Superb Chinese fare in the Big Apple
New York City's Flushing neighbourhood has a surprising enclave with eateries serving all kinds of Asian food
For me, Flushing in Queens, New York City, is about my buddy Colin Goh and his wife. They are the creators of the Dim Sum Warriors manga series.
If not for these 18-year veterans of the city, I would not know why Flushing is such an Asian food and cultural hub.
The range of Chinese cuisine there far outshines the fare we have in our Chinatown - the area is cramped with dim sum restaurants, you tiao stalls and roast meat eateries. There are also Hong Kong dessert bars and stalls offering Singapore- and Malaysia-style sambal stingray and laksa.
I had Taiwanese food, and the company of my good friend and celebrity travel TV host Samantha Brown and her husband.
Being Manhattanites, they seldom frequent this area of Flushing. A Chinese town, it can be intimidating for people unfamiliar with the Chinese language and culture.
The dishes at C & L Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet Restaurant are nothing like the restaurant's name. They are comfort fare, but so good that the Michelin Guide has been recommending them for the past few years.
Boss Lin Jian Hong, a jovial Hokkien-speaking Fujian native, has over 100 items on his menu. Most are well-executed versions of simple dishes.
The Three Cups Pork, served sizzling and almost black in a claypot, was aromatic, thanks to the rice wine and soy sauce. The chunks of pork were braised then seared in the rich sauce. It pairs perfectly with rice.
The fly heads and chives dish was divine. It is essentially mince pork fried with chopped chives, and heated up with cut red chilli and sesame oil.
Mr Lin's seafood tofu soup casserole reminded me of the claypot seafood food soup from the now-defunct Leng Heng Seafood at East Coast Lagoon Food Centre. It was an entire pot of shrimp, meat, vegetables, clams and tofu sitting in stock.
The Sliced Fish With Bean Sauce was addictive for one simple reason - the fish was fresh and soft, but still with bite.
The dish that got me hooked, however, and was the simplest one we had - the Three Cup Tofu. The cubes of tofu were fried after a light coating of cassava flour. They were then cooked in a ginger, sesame and soy sauce with wine infused.
The soft tofu contrasted with the crispness of the batter coating, and the sauce provided the finishing touch. I have yet to come across the same dish as well done back home.
Brown, who took a three-year hiatus to raise her twins and market her new line of bagss, said we should go back for more.
Yes, we will, and she will be back soon on TV too, this time with her new travel series.
C & L Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet Restaurant
59-14A Main Street, Flushing 11355, New York City, NY 11355
When: Lunch and dinner daily