My friend James Felder of Snapshot Artifact went to Flushing today for dim sum and he would like to share his story with you. He would also like me to tell you that his new word for “dude” is “pussycakes.”
Having spent my whole life in Manhattan, I rarely leave the island to eat. There’s everything from overpriced Nouvelle Chinois at Mr. Chow to hearty authentic treats on the cheap in Chinatown. But this summer it’s been a delight on the weekends to go on food trips to the other boroughs. My co-pilot on these trips have been Craig Chin, he of the Hot Dog Song fame.
We’ve found banh mi’s and pork tacos in Sunset Park…
…Huaraches and horchata in Red Hook…
…and Columbian sausage and Cock Mackerel in Jackson Heights. On these trips, you never know exactly what you’ll find. But the one thing you can always expect is to get happily bloated on a lot of inexpensive food.
The plan for this Saturday was to go to Gum Fung, a dim sum hall in the Flushing, Queens Chinatown which is a fave among foodies. Dim sum, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is usually a meal made up of a succession of small plates (dumplings, rolls, chicken feet, etc…) wheeled around on steel carts by old ladies.
I sent out an email query to about 20 people. I over-invited because it’s the summer, people are busy, and many have a subconscious fear of leaving Manhattan…like myself.
By Friday morning we had 10 people lined up.
Saturday, 3AM, Kirk IMd incoherently drunk and then passed-out. By sunrise, more cancellations –– they were dropping like flies. Even the Amateur Gourmet.
When we got to Flushing at the end of the #7 line, we were down to three. Me, John (an old buddy visiting from Buffalo), and Craig.
First stop to get the engine going was a magic window under the train station which sells Peking Duck in pancakes for 75¢. Awesome…
… though the ratio of meat was a little sparse to the pancake. In the future, I’d probably buy two, put the meat into one pancake, and stick the other pancake in my back pocket for when I get snacky on the ride home.
A short walk brought us to our destination. Gum Fung is a HUGE banquet hall and…
…it’s closed until September 2007 for renovations. Yes dear friends, we’d discovered we had come five days too late for dim sum. (As a side note, it appeared to be closed for real renovations, not a smoke screen for a Board of Health violation.)
Not to fear though. Flushing is dense with good food. A few blocks away was a cluster of seafood halls and other specialty places. Craig wanted to try Spicy & Tasty, a noted Szechuan restaurant. But we opted for Sunway, a long clean place, branded everywhere with graphics and logos calling to mind a Chinese Howard Johnson’s.
They’re even open until 3AM. Speaking with the authority of someone who doesn’t drink, I can confidently say this would be a delightful place to go at 2AM in a state of inebriation. The menu is a thick, spiral-bound encyclopedia of Chinese dishes, including helpful definitions of exotic items…like rice…and tea. AND there is a separate menu of specialties. AND a checklist of made-to-order dim sum you check-off with a pencil.
Lots of families were there. Craig noted, this looks like a family place, and sure enough, a large-screen TV over our heads was playing soundless Nick cartoons. And the kitchen cooks for their young clientele –– the dishes tend towards the sweet and greasy, in a good way.
To start with I had a honeydew shake, just like I used to get at Sweet & Tart in Manhattan (no relation to Spicy & Tasty).
All these years I could never figure out what were the corn flake-like things floating in it. The Sunway menu answers it with the more descriptive name of “honey dew shake with cookies.” Yep, it’s like chewed, regurgitated cookie flakes in the shake. Far more delicious than I’m making it sound. John and Craig had coconut shakes which were also sweet like mine.
We started out with Malaysian cakes. Should have been dessert.
Very sweet. Pillowy soft. Heavy vanilla overtones. Brought back childhood memories of eating undercooked Belgian waffles. Craig said it was worthy of Hostess. It was the only dish without Sunway’s signature greasy vibe.
John, being afflicted with Vegetarianism, ordered fried tofu.
Light crispy crust. Liquidy hot tofu inside. Savory and getting down with the greasy vibe.
Then an order of crispy noodles, said material wrapped in squishy rice noodle, served with a dollop of syrupy Hoisin sauce. Mellow greasy vibe.
Turnip cakes. Standard turnip cakes, which are almost always greasy, Sunway or not. They were okay, starchy.
Pedestrian, but filling, steamed pork buns. A moment of quietness in the symphony of grease.
Fried chive buns. Crispy and starchy crust. The greens inside were a return to the savory, greasy splendor.
And we finished off with BBQ sausage.
This wasn’t the salty Chinese sausage you might expect. It was Polish Kielbasa whose garlic harshness was pleasantly subdued by a sweet glaze and the smoky aroma of the BBQ.
The bill was $53 with tip. A gargantuan amount of food for three people and well worth it. Take that Mr. Chow!
Sunway is certainly nothing worth taking a special trip out for. But, if like a modern day Joseph and Mary you find the doors of all the Dim Sum halls chained, it’s the perfect mangy manger to pass the afternoon and get happily bloated.