Some of the best places to sample global cuisine can be found right here, in New York’s 5 boroughs. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx are home to some of the most diverse immigrant communities in the world. Happily, they brought the unique flavors and culinary traditions of their homeland with them.
The Flushing neighborhood of Queens has what many foodies believe to be the best Chinese food in the city.
A stroll around Flushing is like traveling to China. Within moments of hopping off the 7 train, I am confronted by the rich spice and cumin-laden scent of chuar, Chinese street meat. The aroma transports me straight back to the 3 am street side adventures I had while studying in Beijing. Similar to the Middle Eastern kebob or a Greek souvlaki and generally made from chicken, pork, or lamb, chuar is a beloved snack across China.
Chuar are a great snack and a cheap bite. Often when I visit the street stall at the corner of Prince Street and 39th Ave I buy quite a few…and at $1 a piece there’s really no reason not to. My challenge is not to fill up too quickly because in Flushing’s Chinatown, there’s always a whole lot of eating left for me to do.
Take the Nan Xiang Dumpling House, which is right around the corner. This small Micheli- recommended establishment attracts a clientele that is as authentic as the xiao long bao they are famous for. Don’t even try to come here without ordering the delightful pillows of heaven. The women of Nan Xiang spend hours upon hours kneading the dumpling dough and creating the delicate savory bites of deliciousness. In China, making xiao long bao is an art form and at Nan Xiang Dumpling House this tradition is alive and well.
An order of dumplings is all I usually order–and not because I couldn’t trough down at least a dozen more. No trip to China or Flushing would be complete without sampling crispy, savory-sweet Peking Duck. While plenty of restaurants in the neighborhood serve Peking Duck, I prefer to take mine to go-served up in an airy steamed bun and doused in sweet plum sauce. Then I eat it right there, standing on the corner, feeling as though I’m that student again, back in Beijing.
When in Flushing, do what the locals do-visit a basement food mall. Now a renowned mini-chain, the original Xi’an Famous Foods, the chili-fueled brainchild of Chinese immigrants, is located here. A mecca for culinary enthusiasts, this stall in the mall is a must-stop on any Flushing food tour.
Try the Spicy Cumin Lamb or Hand-Ripped Noodles in Soup, affectionately known as menu item #Ns1. The noodles have the perfect chew, the cumin adds just the right amount of aromatics and the chili, a dash of sweat-inducing heat. Food from the Xi’an region is unlike the rest of the Mainland in that it blends Chinese and Middle Eastern flavors together. Xi’an Famous Foods does a good job of providing a solid culinary tour of the region and is a lot less expensive than hopping on a plane.
I can eat my way through Flushing for days on end. Even a visit to the supermarkets there is a fascinating experience. I can spend hours marveling at the Chinese delicacies and imports that are impossible to find elsewhere this side of the planet. Famed for it’s ability to reject gentrification and hold on to tradition, Flushing is my go-to neighborhood… an authentic bite of China when I don’t have the time for a 16-hour flight.
Featured image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Sarita Dan