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Flushing Review: Henan Cuisine at Henan Fengwei

Isn’t it about time New York City had a Henan restaurant? Henan province, about the size of Florida, lies in the cradle of Chinese civilization. With a population of 100 million people (more than five times that of the Sunshine State) in the vast central plains, it is China’s most populated province.

Henan Feng Wei - 河南風味 or “Henan Flavors” or “A Taste of Henan” makes a good first impression. The cordial owner/chef, Mr. Wang Qiang (王強) owned a restaurant in Zhengzhou for years before immigrating to Flushing where for a good many more years he worked at a Chinese buffet joint, biding his time. Eight months ago he opened HFW and claims it is the first Henan spot in the city. With about nine tables and 30 covers, it has more of a lunchroom feel than a restaurant. But a winsome downstairs lunchroom all the same.

Henan cuisine is also called Yucai cuisine(豫菜 – Yu4 Cai4.) Henan kind say their style is “not east, not west, not south and not north.” It is also not sweet, salty, nor spicy. It is known for seasonal use of ingredients that feature lots of lamb and mutton soups, meat-stuffed buns, fried mung bean jelly, vermicelli, meatball soups and fresh dumplings; steamed or boiled and much more of course. Furthermore the province is subdivided into four culinary precincts: North (Anyang), South (Xinyang), East (Kaifeng) and West (Luoyang.)

Here at HFW Mr. Wang (he speaks some English) keeps the menu pretty simple; serving up at least a dozen cold appetizers, noodle dishes, soups, casseroles and more. Based on my two visits it seems to be a gathering place for Henan folk seeking a taste of home. The menu is translated into English on 3-4 sheets and don’t worry about the additional written Chinese characters about the place – they too have already been translated and placed in the English menu. There are some photos of some of the dishes on the wall as well.

I tried four of the appetizers and all were tasty: two different dried tofu dishes, the Green Beans, and sliced Pig Ears. Hot and Numbing Cold Noodles (麻辣涼麵 - Ma2 La4 Liang2 Mian4) were well seasoned with sesame paste, soy sauce, peanuts and hot sauce.

Big Dish Chicken (大盤鳮 - Da4 Pan2 Ji1) Simply stunning this earthy dish was. Marinated chicken pieces (on the bone) with potatoes, red pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds and cilantro.

Lamb Noodle Soup (羊肉燴面 - Yang2 Rou4 Hui4 Mian4) a hearty bowl with shredded tofu, hand-made noodles, vermicelli, lamb, goji berries and dry tiger lily.

Dumplings (灌湯包 - Guan4 Tang1 Bao1.) I think these are Henan’s answer to XLB but without the soup. A big comforting hug in a bamboo steamer.

Button Ball Meatball Bowl (丸子扣碗 - Wan2 Zi Kou4 Wan3)
Meatballs (made with some type of breading) in a delicate broth of ginger, Sichuan peppercorn and star anise. Keep that lid on for a spell! These morsels get better the longer they are in the broth. Then lap up the broth.

Boiled Dumplings (水餃 - Shui3 Jiao3.) Here filled with cabbage, pork and some chives.

Slideshow:
http://picasaweb.google.com/roswellhi...

Henan Feng Wei - 河南風味
136-31 41st Avenue
Flushing, NY 11355
Tel: 718-762-1818

Open everyday from 9 am to 11 pm.

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Henan Feng Wei
136-31 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355

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  1. Great report, and thanks for the photos. Are you saying the Tang Bao lost their soup, or just never had any to begin with?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I'll have to check with Mr. Wang. Defintely no soup to begin with...

      1. re: Steve

        Stopped in there and was told by the #2 man that the issue was the more lean nature of American pork. Many of the recipes I saw online though at baidu.com called for both "streaky pork" as well as pork skin aspic.

      2. This place is fantastic! I went there today for dinner. First of all, the experience itself is remarkably Chinese. From appearance to the level of English, you'd think you were in China. Very Golden Mall in that sense (except this place has literally no foreigners at this point where as Golden Mall has loads.) The menu is largely translated, but the translation work is definitely still patchy.

        I ended up ordering the boiled dumplings, the big plate chicken and the boiled peanuts cold starter. All cold starters are kept in a see through case like in China or at M&T or most of the Dongbei places.

        The dumplings were relatively standard. I'd pass on getting them again as they were like a pork version of Silk Road (in London's) much better lamb dumplings. The boiled peanuts were nice and I love boiled peanuts so I'll probably get those rather consistently.

