I am in between trips at the moment and am facing that constant struggle all travelers confront: what to do when your wanderlust is blazing but your next adventure is still off on the horizon? My answer is a wanderlust cocktail that is one part travel shows & books, two parts local adventures and one part ethnic eats–all mixed together to satisfy my travel cravings (for now).
This past weekend I was watching Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods (after exhausting Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and No Reservations) and stumbled across his New York City re-run episode. Intrigued, I began watching in hopes of discovering some culinary adventures in my own backyard; what I uncovered was Xi’an Famous Foods–a Chinese, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a part of the city I had never been. Xi’an Famous Foods is known for their handmade, hand-ripped noodles that are made on the spot for each order. Their signature dish is a hand-ripped noodle spicy lamb cumin that is so rich in flavor and complexity, it is phenomenal.
I headed out to Flushing, Queens to visit one of Xi’an Famous Foods’ locations and to explore a part of New York I had yet to explore. New York is said to be home to the largest Chinese population outside China and while I had ventured to Chinatown in Manhattan, I hadn’t discovered Flushing– a vibrant Chinatown of its own. Flushing is bursting with colors, sounds, flavors, crowds, indecipherable signs and conversations and felt as though I should have brought along my passport.
Finding Xi’an Famous Foods on Main Street was a trip in itself as it is one stall of many in a hidden, below ground food court. You walk down a short staircase and find yourself engulfed by enticing cooking smells and the realization that you may be the only non-Asian in the whole room. The locals sit poised with chopsticks in hand and noodle bowls in front of them, as you try to figure out which stall is the stall you’re looking for. At last you find it–a dead giveaway with its framed photos of Bourdain and Zimmern looking satisfied as they usher large globs of noodles into their mouths. Jackpot. You order a bowl and the chewy noodles, chili sauce and spices ignite your palate in the best of ways–like a friendly reminder that this is what food should taste like: fresh, spiced and homemade.
New York City is a clash of cultures and flavors and when I can’t afford to hop a flight abroad, it is wonderful to know it takes little more than a Metro card swipe to fuel my wanderlust and feel as though I’ve crossed the ocean. Walking around Flushing, I came across bright pink dragon fruits, Chinese newspapers, Chinese candy, delicacies, specialities and even durian–a smelly-yet-delicious fruit that I had presumed could only be spotted on the streets of South East Asia. Although my boyfriend and I had biked only an hour away from Astoria, visiting Flushing and Xi’an Famous Foods felt as though we were a world away.
If in New York City, definitely check out Xi’an Famous Foods for a deliciuos meal and cultural experience. It’s your turn! What is your favorite local adventure by your hometown that helps feed your wanderlust? Share it below!