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King Yum (Fresh Meadows, Queens)


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#1 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 09:59 PM

King Yum Polynesian Chinese Restaurant
181-08 Union Tpke., Fresh Meadows; 718-380-1918


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King Yum, established in 1953, is the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in Queens (Wo Hop, in NYC's chinatown, opened in 1939). This makes it probably one of the oldest in the country as well.

(edit: Hawaii has some that are considerably older -- Wo Fat in Honolulu opened in 1882 (rebuilt twice) and Lau Yee Chai (demolished and moved locations in 1968) since 1929, and San Francisco has Hang Ah Tea Room, 1920. None of these have continuously operated under the original owners/families to my knowledge, however).

King Yum's original owner, Jimmy Eng, 84 and still going strong in the restaurant biz after 51 years, is a man of legend. He doesnt look a day over 60.

All of the Tiki/Polynesian fixtures you see here, including the bar and all the bamboo accoutriments (all the walls in the main dining room are paneled with bamboo, the place looks the restaurant that used to be in the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney world), are ORIGINAL. The restaurant appears as its was, back in 1953, with little or no changes. This also goes for its food -- it was created for a simpler time in our country's history, and when this particular neighborhood -- Hollis Hills/Hillcrest/Fresh Meadows -- was 90 percent Jewish. You know the adage about not opening a Chinese Restaurant unless you have Jews in the area? It was probably started because of the huge success of this place. The local synagogue is only about 300 feet away, just down the block.

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This is a shot of their Subgum Wonton Soup for 2 -- it contains fried wontons, as well as big slices of roast pork, white meat chicken, shrimp, bok choy, mushrooms, water chestnuts and snow peas.

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A portion of the wonton soup in a retro chinese soup bowl.

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These are King Yum's famous egg rolls. As you can see from the closeups, these contain ample amounts of roast pork AND shrimp, and even the cabbage has a strong pork taste in it, due to the penetration of the grease. These are AWESOME egg rolls and are the benchmark to which I compare others to.

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The "Boco Loco", one of the many Polynesian drinks that can be ordered from their drink menu. Yes, its served in a coconut.

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Shrimp in Lobster Sauce. The classic, the way it is meant to be.

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House Special Fried Rice. The way you remember it used to taste.

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No, this is not the Horta from the classic Star Trek episode, "Devil in the Dark". It is no less scary though -- Pork Egg Foo Young, smothered in gravy. It is as delicious as it is scary.

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A blurry shot of the main dining room -- I had a few sips of that polynesian drink. It was STRONG.

Edited by Jason Perlow, 06 June 2004 - 11:48 AM.

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#2 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:09 PM

You are truly a man of your word! Last night you promised photographs, et voila! There they are!! Lovely, but two things I can not see in the pictures which we had discussed:
the eggrolls with pork fat and shrimp :biggrin: (now I see it!!)
the rabbis who eat here ... :unsure:

You realize that an hour from now, I will have to look at these pictures again..... :laugh:

(Edit: now all of the pictures are there! Thanks! No rabbis, but a smiling happy Buddha. :biggrin: .. and I see what you ate! Gravy closeups and shrimp-laden fried rice .. I am starving!)

Edited by Gifted Gourmet, 02 June 2004 - 10:19 PM.

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#3 SobaAddict70

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:10 PM

So is there going to be any commentary?

Some of them look like repeats btw.

Nice pictures, Jason. Sign me up for the time machine!

Soba

#4 Pan

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:27 PM

Thanks for the pictorial, Jason!

I feel like I recognize all the dishes except for that saucy (if I wanted to be negative, gloppy-looking) dish with eggs and I think tomato pieces. What else is in that? The eggs are stuffed with some kind of pig meat, no doubt?

I'll add that the rest of the dishes look like things I might have liked. Oh, I might have liked the gloppy-looking dish, too; I just can't tell from its appearance.

This is in Fresh Meadows? What avenue? My flute repairman's shop is in Fresh Meadows. I'm wondering if King Yum is a place he gets takeout from. Do they have a bunch of vegetarian dishes? (He's a vegetarian.)