        The big plate chicken was easily the best I've had in the US though. By a long shot. Very nice broth though the consistency was a bit oily rather than brothy. Nonetheless, the chicken, potatoes and overall flavor were all great. At 12 dollars I can't decide whether it was a great deal or a bit pricey. I ordered far too much for myself so I had trouble measuring portions in my mind.

        At any rate all of that with a beer was 22. Not bad at all.

        Justin

        -----
        SN New Restaurant
        44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

        26 Replies
        1. re: JFores

          Glad you liked it. Please give the dumplings another chance and make sure you get the ones with Chinese chives. They think there that non-Chinese won't like them! The guy knows what he is doing with dough.

          1. re: scoopG

            I'll give those a shot. The main reason why I wouldn't get them again is because a place I go to in London does virtually the same dumplings with lamb, but they're much better.

            The yangrou hui mien is reeeeally good. I had that for dinner today. Really nice noodles with excellent chew.

            Justin

            1. re: JFores

              Give their dumplings a try. I ordered two kinds for takeout: last Sunday: one with lamb and chives, the other ones with Napa, both were on their specials pinned to the counter in the front. Both were thumbs up.

              Decided not to order anything to stay as we were not hungry. Mr Wang demonstratively made a bowl of noodles with lamb and soup for himself and slurped them down at our table. The noodles looked dangerously good.

              PS: their big chicken dish with cumin and Sichuan pepper gets even better overnight. Excellent homestyle food, modest prices, nice people.

              1. re: diprey11

                That's da pian ji or big plate chicken. It's a Hue dish that's usually actually found in Xinjiang and other more western provinces... but apparently its big in Henan... The menu at this place is remarkably Hue. Does anyone know if the owner is Hue?

                Justin

                1. re: JFores

                  Hui as in Muslim? Would they serve pork in any form if so?

                  1. re: buttertart

                    Correct. Not sure if Mr. Wang is Muslim or not. I've looked at baidu.com and it does indeed look like this dish well may have originated in Xinjiang. I saw versions there online that used beer as well as added noodles at the end. There is also a similar dish from Chongqing, Sichuan called Geleshan Spicy Chicken(歌乐山辣子鸡) that adds Sichuan pickles but drops the spuds.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      Come across any recipes for it? Sounds like something that would be good to make once it gets cooler again. Please tell me it will get cooler again...

                      1. re: buttertart

                        I've seen some recipes but I'd want to try them first before posting!

                      2. re: scoopG

                        They serve pork products: sliced pig ear, dumpling fillings, etc. And they did ask if I wanted noodles on top of (not just with) the big chicken. Fresh pulled noodles and a rich gravy... that was a very good idea.

                        1. re: diprey11

                          Those are belt noodles. Generally you'd finish most of the chicken and then the restaurant staff will come over and put the noodles into the still steaming broth. I think it's more of a Hui dish than a Xinjiang dish. Xinjiang would generally assume Uighur and while Uighurs do make it, the dish itself is strongly associated with Hui cuisine.

                          A lot of Hui also don't give a damn about dietary restrictions and drink like fish (of course, a lot don't as well. And a lot care about pork and still drink like fish. Same goes for Uighurs. You have to also keep in mind that massive amounts of cheap Erguotou and being two of the poorest and most down trodden ethnic groups in all of China have a way of corresponding.)

                          Moving back from that, the menu at this place is really Hui. The lamb dumplings, the lamb soups, etc. In fact, pretty much everything on the menu with lamb is something that you can get in Xi'an. They do lamb burgers too! I would not be surprised at all if someone in that kitchen area is or has a relative that is Hui. At the same time, maybe their location in Henan just puts them at a particularly Hui heavy bit which borders on more western provinces.

                          Who wants me be the fluent Mando speaker and ask?

                          1. re: JFores

                            Go ahead! I won't be able to get out there that soon! I forgot to mention they do stuff the Sesame Flat Cakes and call them "Hot Pockets" or 包夹肉 -Bao Jia Rou.

                            1. re: JFores

                              > Who wants me be the fluent Mando speaker and ask?
                              Please do... thank you.

                              I agree, the menu at the place is at least partially Hui. Well, I don't think chef Wang himself or his staff look particularly Uighur, and frankly I am a bad source because I never remember who comes from where. He understands what I am asking for and IMHO, his skill speaks so much louder than his voice (he's actually quite soft-spoken): that would do it for me.

                              Appreciate your advice: gotta ask if they make lamb burgers next time I'm back, perhaps on the holiday Monday. Once again, ScoopG is da man!

