14 AWP Brooklyn Paper • www.BrooklynPaper.com • (718) 260-2500 October 11–17, 2019
RETURNING TO CITI FIELD
Take Your Taste Buds to Malaysia via Elmhurst’s
Little House Cafe
It’s not unusual to find a Malaysian eatery in
Elmhurst, after all there several others in the neighborhood,
which has had a Southeast presence for at
least a decade. What sets Little House Cafe apart is
that for most of its life it presented as a Chinese cafe
specializing in various buns and cakes.
When I first visited it thanks to intel from
local Queens vloggers Food & Footprints, the
yellow awning read, “Bubble Tea. Bakery. Teriyaki
Express. Asian Cuisine,” and the only photos in the
window were of hamburgers and bubble tea. Just
inside the door was a pretty standard selection of
Chinese buns and treats, with a few items, notably
Malaysian brown sugar cake, that a gave a clue to
the fact that the “Asian Cuisine” referenced in the
awning was in fact Malaysian.
On that first visit I had the aforementioned
cake—spongy, sweet, and fragrant—along with
a nice strong Malaysian style iced coffee while I
waited an unusually long time for an order of chow
keuh teow. The latter is a tangle of flat stir fried
noodles shot through with shrimp, squid, fish cake,
pork all cooked up with soy sauce and chili paste.
Little House’s is excellent, the noodles a deep brown
and slightly charred along with the seafood, a result
of extra time in a blazing hot wok. Another tour
de force of wok cookery from Chef Jeremy Lee and
his son and sous chef, Jeremy Lee, is the prosaically
named fried carrot. It’s actually chunks of daikon
radish cake studded with dried shrimp. Known as
cho luó bo gāo in Chinese, the crunchy salty burnished
cubes are the most exciting way to eat your
veggies in Elmhurst.
The most amazing creation at Little House
though is a sweet brownish bun. It’s not one of the
fist-sized numbers, that fill the baskets by the door
though. This one, known as the Golden Pillow, is a
Singaporean style jumbo curry chicken bun the size
of my head. It must be ordered a day in advance
and will set you back $16, but it’s well worth it. Helen
Bay, the family’s matriarch delivers it personally
to your table for oohs and aahs before taking it to
the kitchen to crack it open. A few moments later
she returns. Cut open it resembles nothing so much
as a flower whose sweet bready petals surround a
reddish pool of chicken and potato, fragrant with
coconut, chili, and curry. It may momentarily call
to mind roti canai, but it’s way better.
Noodle soups, notably the Malaysian classic curry
mee with young tofu, are excellent as well. The
bowl consists of a cavalcade of textures and flavors:
spicy green pepper, eggplant, and soft tofu blocks
all stuffed with fish paste along with yellow noodles
in a sinus clearing coconut curry lemongrass broth
gone red from chilies. Topping it off are several
crunchy sheets of tofu skin, filled with just a hint of
the same fish paste.
Thanks to a New York Times review in summer
2018 the folks are a little prouder of their
cuisine. It sits in the window alongside photos of
Malaysian dishes, nary a hamburger or bubble tea
in sight. And that Golden Pillow now graces the
front of the menu. They’ve even begun to offer
rotating weekend specials. My favorite is chicken
rendang, tender braised chicken was coated with
a coconut curry a fair amount of heat and a nice
hint of kaffir lime.
There are many dessert options. My favorite is a
blue and white number made from sticky rice with
salted coconut milk. It comes with a little tub of
light green pandan scented kaya for dipping. The
combination of the rice cubes with the sweet green
jam that carries a haunting scent of baking bread
and cooking rice is a great way to cool the palate
after a spicy meal. It’s also quite fitting for a restaurant
whose Chinese name translates to jù xiāng
yuán chá cān tīng or “Fragrant Garden Teahouse.”
90-19 Corona Ave.
BY JOE DISTEFANO
As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so
very fortunate to live in the most diverse
and delicious destination in all of New York
City. Really I’m not royalty though, I’m
an ambassador, and a hungry one at that.
Today, we examine a cuisine—Malaysian—
found in a most unusual location an
erstwhile Chinese bakery in Elmhurst.
Curry mee with young tao fu, features tofu
and other goodies in a spicy broth.
The chow keuh teow, stir fried noodles with
seafood, is the best in Queens.
The Golden Pillow, a giant Singaporean chicken bun, must be ordered a day in advance.