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A Flushing Kind of Saturday

August 21, 2012

Two Saturdays ago, I had the brilliant idea of taking a field trip to Flushing with a specific destination in mind.  Given the distance from Manhattan and the constant throngs of people in Chinatown Flushing, this is usually an activity best undertaken in milder weathers.  The minute we stepped down into the subway station, I started questioning our decision to even leave my apartment.  The air was thick and balmy and with 5 minutes on the clock before the next uptown bound 1 train arrives, no relief is in sight.

A thirty minute ride on the 7 train across much of Queens, past Jackson Heights and beyond the Mets stadium, we were finally in the heart of Flushing’s Main Street.   After meeting up with HF, we made a beeline for the restaurant destination in mind – Biang for lunch.  This is an offshoot of Xi’an Famous Foods, a mini-chain that started out as a stall serving up Northwestern Chinese cuisine not too many doors away in the underground food court.  After quite a few mostly takeout restaurants, the owners decided to finally open up a proper sit-down space in their old stomping grounds and named it Biang, after the sound that the hand-pulled noodles make.  Not quite a real word, this new Chinese “character” will definitely make your eyes cross trying to count the number of strokes.

The inside was decidedly modern but retaining an Asian touch with posters of cartoon pandas hung above dark wood furniture and bar tables.  While the interior might be quite a departure from the old Xi’an Famous Foods, I was glad to see that for that the best dishes from the old store made their way onto the new menu for the most part.  Even more exciting was seeing iced sour hawberry tea on the menu!  A cooling drink typically enjoyed in the heat of summer, this was mostly sweet and just a bit tart, almost like a cranberry juice.  Ahhh, a great way to lower my temperature down to a normal level.

 

We started lunch with a warm salad of sliced lotus roots with chili pepper and sesame oil vinaigrette.  The lotus roots were still crunchy and the vinaigrette gave the mild vegetable a great tartness with a slight hint of heat from the chili peppers.

 

 

Of all the dishes on the menu, MD’s ears perked up when our waitress suggested it as an order for us.  Pork – of course!  Unlike most other buns served in ramen shops in East Village, these were made with minced pork belly that had been stewed in a sweet spiced soy sauce until absolutely tender between a toasted white bun.  While HF and MD weren’t crazy about the crunch bun, the filling won us all over.  One bite caused the juices to spill out, running down my fingers and I couldn’t be bothered to wipe them away as I continued to stuff my face.

 

The lamb skewers came in a set of three, perfect for our party!  The meat was packed in tightly one after another on metal skewers and each bite was a warm cumin spiced mouthful.  I will take these over the ones from the street carts any day!

 

For some reason, I wanted wings and so HF and I decided to go ahead and indulge in our whims and ordered the spiced wings.  Delicious but the flavor was very similar to the lamb skewers, no need to order both.

 

Now, I had been looking forward to this particular dish, toasted mantou with pork sausage and quail egg.  Served in a set of three, I didn’t think these would satisfy us so two order it was!  How adorable are these little bites?  And bites they were.  The flavorful sausages packed a great flavor and the toasted buns made for a great vehicle for delivering these mini egg sausage open face sandwiches into our mouths.

 

Finally, a visit to Biang wouldn’t be complete without a bowl of noodles.  At the suggestion of our waitress, we went with the spicy and sour pork belly with wide hand ripped noodles.  The bowl wasn’t huge and because the noodles were wide, it didn’t contain that many long strips (and by long, I mean long), no more than 3 to be exact, which made it difficult to share.  The flavor was intense and the spice wasn’t overwhelming, perfectly balanced by the vinegar based sauce.  The pork belly was very similar to what was in the buns and I couldn’t get enough.

I love the way that the team at Xi’an Famous Foods translated what made them popular into a great sit-down restaurant, dressing up the dishes we know well from styrofoam containers into proper restaurant dishes without increasing the prices.  The addition of dishes like skewers and pork sausage and quail egg toasts were also a lovely touch.  It would be great to see Biang eventually make its way to Manhattan to shorten the trip to delicious Xi’an skewers and noodles.

Satisfied with our meal, the three of us ventured back into the crowds of Flushing.  Of course, I made sure that we walked by the Peking Duck stall at the corner of 40th Street and Main street.  And at only a dollar a piece, I couldn’t resist picking up a little final snack.

 

The stall serves more than just duck buns, in fact, I think these are more like the side business.  Within seconds of handing over my dollar, I had a warm piece of steamed bun filled with a piece of Peking duck, slivers of scallions and cucumbers with a smear of Hoisin sauce.   It took a lot of will power to take this picture and not stuffing this my mouth immediately.  Mmm, perfectly crunchy and sweet, the meaty bun is one of the best deals in Flushing, by far!

 

Since we stopped for me and my duck bun craving, a pit stop for taro bubble tea for MD and a black milk tea for HF.

 

And of course, a coconut bun or two to go!

Biang | 41-10 Main Street, Flushing, NY 11355 | http://biang-nyc.com

Peking Duck Sandwich Stall | Main Street and 40th Street

 

 

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