                              1. re: diprey11

                                Ack! I meant who wants to BE. Not me. I can order food and that's about it in Mando.

                                They obviously aren't Uighur. Hui are pretty much indistinguishable though...

                          2. re: scoopG

                            It is a modern Xinjiang dish. We had it at Omar's Xinjiang in San Gabriel and it was pricey there, too. $15 if I recall. Odd since Flushing tends to charge more on average than comparable restaurants in SGV (at LaGuardia now going back home to LA after two glorious afternoons exploring Flushing)

                            Mr Taster

                          3. re: buttertart

                            hey folks, big revelation here. well, in regard to "hui mian" actually. it's 4th sound "hui" not 2nd sound "hui" which means muslim. 4th sound one just means combo so if you see a "hui mian" it's not muslim-style noodles it just means combo noodles.

                            now, whether there is 2nd sound "hui" elements of the menu is another thing, but definitely, the noodles are not.

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              That's funny! I assumed it was sound 2 just because of how many other dishes had heavy Muslim influence. Lamb dumplings, the breads, the big plate chicken and to an extent the noodles that go into that soup.

                          4. re: JFores

                            OK - I asked Mr. Wang and he said he is not Hui!

                            1. re: scoopG

                              thinking again about "hui mian" versus "Hui", maybe we are totally off just because we see lamb but for instance, not only are there lamb dumplings but pork dumplings as well, etc. (as prev. discussed about loose dietary restrictions of certain muslims). but there is a whole lotta drinking going on up in there! I think there probably is no "Hui" element at all operating here but just a regional thing in China. Even when I think of the muslim "big bread" place in the Oriental Express mall on Main Street (and I always think of it as muslim big bread but now, I'm re-thinking that), I recall that they've got plenty of pork products, etc. hmmmmmm. versus some of the places that actually have the word "Halal" in their names, in the Golden Mall and in other little spots in flushing. hmmmmmmm indeed.

                              and yet, this article from a few years ago:
                              http://www.time.com/time/magazine/art...

                              1. re: bigjeff

                                Interesting piece there from Time....

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  ya remember when all that stuff was happening in western china, the Han vs Hui, even a year ago? when I was in shanghai this year, all the talk was how the best produce, the best fruit and vegetables are all from xinjiang. beijing def. has a vested interest in having a strong presence over there. If only it could be done without tensions, violence or bloodshed.

                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                    Xinjiang is essentially still Uighur at least outside of Urumqi and is therefore quite a different animal. I was in the province immediately following the riots and it was extremely tense. Literally hundreds of soldiers on the street, fights between Uighurs and Han Chinese at the night markets, military checkpoints every mile or two on the roads, etc. Bad bad bad stuff. It wasn't Han vs Hui. Whenever Han vs Uighur stuff occurs the Hui almost universally sit it out or side with the Chinese despite their faith which just leads to a lot of Uighur vs Hui resentment.

                                    But the watermelon there is amazing! The grapes and raisins there are also the best I've ever had. China's interest in the province, however, is not about fruit. It's about significant oil reserves and its strategic value as both a nuclear testing site and a stepping stone into Central and South Asia. They're also terrified of any potential movements over the border of Pakistani or Afghan muj. The PRC's policies of control for Uighurs are downright nasty, but they don't get the coverage that Tibetans get. Check out some of HRW's articles on the topic they're extremely accurate. Similarly anything by Dru Gladney or James Millward is fantastic.

                                    Now let's steer this back to food. I'm going to Henan Fengwei with a friend tomorrow. What would be the best possible order under 24 dollars for 2 people? I've eaten there about 5 times now, but I've sort of stagnated into the same orders. Suggestions? I'm thinking the lamb dumplings, a noodle soup and something else with a cold starter. I might toss in the extra 1.50 for a beer.

                                    1. re: JFores

                                      $24 will take you far! two plates of the cold starters (you could probably taste 4-6 items) which I think are $4 each, whatever crazy special is on top of that cold counter, and a couple of the bing maybe. do you order from their english menu? it looked like a majority of the items were available on both chinese and english menu so there wasn't too much secret stuff going on.

                                      try that combo casserole, (shi-jing sa-guo) if you want something substantial, it was good and great for two (or three). and, I thought the place was BYOB? I don't remember seeing beer in the cooler and it looked like most people bought in their own.

                                      re: xinjiang; if only china's interests were about something as relatively benign as fruit! the xinjiang fresh dates (hong-zhou) that I saw were as big as plums! but yeah, crazy stuff. always something to keep in mind.

