweb of cornstarch binding them in pairs and triplets. great dumplings.

we then picked up a meat "patty" which is the closest to what it could be described as, like a jamaican beef patty but with a pan fried crust instead of flaky and baked, and with seasoned chunky ground beef inside. delicious at $1.25, and from the same place that has the lamb ro bing, but today, they had no lamb filling, so I didn't want the bing (I was secretly preparing for the muslim place's small bing at J&L). We went downstairs and checked out some of the offerings (there was a large garlic pork sausage that one vendor was selling, looked like giant kielbasa, and also crowds of people ordering a similar henan-style wide noodle served both hot and cold, not lamb huei-mian dish, but the chili version doused w/ bean sprouts and chili and vinegar.

off to a good start, we picked up some cold soy milk and drinks as we contemplated the next step. we were full enough that we walked all the way to the botanical gardens and back, before heading into J&L Mall, where we had Sichuan food. There was no mapo tofu, as the proprietor said it was too hot for it, so we just had: ma la beef (chinese roast beef drenched and marinated in ma la peppercorn oil), pickled cabbage (hardly pickled, but more like extremely salted, and not good), cucumber salad (delicious cucumber pickeled and then dowsed in chili oil), and their hot and sour rice noodle soup (shuan-la-fun-tong) which was the one floating in hot oil, bean sprouts, noodles like japchae, with roast peanuts on top. I picked up two plain bings from the muslim place (2 for $1, and they recently renovated their food display a bit) and it was the perfect starch to the strong and thrilling flavors of the sichuan food. our bill there was $14 which was great. I was really tempted to get the egg-jian-bing (discussed here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/385253) but the whole time we were eating there, no one ordered it, and so we didn't brave it this time. The piles of fried sheets were there, and a tray of raw eggs so I figured it must be the same thing, but it still looked too heavy). The muslim was also selling a similar thing which is basically like shao-bing-you-tiao but instead of a tiao, it was actually a big sheet of fried dough about 10" square, doused briefly with egg, I think, and then rolled tightly inside a split shao-bing, basically, an enormous starch fest for $2. I saw one customer gripping the thing in his hand, the other hand handling a bowl of soup and dipping this monster into the broth; it was crazy.

at some point, we also had lamb kebabs at a $1 each (across from North Fork Bank, absolutely delicious and cooked almost rare, with a deep cumin dusting, and big chunks of lamb fat rivaling the deliciousness of those from the uzbek places in rego park), fried dumplings and mini shen-jian-bao (both 4 for $1) from the original fried dumpling place across from Starbucks, and ate those on the steps of the library, and also had a few iced coffees, iced teas, iced yin-yang (milk tea + coffee), some peking duck sandwiches from corner 28, before heading to the Flushing Mall for some boiled dumplings on the second floor of the back part of the mall. I'm not sure how to describe the location, but the dumplings are from a chinese/korean stall which served their delicious boiled dumplings (pork with chive, 18 for $6.50) with a wonderful cabbage kimchi, and korean chili powder dipping sauce. this is the place that also serves naengmyun, and has signage in both korean and chinese. excellent dumplings, great texture of the skin, which tasted porous but at the same time held in the filling, juicy as any soup dumpling I've ever had. we headed down to the main part of the Flushing Mall and checked out the shave ice and the Taiwanese Temple Eats, but ultimately had nothing, since we were totally full. The second floor store which sells Malaysian snacks and drinks was really interesting (if you come in the main entrance of the mall, its the first store on the right, if you go immediately up the right staircase when you come in from the entrance across from Ocean Jewels). They had some great southeast asian packaged goods.

