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Apr 5, 2011 05:48 PM

A Jiggly Steamed Slice of Heaven: The Hong Kong-style steamed rice roll cart in Elmhurst

The original idea was to while away a late, beautiful Sunday morning with a Vietnamese coffee in the park, but then I noticed the steamed HK rice roll cart.

He's one of two carts who front the shopping center that houses the two Phos (Bang and Bac), Nusara, Penang and NY Supermarket. They both have stuff like fish balls and tea eggs, only this guy features four kinds of rice rolls - take your pick of baby shrimp, pork, beef or chicken. They're a buck twenty five a piece, unless you want an egg in there as well - that'll cost you fifty cents extra. You can also side it with some fish balls, something I've noticed to be a common practice. I ordered up two, one pork, one baby shrimp, with everything, and then took pleasure in watching the man go to work.

For anyone who's only gotten rice rolls in a dim sum joint, watching them get made is actually part of the fun. The apparatus itself is a pleasure to behold - a metal steamer with thin drawers. The guy pulls out a drawer, pours liquid gluten in a thin, even layer across the surface, pours in the meat and scallions and closes the drawer up for steaming - I'd say anywhere between a minute and a half to two minutes. He then opens the drawer, scrapes out the gluten and deposits it in a styrofoam container, where it becomes an undulating, jiggly mass. With a thin layer of tart, red hot sauce across the top, this thing is what Monk would have called an "ugly beauty."

A good rice roll is part slippery, part firm - shouldn't be too much of either. This one had that balance, and was quite tasty. Having them fresh off the steamer makes all the difference. Just needs a little hot sauce to bring it all together. I dug the pork a little more than the shrimp - the flavor punched through a little more, but both were good. I sat with my rice roll and my Vietnamese coffee on a bench that caught the sun just right, and had a front and center view of about 10 Chinese women doing Tai Chi with boom box accompaniment. I had all I needed in that moment, and all was well with the world.

Better living through street food.


Nusara Thai Kitchen
82-80 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373

Street vendor
Broadway Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373

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  1. Thanks Polecat. What a delightful reminder that spring has sprung and a reminder to put Elmhurst in my culinary cross-bun hairs.

    3 Replies
    1. re: scoopG

      By all means, Scoop. Put that sucker right in your cross hairs. And don't miss out on the Vietnamese iced coffee and that split-level park, both highlights of any visit to Elmhurst's China(S.East Asian)Town.

      1. re: Polecat

        where do you get the viet ice coffee? i am partial to the steamed rice rolls at sun light bakery on east broadway another place where they make them in front of you, mostly because i am so tight with the staff

        1. re: AubWah

          I prefer Pho Bang for the coffee, as they get the right balance of thickness, bitter and sweet. If it's overly sweet, I don't like it, and I find that most places overdo that. In Chinatown, I've liked Nha Trang's version. Yeah, I've been reading about some places in the far east reaches of Ctown that do good, fresh rice rolls, so would like to try them out.

          Pho Bang
          82-90 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373

    2. His name is Mr. Ng although later I saw a woman operating the cart. With my Vietnamese Iced Coffee in hand, Mr. Ng recommended the chicken jiggly slice of heaven. As he made it I wished I had one of these carts. I then slipped into the CC Moore Homestead Park to get better acquainted with my new pals while awaiting the arrival of old ones. The rice roll delivered as promised but the iced coffee from Pho Bac was far too sweet. I marveled at the action in the park: friendly basketball games, serious handball players in full swing, Chess and Go matches, the Tai Qi class amid a large mixture of young and old. A visit to one of the several markets confirmed the wonderful diversity that is my new favorite haunt, Elmhurst.

      4 Replies
      1. re: scoopG

        Welcome to my world, Scoop. If you were there yesterday, at around 1pm, you might have even seen me. I was the guy with the checkered hat and the beatific expression, drawing in my sketchbook - it was a beautiful early afternoon. Glad you dug the cheung fun. For the record, I usually get the iced coffee at Pho Bang, the diner that juts into the parking lot at a right angle. They never make it too sweet - it's more bitter, which I prefer.

        1. re: Polecat

          I'll look for you next time! I was there well before one. You mentioned not liking the overly sweet coffee so I will be sure to head to Pho Bang. A lot of history in that park!

        2. re: scoopG

          Next time you're in the hood, try to score an egg tart from the NY Supermarket bakery. I haven't had a better one in NYC. They run out early.

          New York Supermarket
          82-66 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373