It is hard to detect any regional or cultural enclaves within Flushing’s Chinatown: there are no obvious Sichuan or Hunan blocks. But among the restaurants densely packed in multistory complexes and in food courts, all the regional cuisines are represented. Last time I wrote about Shandong cuisine. This is not such a popular cuisine outside Shandong, and relatively few restaurants serve it. But a more northerly cuisine that has borrowed from Shandong is quite popular: Dongbei, or Manchurian food.
I visited two restaurants serving Dongbei food this week: Xiao Dongbei Private Kitchen and Fu Run.
Xiao Dongbei lies north of Roosevelt Avenue on Main Street, where the crush of people shopping and strolling begins to dissipate. Wait staff in sharp black and white uniforms greet you and lead you into a curious dining area. The walls are padded with white cushions with embedded mirrors, and the tables—in a perfectly regular row—have white plastic tops (equipped with an electric burner for hot pot, an important part of Dongbei cuisine). Perhaps it is evocative of Manchuria for people with the right background; for me, it evoked a Stanley Kubrick movie.
I ordered shredded pork with fermented soybean paste. This was a heap of cooked shreds of pork, smothered in sauce, with squares of thinly sliced dried tofu. You wrap the pork in tofu and eat it like a roll.
The sauce was delicious. It was milder and thicker than soy sauce, and it had a hint of fresh vegetable flavor, almost like a sweet herb. I don’t know much about this sauce, but it likely has ancient roots: fermented soy pastes have been an important part of Chinese cooking since at least the sixth century, when cookbooks documented how to cultivate mold on boiled soybeans and then make a tasty paste out of the blackened beans under the mold. The tofu is an incongruous note in this dish: papery and nearly flavorless.
Fu Run is a few blocks away, on a quiet street surrounded by busier streets (Roosevelt Avenue on one side, 40th Road on the other, and Main Street on the other side of the block).
The ambience at Fu Run is very different from that at Xiao Dongbei. Red paper lamps and colorful paper animals hang from the ceiling, and large sheets of calligraphy hang framed from the wall. The long row of windows on one side face a leafy walkway leading to an apartment complex, lending the spot a peaceful atmosphere.
I ordered home style noodles and pig intestines with green peppers. Fu Run is famous for its Muslim Lamb Chops, but they are a little pricey, and nearly everyone who visits here writes about them on Yelp, so I decided to pick from Fu Run’s numerous other offerings.
The home style noodles have a wonderfully nourishing taste, reminiscent of chicken noodle soup. Most of its flavor comes I think from meat stock assorted vegetables. Over a bed of noodles of medium thickness float wood ear fungus, carrots, and bits of pork. It is a simple and very satisfying dish.
The pig intestines with green pepper were delightful. Pig intestines are soft and chewy, and here they were covered in a savory sauce. The green peppers were bitingly hot, and this dish became difficult to eat without something to wash it down with.
3635 Main St
Flushing, NY 11354
40-09 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354