Chowing Down on Shabu Shabu in Flushing, Queens

Q-U-E-E-N-S: The most diverse county in the U.S. of A, and I love it dearly.

Last night, Lesley, Dora and I were treated to a tour of Flushing, Queens, by Dora’s BF Gene, who was also kind enough to drive us there — it’s always a  treat to skip the muggy mass transit or overpriced cab fare and go cruising with your amigos on a mini road trip.

In the brief minutes of drive time between Astoria and Flushing, you leave Greeklandia, pass through the Spanish-speaking communities de East Elmhurst and end up in the sensory overload of the Far East. (You know you’re there when the blocks start looking a lot more like Beijing than the Big Apple.)

Let's cram as many signs as we can onto one small street, shall we?

Gene had promised us a night of delicious Chinese hot pot — or as it’s also known by it’s Japanese name, shabu shabu (I love the way that sounds so that’s what I keep calling it). We went to Shanghai Tang, where for $22.50 per person, you’re allowed to pick out a big ole bunch of meat, veggies and seafood for your hot pot. It’s all brought out raw to your table. Then, you cook it in the pot, which is filled with two boiling broths — mild and spicy. Once it’s reached perfection, you dip it in a sauce you’ve mixed yourself, from the “sauce bar.”

They give you little baskets to fish you're food out with, in case you're chopstick-incompetent like me. Oh and the beer is included in the fixed price.

While I was a little alarmed to cook my own seafood (I always fear I’ll under or overcook it), by the end of the night, I was courageously throwing camarones into the spicy broth. I even boiled several blue crabs, who had been sliced in half so they could fit in the hot pot. Wild.

My favorite items were the golden mushrooms, lotus flowers, sliced beef and of course, the shrimp.

The white broth to the left was mild, the brown broth was spicy. I didn't mess with the white broth. I'm holding half a boiled crab here, and wondering how to eat it daintily.

After our robust meal, we stopped in a bubble tea cafe before heading home. Lesley and I had the “passion fruit matcha agar,” which is basically a passion fruit juice with small bits of Jell-o floating in it. I miss passion fruit from Mexico — it really is an underutilized fruit, imho.

Chinese food is often about texture, and the little gelatin "agar" bits definitely add some "mouth feel" to an otherwise simple juice. Gene's "coffee frosty" in the background was also a big hit.

Gene ordered a snack known as “tea eggs” for all of us and while they aren’t the most photogenic food, they’re packed with flavor. After being hard boiled, the egg is marinated in black tea and soy sauce. The result is the egg whites take on a more meaty, salty flavor.

While they looked like they might have been birthed by some oil-slicked Gulf pelican, these are simply chicken embryos.

2 thoughts on “Chowing Down on Shabu Shabu in Flushing, Queens

  1. JamesBrett says:

    thanks for this post, joy; you’ve enabled me to fondly reminisce a bit. i spent three years in china earlier this decade, and your night out all sounds so familiar — well, all but the $22.50 price tag.

    next time you’re in china town, for a real taste of a popular chinese egg dish, ask for “pi dan.”

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