The International Writers
- Flushing, Queens, NY.
rush to take the #7 subway train in order to make lunch at East
Buffet and Restaurant in Flushing, changing at Queens Plaza to
the express that will let me off at Main Street, the last stop.
The trip takes about 15 minutes and as we approach Willets Point
Boulevard station people excitedly point at Shea Stadium where
a baseball game is in progress. American flags fly from
the top of the Stadium and I glimpse the roaring crowds.
The excitement is infectious!
East Buffet is a few blocks south of Roosevelt Avenue on Main Street,
between Franklin and Maple Avenues. I'm ushered to a window table
and told that a soda comes with the $12.99 lunch buffet. The eight
varieties of soup don't hold any interest, nor does the salad bar:
I'm here to sample food that I cannot find in the many Chinese restaurants
dotting Yorkville, my Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.
In addition to familiar Chinese dishes such as General Tso's Chicken and
several varieties of pork chops and beef, my first foray materializes
a green sticky bun filled with bean paste from the dim sum bar, Szechuan
shrimp, small deep-fried fish (too fishy) and excellent mustard greens
with mushrooms. "Spicy Beef Intestine," "Pigs Internal
Organ" "Spicy Cold Bean Jelly," and spicy baby octopus
present different degrees of chewiness and all are tasty. I ignore
the sushi station and head for the Peking Duck bar where the duck is carved
to order, topped with hoisin sauce and placed in a pancake. "East
Wind Snail" beckons and I pick up a couple of them they are
actually two-inch long conchs. I begin to extract the first and
discover a surprise: a tiny, perfectly preserved hermit crab, cooked lobster-red,
is impaled on my fork. I study it and then pop it into my mouth.
Its fragile exoskeleton brittles immediately. But what a wonderful
taste! Is it the crab or is it the sauce in which it was cooked?
The second shell holds conch meat and I'm disappointed. This, too,
is fishy tasting.
After three trips to the buffet I'm stuffed and end my meal with strange-tasting
"Chocolate Jelly," in addition to good lime and mango custards.
I don't have room for the cakes, cookies and sweet red bean and green
bean soups. I've tasted about 50% of what is offered and make a mental
note to return with my friend Forklift, so named because he eats industrial
Sunrise Kitchen and Hardware Supplies is just north of East Buffet and
I note the variety of knives, cleavers, pots and pans. I enter
Maple Supermarket, which is well stocked with vegetables, all types of
frozen dumplings and fish. The frozen fillets sold in Manhattan's
Chinatown as flounder are here called Frozen Channel Fillet, two pounds
for $5. This is a firm white-fleshed fish, good sauteed in a combination
of olive oil, lemon slices and capers. Last year I ventured
into a nearby market that displayed a whole roasted pig's head in its
window for $2.75. I was tempted to buy it for the hell of it but
it probably would have been too heavy to lug around. And what if
I were in an accident and it rolled out of the shopping bag?
A lone Irish bar keeps vigil on Main Street between Maple and Sanford
Avenues. A couple of months ago I needed to use the ladies room
and entered only to confront a crazy scene! The front was filled
with men betting loudly on a basketball game, the rear was betting on
horses. The Chinese bookie in the back was very busy, indeed; the
Irish bartender drank along with his customers. As I left
I noticed that I was the only woman in the place with the exception of
a Chinese woman who entered with several food deliveries.
The north side of Sanford Avenue, west of Main boasts a block of hair
salons where nine months ago Forklift and I were enticed into Ya Qin Beauty
Salon. I was given an almost dry shampoo as I sat in front of the
mirror and after a quick rinse, a basic haircut. Forklift had no
shampoo; we each paid $6.
Fay Da Bakery Corp on Main Street sells a good sponge cake reminiscent
of Angel Food cake for 85 cents. Lettuce Wrap and Hot Dog and Lettuce
Bun are each $1.50, French pastry such as cassis cake $1.75 to $2.75.
A large Black Forest cake is $18. Further north is Hing Long Supermarket,
where I notice a package of frozen Leather Jacket Fish (hmmmm) and Cutlass
Fish, also called Belt Fish. A Vietnamese friend tells me it's good
and I'll have to try it. It's only $1.85 a pound. This supermarket
also has tanks of live lobster, fish, shrimp and frogs, as well as a good
selection of fruit and vegetables.
The takeout windows at AA Plaza on Main and 41st Avenue sell 4 steamed
buns, filled with minced pork, ginger and water chestnuts for $1 and 2
spring rolls for $1. I buy these for Forklift. Around the
corner the competition sells the same for 75 cents.
Just west into 41st Avenue is the staging area for mini buses serving
the Flushing and Manhattan Chinatowns. I pay $2.50 and get into
the filled bus. As we begin to depart, a woman rushes up and the
driver immediately pulls out a folding chair and puts it in the aisle
for her. I notice other chairs discreetly folded next to each row
of seats. There are no legal capacity issues here. We approach Shaolin
Temple Kungfu and make a left onto College Point Boulevard, passing Super
Rave KTV and a huge Western Beef Supermarket. Flushing
Meadow Park and the 1964 World's Fair grounds are on my right. I'm
relieved that traffic is heavy because I would have worried for the woman
in the chair. We enter Brooklyn and soon the East Williamsburg Industrial
Park appears on my right. It's ugly but the view is mitigated by
Manhattan's skyline in the distance. Brooklyn Borough President
Marty Markowitz' pride is evidenced in a sign that proclaims: "Leaving
Brooklyn. Oy Vey " as the bus rolls over the Williamsburg Bridge
and onto Delancey Street in Manhattan. The final stop is on Division
Street near Catherine Street in Chinatown, opposite Oriental Wedding Studio
of NY. Ahead of me a bus waits to make the return run to Flushing.
This trip took 40 minutes, but I've done it in 20 minutes, traversing
© Ulle Trautvag June 2007
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