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Red Chopsticks 紅筷子 – Tasty Taiwanese in Flushing

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  • Lau Apr 30, 2011 09:02 AM
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**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2011/04/red-c...

I’ve been meaning to try Red Chopsticks 紅筷子 for a long time as it is probably the only Taiwanese restaurant in Flushing I hadn’t tried, so I finally got around to it last weekend.

When most people think about Taiwanese food they instantly think about street food and Taiwanese street food is certainly among the best in the world. However, there is a lot more to Taiwanese food, in fact the best meal I’ve ever had in Taiwan was not a street meal, but a meal in some tiny family run restaurant that was literally in their house. The menu here is not really about the street food (even though they have it) as no one was ordering street food; the clientele was mainly Taiwanese families ordering more family style dishes, so I tried to order more like them.

It’s a little restaurant with no English sign with signs in Chinese advertising their specialties. I’m pretty sure that the restaurant used to be a Korean restaurant as the décor does not look Chinese at all with a lot of dark wood. However, it is a nice change as it’s much nicer than most Chinese restaurants in Flushing. It has a very nice sort of homey atmosphere, kind of feels like being in Asia.

The service was good and everyone was very nice, I’m not sure how their English is as we never spoke to them in English, but the menu is translated to English so you should be fine no matter what. Although they do have several specials written only in Chinese on the wall, which I didn’t notice until the end of the meal as another table had a crab sticky rice on their table and I couldn’t find it on the menu then I noticed it on the wall.

Here’s what we got:
- Cold Jelly Fish (Liang Ban Hai Zhe): This was a typical preparation of sliced cold jellyfish tossed in sesame oil and salt and accompanied by sliced sweet pickled radish and carrots. This was very good, the jellyfish had that good almost crunchy texture and when accompanied with the sesame oil and radish it was just right. 8.5/10
- Stinky Tofu (Chou Dou Fu): I had heard that Red Chopsticks makes the best stinky tofu in NY. Now that’s not a very high bar as the best I’ve had is mediocre, but I had to give it a try anyhow. The tofu was the correct texture where it’s crispy on the outside and retained a good interior of being softer although not super soft. The soy sauce was good and the pickled cabbage on top was very good, it had a good sweet flavor with chilis for spice. The thing that was missing was that it was not stinky enough. Stinky tofu is like a cheese where it needs a certain level of stinky flavor to give it good flavor. Overall, it was the best version I’ve had in NY although if you’ve had it in Taiwan this won’t quite get you there. Also it made it a lot better when you ask for chili paste, which is the normal way I eat it in Taiwan. 7.5/10
- Taiwanese Hamburger (Gua Bao): Gua bao is my all-time favorite Taiwanese street food. It’s sort of famous now in NY because of people like David Chang (Momofuku) and Eddie Huang (BaoHaus). It’s a white steamed bun with stewed pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts, pickled vegetable and this brown sweet powder stuff. I pretty much always have to at least try it everywhere. However, the version here is pretty mediocre and I wouldn’t recommend ordering it. The pork belly wasn’t tender enough and wasn’t that flavorful and it didn’t have enough condiments. 6.5/10
- Chicken Roll (Ji Juan): This is not that common of a dish to find in NY. It’s minced pork and fish paste mixed with various spices wrapped in a thin bean curd sheet that is steamed and then pan fried in oil. You eat it with sweet orange sauce that kind of tastes like a better version of the duck sauce you get in Chinese take-out joints. They make this really good here, this is pretty much exactly what it tastes like in Asia. The bean curd skin is super crispy almost like phyllo dough and the inside paste is tender and flavorful. It goes really well with the sweet sauce. This was the best dish of the night and I would come back here again just for this. Btw they list it in English as a “pork roll” on the menu. 8.75/10
- Drunken Pork Ribs (Zui Pai Gu): Most Taiwanese are Hokkien / Min Nan (southern Fujian) and you can really see the Fujian influence in this dish. I’ve had almost the exact same dish in the Fujian part of Chinatown in Manhattan. It’s spare ribs and taro that has been lightly battered and fried and then sautéed in a semi-sweet sauce that uses alcohol (I think rice wine) and garlic. I always like sauces like this one. The rib meat was tender and the taro was cooked nicely. This was a good dish. 7.75/10
- Sticky Rice in Bamboo (You Fan): They advertise that they have these bamboo rice dishes, where the rice is cooked in hallow bamboo shoot. This was you fan, which translates to “oil rice”. It’s basically seasoned glutinous rice with mushrooms and some other vegetables. The version here was decent, but in Taiwan it’s a lot more flavorful, I thought it was a bit on the bland side. 7/10
- Pan Fried Flounder (Gan Jian Long Li): A lot of tables seemed to be getting seafood, so I decided to get a pan fried flounder. This was a typical preparation where the fish was covered in corn starch and then was pan fried in oil on both sides. Soy sauce was poured over it with some shallots. I thought it was pretty good, the meat was tender and clean tasting and the sauce goes great with it. One of my friends thought that the skin should be crispier, but I liked it and would get this again. 7.75/10
- Salt and Pepper Frog (Jiao Yen Tian Ji): This was salt and pepper battered pieces of frog topped with fried minced garlic and scallions. The batter was crispy and although it looked kind of heavy / oily, it was actually not that heavy and had a nice salty flavor. The meat was very tender and good tasting. A friend of mine described frog meat perfectly as “it tastes like chicken, but has a more tender consistency somewhere between fish and chicken”. The bones were still in, which is always a little annoying about frog, but other than that it was pretty good. 7.75/10
- Razor Clams with Basil: This was razor clams out of the shell stir fried with onions, basil and peppers in slightly sweet black bean sauce. My friends thought it almost tasted more like a Thai dish than a Chinese dish as the flavor of the basil was very apparent. The razor clams were decent and the sauce went decently with it, but overall I didn’t love this dish, it wasn’t bad, just nothing really stood out about it. 7/10
- A Vegetable (A Cai): A cai is a vegetable that literally translates to “A vegetable”, it’s a little like spinach, but has a more firm consistency. It is very common in Taiwanese cuisine. It was blanched and quickly stir fried with some oil and garlic. It was a decent, but not great version. 7.25/10
- Egg With Crab: This was weird and I thought I was ordering a typical Taiwanese dish which is scrambled egg that normally is served with either tomato or shrimp, but in this case it said it was served with crab. However, what came out was a big egg omelet with scallions and blue crab cut up, but still in the shell. It looked good, but the crab was not really noticeable unless you pulled a piece out and the egg was a little overcooked. I wouldn’t order this again. 6.25/10

