The Other Chinatown
After years of winding my way through the streets of lower Manhattan, I think I’ve finally figured out Chinatown. A little overwhelming and often confusing, you always know you’re in New York. A few blocks in any direction and you’re in Little Italy, Tribeca or the Lower East Side. I’d always been curious about the “other” Chinatown – the one they keep in Flushing, where Jennifer 8 Lee said the “real” Chinese restaurants were. I had no good reason for not making it out there until now so when my teacher, Steven Shaw planned an excursion for his current food blogging class, I had to sign up. After all, he’d written the book. This weekend we met up at the French Culinary Institute on a gray day to make our way through cast iron Soho to Spring street where a 6 would get us to the 7 to Flushing. When we came up from the station, it was clear we were not in Manhattan anymore.
Coming out on Roosevelt Ave. and Main St., my head swimming from the smell of roasted duck wafting from the first stand we passed, I did my best to keep track of where we were going so that I could find them again but it was hopeless. After a few blocks, I lost what little sense of direction I had. Here are a few images from the day:
Our first stop was across Roosevelt Ave. on the corner of Kissena Blvd. for roasted meats on skewers. The chicken and lamb skewers were spicy and succulent (hate that word but they were) and the cart sent out wafts of roast-smoke for a heightened sensory experience. Fortified, we kept moving.
Our next stop at Zhujiguotie, a cramped beehive of a shop with a window looking out onto the street, was my favorite. Packed at 2:00 in the afternoon, Steven said it might be just as full at 2:00 in the morning (see comments). Located just off Main St. and 41st. Ave., Annette pointed out the giant bowl of rice on the corner so that might help me find it next time. I was able to get a picture of the dumplings, sadly the pork buns didn’t last nearly long enough to photograph.
Working our way down, we stopped in the Golden Mall. A warren of food stalls and small shops, it was like entering the hull of a ship. Looking at this one galley kitchen, you would swear the entire building was rocking side to side.
Our longest layover was at Flushing Mall. Before we settled into their food court, we watched them make hand pulled noodles. I tried to capture the process but it was a blur. First their was a mound of dough then in a few swings it was noodles, and then there was all this – soup, more lamb and chicken, dam-dam noodles with dried fermented beef, pigs ears with chili oil, cold chicken feet, more dumplings, and a special mango sundae over shaved ice.
Working our way out in a happy food daze, we’d passed harp school, photography studio and bridal store when we saw him. We weren’t sure why he was posted just inside the entrance or why he was so distorted but I could relate. We’d gone through the looking glass but I was pretty sure that every thing I ate was only going to make me bigger.
That was our trip. I tried to cover most of it but of course there was more – bubble tea, cream filled cakes, giant banquet rooms, roasted ducks, markets, bakeries – and a lot more smoke. Steven warned us that every trip out there is a new experience with different vendors and more food stalls. Like any neighborhood with a thriving immigrant community, they’re seemingly settled but still unpacking so there will always be more to see. Still, it was a great first visit.