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Trip Report with Pictures: 41-28 Main Street Mall, Flushing (Painfully Long)

I recently returned from a 12-day exploratory trip of (mostly) Queens. I was staying with my daughter, who lives hard by the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 line, and with her being out of town five of the 12 days, I had plenty of time to graze on my own. I hadn’t really planned to spend most of my free meals at the Golden Mall at 41-28 Main Street in Flushing, but it was there and drew me to it like a moth to a flame. I actually had nary a bite at the most-discussed Chengdu Tian Fu; on my first attempt the tables were all occupied (I hadn’t yet learned about the additional remote seating) and on a later visit they were closed at 8:45 PM while my New Best Friend, the Xi’an Famous Eats stall was open 10:00 AM -10:00 PM every day. Besides, I rationalized, I had reasonable options for nitty-gritty Sichuanese fare in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as elsewhere in NY, but Xi’an food is hard to find on either coast.

On my first walkthrough of the 41-28 Mall, at lunchtime on a Wednesday, the Xi’an stall, whose name translates as something like Xi’an Famous Eats and offers precisely that, grabbed my attention with a picture of a platter of Rou Jia Mo, or Chinese “burgers”. These, unlike meat bingzi which are stuffed before cooking, are actually prepared and assembled like burgers, with the cooked meats and seasonings placed between two toasted flatbread disks. I pointed to the picture, asked “how much” ($2.50 each) and asked for two lamb rou jia mo. They came out in classic form, with shredded lamb seasoned with cumin, jalapenos and onions. I scarfed one down on the spot, and took the other one “to go” but devoured before I got back to the 7 Train. On subsequent occasions I tried the beef and pork versions, all spiced differently. The beef version seemed to be even better spiced than the lamb version, though I couldn’t put my finger on the difference. The pulled pork Rou Jia Mo was less spicy, more “cured” (salty) tasting. All were good

I returned to the mall for lunch on Friday, and decided to try another unusual cuisine, that of Wenzhou. The easiest place to find Wenzhou cuisine outside of China is said to be Paris, due to long standing connections between Wenzhou and the French automobile industry, but I decided Flushing would do for the moment. I ordered somewhat blindly, as a couple of well-known Wenzhou dishes I had Googled up didn’t appear to be on the menu, and ended up with a big bowl of noodle soup plentifully seeded with skinny fish cakes (which themselves resembled small fish). It was subtly seasoned and tasty, but not particularly exciting. After my noodle lunch I wandered upstairs in the mall and discovered the Shandong Dumpling stall, and couldn’t resist sitting down to a plate of freshly made shui jiao (boiled dumplings, for which Shandong is famous). They were obvious cooked to order, not par-poiled, due to the elapsed time, and the skins were classic but the filling a bit on the dry and bland side.

On Saturday my daughter left town for five days and our prior dinner commitments were completed, so I returned to the 41-28 mall for dinner. The sight and sound of the young man making la mian (hand-pulled) noodles at the Shanxi place across from Xi’an stall captured my attention, and I ordered lamb la mian in soup. I asked for it “la” (spicy) but the woman server shook her head and pointed to a pot of chili oil on the table. The freshly pulled noodles in the soup were good, perfectly al dente. (I’ve often found hand-pulled noodles too soft unless they were left to “breathe” for a while before cooking.) The “lamb” (which was probably mutton), however, was tough, gristly and bony. It was only after I started eating that I noticed from the signage that this stall’s specialty was apparently not the hand-pulled noodles, but “dao xiao” (knife-shaved) noodles. Oh well, live and learn.

By Sunday, there was no keeping me away from the mall and the Xi’an Famous Eats stall, and I decided to try the Biang Biang noodles. These hand-torn noodles “as wide and long as a belt” are listed as one of the Ten Strange Wonders of Shaanxi Province, perhaps as much for the 57-stroke Chinese character written in duplicate to name them as for anything else. The noodles were fresh and toothsome, and interestingly and deliciously seasoned with a combination of (I think) vinegar, soy sauce, chili and onion, garnished with a veritable forest of cilantro. Avoid this dish if you dislike cilantro (fortunately, I love it).

