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I’ve been meaning to try Red Chopsticks 紅筷子 for a long time as it is probably the only Taiwanese restaurant in Flushing I hadn’t tried, so I finally got around to it last weekend.
When most people think about Taiwanese food they instantly think about street food and Taiwanese street food is certainly among the best in the world. However, there is a lot more to Taiwanese food, in fact the best meal I’ve ever had in Taiwan was not a street meal, but a meal in some tiny family run restaurant that was literally in their house. The menu here is not really about the street food (even though they have it) as no one was ordering street food; the clientele was mainly Taiwanese families ordering more family style dishes, so I tried to order more like them.
It’s a little restaurant with no English sign with signs in Chinese advertising their specialties. I’m pretty sure that the restaurant used to be a Korean restaurant as the décor does not look Chinese at all with a lot of dark wood. However, it is a nice change as it’s much nicer than most Chinese restaurants in Flushing. It has a very nice sort of homey atmosphere, kind of feels like being in Asia.
The service was good and everyone was very nice, I’m not sure how their English is as we never spoke to them in English, but the menu is translated to English so you should be fine no matter what. Although they do have several specials written only in Chinese on the wall, which I didn’t notice until the end of the meal as another table had a crab sticky rice on their table and I couldn’t find it on the menu then I noticed it on the wall.
Here’s what we got:
- Cold Jelly Fish (Liang Ban Hai Zhe): This was a typical preparation of sliced cold jellyfish tossed in sesame oil and salt and accompanied by sliced sweet pickled radish and carrots. This was very good, the jellyfish had that good almost crunchy texture and when accompanied with the sesame oil and radish it was just right. 8.5/10
- Stinky Tofu (Chou Dou Fu): I had heard that Red Chopsticks makes the best stinky tofu in NY. Now that’s not a very high bar as the best I’ve had is mediocre, but I had to give it a try anyhow. The tofu was the correct texture where it’s crispy on the outside and retained a good interior of being softer although not super soft. The soy sauce was good and the pickled cabbage on top was very good, it had a good sweet flavor with chilis for spice. The thing that was missing was that it was not stinky enough. Stinky tofu is like a cheese where it needs a certain level of stinky flavor to give it good flavor. Overall, it was the best version I’ve had in NY although if you’ve had it in Taiwan this won’t quite get you there. Also it made it a lot better when you ask for chili paste, which is the normal way I eat it in Taiwan. 7.5/10
- Taiwanese Hamburger (Gua Bao): Gua bao is my all-time favorite Taiwanese street food. It’s sort of famous now in NY because of people like David Chang (Momofuku) and Eddie Huang (BaoHaus). It’s a white steamed bun with stewed pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts, pickled vegetable and this brown sweet powder stuff. I pretty much always have to at least try it everywhere. However, the version here is pretty mediocre and I wouldn’t recommend ordering it. The pork belly wasn’t tender enough and wasn’t that flavorful and it didn’t have enough condiments. 6.5/10
- Chicken Roll (Ji Juan): This is not that common of a dish to find in NY. It’s minced pork and fish paste mixed with various spices wrapped in a thin bean curd sheet that is steamed and then pan fried in oil. You eat it with sweet orange sauce that kind of tastes like a better version of the duck sauce you get in Chinese take-out joints. They make this really good here, this is pretty much exactly what it tastes like in Asia. The bean curd skin is super crispy almost like phyllo dough and the inside paste is tender and flavorful. It goes really well with the sweet sauce. This was the best dish of the night and I would come back here again just for this. Btw they list it in English as a “pork roll” on the menu. 8.75/10
- Drunken Pork Ribs (Zui Pai Gu): Most Taiwanese are Hokkien / Min Nan (southern Fujian) and you can really see the Fujian influence in this dish. I’ve had almost the exact same dish in the Fujian part of Chinatown in Manhattan. It’s spare ribs and taro that has been lightly battered and fried and then sautéed in a semi-sweet sauce that uses alcohol (I think rice wine) and garlic. I always like sauces like this one. The rib meat was tender and the taro was cooked nicely. This was a good dish. 7.75/10
- Sticky Rice in Bamboo (You Fan): They advertise that they have these bamboo rice dishes, where the rice is cooked in hallow bamboo shoot. This was you fan, which translates to “oil rice”. It’s basically seasoned glutinous rice with mushrooms and some other vegetables. The version here was decent, but in Taiwan it’s a lot more flavorful, I thought it was a bit on the bland side. 7/10
- Pan Fried Flounder (Gan Jian Long Li): A lot of tables seemed to be getting seafood, so I decided to get a pan fried flounder. This was a typical preparation where the fish was covered in corn starch and then was pan fried in oil on both sides. Soy sauce was poured over it with some shallots. I thought it was pretty good, the meat was tender and clean tasting and the sauce goes great with it. One of my friends thought that the skin should be crispier, but I liked it and would get this again. 7.75/10
- Salt and Pepper Frog (Jiao Yen Tian Ji): This was salt and pepper battered pieces of frog topped with fried minced garlic and scallions. The batter was crispy and although it looked kind of heavy / oily, it was actually not that heavy and had a nice salty flavor. The meat was very tender and good tasting. A friend of mine described frog meat perfectly as “it tastes like chicken, but has a more tender consistency somewhere between fish and chicken”. The bones were still in, which is always a little annoying about frog, but other than that it was pretty good. 7.75/10
- Razor Clams with Basil: This was razor clams out of the shell stir fried with onions, basil and peppers in slightly sweet black bean sauce. My friends thought it almost tasted more like a Thai dish than a Chinese dish as the flavor of the basil was very apparent. The razor clams were decent and the sauce went decently with it, but overall I didn’t love this dish, it wasn’t bad, just nothing really stood out about it. 7/10
- A Vegetable (A Cai): A cai is a vegetable that literally translates to “A vegetable”, it’s a little like spinach, but has a more firm consistency. It is very common in Taiwanese cuisine. It was blanched and quickly stir fried with some oil and garlic. It was a decent, but not great version. 7.25/10
- Egg With Crab: This was weird and I thought I was ordering a typical Taiwanese dish which is scrambled egg that normally is served with either tomato or shrimp, but in this case it said it was served with crab. However, what came out was a big egg omelet with scallions and blue crab cut up, but still in the shell. It looked good, but the crab was not really noticeable unless you pulled a piece out and the egg was a little overcooked. I wouldn’t order this again. 6.25/10
Overall, I enjoyed the meal, it had some hits and misses, but I will definitely come back as I could tell that there are more gems to be found here because some of the dishes we had were quite good.
136-17 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355