more from 西安名吃 (Xi An Famous Foods)

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I was supposed to take my parents somewhere to eat during their layover at JFK yesterday, but they didn’t make it out of the airport due to ticketing problems. Not to waste an opportunity to eat away from Manhattan, G and I headed to Flushing anyway.

I wanted to try this new Qingdao restaurant called M&T, but it was closed–and being too cold a day to go exploring, we went back to our old standby: the jumble of basement food stalls known collectively as Golden Shopping Mall.

liangpi, tiger salad, and beef noodle soup
liangpi, tiger salad, and beef noodle soup

G went straight to “Xi An Famous Foods” (西安名吃)–which by the way now has swanky new signs, a video camera (?!), and wall photos of Anthony Bourdain enjoying their liangpi–and ordered a dish of cold skin noodles (“liang pi,” 凉皮) and tiger salad (“lao hu cai,” 老虎菜). I went to a sichuanese stall by the entrance to the mall and ordered a spicy beef noodle stew (“niu nan mian,” 牛腩面). All three dishes were delicious, humble, and beat the pants off anything in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

I must admit that the tiger salad defeated me: consisting of raw jalapeno peppers, scallions and cilantro in a vinegar sauce, one of the peppers was just too much… so I ran to the counter and asked for a plum drink (“suan mei tang,” 酸梅湯), which is a typical drink to have with spicy hotpot.


Total damage: liangpi $4, tiger salad $4.50, beef noodle $4.50, plum drink $1.50. And full + happy stomachs.

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St
New York, NY 11355


a sunny day in flushing

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For foodies, it’s no secret that Queens is the home of New York’s best cuisine–and for Chinese and Korean it’s in Flushing, an easy (if long) ride on the 7 line all the way to Main Street. Here are a few photos of this vibrant neighbourhood:


Vendor scooping out seeds at a tea & herb shop:


Street counter food:


Massage, anyone? Only $20-30 per hour…


HK-style BBQ, and a cook just finishing his smoke break:




the entrance to my favourite food court (love the Xi-An place in this “Golden Mall”):


and the street food counter under the train bridge:


nyc elections

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As New Yorkers voted for the richest man in the city for mayor, I spent the morning of November 3rd doing exit poll surveys for AALDEF. My shift started at 6 AM in District 20 of Flushing, Queens–which meant catching the subway at 4:30 from where I live.

early subway

Flushing is one of the most diverse communities in New York, which is why I wanted to volunteer there (though I didn’t realize it would be at 6 in the morning). My shift started out with just me and a Korean guy doing exit surveys–and it was a good thing he was there, because at first there were far more Koreans than Chinese people coming out of the polls. In fact, whenever I would happen to approach a Korean (in either English or Mandarin, since I wasn’t sure of their ethnicity), they would just wave and walk by–stopping only once my partner ran after them, effusively cajoling them in Korean. With Chinese people it wasn’t so difficult, since many understood English and/or were very patient with my imperfect Chinese. Actually, since most voters in the morning were senior citizens, all were generally pleasant and patient.

There were some oddities at the poll though. There were the usual campaigners, who–though not allowed within 100 feet of the poll site–seemed to inch closer and closer as the day wore on (set back only temporarily when the police came by). There were also two poll workers who kept walking in and out of the building (and talking to campaigners) until my Korean partner went to complain to the site manager. One of them was a Chinese translator that was supposed to be there for voters who need assistance (as required by the Voting Rights Act)–in fact, a voter can ask for anyone to come with them into the booth to assist them in voting. A voter later complained to me that some poll workers inside were clearly advocating for certain candidates–which could easily go undetected by the Board of Elections personnel who did not understand Chinese.

Questions from the survey (also in Korean and Chinese):

