Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 23, 2010

Asian Feastival Wrap-up… tricia bites

Here’s tricia bytes with her wrap-up of the first Asian Feastival. This was meant to showcase the heights of cuisine which Asian restaurants are offering in Queens. There were over 20 vendors, each giving a sample of their very best. Ultra-satisfying stuff. I wonder what will happen next year — Jeffrey Tastes

It’s hard to know where to start this review, since the event was packed with interesting food and experiences. We got to the event early, having taken the 7 train from JH and gawked at the people going to the U.S. Open. We walked into the lobby of the Sheraton Laguardia East Hotel in Flushing (where more tennis fans were visible) and walked upstairs. It took a few minutes to get our bearings: there was an outdoor patio with demonstration tables and a few stalls where people were still setting up their food; this area seemed manageable. Then we circled back inside and were overwhelmed: a huge room filled with setups from dozens of restaurants — the serious eating was about to begin for real.

dduk lady at work2

DJ

ham ji bach lady

Ham Ji Bach and Kum Gang Sam represented the Korean restaurants, and their choices for what to serve really complemented each other. Ham Ji Bach busted out a killer app — ‘app’ as in appetizer, that is: pork belly wrapped in kimchi. Part of what makes Korean bbq so good is that you get to have kimchi soaked in pork grease. The kimchi-wrapped pork belly was indescribably good — juicy and tasty — and they served it on a little piece of tofu. Perfect! After the event, one of us kept having recurring dreams about this dish.

kimchi wrapped pork belly

Kum Gang San took a more subtle approach: their table had chap chae (sweet potato noodles) and, to the side, two trays of fancy dduk (rice cake) with a lady in a traditional outfit making the dduk. The chap chae was very nice; we recently had the chap chae at Kum Gang San and the one here was better: good sesame oil flavor, and overall not too sweet. Why do people always make chap chae so sweet? The sweetness was in the dduk (not to mention the dduk lady, who stood there like a trooper for nearly the whole event, smiling and making the little cakes). It was cool that these guys seemed to be pushing the dduk envelope; we’re not dduk experts, but citrus-y flavored dduk? Awesome.

dduk tray

Ploy Thai offered these little wraps called miang kam filled with pork, ginger, peanuts, lime and coconut. It’s an amazing combination of flavors, with the lime standing out but not dominating. The leaf they usually use for this dish is Chinese broccoli leaf, but in the spirit of dressing to impress, Ploy Thai made their miang kam with betel leaves, which had a delicious flavor and were more tender than the Chinese broccoli leaf. They had a mango or papaya curry that looked fabulous. Not trying this is regret #1 of the day.

ploy thai

miang kana

There weren’t too many places offering sweets, but Payag, a new-ish Filipino restaurant, really impressed us with their little squares of halayang ube cake (white cake with a layer of purple yam jam). Payag also had tuna ceviche and roast pig. Regrets #2 and 2.5: Not pigging out more on these pastries, and not trying their pork.

purple yam cake

Speaking of sweets, this is as good a time as any to mention that there was an area of “products” — tables that didn’t represent a restaurant but that represented some sort of product. This was an aspect of the event itself that was very nicely done, because it’s easy for these product hawkers to take over an event like this, and then the whole thing starts to feel like a mall or something. Most of the products that were being sold were drinks — and they were all in the same area, so when you were thirsty you could just go to the drinks area and try: a cold sparkling (almost non-alcoholic) wine made with white jasmine tea (delish), drinks made with fancy all-natural brown rice vinegar (weird but healthy), Bruce Cost ginger ale (delicious but why is it always slightly musty?), Laotian beer (the dark version was delicious, and Laotian beer — how cool is that?), wine, sake, and soy milk.

sparkling tea

laotian beer

The king of the products, however, was this coconut — or as we started calling it, crack-o-nut — jam, which they spread on little triangles of toast. “I think I need another coconut toast” was a sentence spoken more than once throughout the afternoon.

crack-o-nut jam

Among the products though not in the drinks area was dumplings from a company called Tang All-natural. They served vegetarian and chicken whole-wheat dumplings. These were just okay, fine for healthy frozen dumplings; but if you’re going to go the dumpling carb route, why choose a frozen whole-wheat dumpling, no matter how healthy? The vegetarian was pretty tasteless; the chicken was ok. But speaking of dumplings, Nan Xian was in the house, and their soup dumplings (xiao long bao) were sublime, as usual, something to remember in those moments when life doesn’t seem worth living. A final product that we tasted was Mama O’s kimchi (we dubbed it “hipster kimchi”). Their kimchi was pretty good, and the company has this fun idea of making traditional and non-traditional kimchis and putting them in cool packaging, spreading the gospel of kimchi.