Edited by Pan, 02 June 2004 - 10:28 PM.


#5 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:29 PM

So is there going to be any commentary?

Some of them look like repeats btw.

Nice pictures, Jason.  Sign me up for the time machine!

Soba

By the way, I think this place would be an awesome location for an eGullet dinner event.

I was expecting the place to be quiet and filled with grey/blue haired old ladies, but it was Karaoke night -- apparently wednesday thru friday, they have a Laser Karaoke guy and gal come in and they shake the place up. A large group of teens was in tonight, presumably for a birthday party or something -- and as we got our main course they were screeching out a completely discordant and ear-splitting rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, and various selections from Grease and 'Ol Blue Eyes.
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#6 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:31 PM

Thanks for the pictorial, Jason!

I feel like I recognize all the dishes except for that saucy (if I wanted to be negative, gloppy-looking) dish with eggs and I think tomato pieces. What else is in that? The eggs are stuffed with some kind of pig meat, no doubt?

Thats pork egg foo young, dude. THE classic. Eggs, onions, bean sprouts, and lots of char siu, with a rich gloppy gravy on it. Its scary, I know, but you need to take a leap of faith and eat it man.
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#7 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:40 PM

BTW they arent pictured here because we brought them home for take out -- their spare ribs are utterly mind blowingly retro good.
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#8 Jason Perlow

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 10:48 PM

This is in Fresh Meadows? What avenue? My flute repairman's shop is in Fresh Meadows. I'm wondering if King Yum is a place he gets takeout from. Do they have a bunch of vegetarian dishes? (He's a vegetarian.)

The main drag of Union Turnpike in the Fresh Meadows/Hollis Hills/Hillcrest area has a very large amount of Chinese restaurants -- several of them almost as old as King Yum. Another one of note is Peking House, which opened in the late 60's. It has been redecorated several times though, and doesn't give me that warm and fuzzy feeling of eating out with my grandparents when I was 9.
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#9 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 08:32 AM

I really think that some of the egg roll closeups and Polynesian umbrella drinks might make powerful new additions to the Jason Perlow Signature Series avatar collection! :biggrin:

Edited by Gifted Gourmet, 03 June 2004 - 08:33 AM.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#10 Jinmyo

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 09:18 AM

I really think that some of the egg roll closeups and Polynesian umbrella drinks might make powerful new additions to the Jason Perlow Signature Series avatar collection! :biggrin:

The egg rolls look fantastic. As does the wonton soup with pork.

The rest is like a Tiki phantasm. :shiver:
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#11 NewYorkTexan

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 09:28 AM

WOW, those fantastic pictures bring back memories.

I grew up hearing about King Yum from my parents who went there almost every Friday night when they were dating.

It is great to see a classic restaurant stay true to its roots.

Just might have to fly back to NYC if y'all have a egullet event there.

#12 markk

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 09:35 AM

I'm speechless! I was born and raised in Fresh Meadows (we're talking the early 1950's), and this was our local Chinese restaurant. (This is not entirely true- for the earliest years of my life we went to a place on Horace Harding Blvd., on the eastbound side, whose name I can't remember, and probably didn't move on to King Yum until the late 50's or early 60's, I guess.) As we were Jewish, we ate Chinese food one night every weekend of my life with no exceptions whatsoever, (and Italian food the other weekend night).

We of course started with the wonton soup, egg rolls, and spare ribs. And of course we had shrimp and lobster sauce and fried rice. My mother was very fond of lobster, and half the time, instead of shrimp in lobster sauce, we had "Lobster Cantonese" which was actually lobster in lobster sauce. Try as I might, I can't find that today anywhere as good as it was there - and I do try!

Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane !!!!!!

