A Chinese Food-Court Crawl, Minus the Meat

Flushing's Savor Fusion, which emerged last year on hound radar, is a pan-Chinese paradise for food-court explorers. Among the discoveries: stellar pork-and-shrimp dumplings; spicy Sichuan ox tongue and tripe; Taiwanese rice noodle soup with pork belly and intestine; and lamb- or pork-filled wheat cakes from Henan. In other words, vegetarians needn't bother, right? Wrong, says CitySpoonful, who grazed there happily and meatlessly.

Her favorite bite came from the stall called Steam Dumpling at the back of the building: an off-menu dish of boiled vegetable dumplings stuffed with greens, egg, and garlic. "My god those are simply amazing," she says, adding that even her carnivorous companions raved about them. The same vendor steams a fine vegetable bun as well: egg, greens, and a wallop of ginger in soft, fluffy dough. CitySpoonful also enjoyed a couple of cold side dishes here: soft bean curd and preserved egg, liberally seasoned with cilantro, vinegar, and sesame oil, and refreshing shredded potato and carrot, with cilantro, a mild vinegar tang, and an optional but recommended dose of hot sauce.

In fact, with a few exceptions—more on those later—vegetarian cold dishes sound like good bets throughout this food court. The Sichuan vendor called Big Sister Zhu's makes a terrific one of bean curd, boiled peanuts, and celery, distinguished by complex flavors and an intense, almost floral note from Sichuan peppercorn. And the stall next door tosses raw cabbage and carrots with a spicy, tangy, mysteriously fragrant sauce containing bay leaf and other seasonings, perhaps peppercorns and coriander. "Great flavors that I wouldn't have expected from Chinese cooking," CitySpoonful says. (This dish, like the dumplings, is not on the menu, so don't hesitate to ask the vendors about meatless options.) For a winning hot dish, noodle-lovers should head to Savor Fusion's Henan stall for its egg, tomato, and bok choy soup with noodles made fresh to order and perfectly cooked. Egg is both blended into the broth, lending it a creamy texture, and fried as a crowning touch on top. "The ingredients were simple and fresh," CitySpoonful says, "and they worked really well together." And once again, both vegetarians and meat-eaters raved.

Not so rave-worthy was an underflavored vegetable wrap from the Henan folks—"basically a grocery store wheat tortilla (ugh) stuffed with lightly sautéed cabbage (85%) and a few carrots (15%)." A Shanghai vendor near the entrance struck out with three cold plates: tough, flavorless "spicy" bean-curd skin, bland pressed bean curd with bell pepper, and leaden wheat gluten with wood ear. And the vendor that worked magic with carrots and cabbage stumbled with a so-called Chinese burrito. CitySpoonful describes it as a spongy rice crêpe wrapper stuffed with cheap filler: carrots, cabbage, thin noodles, and bits of tofu. "But where was the flavor?" she wonders.

That question didn't occur to Peter Cuce as he tucked into a steamer basket of crab soup dumplings at Diverse Dim Sum, a rare newcomer at the fast-fading Flushing Mall food court. They were flavorful all right—both their crab-and-pork filling and their delicious broth—but just as impressive, their skins were more delicate than those at nearby Chowhound favorite Nan Xiang. Despite a slightly overcooked filling, he ranks these xiao long bao among the best in the city. "I'm looking forward to sampling lots of other dumplings here," Peter adds.

He might want to hurry back. The shopping center and its food court (a longtime hound destination) are in line to be torn down as early as this year to make way for a huge new downtown development. But this is New York real estate, after all, and some reports suggest the developer's still lining up financing. In case you drop in and find the place still open for business, Peter says, Diverse Dim Sum's silken tofu with peanuts is also supposed to be great.

Savor Fusion [Flushing]
42-01 Main Street (at Maple Avenue), Flushing, Queens
718-886-6966

Diverse Dim Sum [Flushing]
In the Flushing Mall food court
133-31 39th Avenue (between College Point Boulevard and Prince Street), Flushing, Queens
718-762-9000

Discuss: Food stalls on the corner of Maple and Main street Flushing?
Great Xiao Long Bao at Diverse Dim Sum, Flushing Mall Food Court

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