Other highlights: Java Village offered up the most amazing curried kale — yes kale — which was perhaps the butteriest thing in the world. Fay Da bakery was generous in its offerings, and all the ones we tried were terrific: pork pastries, mooncakes, bubble tea. Ice Fire Land offered up mini styrofoam bowls of hotpot. It was the usual hotpot but with some extras that was newish to us: cabbage and pork (or maybe beef?) of course, and then a slice of squash and delicious peanut-y sauce on top. M & T is a humble Chinese restaurant in Flushing that offered up one of the more exotic dishes that we tried, a gelatin salad in a delicious sauce. We split in opinion on this one. One of us couldn’t get used to the texture, but the other found it to be one of the best items at the event. Bownie restaurant also had fare that was new to us: a generous and delicious little meal of noodles, coconut chutney, and fish balls. On a normal day, this would ordinarily be enough for lunch; today was not such a normal day.

curried green kalefay da pork puff
hot potM&T gelatin dish

There were some other South Asian restaurants represented, but for some reason we never hit them. Regret #3: not hitting the Dosa Place table.

Some notes on the event itself: Comptroller John Liu showed up and gave a little speech and Azn pride swelled. His speech, ending with “there are no diets today!” was something of a climax in the event. And it was just after Liu’s appearance that we noticed the music, which ranged from “All Night Long” (that’s right — Lionel Richie!) and “It Takes Two” (Rob Base) to “Close to Me” (The Cure) and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” (The Outkast). Yes, the music was that varied and cool.

There are other things to say about how the event itself was put on, because we’ve been to events that don’t get it right. The whole classy but casual vibe was enjoyable, and the fact that the products didn’t take over was great — the focus was on food and learning about Asian food. Which brings us finally to the panels and educational parts of the event. We went to the one on South Asian spices, led by the Edible Queens editor (kind of exciting to see her in person) and featuring spice experts Geetika Khanna and Nirmala Narine. Ms Khanna really charmed us with her quiet passion for Indian food, and it it made us want to sign up for her cooking classes. At the end of the presentation, we got to ask some questions. Audience member: “But lots of recipes say to add garam masala during the cooking.” Answer: “And I judge those recipes.” Love her. There were other educational displays, leading to Regret #4: Not going to the display on demystifying Asian produce.

spice panel

demystifying chinese produce

One of the highlights of the event for us was Maangchi’s kimchi-making demonstration. Maangchi is a total online celebrity for those of us who follow her blog, and all of us fans stood awkwardly around the table, waiting for her demonstration to begin as Maangchi chatted with us as though she wasn’t the rock star that she really is. Maangchi made stuffed cucumber kimchi (oi sobagi kimchi) and perilla leaf kimchi. We only had room to try the perilla leaf kimchi, but it was off the off the hook!

maangchi
cucumber kimchi

The event had two bookend events, a bike tour before the festival and a Flushing eating/walking tour after the festival, led by Joe DiStefano. These constitute regrets #5 and #6. Hopefully the Asian Feastival will become an annual event so we can fill in these gaps next year. — tricia bytes

Links:
Asian Feastival official site
Addresses of participating restaurants
Maangchi’s youtube channel


Responses

  1. Awesome writeup, Tricia! Wish I could’ve made it.

  2. Yes! There’s no Feast like a Korean FEAST!!!

  3. […] roast pig. Regrets #2 and 2.5: Not pigging out more on these pastries, and not trying their pork.Keep on reading…0No comments yet.Leave a Reply Click here to cancel […]

  4. Asian cuisine styles can be broken down into several tiny regional styles that have rooted the peoples and cultures of those regions. The major types can be roughly defined as East Asian with its origins in Imperial China and now encompassing modern Japan and the Korean peninsula; Southeast Asian which encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Viet Nam, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines; South Asian states that are made up of India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as several other countries in this region of the continent.’

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