On Monday I once again hit the mall twice in the same day, feeling the need to check out the shui jiao at the Nan Bei Dumpling shop in the back. These were better than the Shandong stall’s version, with better texture and juiciness to the meat filling, though sparse on the jiu cai component, They came quickly, and obviously been cooked before I arrived, but he turnover at this shop may let them get away with it.

Monday may be the Xi’an stall owner/chef’s day off, as he was not in evidence the whole time I was there in the evening for dinner. The woman who took my order (the shorter of the two who work there) gave me a grin and a thumbs up when I ordered the Yang Rou Pao Mo, though I’m not sure it was because of my choice, or her relief that I enunciated the dish’s name so clearly that she had no trouble understanding me (I had practiced the order all the way over on the train). Yang Rou Pao Mao is another yes, famous, Xi’an dish. Traditionally, the customer is given some hard (stale?) flatbread to break into small pieces in a bowl, which is returned to the cook to simmer the bread in mutton stock and then add the other ingredients for a hearty lamb soup. The Xi’an stall short-circuited the process, using pre-broken bread, but the results were tasty nonetheless, with the flour from the cooked bread adding a comforting thickness with a rich mouth-feel. The server asked me if I wanted garlic (yes!) and handed me a baggie containing five whole cloves of deliciously pickled garlic which I garnished the soup with, along with a little chili oil.

On Tuesday I returned for dinner still craving a satisfying bowl of spicy lamb soup with lots of lamb in it after my disappointment at the Shanxi stall The Xi’an Famous Eats stall owner accommodated me (charging an extra dollar for the extra lamb, I think). I chose the toothsome “belt” noodles I had come to love. This dish also came with a lot of cilantro garnishing, and was spicy enough that I didn’t need to add any chili oil. This was a soup I could eat every day!

Wednesday, April 30 was the last day I had available for a solo dinner in Flushing, so I returned to (guess where). By then I was greeted as an old friend by the owner and his two female assistants. I was set on ordering another Xi’an specialty, Qishan Noodles. Seeing I had brought a beer (it’s BYO) the owner suggested I order a plate of lamb bones as well, because “they’re good to eat while drinking beer”. This dish may be a byproduct, but was one of most rewarding that I ordered, because there was plenty of meat left on the bones, as savory and as falling-off-the-bone tender as from any BBQ. The Qishan noodles (named after a county) are apparently known for the quality of the noodles and the particular spicing and garnishes used, as the dish was available with thin or wide noodles, and dry or in soup. I chose the wide noodles again, in soup. The dish was pleasantly savory but milder than the Biang Biang noodles, but it was the lamb bones that made me feel like Henry VIII.

After dinner, when we did our “zai jians” and exchanged calling cards, I asked the owner his name. With a sheepish grin he told me he went by “Liang Pi” which means (or at least sounds like) “Cold Noodles.”

The 41-28 Main Street mall wasn’t the only place I did my solo noshing (though I would have been happy if it were). I’ll report separately on trying the momos at three different venues, my Elmhurst dumpling experience and other on-the-fly eating as appropriate.

Pictures are here:

http://tinyurl.com/6z3j8q

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  1. Wow, a great write-up! I posted a longish post ( April, 27,2008) on Brian's Chengdu Heaven thread but you went beyond the call of duty. Much good info on other food stands that will be put to good use, I assure you. And your photos are great too! I'm looking forward to your posts about the other Queens spots you ate in, especially that food stand in Elmhurst (?) Thanks again

    1. Thanks for the great report! The lamb burgers look especially delicious. Yummmmm.....

      13 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        so funny, i been going to the place in the pictures for awile and didnt know it was the one talked about on here for weeks lol
        i get the lamb noodle soup and lamb burgers , love the fatty noodles.
        every time i go i see the guy directly across the walkway throwing thin noodles. been tempted to try them but i always find myself at the same shop, same seat. seen some REALLY crazy things going on behind the counter but love the food hehe

        1. re: Miss Needle

          I probably had about five or six of them (plus one each of the beef and pork versions). Whenever my noodle dish didn't appear to supply my protein requirement, I got one or two for "dessert."

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            How large are they? From the picture, they looked like one could fit in the palm of a hand?

            1. re: Miss Needle

              They are around standard burger size, perhaps 4.5" in diameter. Definitely not sliders.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                XY, I've got to hand it to you. I went today in the sweltering heat and found out that these lamb burgers were freakin' huge! I just had a few bites and couldn't eat more because I was saving room for more food. They were very, very delicious -- flavorful, slightly spicy and savory. One of the best things I've had in a long time.