(Last night, thanks to having learned about it from eGullet, I had a sensational meal including lobster over fried noobles at China 46, but that's another thread that shouldn't intrude here; I just wanted to give my thanks for that as well.)
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#13 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 09:48 AM

As we were Jewish, we ate Chinese food one night every weekend of my life with no exceptions whatsoever

Chinese "noshtalgia" :laugh:

It must be a mitzvah to eat Chinese on Sunday nights ... :rolleyes:
Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#14 Jason Perlow

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:04 AM

My mother was very fond of lobster, and half the time, instead of shrimp in lobster sauce, we had "Lobster Cantonese" which was actually lobster in lobster sauce.  Try as I might, I can't find that today anywhere as good as it was there - and I do try!

This dish is still on the menu. EVERYTHING is still on the menu.
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#15 markk

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:10 AM

My mother was very fond of lobster, and half the time, instead of shrimp in lobster sauce, we had "Lobster Cantonese" which was actually lobster in lobster sauce.  Try as I might, I can't find that today anywhere as good as it was there - and I do try!

This dish is still on the menu.

I'm not entirely sure that I'm emotionally up to a return to Fresh Meadows. I don't believe they've yet invented Xanax in the necessary strength for that. (Just kidding.)

How do you know the restaurant?
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#16 Jason Perlow

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:12 AM

My entire family is from the Hollis Hills/Hillcrest area. My mom went to Martin Van Buren and my dad Jamaica High. Jack Perlow, my grandfather, was one of the people that donated the money for the doors of the Hillcrest Jewish Center (the Synagogue right next to King Yum) when it first opened. King Yum is where I was first introduced to Chinese food. They lived across the street, he had his orthodontics practice there. I think a Chinese or Korean doctor lives there now.

Edited by Jason Perlow, 03 June 2004 - 10:20 AM.

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#17 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:14 AM

My entire family is from the Hollis Hills/Hillcrest area. My mom went to Martin Van Buren and my dad Jamaica High. Jack Perlow, my grandfather, was one of the people that donated the money for the doors of the Hillcrest Jewish Center (the Synagogue right next to King Yum) when it first opened. King Yum is where I was first introduced to Chinese food. They lived across the street, he had his orthodontics practice there. I think a Chinese or Korean doctor lives there now.

more "Jewish geography", or it's small world after all: my mother graduated from Jamaica High as well! :hmmm: but in the 1930's .... :rolleyes:
Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#18 Jason Perlow

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 10:24 AM

I'm speechless! I was born and raised in Fresh Meadows (we're talking the early 1950's), and this was our local Chinese restaurant. (This is not entirely true- for the earliest years of my life we went to a place on Horace Harding Blvd., on the eastbound side, whose name I can't remember


That restaurant has switched hands at least 10 times, and gone under different names, but I know which one you are talking about. It was MY local chinese restaurant growing up -- my mother and father live on Horace Harding Blvd, on the Little Neck/Great Neck border. During the 1970's/1980's it was Szechuan Palace or Szechuan Inn or something like that.

There was another really old Chinese place in Little Neck on Horace Harding in the shopping center mall, called Ho Wing, that was pretty good as well. I don't think its there anymore. it was right next to a pizza place called Centre Pizza (which I think still exists) that had amazing NY-style pizza, which was next to a Carvel and a cards/gifts store that had all kinds of cool junk in it, plus there was a coffee shop with tons of candy and comic books in it. That shopping center had everything you could ever want as a kid.
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#19 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 11:05 AM

I must point out, as were disappointed to discover it missing from our take-out bag, that the "duck sauce" at King Yum is the best duck sauce ever. For those that don't know, duck sauce is an orange-apricot sweet and sour dipping sauce put on the table at American-Cantonese-Chinese restaurants. You can see a dish of it and mustard in the background of the whole egg rolls picture. It isn't just the same gloppy too sweet and no substance sauce that you get at most places or in the little packets from take out places. It's got more bits and pieces in it, it's tangier than the norm. I wonder if they make it themselves or if it is just a superior brand that most places don't spend the money for. I was so disappointed not to have it in the bag when reheating the spare ribs for lunch. :(

#20 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 11:12 AM

Also, regarding the Shrimp and Lobster Sauce. That is a dish that usually you have to finish at the restaurant or the same night if you are ordering take-out. This is because most places thicken it with so much corn starch that once it gelatinizes in the fridge, it just won't loosen up again. However, I think they only use eggs to thicken it at King Yum. We had some leftover (I was pretty full from just the egg roll and soup last night, and we ordered with the intention of bringing home leftovers), and it reheated just fine in the microwave. The shrimp became slightly overcooked, but the sauce was just as saucy as last night, perfect over white rice.

