Eating the Untranslatable: Flushing Dire-y

“Translation is the art of failure.”

John Ciardi, Saturday Review

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At the Heavenly City of Chengdu, Stall 31 at 41-28 Main Street in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, NYFamed palace of pungent, palate-invigorating Sichuan street food.

Setting the wayback machine to Flushing, New York, September, 2012, hoping the spatial stabilizers don’t fail lest I get stuck in a wall or something.

Chen Du Tian Fu – I’ve seen it translated as “Chengdu Heavenly Plenty Snacks” and “Heavenly City of Chengdu,” both deriving from Chengdu, capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, famed for its cuisine, culinary culture, and its pandas. Walk a narrow flight of stairs, take a left into the Golden Shopping Mall basement, brushing by stalls serving the earthy, flavorful dishes of Xinjiang, tendir-baking resinous batches of cumin and onion naan in the Uyghur mode. Arrive at a wall mounted menu announcing CHEN DU TIAN FU.

Go here.

Take a chance on the menu, no matter your language skills or adaptation to Flushing’s myriad of street food from practically every region/province of China.

I’m in the thrall of Number 41 – sauteed pig intestine buried beneath a layer of chimney red, stealth black dried chilies. I’ll die in and/or of that thrall – that’s probably a stronger and than I’d care to admit in a few years. That night, I ordered Number 27: diced Sichuan rabbit with peanuts, done up ma la with heaps of tongue-numbing citrus peppercorns braised in red chili oil and chilled…

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Number 41, por ejemplo.

…And I ate it standing, numbed tongue bullshitting with my friend Ahmad in front of the Flushing central Post Office where over four years before, I confessed my love to Kel for the second time – and twenty years before that, crossed the street to enter the glass lobby of the then-Greenpoint Bank, dressed as a Roman legate, ready to perform my duty and unfurl a scroll declaring Herod’s big Christmas reveal in the 1988 Mary’s Nativity School Christmas Pageant.

It was my first and finest theatrical appearance.

Numbers 40 and 43, though: dire tofu and dire chilli.

This is no “bunny grey underpants”, and I’d wager “dire” is a misspelling of “dried” – but if you’ve ever experienced a spice high as one could easily do in the eateries of Flushing, I would be very curious to sample dire chilli. Sine qua numb.

Fail well, friends.

(Featured image courtesy of Flushing Exceptionalism)

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8 thoughts on “Eating the Untranslatable: Flushing Dire-y

    1. There’s tremendous variety – Northeastern (Dongbei), Chinese-Korean, Hunanese, Uyghur, Fujianese, Sichuan, Shanghainese, dumpling houses, you name it. I imagine Vancouver’s got all that too? I mean, compared to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live? Haha…at least we have *one* authentic place that serves ants on a log and the like. 🙂

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      1. Haha I see! So, compared to Lincoln I bet Vancouver does have a ton of authentic places, but they’re mostly focused on Sichuan, Shanghai, Taiwanese, and dumplings. I’ve never seen a place with Uyghur or Fujianese cuisine. I don’t even know what it’s like at all! That would be pretty neat to experience 🙂

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      2. I’d never heard of either of those before so I looked them up. Now that I know what it is, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a restaurant where they’re making fresh handmade lagman just one block down from me! Haha I’m learning a lot. I’ll go check it out this weekend.

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      3. Ohhh okay, actually I just went and looked it up. It seems like Vancouver restaurants would include Uyghur food broadly under Xinjiang cuisine, in which case I found some locations here! Haha I learned something new today 😛

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