                We then ate at Chengdu Heaven and split the chengdu noodles and double-cooked pork. The cold slightly sour noodles were refreshing and perfect on a day like this. There was some Sichuan peppercorns, but not a lot. And the dish wasn't too spicy. The pork was good. Honestly, I expected more after reading the reviews on CH. I found there was a lot of complexity to the dish but kind of lacked some heat. Having had this dish at other Sichuan restaurants, I expected it to be spicier. I wonder if he dumbed the spicing. We're not gweilos, but we're not exactly Asians from Asia. Asians can generally tell from the get-go that we're very Americanized, especially once we open our mouths. But it seems that most of the people posting here aren't Asian themselves. Oh well, it was still tasty and I'm curious to try other dishes from the place. I probably wouldn't get the double-cooked pork again, though.

                This food is great, but I would find it more appropriate for the fall/winter. It was just too strong and heavy for me with this oppressive heat and humidity. But fall is only a few months away.

                And I want to give a special thanks to Joe McB for translating the menu at Chengdu Heaven. Without it, we would have been totally lost.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Double cooked pork isn't supposed to have heat beyond green chilies. Was your's not an absolute pile of green chilies? The last time I had it at Chengdu Tian Fu, it had an epic number of them and it was great.

                  1. re: JFores

                    There were a good number of jalapeno chiles on our food. But the versions I've had at Spicy and Tasty and Szechuan Gourmet in Manhattan were spicier. Perhaps this batch of chiles weren't very spicy. Actually, the chili peppers weren't too spicy as I've eaten jalapenos by itself many times and have found it spicier than what I had today. There sometimes are variations in spice in jalapeno peppers.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      btw, can anybody tell me whether or not you're supposed to tip at these places? DH gave a $12 to the guy at Chengdu Heaven for our meal that costed $10. He told me the guy looked very perplexed.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        I always leave good tips and the guys always at first look perplexed, then look very pleased, realizing it is a compliment.

                  2. re: Miss Needle

                    "I wonder if he dumbed the spicing. "
                    I seriously doubt it. When I tried the Watercooked Beef, the peppercorns were flying every which way inside my mouth, like the friggin' fourth of july in the middle of winter. And - being a white guy - I'm a lot less Asian than you are. If they dumbed my dish down, it was downgraded from a 5 alarm fire to a four and a half. It's just my impression of the joint that they wouldn't do that.

                    Although the beef dish wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I really dug the cold marinated beef with tripe that I had yesterday. Lots of peppercorns in there too, but more of a balance for my taste. I'd gladly get it again.
                    P.

            2. re: Miss Needle

              The lamb burgers are the best when eaten hot. Its better than the pork. I've seen these as Chinese Hambugers in Flushing Mall. The guy in the Xian food stall speaks Cantonese.

              1. re: designerboy01

                I only heard him speaking a very northern Mandarin, retroflex consonants and all, all four or five times I ate there.

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  He speaks both. I was talking to him in Cantonese and English and my friend was speaking to him in Mandarin.

            3. Thanks for this excellent report! You make me glad to live in Flushing. The photos are great too. I can't wait to try the Rou Jia Mo.

              1. Wonderful report! Thank you! Would you please share your thoughts on negotiating this place for the language challenged among us? Do any places have English signs or menus?

                2 Replies
                1. re: erica

                  Hi Erica,

                  1. The posted menu for the Chengdu stall has been fully translated, thanks to Joe McBu:

                  http://www.chow.com/photos/135131
                  http://www.chow.com/photos./128621
                  http://www.chow.com/photos/135642

                  2. The Xi'an Stall has a "photo gallery" of its offerings, plus an owner (the man) who speak very good English.

                  3. The Shandong dumpling shop upstairs has an actual printed takeout menu in English, and the downstairs dumpling shop by the back entrance has some hand-lettered signs in English, IIRC.

