Back in January, Amanda and I met our friend Dani in Flushing, Queens, for a day of stuffing ourselves with Chinese food. We roughly followed the Serious Eats guide: How to Eat Flushing: A One-Day Food Tour of NYC’s Greatest Chinatown. Here is how it went.
We decided to meet at noon. Unfortunately, due to NYC’s ubiquitious weekend subway maintenance, Dani was running late. We all agreed to skip breakfast to make room for the mass quantity of dumplings we were about to consume, so we were pretty hungry. Amanda and I decided to get a quick snack from a street stall while we were waiting. We couldn’t really tell what anything was and we don’t speak or read Chinese (nothing at this stall was in English), so we just pointed at something and handed over some money. It ended up being fried tofu balls of some sort. Good little snack.
First Stop: Tian Jin Dumpling HouseDani made it about 30 minutes later and we made our way to the first destination: The Tian Jin Dumpling House. It took us a few minutes to find because it is in the basement food hall of The Golden Shopping Mall on Main St.
We got two plates of dumplings to share: Pumpkin TangYuan w/ Sesame (the daily special) and Beef dumplings with turnip. I loved the ground black sesame seeds in the pumpkin TangYuan. They were slightly gritty with a sweet but savory flavor that worked well with the pumpkin wrapper.
After eating a few plates at Tian Jin, we decided to walk around the block to White Bear and order their well-known specialty: #6, wontons with hot sauce. People must order this all the time because the old lady behind the counter rolled her eyes when we ordered it.
These were probably the best dumplings we had all day. As Serious Eats reports, they are “dressed in not-actually-spicy chili oil, ground up roasted chili, and nubs of funky, salty preserved mustard root.” We would have ordered at least two more plates of these, but we wanted to same room for later.
Fang Gourmet Tea
With a belly full of dumplings and in desperate need of caffeine, we jumped ahead on the itinerary and went to Fang Gourmet Tea to have a world-class tea tasting.
The tea seller who led our tasting was a complete expert and taught us a ton throughout the process. She incredibly kind and patiently answered our newbie questions. We were invited to taste and smell the tea at every part of the 5-stage brewing process. She pointed out aromas and tastes that we would have missed on our own and pointed out what sets this tea apart from the others on the list.
We tasted the Premium Roasted Oolong and the Original Ti Kuan Yin Honey Aroma 50% Roasted. Both were incredible. We left with a new appreciation for the world of tea and had a newfound desire to buy a porcelain gaiwan and learn how to brew tea at home.
Right before we left, another party came into the small shop. I thought I recognized one of the guys, and it turns out I was right. It was Max Falkowitz, the Serious Eats contributor and author of the very guide we were following that day! I introduced myself and told him what we were up to. He gave us even more great tips on where to go. Super nice guy!
We walked around for a bit to stretch our legs and get some sun, then we headed over to Fu Run to get the Muslim Lamb Chop: A rack of lamb ribs covered in cumin and ground chiles. They were fiery and delicious. We got a plate of pork fried rice as a side.
Dessert: Iris Tea & Bakery
Dani had plans back in Manhattan late in the afternoon, and Amanda and I did, too. So instead of getting BBQ or Dosas for dinner, we decided to get an early dessert before heading back across the river. We scoped out a few places, but ultimately landed at Iris Tea & Bakery. We picked four desserts to share:
- Taro Cube – This was super dense and didn’t have an overwhelming taro flavor. It wasn’t sweet. Overall decent, but probably not something we’d pick again.
- Hokkaido Pineapple Bread – We expected this to have a lot of pineapple flavor, but it was actually pretty bland. Not recommended.
- Mexican Cheese Chocolate Bread – Very good. Would have again. We didn’t expect it be hollow, but the Mexican chocolate and cheese was awesome.
- Matcha Cranberry Cream Cheese Bread – This was, surprisingly, the best out of the bunch. It was probably the cream cheese.
After enjoying these, we made a bee-line for the subway and went back into Manhattan.
We’ll be back for more, Flushing. We need to have more #6 at White Bear, drink some more tea, and make our way to Mapo for BBQ and Ganesh Temple Canteen for dosas.
Next time you are in NYC, set some time aside to hit Flushing. It is very close to LaGuardia Airport, so leave two hours early for your flight and stop in Flushing for a meal. Then get a cab to LGA from Flushing, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.