Eating Our Way Around Flushing

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 House

Dani 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.

White Bear

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!

Fu Run

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.

A Year of Kombucha Experiments

Here are my notes from a year of experimentation with making, flavoring, and drinking kombucha. If you haven’t heard of kombucha, you’d better get to searchin’.

Tea types

Regular black tea

This is the first base I tried. It makes your standard, run-of-the-mill kombucha. This is also what keeps the SCOBY happy with the nutrients it needs.

Creme Maurice

Creme Maurice is a fine broken-leaf tea with strong vanilla notes, which come out in the final product. This is my favorite base tea so far.

Irish Breakfast

While I can immediately tell the difference between regular black tea and Irish breakfast tea in a normal cup, I cant really tell the difference in a completed batch of kombucha. I do end up using Irish breakfast tea more often for kombucha because it is what I usually have on hand.

Silk Road

Silk Road is a blend of Assam and China breakfast teas. It is wonderfully malty and earthy. In a batch of kombucha brewed with this tea, I can taste hints of maltiness.

1/3 Green 2/3 Irish Breakfast

This creates a lighter kombucha (in both color and flavor). If you’ve had regular black tea kombucha and think it is too strong, I recommend trying various proportions of green to black tea.

Length of Fermentation

I’ve tried varying lengths of fermentation, anywhere from 7 to 14 days. Here is what is going on around each of those times:

  • < 7 days: Pretty sweet (assuming your base ratio is 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water). The SCOBY is starting to consume the sugar. A new SCOBY will start to form on the surface, but won’t be very thick.
  • 7 days: Still lots of sugar in the tea, pretty sweet, but you can start to taste some acidity and tartness coming out. The SCOBY is growing.
  • 10 days: Here the real kombucha flavor comes out. More sugar has been consumed, the SCOBY is bigger, and the kombucha is more tart. If you smell the top of the batch, you can pick up some vinegary notes the SCOBY is giving off. You may even see some bubbles that have formed around the SCOBY.
  • 14 days: This is when I usually stop my main fermentation and start a new batch. I either start my second fermentation or bottle the finished kombucha. Most of the sugar has been consumed and the flavor is nice and tart with hints of the tea coming through. A full second SCOBY has formed, which I sometimes peel off and give to friends.
  • > 14 days: If left longer than 14 days, the kombucha takes on a distinct vinegary flavor. The longer it goes, the stronger the flavor gets. The SCOBY will eventually consume all traces of the sugar and it will stop growing.

Starter Kombucha

I have used varying amounts of starter kombucha from 1/2 cup to 3 cups and found that it doesn’t affect my final outcome much besides for keeping it from going bad in the first few days. (The higher acidity keeps the wrong bacteria away while the good bacteria gets going.)

Secondary Fermentations

After I siphon the base kombucha from the crock after 14 days, sometimes I like to flavor it. This happens over two days in a second jar without a SCOBY. I use quart mason jars and put whatever fruit or other flavorings I want directly into the kombucha and let it sit covered for 2 days. Not only does this flavor your kombucha, but if you add something with sugar (like fruit), it will give your brew a nice fizz.

It is important to add all flavorings after the original kombucha is finished fermenting. If you try to add it to the first fermentation, you risk weakening or killing the SCOBY.


While hibiscus tea is usually so sour that you don’t dare drink it without sweetening it first, hibiscus kombucha is much different. When fermented with kombucha for two days, hibiscus petals shed their tanginess and a complex floral flavor results. I find it delicious. 2 tbsp to 16 oz of kombucha.

Dried Orange Peel

Not good. I don’t recommend this. It tastes like a yeasty skunked Oberon. Don’t waste your hard-brewed kombucha on this.


I first tried 6 dried juniper berries in a 16oz bottle, but after a week the juniper taste was faint. So I upped it to 14 berries. Still not much. After chalking it up as a loss, I came across a brine that called for crushing juniper berries before adding them. This makes all the difference. I put 4 tablespoons of crushed berries in a quart jar with kombucha for a day and a half and came out with a light juniper flavored kombucha that is very drinkable and refreshing.

Lemon and Ginger

I sliced up half a lemon and about 2 square inches of fresh ginger and let it sit in a quart jar with fresh kombucha for a day and a half. The result was delicious, but has a bit of a bite. It takes me a while to get through a whole 32oz bottle of this because I don’t want to drink it all the time. Perhaps in the future I’d use less ginger and keep the amount of lemon the same.

Flavoring in Bottles

Flavoring in bottles is super simple, but there are a few downsides:

  • Whatever you push down into the bottle is a pain to get out, even with a bottle brush.
  • Things like strawberries get slimy after a few days.
  • Adding things to the bottle could introduce bad bacteria. You probably won’t get sick, but your kombucha will taste a bit off.

I’ve stopped adding favorings directly to the bottle and use the secondary fermentation method instead. It is more work, but produces better results.


This is one of the easiest ways to flavor kombucha and you get a strong flavor even after a few hours. I prefer to use dried strawberries if I’m going to leave them in the bottle instead of doing a secondary fermentation. I flavored a few batches with strawberries and then got tired of it and moved on to other flavor experiments. Strawberry has never been my favorite flavor in general, though.

Strawberries and Ginger

Again, easy and produces great results with a strong flavor in a short period of time. If you are new to making kombucha and are looking for an easy win, this is it. 2-3 sliced strawberries and 2 slices of fresh ginger and you are good to go. If you don’t want the strawberries to get slimy in the bottle, make sure to do a secondary fermentation instead.

Future Experiments

  • Secondary fermentation with lemons (I think this will go especially well with a green tea kombucha)
  • Secondary fermentation with black cherries (Should go well with the Creme Maurice tea)
  • Secondary fermentation with sage and blackberries
  • Secondary fermentation with fresh mint (I think this will go well with a lighter, greener blend)
  • Different ratios of black to green or oolong teas
  • Pu-erh tea as the base (I’m actually trying this right now, it should be done next week. I’ll edit this post with the results.)
  • Trying out adding a bag or two of yerba mate with a 1-2 ratio of green to black tea.
  • Full green tea batch
  • Flavoring with lime juice in the bottle
  • Secondary fermentation with lavender or jasmine blossoms
  • Flavoring with oil of Bergamot with a 100% black tea to get an Earl Grey flavor (Using Earl Grey tea as the base might kill your SCOBY due to the essential oils, so you only want to add them afterward)
  • Second fermentation with concord grapes, perhaps with a green tea kombucha.
  • Green tea kombucha mixed with lemonade to make something similar to Baohaus’s Lang Lang.

Soon I’ll have a post up with links to my kombucha gear and instructions on how to get started with brewing it. If you are interested in getting started but need a SCOBY, tweet at me (@cagrimmett) and I’ll send you one if I have any extras available.