                  I don't recall any English being used when I ate at the hand-pulled noodle place or the Wenxhou stall, but maybe others can fill you in on those and the others.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    PLEASE HELP -- these links don't work anymore! I've printed them out a few times and always lose them or give them away or they're thrown away by accident... I need new copies, please please please

                2. Thanks for writing this, it was a delight!

                  I'm glad someone tried Wenzhou food. I first noticed a restaurant serving Wenzhou dishes (though most of the menu is Cantonese) 3 years ago but never tried it. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247776 That restaurant is still around but the Manchurian restaurant mentioned in that post is gone.

                  By the way, there is a Xiao Yang dumpling shop in Shanghai. I think you've been there cause you mentioned it in a comment to a blog I saw.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Brian S

                    Given more time, I'd like to get the posted Wenzhou menu translated. Since returning to SF, I stumbled across a website with pictures as well as descriptions of some characteristic Wenzhou dishes. The last one (fish pellets) matches the dish I tried.

                    http://www.wenzhouguide.com/delicacies/

                    Yes, I'll have to admit that the Shanghai Xiao Yang is the inspiration for my screen name. His shops serve up the best shengjian bao (my favorite guilty pleasure) by popular acclaim.

                  2. Reading your post, I knew you'd eventually get around to trying Xian's spicy lamb noodle soup. Having had my second bowl a few weeks back, I concur: it's delicious. A guy upstairs used to serve up a flat lamb noodle soup almost exactly like this one - rumour has it he's since relocated - only without the spicy kick. I also like the owner; he's very friendly, helpful, outgoing.

                    This post isn't "painfully long"; it's a delight, one of the best chowhound threads I've read in a long time. Add this to some of the other extensive Flushing mall threads, and we've got ourselves as comprehensive a document of this ever-changing food scene as is possible.
                    P.

                    1. Thanks for the report Gary. I don't think I have ever had the sensation of having been transported halfway around the world as in the Flushing food courts.

                      1. Went to Xi'an Famous Eats today and was absolutely delighted. Went with a friend and we split a lamb and a pork, each equally, but differently, delicious...loved the lambiness of one, the softer, smoother seasoning of the pork. Ordered the biang biang noodles and the affable owner suggest the "cold noodles" also, don't have another name in English at least, and didn't see a photo. Again, both were astonishing, but I think we were more impressed by the cold noodles, a bit of sesame undertone and a decent amount of heat, along with the addition of what i first thought might have been a fried tofu which made it seem a bit spongy in appearance, and a bit chewy, but the owner, Mr. Noodle, explained it was something formed from flour and water...will try to get a better explanation later, but it was great for absorbing the extra sauce. The biang biang noodles were great, as described above, very toothsome and unique in my noodle eating experience. Both are highly recommended. All this chow and two sodas ran only $15.
                        But, was that enough? No, we crossed the hall for dessert at Chengdu Heaven...twice cooked pork, dan dan mian and the cold pork with garlic/chile sauce. All were great, but the noodles were the favorites. The cold sliced pork seemed as though it had been around a while, but was still yummy when bathed in the "composed" sauce comprising garlic, chile, probably some sesame, a bit of soy...use the pork slice to stir it up, then gobble up the slice. Pretty decent eats. Had the dan dan on Monday and think they are superb.
                        Either of these "meals" would have been adequate, but I live in Oregon and need to absorb as much of this as I can...otherwise will have to cook this at home which is fine, but it's' always nice to let someone more experienced in this cuisine do it absolutely correctly. Will hit Xi'an again on Friday or Saturday and try to hit one other stall as well, maybe one of the dumpling spots, or the hand pulled place across from XFE (the owner of XFE has already recommended a couple of his lamb soups). Hope they don't charge me for excess belly baggage on the flight home Sunday!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: sambamaster

                          .
                          can you remember the stall number?

                          1. re: jaymor

                            Remember the stall number for which. XFE is #36 as i recall, and Chengdu is 31. Each is visible from the other, and both have been extensively discussed on this board. And both are excellent! But take the posted translations to Chengdu, there is no Eng. translation there, and the staff is not terribly English prone, though they do know some it seems.

                            1. re: sambamaster

                              I think your memory is correct, and aligns with what the Village Voice had to say:
                              http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

                              1. re: kathryn

                                I finally made it to the 41-28 food court this week. I'd almost given up on the food courts. By the time I figure out what's good, after a half dozen visits, they usually close like the 41-82 food court and the original food court further north on Main St did. I also have trouble getting my wife to go. She's a devout fan of Little Pepper and A Fan Ti and once she realizes we're within walking distance of those two restaurants, I can't get her into the food courts.