  1. Are you…? (Chinese, Korean, Asian Indian, Bangaldeshi, Pakistani, Indo-Caribbean, Filipino, Latino, Arab, Other)
  2. When did you become a U.S. citizen?
  3. Is this your first time voting in an election in the United States?
  4. What is your native language/dialect?
  5. How well do you read English?
  6. Do you prefer voting with an interpreter and/or translated materials?
  7. In voting today, did you use an interpreter provided by the Board of Elections?
  8. Did you use any translated written materials or ballots provided by the Board of Elections?
  9. Are you more likely to vote when assistance in your language is available and publicized?
  10. Did you encounter any of the following when you voted? (Name missing or error in list of voters; Voted by affidavit ballot; Problem with poll workers; No interpreters/translations and needed help; Poll site confusion; Required to show identification)
  11. Your party affiliation?
  12. For whom did you vote for Mayor? (Michael R. Bloomberg-R; William C. Thompson-D; Other)
  13. For whom did you vote for Comptroller? (John Liu-D; Joseph A Mendola-R; Other)
  14. For whom did you vote for City Council? (Yen Chou-D; Peter Koo-R; Evergreen Chou-G)
  15. In your vote today, what were the most important issue(s) influencing your vote? (Crime/Public Safety; Economy/Jobs; Ethnic/Race Issues; Terrorism/Security; Health Care; Education; Housing; Other)
  16. How would you rate Barack Obama’s performance as President?
  17. Your age?
  18. Your gender?

The results of the election? Bloomberg will enter his third term in office (after conveniently passing legislation allowing him to do so), and Peter Koo (supported by Bloomberg) is voted to City Council. More interesting is that John Liu is the new Comptroller–and the first Asian-American to hold a city-wide office (he was also the first Asian-American voted to City Council in 2001). We’ll see in 2013 if he could be the next mayor…

For trends in Asian American voting from the 2008 presidential election, take a look at this report by AALDEF.

cubicle housing in chinatown

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Walking near Columbia, I once met an older Chinese man trying to talk to some black dude in Chinese, both clearly frustrated since the latter had no idea what he was saying. I was dragged into the conversation and though I could not help the man with his problem, I walked with him back to the university. He told me he is studying at the business school under a Chinese government sponsored program–and that his government stipend is so little that he’s living someplace in Chinatown for $100 a month.

I thought a rent like that was impossible until I read the Village Voice today:

good news trauma

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trauma good news

I thought it was funny that someone added a chinese pamphlet to this ad for the new Trauma tv series. It says: Good News (好消息)–as in the religious kind.

nice parallelism between the chinese dude shouting “good news” and the med-evac guy calling for help in the middle of what appears to be a fireball.

SanRasa on staten island

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I heard there was a ‘little sri lanka’ on staten island, so I booted over there and had lunch at SanRasa restaurant, not too far from the ferry terminal, on Bay street.

The food was worth the two-hour trek (due to weekend subway rerouting, grr) to get there. We started with some yummy fried lentil patties (masala wale) accompanied by a sweet sauce, followed by a lovely vegetable curry that surprised me with its coconut base. And last but not least was the kottu roti, my raison d’être: kottu roti is basically made by frying and cutting up sri lankan style roti with (hopefully) spicy spicy curry (leaving your stomach burning even hours later).

lentil patties
masala wale
kottu staten
vegetable na...nagarathna?? and kottu roti

SanRasa was much fancier than I expected–not that it was particularly upscale, but it had a nice ambiance and the food presentation was good. I was rather expecting a small takeout joint: I’m used to kottu roti looking like this, not like a pyramid laced with delicate scallion and carrot slivers. Plus, at $10 a dish, this place is considered cheap eats by New York standards (even though that’s twice the price of kottu at Jolee in Montreal, sigh).

Check out a video of street-style kottu roti here.

There is also a feature in the new york times about Staten Island restaurants, including a description of SanRasa and its $11 buffet lunch on Sundays. Worth checking out.

226 Bay Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 420-0027

“Congee” on Bowery

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I was in chinatown when I suddenly remembered I’d been craving congee–and how convenient, there was a place across the street from where I was standing called: Congee (well, congee city in chinese: 粥城).

and though it didn’t look like the most elegant juk I’ve ever had, it tasted good! I had the fish and thousand-year-old egg congee (魚片皮蛋粥, “yu pian pi dan zhou”) and chinese bread sticks (油條, “you tiao”). the congee was well flavoured throughout and there were small pieces of mustard green that made a nice crunchy addition. the youtiao weren’t amazing, but generally this place was much better than the well-known Congee Village restaurant (which is more disney-esque and has mediocre congee) on Allen street.

while I was finishing up my meal, a couple of black women huffed out because of the poor ‘service’, though from what I’d seen they were treated in the normal way of typical canto restaurants. too bad for them, because this is the kind of service I like best: leave me alone, and if I want you, I’ll get you.

all for a total of $5.20
all for a total of $5.20

Congee (粥城)
98 Bowery
New York, NY 10013

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