Breakfast in Flushing Chinatown

youtiao two ways

By Lily Chin


(Photographs by Lily Chin)

Intrepid New York eaters are familiar with the many dinner options in Flushing—from regional Chinese cooking to restaurants specializing in Korean, Malaysian, and South Indian fare. But the neighborhood’s breakfast options, which disappear from the neighborhood’s bakeries and cafes by late-morning (or whenever the food runs out), are familiar to few—aside from Flushing locals.

Youtiao, a fried strip of dough, appears constantly on Flushing breakfast menus. This elongated doughnut (crisp outside, slightly chewy inside) is eaten during breakfast throughout China. In Flushing, youtiao are paired with everything from milk tea to sweet and savory soups.

Sandwiched between a flower shop and a medicinal herb store, Sheng Jin Eatery (which itself is housed in a shop named “Oriental Express Food Lucky & LWC”) is easy to miss. Even so, Flushingites who come here for breakfast expect to sit down and eat at a leisurely pace.

Inside are two food stalls specializing in cuisine from the city of Tianjin, in northern China. The one at the back serves breakfast foods from 6:30 a.m. until roughly noon, including a popular breakfast dish called “tofu brains” in Mandarin. Typically eaten with youtiao, this dish is a salty, northern Chinese version of douhua, a sweet tofu pudding popular in southern China.

The dish combines silken tofu and a thick, savory soup made with soy sauce, shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, ginger, garlic and star anise. The spicy option—in which hot sauce made from ground sesame seeds and white pepper powder is drizzled on top—adds a light, nutty kick. Regulars stir the broth and tofu to disperse the flavors evenly, dipping their youtiao into the mixture and slurping up the remaining soup when their youtiao are finished.

A few blocks down Main Street from Sheng Jin Eatery is another early-bird favorite, Corner 28, which serves takeaway breakfast dishes from 6:00 a.m. until roughly noon. Located just one block from the subway, Corner 28 is usually packed during the morning rush hour, as Flushing commuters grab their morning meal and dash to the train.

In typical Cantonese style, the youtiao at Corner 28 are served with congee, a savory rice porridge. Corner 28 offers many different congees, including one made with dried scallop and another made with preserved egg and pork.

One popular option is the congee made with dried bonito fish and raw, shelled peanuts. Crunchy peanuts and chewy fish add texture and bits of seafood flavor to the thick congee. Paired with youtiao, it’s ideal fuel for Flushing commuters.

Sheng Jin Eatery
(a.ka. Oriental Express Food Lucky & LWC)

41-40 Main St. (map)
Queens, NY 11354

Corner 28
40-28 Main St. (map)
Queens, NY 11355

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