I didn't grow up on LI, unlike Jason. But my family went to the same chinese restaurant most Sunday nights. One of my fondest memories is laughing (hard belly laughter for who knows what reason) on the drive home from the restaurant, in the back seat of the car with my mother and one of my brothers (the other having snagged the front seat). I think it was called China Sky, it was in the same location that is now Hillary's Chinese Cuisine in Springfield, NJ. Hillary's is good, but it's not the same.

#21 markk

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 04:36 PM

I'm speechless! I was born and raised in Fresh Meadows (we're talking the early 1950's), and this was our local Chinese restaurant. (This is not entirely true- for the earliest years of my life we went to a place on Horace Harding Blvd., on the eastbound side, whose name I can't remember


That restaurant has switched hands at least 10 times, and gone under different names, but I know which one you are talking about. It was MY local chinese restaurant growing up -- my mother and father live on Horace Harding Blvd, on the Little Neck/Great Neck border.

No, you're WAY too far east. The restaurant I grew up at was indeed on the south (Eastbound) side of Horace Harding, but no more than 3 blocks west of 188th St. (where the Bloomigdales was.) On that same stretch was a deli called (unless my memory clouds) Deli Masters. A little more west and you'd be to Francis Lewis H.S. where I went by the way. Are you thinking of someplace way farther east?
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#22 markk

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 08:31 PM

There's one other thing I =must= ask...

I recall that as a kid, we followed whatever was the "hottest" place for Chinese Food, which is to say, egg rolls, spare ribs, and shrimp in lobster sauce. I don't know that it's true exactly that at some point King Yum ever fell out of favor, but I do remember, because I was already older at that point, that the distinction of "hottest" restaurant switched to a place called Gam Wah on Old Country Road in either Carle Place or Old Westbury. At some point we drove what seemed like hours to go there and then wait for hours for the same food we used to eat at King Yum. Does anybody have a memory of this?
Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#23 Jason Perlow

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 09:14 PM

I'm speechless! I was born and raised in Fresh Meadows (we're talking the early 1950's), and this was our local Chinese restaurant. (This is not entirely true- for the earliest years of my life we went to a place on Horace Harding Blvd., on the eastbound side, whose name I can't remember


That restaurant has switched hands at least 10 times, and gone under different names, but I know which one you are talking about. It was MY local chinese restaurant growing up -- my mother and father live on Horace Harding Blvd, on the Little Neck/Great Neck border.

No, you're WAY too far east. The restaurant I grew up at was indeed on the south (Eastbound) side of Horace Harding, but no more than 3 blocks west of 188th St. (where the Bloomigdales was.) On that same stretch was a deli called (unless my memory clouds) Deli Masters. A little more west and you'd be to Francis Lewis H.S. where I went by the way. Are you thinking of someplace way farther east?

Yeah, the one I am thinking of is closer to Douglaston.
Jason Perlow
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offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | My Flickr photo stream

#24 Jason Perlow

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 09:21 PM

There's one other thing I  =must= ask...

I recall that as a kid, we followed whatever was the "hottest" place for Chinese Food, which is to say, egg rolls, spare ribs, and shrimp in lobster sauce.  I don't know that it's true exactly that at some point King Yum ever fell out of favor, but I do remember, because I was already older at that point, that the distinction of "hottest" restaurant switched to a place called Gam Wah on Old Country Road in either Carle Place or Old Westbury.  At some point we drove what seemed like hours to go there and then wait for hours for the same food we used to eat at King Yum.    Does anybody have a memory of this?