Overall, I enjoyed the meal, it had some hits and misses, but I will definitely come back as I could tell that there are more gems to be found here because some of the dishes we had were quite good.

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Red Chopstick
136-17 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355

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  1. This is one of the best write ups, tremendous. I want to try this place. What do you think of the Taiwanese food in Flushing Mall, Temple Snacks I think its called?. That place has been my only exposure to Taiwanese food

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    Flushing Mall Food Court
    133-31 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

    6 Replies
    1. re: AubWah

      thanks!

      flushing mall: there are actually 3 taiwanese places in the flushing mall:

      - Temple Snacks: its the last stall on the far left is temple snacks. ive only tried a few things there, the gua bao (taiwanese hamburger) is quite good there (its what they are known for), but the other stuff i've tried has been mediocre

      - Yong He: this place specializes in Taiwanese breakfast food. Yong He is the name of a famous breakfast place in Taipei, so places always name themselves after it (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/740912). I like the food here especially the egg scallion pancake (dan cong bing

      )

      - Ay Chung (listed as Han Kou on yelp): this has alot of taiwanese classic quick type dishes. I like this place as i like their salt and pepper dishes (popcorn chicken, squid etc), its probably the most popular place in the Flushing mall. Although I havent' actually tried their specialty which is ah zong mian xian, which is a spicy vermicelli intestine soup (found a pic of it on this blog: http://blog.omy.sg/danielang/archives...). I'm actually sure if this is an actual branch of Ah Zong Mian Xian, which is a really famous place in Taipei that is awesome (i always try to go when i'm in taiwan

      )

      Red Chopsticks is one of the better Taiwanese places in Flushing. I'm going to re-review Gu Xiang and Main Street Imperial soon, they're both good as well (i really like some of the stir fries at gu xiang, very home style and i have a feeling main street might be the most authentic, but i need to go there with someone who can read better than me).

      1. re: Lau

        Thanks much Lau. I was going to ask you about how RC compares with Main Street. Yong He (永和 Yǒnghé) is also a district in Taipei. Is this place in Flushing connected to the Taiwan Yong He restaurant or are they just using the name?

        1. re: scoopG

          scoopG - you are correct yong he is a district in taipei, the link i answered with to AubWah is the actual real deal place, but in the US almost all of the Taiwanese breakfast places are called yong he, but have no relation to the real deal one....even in taiwan there are a bunch of places called yong he that serve breakfast that are ripping off the original

          1. re: scoopG

            i forgot to answer your other question. its hard for me to say which one is better b/c i got very different dishes at main street vs red chopsticks. i plan on going to back to main street imperial soon and re-trying it, i need someone who can read better than me, going to try to get my friend's dad to go, who is super taiwanese

          2. re: Lau

            I've found Temple Snacks' food to be greasy and stomach churning. The last time I was there, the pork chop over rice was barely edible, pretty disgusting actually. Their pork belly is decent, used to be better when they were on Roosevelt, but the bao is dry as sawdust.

            I've made several visits to Main Street Imperial Taiwanese - as it's convenient to my work, home and in an easy hood to park in. While not being a great restaurant, their good dishes, such as Cong Ying Tou (sp? Scallion Fly Head), cuttlefish with chives and a few others keep me coming back. I've also had dishes here that aren't so memorable. The chef, when on, has a nice, light touch, especially w/ seafood.

