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 visit Thailand via Elmhurst at Nood in the neighborhood’s newest culinary wonderland HK Food Court.
A casual appraisal of the more than two dozen offerings at Elmhurst’s HK Food Court, which opened earlier this spring in a former supermarket, reveals there are four Thai stands, offering everything from pork over rice to dessert. And then there’s Nood with its happy cow logo munching on a bowl of noodles. The first thing you might notice is the prices, $11.99 seems to be a bit steep for a bowl of noodles in a food court. The next thing you might take note of is that the photo of that $11.99 bowl of noodle soup contains a gigantic slice of premium Black Angus brisket.
The very last thing, you might notice about Nood, whose sign bears the legend “Asian Noodle Bar by Mama Dee,” is that it is in fact, Thai. If you’ve been around Thai restaurants long enough the quartet of fish sauce, sugar, chilies in vinegar and red chili powder should tip you off.
The specialty at this family-run operation — named for the matriarch Bungon “Wondee”Sudchit — is Thai-style beef noodle soup. Elmhurst has long been home to places to get pho, the Vietnamese style beef noodle soup, as well as Taiwanese beef noodle soup, but Nood is the hood’s first spot for kuay teow neua, or Thai-style beef noodle soup. And what soup it is! Whole Black Angus brisket is boiled for 10 hours along with a pantry’s worth of aromatics and spices, including galangal, star anise, five spice powder, white pepper and lemongrass, resulting in a super beefy broth.
Nood offers six varieties of meaty toppings for its soups, including the aforementioned gigantic slab of brisket and a mixed meat bowl, which features cubed brisket, thinly sliced beef, chewy tendon, tripe, and creamy liver. The brisket version is literally over the top, the gigantic slab of meat — comprising both the flat and point cuts as well as a generous bit of wobbly fat — overlaps the edges of the bowl. Offal lovers and the hungry alike will delight in the mixed meat bowl. Whichever one you order, be sure to take some fish sauce, sugar, chili powder and chilies in vinegar to adjust the flavor of your bowl. The eminently slurpable noodles are of the springy fresh Japanese variety. There’s also a bit of greenery, shredded lettuce of all things, almost an afterthought, because let’s face it the focus here is the beef.
Despite the matriarchal reference in the name, Nood is actually the brainchild of Wondee’s son, Gai, who spent six months in Thailand eating his through some of his home country’s best spots for kuay teow neua, or Thai beef noodle soup, including Bangkok’s Wattana Panich. Gai grew up eating noodle soup at home — typically pork or chicken — and his recipe is also partly inspired by his mom’s broth. “To be honest my family doesn’t really eat beef, but I wanted to sell beef,” he said, adding that he is partial to Korean barbecue at Flushing’s Picnic Garden.
The young chef’s personal favorite is the brisket, but he’s quick to point that the No. 5, mixed meat in broth with rice on the side is a very Thai way to eat. Should you choose to exercise this option, make a dipping sauce.
Only in Queens, in a neighborhood like Elmhurst, can one find a super premium secret Thai beef noodle stand.
Nood, Asian Noodle Bar by Mamadee, No. 21, HK Food Court, HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave., Elmhurst