Chinese New Year is probably my favorite “holiday”— and I stress the quote marks since we don’t actually get the day off (c’mon America, isn’t it time you guys recognized a day that means more than frickin’ Brooklyn/Queens day? If you guys can get all the Jewish holidays off, can’t we just get ONE DAY of the year? Hah??) — largely because I love the color red, and 100% because I get money from my ‘rent’s.
This year, I dragged myself out of bed to attend the Flushing Chinese New Year Parade, which was sorely disappointing… 90% of the parade were company sponsors holding up some crappy plastic banners, and the lion dancers weren’t even under the hood, just lazily fussing with it lackadaisical nonchalance. What sort of enthusiasm is this? I think it’s time to beef up on the caffeine, kiddos.
After freezing my tush off in the windy, 40 degree weather, I was getting pretty peckish. We headed over to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, which is a stone’s throw away from Flushing Mall and main street. Originally, I planned to visit a Thai restaurant, but since I already had a sore throat (still quarantining now, as a matter of fact), I didn’t think spicy Thai was the best idea.
Plus, there was a line out the door of this place! I had been here quite a few years ago as a teenager and didn’t realize they had gotten so popular. But once we finally got seated (a pretty quick rate, only 10 minutes or so for two people), I could see why.
The service on this particular day was a bit harried, since they were at max capacity. It’s very brusque and straightforward, but your food gets to you just as quick as your ordering. Tea, condiments and water were promptly placed on the table as soon as we sat down.
The ambiance was cosy, albeit a little dirty: there were some soy sauce stains and god-knows-what smattered on the wall opposite my seat. I’d say it’s pretty typical of a Flushing establishment: you come for the food, not for any romance twiddle-diddling.
To get a bit more warmed up, I ordered the Do Hua (Sweet Soy Bean Curd), a sort of extremely silken soy product that can be eaten traditionally with sugar syrup or salty style with fried cruller, scallion and shrimp paste (obviously a no-go for me!). Their Do Hua was delicately sweetened and had a pleasant, slippery soft consistency. Since it’s pretty much made out of soy, it’s barely fattening… and a nice departure from rice/bread al the time.
FYI, you can get a large quart-size togo version of this in a little shop on main street too, dirt cheap for $1.00, which is awesome when eaten for breakfast, or between meals.
For my entrée, I ordered the steamed vegetable dumplings, steamed to perfection in an old-school bamboo steamer, which clocked in at only $5.25 for 6 good-sized dumplings. That’s pretty good, considering a lot of places stiff you on either the dumpling size or a ridiculous price.
The filling was a savory mix of chives, Chinese cabbage and garlic flakes (which really enhanced the flavor) encased in an elastic, softly chewy handmade dumpling wrapper that, when wrapped, kind of resemble larvae or alien-ish eggs. The taste was anything from alien, though. I thoroughly enjoyed them… and though I could have probably eaten another helping, it did leave me satisfyingly full.
Unfortunately, Nan Xiang does not have any vegan Xiao Long Bao (小笼包, or soup dumplings… literally means “little lantern buns” in Chinese) selections, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a try. Plus, considering our bill came out to $15 for the two of us, there’s no reason you shouldn’t schlep your butt down to Flushing for ’em.