            Look forward to your full review and look forward to trying Red Chopsticks.
            P.

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            Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet
            59-14 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

            Red Chopstick
            136-17 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355

            1. re: Polecat

              Temple Snacks - i havent had that problem re: their bao, but i agree most of the other food ive had there is medioce

              Main Street Imperial - the cong ying tou is quite good there. i want to go there with my friend's dad who has good taste and is full blown taiwanese (from a village outside kaosiung) and he has been saying that place is the most authentic in flushing....i plan on going there soon with him and seeing what he orders

              gu xiang - it was open when i was there, in fact i was originally planning on going there but decided to try red chopsticks instead

          3. Do they make their stinky tofu in house?

            And that chili paste you keep going back to ... is that made in house?

            8 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              hmmm both good questions and i dont know the answer to either of them....NY is alot different than LA, so chou dou fu is way less common than LA, so i would think they make the chou dou fu in house, but i don't know....ill ask them next time

              1. re: ipsedixit

                i forgot to answer your other question. i dont think that they make their own chili paste, its rather that i really like chili paste with stinky tofu, i always eat stinky tofu with chili paste in taiwan. although alot of them do make their own chili paste in taiwan, so its alot better there. this tasted like the sriracha one.

                the only places i know of that make their own chili paste are a couple of chao zhou restaurants

                1. re: Lau

                  I think their 臭豆腐 is the best one can get in NYC, which isn't much of a compliment. :-) It can get a little bit too dry on the inside for my taste, hence I doubt they make it on the premises.
                  I think 臭豆腐 with the sriracha sauce is the western invention: would be curious to find out if it's available in SG but I've never had it in TW. IMHO, the Huy Fong brand chili sauce common to the US should do the job, but not sriracha: you can get some brown sauce for sweetness.
                  Also, I would suggest trying ATsai at 北港: it's a very solid execution, and if you ask a waitress what green vegetable she can recommend, it's likely to be her first choice.

                  1. re: diprey11

                    i agree with you re: the chou dou fu, but when we went it wasn't too dry, the texture was correct, but in NY generally its almost always too dry, which is part of the reason it was better

                    well its not the smooth sriracha sauce, its the one with the chili seeds etc in it. i almost always eat it in taiwan with some type of chili paste, but its different and usually alot better in taiwan b/c its probably home made

                    ill def try the a cai at bei gang when i go again

                    1. re: Lau

                      In Taiwan, esp. the night markets, what separates a good stinky tofu stand from one that is outstanding is the spicy chili paste and secret sauces that come garnished on the tofu -- the recipes and ingredients as closely guarded as family jewels.

                      This is why I asked whether the chili paste was housemade.

                      Personally, I also like my stinky tofu with chili paste, but it must also have good dark black vinegar and some fermented sour cabbage (酸菜)

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        If you are looking for a venue on par with, e.g. 遼寧夜市, then I am sorry. Having said that, they have consistently the best stinky tofu in NYC, sauces notwithstanding (their pickles are just fine, but then again I'd be personally happy with 蘿蔔).

                        1. re: diprey11

                          No, of course not. I don't even expect to find 遼寧夜市 (or something similar) in the San Gabriel Valley in California. I was just responding generally to Lau's post about how to best enjoy 臭豆腐.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            ipsedixit - i agree with you re: chili paste and suan cai, the condiments really kick it up a notch. i think the combo of stinkiness, chili paste and suan cai are big differentiators in the US vs taiwan

                            diprey11 - i think of the three factors i just mentioned to ipsedixit, Red Chopsticks suan cai is the strongest, i liked their suan cai quite a bit. As i mentioned i liked having chili paste, that said it is not the same as home made chili paste. The weakness of the stinkiness level was already mentioned. i def was not expecting liao ning ye shi / taiwan quality stinky tofu, but this was at least passable stinky tofu and i cant say that about most places in NY

              2. In Taiwan, sticky rice in bamboo is a different animal altogether. It seems that this restaurant is merely taking you fan and steaming it inside a section of a bamboo pole (more like a cup or bowl), in a way combining two things.

                Zu Tong Fan, or bamboo rice, is a TW aborigine food staple (e.g. the mountain areas and hot springs of Wu Lai), where in the mountains they cut up a section of bamboo, cut a slit open from one half of the side, then insert the rice in along with water, salt, maybe pork then bbq/grill it.

                You fan usually has some lard in it (which is why it is so fragrant in TW), of course mushrooms and maybe dried shrimp and/or dried cured turnips. There are stalls that specialize in it at the night markets.

                1 Reply
                1. re: K K

                  yah i agree with your assessment, i thought it was going to be something very different. i think i had that bamboo rice you're talking about once in taiwan a long time ago.

                  if you click on the first picture of my website for red chopsticks, the yellow lettering actually advertises zhu tong fan. to be fair they had several other varieties, but i just happened to chose the you fan. it's possible that the other versions are different

                  i really like you fan in taiwan (super unhealthy though), but this was off the mark b/c it wasn't nearly as flavorful as the one you get in taiwan