                                But after reading this thread and the longer one started by Brian S -http://www.chowhound.com/topics/451804 - she said "lets go".

                                We first went to #36 - Xian Famous Eats. We were disappointed that only the two women were there, limiting our choices. We were struggling with ordering when the male owner showed up, solving the language problem.

                                We had a lamb burger, which was very similar to the lamb and cumin dishes served at several places including Little Pepper, but with much less onion. It was excellent and it was great to be able to get a small portion without spending $12 as it costs at LP. We also had a pork burger, which tasted like a good pulled pork sandwich. We wanted the beef burger too but they didn't have any.

                                We ordered the "lamb bones" based on the posts above. It was very tasty but there wasn't much meat for $4-5. The owner convinced us to have the thick noodle dish dry. Thick strips of dry noodles in a slightly spicy vinegary sauce. it was my wife's favorite dish of the day.

                                We had the lamb soup, of course. She's not a fan of Chinese noodle soups but she agreed with me that this one was the best we've ever had.

                                We moved on the Sichuan stall (#31) for Dan Dan noodles and Ma La diced rabbit. I really like the Dan Dan Noodles at LP better; they're much more complex. The rabbit had a phenomenal Sichuan peppercorn sauce, mouth-numbingly hot, yet flavorful too. The downside is that it's cut into a much smaller dice than at LP, meaning that it's much harder to pick out all of the tiny, tiny bones. Because of the bigger dice at LP, it's a much meatier dish. Surprisingly, it's cheaper at LP too.

                                Next time (now that my wife approves) we'll try the "water cooked sliced fish". We would have tried it this time but had a huge container of it from our visit to LP the night before.

                                And to give some history and add to the debate on the other thread as to who discovered this food court, I'll lay my claim too. But just like Columbus, I had no idea where I was either! I've been going to the Dumpling, Bun and Noodle stand (which some have erroneously described as where the "5 grumpy women" work) for almost 4 years now. I've posted about it several times and gave directions to get there via the entrance on 41st Road, not realizing that it was reachable from the 41-28 Main St food court. That confused several of you. The entire downstairs space of the 41-28 food court was the basement of the Golden Supermarket. The supermarket closed and the Dumpling, Bun and Noodle stand was the first shop to open in that basement. While they were doing construction to subdivide the space the Dumpling, Bun and Noodle stand became known as "The Construction Site Dumpling Ladies". The rest of the space then became a 99 Cent store selling socks and household goods, and then finally was converted into what it is now. Let's hope it lasts a long time as it is now.

                        2. Serious Eats visited the Golden Shopping Mall with Fuschia Dunlop (!) and I'm seriously in awe...
                          http://www.seriouseats.com/newyork/20...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kathryn

                            Thanks kathryn for the heads up article from Serious Eats. I'm not in awe tho, I'm seriously jealous. To tour the food mall with a Chinese speaking guide , let alone Fuschia Dunlop !!!! Wow! I can only imagine. and dream. In the mean time I'm waiting to hear more about the new mall on Roosevelt reported a couple of days ago on these boards.

                            1. re: toby1355

                              does anyone know if one of these stands (or any other place in NY) serves Shanxi "honeycomb" noodles with that tangy dipping sauce? I just figured out what they were called:

                              http://www.chinaexpat.com/you-mian-ka...

                              1. re: melon

                                I don't know the answer, but the stall across from the Xi'an place, where you see the hand-pulled noodles being made is a Shanxi stall and they might have them. I know that they have more than just hand-pulled because their sign prominently mentions knife-shaved noodles as well.

                          2. I just noticed this thread today - very brilliant - thanks for sharing with our community!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lambretta76

                              can anyone confirm that this is still open? i remember one of the malls shut down this year, but cant remember whichone.
                              Thanks!

                              1. re: FattyDumplin

                                Still going strong - as is a new mall called Roosevelt here on the board- a couple of blocks away.

                            2. Whoa, thanks for the great report! I've been to the mall several times for shopping activities, but have never tried the food. I foresee a trip to Flushing in the near future!

                              1. The dumpling place in the back has re-opened post Board of Health problem.