Long time readers know I was a huge fan of the Singapore Chilli Crab Festival. Last week, Wendy Chan (the same woman behind the Singapore Chilli Crab Festival), along with daughter and food blogger Veronica Chan, brought to Flushing Asian Feastival, and I was invited to cover the event. As can be imagined, it was a great event with several small panels, some thought-provoking (Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi spoke about the differences of sustainable eating versus eating locally during the Sustainable Seafood Panel) and some a little more light-hearted (In the Asian American Cuisine Panel, upon asked where he gets inspiration, Akira Back of Yellowtail responded that sometimes inspiration comes from “a stupid flower.” Hilarious.). But most importantly, there were a lot of tastings from Asian restaurants all around Queens. I made sure I did a lot of “research,” and my favorites of the day were the xiaolongbao from Nan Xiang, fish cutlets from Bownie, kimchi mal-ee (김치말이) from Hahm Ji Bach (함지박), and miang kana from Ploy Thai.
Nan Xiang was in full effect last Monday; rolling, stuffing, and steaming the little bad boys right on the spot. It was quite impressive.
As can be imagined, the soup dumplings were pretty awesome. The dumpling skin wasn’t too thick, and the soup inside was light and plentiful. For you Joe’s Shanghai lovers out there, the xiaolongbao at Nan Xiang are more delicate, and the soup less greasy and thinner. I’ll have to go to Nan Xiang for a complete comparison, but from what I tasted, Nan Xiang makes delicious, well-crafted xiaolongbao.
The fish cutlets were probably the most tasty unassuming bites of the day. It was pretty obvious freshly steamed xiaolongbao were going to be good, but room-temperature brown balls of fish? Not quite so. However, looks are often deceiving. The fish cutlets were still crunchy on the outside, and the potato and fish innards — stained a brilliant yellow from the curry — was flavorful. The fish flavor wasn’t too pronounced, but potatoes and curry are always good in my book. I’m sure hot these would have been even better.
I was glad to see Hahm Ji Bach at the event. When I lived in Queens years ago, Hahm Ji Bach used to be one of my favorite restaurants. Hahm Ji Bach specializes in samgyupsal (grilled fresh pork belly), and for the event they prepared, among other things, kimchi mal-ee (pork belly wrapped in kimchi). Tofu was served on the side to counter the heat. The pork was juicy and tender, and the kimchi had the perfect amount of ripeness and spiciness. It was seriously good. It made me miss living in Queens.
My ultimate favorite was the miang kana or miang kham from Ploy Thai. Miang kana is a traditional Thai street food made with various ingredients wrapped in a leaf (usually bai cha plu, which is related to the betel plant and often called “wild betel” in English). Ploy Thai had two versions, one made with Thai broccoli leaves and one made with wild betel leaves. The fillings — fresh ginger, red onion, roasted dry peanuts, toasted coconuts, dried shredded pork, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice — were the same for both. I completely and utterly adored the wild betel leaf miang kana. The leaves, sharp and fragrant, matched the intensity of the sweet and sour filling. It was everything I love about Thai food (minus the heat) in one single bite.
I’m looking forward to the next Asian Feastival. There was no chili crab at this event (I praying it’ll make an appearance at the next one), but it was fabulous nonetheless. Until then, I have a lot of restaurants in Queens to explore.
Nan Xiang Dumpling House
38-12 Prince Street (b/n 38th & 39th Ave; map)
Flushing, NY 11354
143-05 45th Avenue (b/n Bowne & Smart St; map)
Flushing, NY 11355
Hahm Ji Bach (함지박)
41-08 149th Place (b/n 41st & Barclay Ave; map)
Flushing, NY 11355
81-40 Broadway (b/n 81st & 82nd St; map)
Elmhurst, NY 11373