On a cold but clear day, four of us set sail for Flushing on the #7 line. As we chatted non-stop the 45-minute ride went quickly and we surfaced into another world. The second-largest Chinese community outside China resides here-the first is in Manhattan but that may change soon.
Largely ethnic Chinese but also Korean and other Asian populations run businesses, restaurants, bakeries, groceries and nail salons. Chinese languages and dialects spoken here include Mandarin, Fuzhou, Min Nan, Wu, Beijing, Wenzhounese, Shanghainese, Cantonese, and Taiwanese (Wikipedia) but we did our business in English. Flushing sports a magnificent library complete with sages’ writings on the steps and a fine post office.
We were delighted to find that bakeries are in abundance and all Asian specialties well represented. The Chinese seem to like their pastries very sweet but that’s OK because we do, too. Some are exotic, like lotus paste mooncakes and some just your ordinary plain old flavored sweet breads. Needless to say, we tried many.
Chinese groceries abound and they carry many of the items my son likes for his kitchen-tree ears (a gelatinous kind of mushroom), fish balls, and hot Chinese chili sauce. They also show a variety of fine fruits, including the bright pink prickly pear, and vegetables. They have wonderful and unusual dried fruits and nuts at good prices and a wide range of items needed for Chinese cookery. My friend buys her ingredients in Manhattan’s Chinatown and I was sorry I didn’t follow her lead and buy some water chestnut flour for the lemon chicken I planned to make. I was shocked, shocked to find that neither Fairway nor Zabar’s stocked it.
Wandering around, we scoped out many restaurants, almost all with an A rating from the NYC Board of Health, but I am sad to tell you that the Chinese buffets we came in search of have disappeared, probably due to the aforesaid NYC Board of Health. I can see that keeping a lot of seafood on a table for eight hours or so might present problems. But there are lots of places to eat, depending on your choice of cuisine. We chose the Cantonese style Imperial Seafood Restaurant which had many delicious dishes at prices we certainly have not seen in some time-possibly decades. Do not be afraid to try something new-we did and although we didn’t like it much, it didn’t cost a lot and we still had a million or so other dishes on the table.