While thousands of New Yorkers will be flocking to Manhattan’s Chinatown for the clusterfuck that is the Lunar New Year Parade, just a quick hop, skip, and ride to the end of the 7 line will put you in Flushing, Queens where similar festivities occur minus the claustrophobia, shoving, and organized chaos. One of the city’s best areas for all cuisines Asian, it’d be a crime to schlep your way out there and not partake in something unusual (pig ears, anyone?). Click here to see what’s going on during the February 12th parade, and then scroll on down to find out about some of the best under $10 dishes the neighborhood has to offer.
Chengdu Heaven: Down a flight of stairs and into a rickety basement food court is this authentic Sichuan restaurant, primarily made up of folding tables and scattered stools. Even if you can’t get over the fact the ceiling looks like it’s going to cave in, the Ma Po Dofu ($6) is worth risking your life for. Impossibly silky tofu chunks are placed in a “lake of fire,” that brings out the “ma” and the “la” aspects of Sichuan-style cuisine. The “ma,” or numbing sensation, is caused by Sichuan peppercorns, and the “la,” or spicy sensation, is brought about by the copious amounts of chili flakes/oil. Each bite is spicy yet dulling to the senses, making this an almost sadistically delicious dish. 41-28 Main St. at 41st Rd., no phone, walk down the stairs on Main Street and the restaurant is right at the bottom.
Ming Chan Dong: The lights might be off when you walk by this deserted-looking storefront, but rest assured there will be someone right next to the door when you walk in, arranging various Korean buns for you to purchase. The kimchi jjin bbang, an enormous bun the size of a baby skull (but a whole lot tastier) with “Klingon-like furrows,” is filled with spicy kimchi, glass noodles, and tiny chunks of pork. For $1.50, this monster could easily serve as a cheap meal or huge afternoon snack. 36-24 Union St between 37th Ave and Northern Blvd, 718-358-3935.
Ice Fire Land: Avoid the expensive hot pot by sitting in the spinning chairs (whee!) near the register and partaking in some delicious Taiwanese shaved ice ($3.95 with four toppings). While the fruity toppings such as lychee jelly are delicious, go for the sweetened red beans, taro root, brown sugar syrup, and condensed milk for a more traditional experience. Unlike many lesser renditions, the ice here isn’t chunky and has a perfectly fine consistency. 135-11 40th Rd between Main and Prince Sts, 718-886-8600
Jack Yan’s: No English is spoken at this tiny dumpling stall, so the tried and true “point and flail” method of ordering is your best bet to land some truly delicious steamed dumplings. After you order, take your seat at the row of chairs along the wall and watch the elderly Chinese women fold the dough and stuff the fillings into each individual dumpling before boiling them to order and unceremoniously throwing them your way. The fennel and pork dumplings (12 for $4) are some of the best I’ve ever tasted with a perfect balance of slightly bitter fennel and tender savory pork, and skins that have just the right amount of thickness. 41-28 Main St at 41st Rd, no phone, enter the building at ground level on Main St and the stall is on your right.
Henan Feng Wei: This minimalist Chinese cafeteria serves up cuisine from the tiny province of Henan, located just southeast of Shanghai. While you’ll see many patrons slurping up giant bowls of noodle soup, the dish to get here is Da Pan Ji, or “Big Plate Chicken” ($12). A huge wok full of marinated chicken chunks in a spicy broth of red pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, cumin seeds, potatoes, and cilantro, this incredibly earthy dish could feed at least three or four hungry adults. If you’re miraculously still not full, head over to the refrigerated case by the register and pick up a plate of cold appetizers ($4 for 3 choices) such as sliced pig ear, marinated tripe, and boiled peanuts. 136-31 41st Ave between Main and Union Sts, 718-762-1818