King Yum fell out of favor in 1980's because of all the "Szechuan" places that were starting up. American style Cantonese became "Bad" and Szechuan became the code name for good. In fact, this was totally another type of American Chinese food and not Sichuan food at all. A chinese restaurant in queens was totally out of style in the 80's if it wasn't called Szechuan or Hunan Something. It was just "fancier" versions of the same stuff King Yum made. If you want proof of this insanity, just do a search of "Szechuan" on yp.yahoo.com using one of the queens/nassau zip codes. I plugged in 11020, the ZIP of my howntown, Great Neck -- and got 75 listings. Interestingly enough, "Hunan" comes up with 135, so maybe Hunan supplanted Szechuan in the 90's as the new trend. Its still the same stuff.

I never had -real- Hunan food or even -true- Hong Kong style cuisine until maybe 9 years ago when Rachel and I went to San Francisco on our honeymoon and ate at Brandy Ho's and various HK style places there, and didn't have real Sichuan food until we went to Grand Sichuan International in NYC until maybe 3 or 4 years ago. True Shanghainese, 4 years, tops.

I gotta admit though, I really like the food at King Yum, as dated and unauthentic as it is. Its tasty, which at the end of the day is the only important thing.
Jason Perlow
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#25 Pan

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 09:33 PM

Its tasty, which at the end of the day is the only important thing.

Well said!

#26 Behemoth

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Posted 19 June 2004 - 01:09 PM

Also, regarding the Shrimp and Lobster Sauce.

Shrimp with lobster sauce is one of those dishes that will always remind me of being 5 or 6 years old, going out to eat with my grandparents in upstate new york. (It must be a Jewish thing, despite the double-non-kosher :smile: ) The restaurant was one of those converted former A-frame steakhouses. I am so glad there is a place for this dish on eGullet. I still love it, but whenever I've ordered it since then, for old times sake, the sauce has been really much too bland. I know it isn't a highly seasoned dish, but I don't remember it being quite so -- bleh. Maybe a road trip to Queens is in the cards for next summer, I could use a good version.

Edited by Behemoth, 19 June 2004 - 01:12 PM.


#27 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 19 June 2004 - 02:23 PM

At most places it is too full of cornstarch. I prefer it when thickened with only eggs. If it's too blah, ask for extra scallions.

#28 KasparWeiss

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 11:02 PM

Jason,
Thank you for those photos. I grew up in that area in the 70s and remember King Yum. I miss New York-style Chinese-American food. Your photos brought back so many memories and I thank you for that. Having been born in Manhattan, raised in Queens and of Asian descent, you could have gotten authentic Asian cooking from King Yum even. You just didn't know what to order or ask for.
Downtown Flushing is flooded with VERY authentic Asian cuisine and has been for quite sometime now. One good take out kitchen opened up in the early 80s on the Turnpike. It's still there too on the south side of the Turnpike between 186th and 185th Streets. It's called Chu Jaing Chinese Kitchen (185-24 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows, NY 11366, 718-454-7333). Chu Jaing made better authentic Asian food versus King Yum. King Yum was always so busy churning out the Chinese-American Cooley slop that when asked to make some authentic food by request, their focus was lost. Chu Jaing wasn't like that. There was even a better King Yum-type restaurant on the north side of the Turnpike between 167th and 168th Streets. It was called Seven Seas. They made a steak dish there called Mongolian Steak Flambie. It was about as authentic Asian as John Gotti. However, the marinade was an excellent fusion of polynesian and pac rim flavors. The cut of beef was usually London Broil and they would set it aflame before serving it at your table. Well done of this dish was tender as rare. It's also interesting to note that New York initated the "No MSG" trend in the early 80s. Authentic Asian cooking, such as found in a household Asian kitchen, does not even use MSG.
Oh well.....thank you once again for the pictures.
Kaspar

#29 Pan

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 11:13 PM

Authentic Malay cooking in rural Terengganu in the 1970s certainly used MSG. I wouldn't know what's true of other Asian households' traditions.

#30 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 08:14 AM

Having been born in Manhattan, raised in Queens and of Asian descent, you could have gotten authentic Asian cooking from King Yum even. You just didn't know what to order or ask for.

Please tell us what we should try next time.