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May 7, 2008 11:21 AM

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:

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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.

            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:


                  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. 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.


                    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.