                                      1. re: JFores

                                        Yes and now Xinjiang has been added to the "Tibet list." What I mean is if you want to visit either Tibet or Xinjiang now you need to get additional documents from an '"external organization" clearly controlled by the PRC to be allowed to enter.

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          Woah woah woah. scoopG can you email me about that. I haven't heard about that yet and that's a big problem.

                                          To return to this food, as noted below by NYNH we ate there the other day. I like the shuijiao more than he did and they were A LOT better this time. Nonetheless, not the most impressive meal. Probably the worst I've had there.

                                  2. re: bigjeff

                                    It's just a regional thing seemingly, but they still have a lot of dishes that are specific to the Hui community. Also, both Hui and Uighur Muslims tend to drink. Sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily because of social or working situations where it's more or less forced on them.

                                    1. re: JFores

                                      Trust yourself to Mr. Wang, perhaps? Ask him...he's a friendly chap and must recognize you by now!

                      3. This wonderful place is between Main st. and Union st. The Google info is sadly off. Yet again thank you Mr. ScoopG for a choice selection.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wew

                          second on the google map mis-info. this place is up the block from the library, and nowhere near college pt. blvd.

                        2. that looks amazing and really, the lunchroom setting is all the better.

                          hats off to you again for a great report. now, I've got yet another restaurant to add to the immense backlog of all the "scoops" that I must attend to.

                          1. I'm curious: the food skews Muslim, the owner emigrated from Henan (one of the better provinces to emigrate from, not prosperous, not very nice living conditions by and large). Xinjiang people/Hui have internally migrated east since it was possible to do so. There are degrees of observance among Hui just as there are among members of any religion, so pork on the menu is not surprising.
                            But...what makes this food distinctively Henan? Or is the food an idiocuisine particular to this chef?

                            10 Replies
                              1. re: buttertart

                                I've been looking into this! Mr. Wang is quick to point out that his menu is limited and that what he is currently offering are appetizers and street food type dishes from Henan. He is from Zhengzhou. The Guan Tang Bao are a Henan staple - Henan's most famous GTB restaurant is called Kaifeng's First Floor - 开封第一楼 (Kaifeng Di Yi Lou) which has been around for a century:

                                http://www.kfdyl.com/

                                In addition to what was in the OP, pork is used, but not in soups; where lamb or mutton is preferred. Henan's most famous dish is a Baked Sweet and Sour Carp with noodles on top. Other famous dishes are

                                Bianjing Duck - Bianjing being the Song Dynasty name for Kaifeng
                                Four Treasures - Duck, Chicken, Pigeon and Quail
                                Steamed Dumplings - including one type with plum blossoms
                                Sea Cucumber with Hibiscus or Scallions
                                Grilled Lamb with Onions
                                Braised Pork
                                Soups: Mutton; Dusi (Pig Stomach) and Hot and Sour Mullet
                                Many types of cakes (like Peanut,Turnip) as well as Stuffed Buns
                                Mung Bean Noodles
                                a type of River Duck Egg
                                and lastly, dog meat might be found in some areas.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  Very interesting. I wonder if there's a Henan volume in my '90s provincial cooking school books series, should have a look. Dog meat is of course found in all areas pretty much, saw it advertised on the window of a restaurant in Puxi near the Yiyuan...not to mention the stalls in our neighborhood in Taipei (Chien T'an - oh oh pun in the Wade-Giles there...).

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    From the Kaifeng First Floor restaurant website (in English) they say the place is 88 years old and has been personally visited over the many years by the Great Helmsman himself, along with Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zeming. It was recently cited as "one of the most 500 famous enterprises in the national catering industry."

                                    Reminds me of Apu's line to Homer: "I am hoping you enjoy this movie. It made every Indian critic's top 400 list."

                                      1. re: FrankieLymon

                                        There's a restaurant in Suzhou that has been in documented continuous operation at the same address (NOT that the building has remanined the same) since Qianlong's reign period (established 1737). 88 years is nothing.

                                      2. re: scoopG

                                        But is it one of your most 500 favorite Henan restaurants ever, sccopG?

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      Photo here of this signature Baked Sweet and Sour Carp w/Noodle dish:
                                      dish from Henan, that hopefully Chef Wang will someday create:

                                      http://tupian.hudong.com/a3_54_98_013...

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        They seem to offer this fish dish (or something similar) at Uncle Zhou: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7860...

                                        -----
                                        Uncle Zhou
                                        83-29 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373