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I’m Mari.
On Marivelous Me! you’ll find recipes, food gifts, food I’ve traveled for and food solutions. Poke around, maybe you’ll find inspiration for something you’re working on. Enjoy! 

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Tuesday
Feb052013

Golden Shopping Mall

Look at the above image - you're going to go eat there. You probably have the same expression on your face that I had when I saw the building from across the street. With zero curb appeal and the building's name only discernable by the city soot clinging to its façade, Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Queens houses some stellar and extremely affordable eats behind its not too polished mask.

We went as a group, eight strong. Ms. Erin, who organized the event knew just who to call on to help us navigate the mall. Her fiancé and future brother-in-law, Rex and Cyrus respectively, grew up in Flushing so we had real local tour guides. Cyrus and his wife, Manna often eat at Golden Shopping Mall so even before we entered the building, they gave us two handy tips:

1) Bring a bottle of water. (Code: Not many stalls have water or frankly, you'd want bottled down there.)
2) Don't eat any of the cold meats that are on display. (Code: You don't know how long they've been sitting out.)

We took a quick spin around the Ground Floor and then went down the diamond plated steel steps to where most of the food stalls are located. This is not a place to be squeamish - just stick to the above tips and you'll be fine. Like when one goes for dim sum, I figured we'd get a lot of different things and eat family style. Unfortunately, there isn't a central seating area so we split up, ordered food and wandered between stalls with our chopsticks and spoons in hand to taste each other's morsels. 

Scanning the place, you quickly realize this is like no other food court you've been to unless you've been to Shenzhen or some other citytown in China. There's barely any English written or spoken. There's a ton of food on display, which is unrefrigerated and like nothing you've ever seen before. Cyrus quickly walked us through the small basement, explaining each stall's stand out dish.

If you've heard of Golden Shopping Mall, chances are you've also heard of their break out super star stall: Xi'an Famous Foods. They make foods from Xi'an, the first capital in China and the home of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Yum. They're known for their Liang Pi cold skin noodles. Chewy, super textural, with slices of TVP (my fave!) and at $4.50, it’s a ridiculous deal. We also shared a stewed pork burger and a spicy cumin lamb burger. The pork burger kind of tasted of barbecue and the lamb was surprisingly not like any Chinese food I've ever had. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never had a Chinese lamb dish but the star anise or cumin made it taste a lot like Turkish food. What was remarkable about both burgers was the bun. It looked like an English muffin but it was pillowy-soft like a hamburger bun, made without eggs and it was crusty. $2.50 each, a serious bargain.

I think one of the main reasons Xi'an Famous Foods is famous is because the proprietor speaks English and understands the power of the internet. Most of the other employees at the other stalls barely speak to you, which is fine if they just want to stay in the mall but Jason Wang and his dad, David Shi, have expanded beyond the fluorescent-lit basement to the East Village, Chinatown Manhattan, and Greenpoint/East Williamsburg. People are hungry for authentic food but they like a little comfort - like, knowing what they're eating. 

Across the aisle was Lanzhou Handmade Noodles (Stall No. 28), a pulled noodle stall. Manna leaned in close to say that she doesn't like the meat here so stick with the vegetable soup. (Code: Don't trust the meat!) We ordered a bowl with vegetables. Wow. Mr. Mari and I went to Hung-ry (since shuttered) a year or so ago and weren't that impressed so we kind of took hand pulled noodles off our radar. Well this place is making me crave a bowl right now! The meaty broth was rich, the baby bok choi was crisp and mildly peppery and the noodles were perfectly pliant and delicious. I thought I might have to add some of the hot pepper oil they had in large pots on the table but no need, the broth had a nice soft kick flowing. Again, for a bowl the size of a small cantaloupe the price was only $4.50; a super deal. 

Around the corner to the right is Xie Jia Cai, a dumpling shop. We got three different kinds: a pork and celery; a pork, chive, shrimp and egg; and a pork and chive. $3 for a dozen. Yes, that's not a typo. Okay. You might question the quality of the meat but I had zero problems that night. Our friends Elizabeth and Robert as well as Erin purchased them to take home frozen: $10 for 50. That works out to twenty cents a dumpling. If I weren’t leaving NYC I’d have definitely bought a bag’s worth too.

Manna ordered hot pot from the stall across from Xie Jia Cai. Cyrus and Manna were very excited about the $17 all you can eat hot pot, which on another occasion might be something I'd want to do. After tasting it, I understood why they were so excited. A delicate broth soup loaded with thinly sliced beef, greens, wood ear mushrooms, tofu, and a bunch of other veggies. 

The last thing we shared was what I'm calling a hot pocket, a Tianjin-style shaobing, a sweet or savory-filled baked flatbread. The stand out one was filled with egg, chives, and chopped clear rice noodles. Wow and only $2. Elizabeth said she ate these constantly when she spent time in Beijing.

As you can see, we ate a ton and for very little money. If you're thinking of going, my suggestion is to befriend someone that speaks Mandarin, is familiar with the Mall and take him or her along. If that's not an option, stick to the hot food, and you'll have a great time.

A HUGE thanks to Erin, Rex, Cyrus and Manna for being such awesome guides and coordinators! Special thanks to Elizabeth, Robert and Mr. Mari for being excellent food adventure buddies. 

(Photos, from the top! Exterior of Golden Shopping Mall; our intrepid group; Liang Pi cold skin noodles; Hawberry tea sign; spicy cumin lamb burger; pulling noodles at Lanzhou Homemade Noodles; Lanzhou noodles with vegetables; silverware at Lanzhou Homemade Noodles; Xie Jia Cai offerings; some of our dumplings; hot pot; Robert watching some soup action)

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