January 24, 2010

The subways were a mess yesterday; on the 1 you you had to go uptown to get down, and the 7 halted before the end of the line, spilling the entire train into overcrowded buses.  It took almost two hours to get to Flushing, but that somehow seemed right. Jostling along in that jerky bus I began to feel that I was in Hong Kong or Macau, and when we finally disembarked it was into streets so choked with people it was impossible to walk at anything faster than a crawl. .

Descending into the Golden Mall, fighting through the powerful funk of fermented tofu, really is like entering another country.  Ordering cold knife-but noodles and lamb burgers, with their intense cumin-tones is as difficult as making yourself understood in some foreign land. "Huh?" the woman behind the counter says, screwing up her face, and you resort to pointing.  In the next booth, where they sell a dozen juicy little pork buns for three bucks, the woman comes out shreiking when yousit down a tone of their grubby little tables with food from another stall. Children cry, people fight, garbage overflows – and absolutely everything you eat tastes wonderful.

Afterward we walked, past all the shops with their electronics, their exotic fruits, their cured meats, to M&K, a tiny little restaurant serving the food of Qindong (where the beer is made).  Too much of what we ordered was beer food – even the fried gingseng root seemed more fried than root- but I can't forget the eel, which delivered sweet, spice and richness with each bite.  I loved the cucumber salad, too, laced with garlic and little strips of pig skin.  And the rainbow fish, velvety little chunks tossed with lamb, was a wonderful, a fish with the texture of clouds and the flavor of air.  In many ways a virtual fish – all texture, no taste.

Leaving, we picked up duck buns at Corner 28. And as we flew through Queens on the 7 train, looking into all those second story windows, we still had the taste of China on our lips.

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