Welcome to Day 3 of Around the World with Joe DiStefano! Want to know where to get the best Chinese food in the NYC area? Looking for a new spot to go on a Chinese Lex? Read on for Joe’s recommendations for Cantonese Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese!
Note: These posts originally appeared on Chopsticks and Marrow
Where: Happy Stony Noodle, 83-47 Dongan Ave., 718-335-0500
When leading food tours of downtown Flushing, I often boast that it is America’s best Chinatown. I’m also fond of pointing out Queens has two Chinatowns: the bustling hub that radiates outward from Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue and a little sister in Elmhurst. Until now there’s been little interchange between the two. All that changed with the opening of Happy Stony Noodle a couple of weeks ago.
“OMG where is that,” more than one friend asked when I sent a photo of Elmhurst’s oddest named and newest Taiwanese eatery. My pals’ surprise can be traced to the fact that Happy Stony isn’t new at all. It’s a reboot of Happy Beef Noodle (Kuai Le Niu Rou Mian) a much-loved spot on Prince Street that closed years ago.
I never got a chance to eat at Happy Stony’s original incarnation, so I was eager to try their food. (Looking at the awning for three weeks before the joint opened only served to make me hungrier.) Naturally I ordered the beef stew, hong shao niu rou mian. The house specialty beef noodle soup did not disappoint. Chunks of beef so tender they fall apart when you look at them floated in a bowl of star-anise scented broth along with strands of wheat noodles and some greenery. It was even better with some chili paste and a few spoonfuls of pickled mustard greens.
Happy Stony has a pretty deep menu, so a week later I returned for further exploration. This time around I wanted to get what I like to call a Taiwanese happy meal, a set consisting of rice, protein, and soup. For a moment I considered yen su ji—fried popcorn chicken—then I spied the fried calamari.
There’s no bigger fan of Taiwanese fried chicken than me, but I’d never had the Taiwanese take on fried squid. Yan su yo yu gai fan turned out to be quite nice indeed. Crispy battered rings of squid in a spicy salty batter along with rice a block fried tofu, and the ubiquitous pickled mustard greens, and a hard-boiled egg.
If I had the munchies and found myself wandering around Elmhurst I could think of no better place to sate my hunger than Happy Stony. I can’t wait to eat my way through the rest of the menu.
Where: Shun Wang, 81-25 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718 -779-3330
I’ve been forsaking my heritage. By that I refer not to red sauce—OK fine we called it gravy—with which my father baptized me every Sunday, but rather the Cantonese food he fed me, thus beginning my lifelong love affair with Chinese cuisine. So when a friend posted a mouthwatering image of the HK lo mein at Shun Wang, I knew I had to try it.
“You know what this is?” the waiter at this Cantonese holdout in the increasingly Thai neighborhood of Elmhurst asked incredulously. “Yes,” I lied. “It’s steamed noodles,” he responded. Up until two days ago my Cantonese noodle knowledge was limited to chow fun and the thicker version of lo mein.
Shun Won offers roast pork and wonton as toppings, so I followed my friend’s example and asked for both ($10.50). “Wow good choice, are you Chinese?!” my new friend exclaimed. In short order I was presented with a steaming bowl of soup. I took a few sips and added some chili oil. I was quite pleased that soup was part of the deal as I almost decided to get a bowl instead of the HK lo mein.
Soon enough my HK combo arrived, a tangle of thin noodles ringed by greens and topped with a heap of char siu pork. Off to the side sat several lovely wontons lashed with oyster sauce. I started out by eating the noodles, char siu and dumplings separately between sips of soup. Pretty soon I was dipping the springy noodles in the broth and eventually combined them. It’s a way of eating noodle soup that I was first exposed to at a nearby Indonesian restaurant.
My father would have loved Shun Wong’s noodles as well as its gruffly tender waitstaff. As for me, I can’t wait to plumb the depths of its menu as well the other Cantonese offerings in Queens.
Hungry for more Chinese food? Check out the story of Dumpling Galaxy’s Helen You on Chopsticks and Marrow here.