The Chinese flatbreads called xian bing are often lumped together as "meat pies." Indeed, this tiny takeout shop fills them with lamb, pork, chicken, and "juicy" beef — which is aptly named, according to several early cautionary accounts. But xian bing can also denote "sweet pies," filled with red beans or sticky black rice (shown, $1.50). The rice is, in fact, only modestly sweet, and even if you give this xian bing a healthy bite, the filling keeps its place. If time is not pressing, you'll appreciate a fresh, hot bing much more than one off the rack.
How it must rankle the media buyers to rely on telephone kiosks! The second ad does make an attempt, it seems, to shake off the landline legacy by using the grammar and stacatto text associated with doge, an internet meme that subverts conventional grammar by pairing nouns and modifiers in dissonant phrases. However, by the time this campaign was conceived, approved, executed, and placed, doge had already lost much of its currency. In short: So last year.
Ads for GrubHub and Seamless "Outdated paper menus are full of lies. Lies, I tell you!" Tremont, Bronx "Such takeout. No calls. Very amaze." Flushing, Queens
A recent eel rice casserole reminded me of these photos from several months earlier. The casserole, one of several very good dishes at a group dinner in Manhattan's Chinatown, had a crispy bottom. Scraped free of the pot, the browned shards offered a contrasting texture to the eel and the fluffier rice.
Many cultures incorporate slightly charred rice in similar fashion. At Treichville, a now-closed Senegalese restaurant, this rice was an essential component of a predominantly softer-textured thiebou djeun. At the Dominican restaurant Margot, so-called concon is available to complement dishes such as stewed beef, but only on request. In my experience, usually this rice has seemed to be a byproduct of cooking, thriftily scraped from the sides and bottom of the pot. Just once, at a Dominican steam table in Bushwick, did the crispy rice give the impression of manufacture rather than happenstance.
Make that twice: This Sichuan stir-fry counter had obviously troubled to brown the rice and to portion the crispy shards. Only because I passed by at an off-hour, between the after-school mayhem and the dinner rush, did I spot the evidence.
Laoma Ma La Tang New World Mall food court, stalls 16-17 136-20 Roosevelt Ave. (Main-Union Sts.), Flushing, Queens www.LaomaMaLaTang.com
"Palace" is not a palace, or even a restaurant: It's only a stall in a tiny food court (shown, in the first photo, to the right of Red Mango). And my qiegao ($3.50) didn't resemble the expansive confection, of the same name, hawked in Beijing by cycle-mounted Xinjiang vendors. That northwestern Chinese qiegao, also called matang, is very dense with nuts; it suggests a compacted trail mix.
Heavier reliance on glutinous rice seems typical of a style native to Beijing itself. This rose qiegao incorporated golden raisins, black sesame seeds, and a hidden seam of red bean paste; at the time of purchase, rose syrup was spooned on top. Yes, it was messy, too messy for the trail, but I found room to sit in the pedestrian walkway just around the bend.
Palace Restaurant 136-55 Roosevelt Ave. (Main-Union Sts., inside a mini food court), Flushing, Queens
Tactic for securing fresh garlic knots: Observe crowded baseball fields of neighborhood youth league, calculate time until "good game, good game" handslaps, subtract a half-hour or so. These (four for $1) were still glistening from the oven.
Kosher PizzaMania 7749 Vleigh Pl. (77th Rd.-78th Ave.), Kew Gardens Hills, Queens 718-487-3202
In many cultures, Catholics who observe the prohibition against eating red meat during Holy Week, preceding Easter, have created special dishes that make their appearance only at this time of year. The hearty Ecuadorian soup fanesca is one of the best-known. In El Salvador, one traditional "especial para Semana Santa" features tortas de pescado, or fried fish cakes, which might be stewed with tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers (lunch, $8.75) or served in soup, with similar accompaniments. Here the fish was tilapia, and a bit salty.
Novelty aside, the more full-bodied lunch specials I spotted on other tables seemed much more appealing. (Indeed, mine was the only order of tortas de pescado in sight.) El Vincentino also prepares an entree-sized portion of riguas, the Salvadoran equivalent of arepas de choclo; they're available year-round.
Also shown: a decorative gable on the residence next door; the elaborately painted underside of an eave outside the nearby New York Hua Lian Tsu Hui Temple.
El Vincentino 21-20 College Point Blvd. (at 22nd Ave.), College Point, Queens 718-353-8300 Also at 43-37 162nd St. (43rd-45th Aves.), Murray Hill, Queens 718-886-7825
Picture menus can be hard to fathom. Much like the "serving suggestion" for supermarket goods, a disclaimer along the lines of "illustration only" can help clarify that the preparation, accompaniments, and plating of a professionally styled photo might outshine what eventually appears at the table. The photo sets the expectations; the fine print gives cover to the management in case of customer complaints.
For silhouetted photos like these, size is an issue, too. A glance at the six plates depicted on this storefront might suggest that the cányǒng (Tsan-Yohng), depicted at upper right, are outstandingly large and plump, given their proportions in relation to the fish at upper left. Only if you'd had your share in the past would you know, instinctively, that these tidbits are only just so big and that the photo must have been enlarged to fit the available space. Without that past experience, you might be disappointed to be served just a small, appetizer-sized portion of silkworm pupae. Or you might not.