on our way back out to Main Street, I contemplated a "taiwanese hamburger" from Lu's Seafood to go but that was negated, and even the idea of a turnip bing or salty soy milk or even taiwanese oyster pancake from King 5 Noodle was vetoed; we were done, by a vote of 2 to 1, but I don't even know if I could've sustained any additional square inchage inside my stomach. I recalled that White Bear on the short part of Prince Street specialized in something, but we didn't go in. We also stopped at A&N (Kam Sen) and picked up all sorts of sundries (kecap manis, lee kum kee chili garlic, black vinegar, and also those delicious banana flavored cubed mochi, the pink and white ones).

we walked nostalgically down 41st Ave (at least I think it was) which was the original "restaurant row" in flushing, which now is bookended by two new buildings; squeezed in that tiny row was shiao-du-huei (family-style chinese), curry leaves (a fine malaysian restaurant with great breakfast takeout options), and many other places jam-packed in, but it seemed that the area for culinary eats has expanded way beyond this little block. many of the restaurants which used to be there have turned over (go-bu-li, szechuan capital, even the all-you-can-eat sichuan hotpot place). now, it just seems like a crowded, haphazard block.

looking back, or typing back I should say, we didn't really eat that much, or at least, I can think of so many other foods that we could've tried but I guess that's round 2. we stayed focused, we stayed alive, and we had a great time.

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  1. bigjeff, thanks for such a great, detailed report - true chow reconnaissance style! Can't wait to get to Flushing and try these places; I've been dying to experience the Fantastic Lamb Noodle Soup, lack of a/c be damned.

    1. That's great news since my friend was at the flat noodle lamb soup place a few days ago and it was closed--We were worried!

      1 Reply
      1. re: rschwim

        That dumpling place on the second floor of Flushing Mall has been a weekly favorite of ours for the last two years. Sometimes upon waking, our Chowpup, now 3.5 years, will declare :"I crave the fountain dumplings." He refers to these in that way due to the fountain a few stalls down on the same floor. The next time you have to save a bit of room and get some hand pulled noodle soup with brisket on the main food floor in the corner. We usually are too full, but get an order to go.

        Great post. I was at Sweet and Tart down the block gorging myelf on shrimp and watercress dumplings, turnip cakes, and panfried dried shrimp noodles as you trawled. There' s so much good food in Flushing- we were briefly considering buying a house in Port Washington, but I just couldn't do it! All my beloved Flushing haunts were crying out to me....Especially my Chinese/Korean dumps.

        All Good Things,
        lisa

      2. Thanks for the report, which is going straight into my chapbook for my upcoming assault on Flushing's "xiao chi"!

        Incidentally, properly made Shandong dumplings, whether made for boiling or frying, actually ARE thicker at the base than on top. There's even a specially made tapered dowel rolling pin for achieving this; my perfectionist SIL, who learned the art from a Shandongren neighbor in Shanghai, uses one.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gary Soup

          ya, based on an early post by surly, i guess that's what makes them a bit different from regular guo-tie; they were able to get a very nice and decent crust on the bottom, and still quite thin on the top steamed part. actually they had quite a few different variations, but we just stuck w/ the pork. really aching to get the lamb dumplings from the huei-mian place though, so maybe next time they'll have them.

        2. "looking back, or typing back I should say, we didn't really eat that much, or at least, I can think of so many other foods that we could've tried but I guess that's round 2. we stayed focused, we stayed alive"

          Best to live to eat another day.

          Thanks for the great report. You meant 40th Road, I think, not 41st ave. The closing on that block I'm most disconsolate about is Gou Bu Li. Always underrated, we didn't deserve it, and so we didn't get to keep it.

          1. Bigjeff, informative post! With the summer days looming, I have to find some 'COOL' food to eat in Flushing. Everything I eat is very HOT and often times fairly spicy. I crave soups often, but fortunately not during the summer months. I'll try some of the cold noodles you mentioned. TIA. : ) I'm going to slice up a Korean cucumber and later some Korean yellow melon and eat that (since it's a comfortable 91 degrees out today).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              would be a great thread for maybe, best sesame noodle or best cold noodle preparation or something . . . . . the cold noodle thing I had at the huei-mian was quite good, and again, the cucumber salad at the sichuan place at J&L was incredible. I think the cucumber must have been marinated before getting the spice treatment, maybe as a blocking agent against the spice or something. but great texture, great heat, really worth trying.

            2. thanks for the report

              we found this "awesome" bakery for baked "stuffed" bread- our favorite is the "cheese bread stuff with dry pork". Their bread is so much tastier than the popular Tai-pan Bakery.

              Carnation Bakery
              4605 Kissena Blvd
              Flushing, NY 11355
              (718) 321-8168

              1 Reply
              1. re: rnsil

                ya that's a nice place; in fact, I think one of my parents' friends owns the joint, but since its so far from "downtown" flushing we don't go there often; but I usually get the asian-style cakes birthday cakes there (fruit, chestnut or taro filling, etc.)

              2. 1. Can you comment on the language situation? Did you place all your orders in Mandarin? How would a person with a vocabulary consisting of less than 100 Mandarin words do at ordering all these foods?

                2. I believe the tea-coffee drink is jyun joeng/yuan yang (i.e. affectionate male-female couple), not yin-yang.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Luther

                  re: question 2, yeah, yuan-yang is how I usually order it, I thought it was the same as yin-yang (similar concept anyway, but I guess not, see wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuanyang...). sometimes it takes some convincing from the vendor, if they're not used to it, but just ask for milk tea with coffee and you'll get it. also helpful to ask for it not too sweet (personal preference, but sometimes it ends up twice the sweet if you don't ask).

                  re: question 1, I was definitely speaking mandarin all day but I think if it wasn't the case, a lot of the food is point-and-eat so even if you couldn't pronounce it, but you knew what it was, you could just point to it. and if you didn't you can still point. while some of the vendors speak not a lick of english, many also speak english so you might try to pronounce guo-tie or something, and they'll just say, "you want fried dumpling?" so, never hurts to try or ask. and some of these places have become CH legends so even at the lamb huei-mian place, before I even said a word, the proprietor asked in english if we wanted the lamb noodle. of course, that might be because my two PICs were pale as snow, but some of these places are now expecting non-chinese speakers, and even try to anticipate your order. many of the places have all-chinese-character menus, but other places do have english translations; the safest bet is to look around at other tables and just point, if a majority of people are having some dish, a point, and a thumbs up, should get you whatever you need.

                  I believe there are some threads which have phonetic breakdowns, and of course there is that one book about learning mandarin via chinese restaurant ordering (can't remember the name).

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    I like it with lots of cream, but not much sugar. Thanks for the info! I live in Boston but I'm meaning to get down there for a weekend, and my Mandarin is pretty much limited to the names of foods... I couldn't go about asking what was good, or what's on the menu, and so forth. Good to hear I might be OK getting most of those dishes.

                2. oh and one additional item I forgot to mention; we had these great watermelon drinks from the bakery attached to Kam Sen (A&N). Chunks of watermelon whirred in the blender with only ice and water, but it frothed/frapped to such a wonderful consistency that tasted like pure summer. At $2, easily the best drink I've had in Flushing for a long time.

                  1. Do you know if the cold noodles at stall at the Golden mall is like the one I described in these posts?
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/23891...
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/240263
                    If so, I'll have to check it out. I've been missing those cold noodles.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: E Eto

                      yep, that's it, called "liang-pi" as described by HLing. vinegar-y, chili-y, with the pressed tofu, bean sprouts, cilantro, the texture was great on the noodles, and I saw a stand in the basement of the same mall (the one almost furthest in, which usually sells meat sandwiches) which looked like they had the hot version of the dish. but the cold one was excellent.

                      as to the sandwich you also describe in your thread, that is available on the ground floor of the golden mall, its the stand just before the 4 steps up to this huei-mian place. they usually have beef and lamb, I believe, but that day, they had no lamb.