Sunday, October 6, 2013

Queens ! The Arepa Lady & Ayada Thai

Jackson Heights. What a cool part of New York.  Hopping off the subway, my nose filled with tantalizing smells of savory meats, fried potatoes and other mouthwatering aromas.  I'm not sure why I've never gone to Jackson Heights before, but it's definitely worth a deeper look.  We visited this neighborhood for the 2nd Annual Viva La Comida street party, a festive and fun community event that is worth checking next time!

There were a dozen or so trucks and food vendors from the boroughs (with emphasis on Queens), offering cemitas, pupusas, tacos and more.  We narrowed in on the fresh momos truck serving up beef momos for the night.  Momos are Nepalese dumplings, differentiated by their thicker skin.

You get eight tasty little buggers for $5.  The skin is thick with the perfect amount of chew, the filling has plenty of beefy flavor, and a good bit of soup inside that bursts in your mouth (and down your chin and on your shoe, if you're like me).  The drizzle of sweetened soy was also a nice touch.

Then we spent an unfortunate two hours waiting for arepas from the infamous Arepa Lady.  You can only find the Arepa Lady on Friday and Saturday nights in Jackson Heights from 9p-4a.  Since I am very old, I am usually in bed at that time, so we pounced on this rare opportunity to eat these arepas during earlier hours.  So did 200 other people.

The staff cranks out the arepas like a machine though, and there was no fear they were going to run out of their beautiful pancake creations anytime soon.

And finally we were holding actual food in our hands instead of just staring at it longingly from the concrete pavement.

The pork skewers were SO delicious.  Moist, remarkably tender and well-seasoned.  And they also toss in a couple baby potatoes that have a skin of salt that yields into the creamy center.  Supposedly the chorizo sticks are amazing also.

The Arepa Lady sells two types of arepas.  The arepa de choclo is the larger one - the size of a dinner plate folded in half.

The arepa is beautifully hot, basically melting in your mouth with a burst of sweet corn, cheese and butter.

The other option is the arepa con queso, which is less sweet, a little more dense, and more heavily topped with cheese.  It was also good, but my favorite was by far the choclo.  I'm so amazed by the strong corn flavor !

Seeing as we were so good with managing our stomach space during the festival, we walked a few blocks over to Woodside to check out Ayada Thai - noted by many as being just as authentic as the beloved Woodside favorite, Sripriphai.

but I'm going to go ahead and just say now that I think Ayada Thai is better than Sripriphai.

And this single dish is what won me over: the raw shrimp salad.

I know.  Raw shrimp.  It's a weird thing to be enamored with.  And it looked exactly like raw shrimp, topped with heavy spoonfuls of chili sauce, slivers of raw garlic and semicircles of bitter melon, but together, the ingredients immediately gang up to punch you square in the mouth with crazy amazing flavor.

It's so hot and spicy and cool and bitter and wonderful all at once, and you want to go back for more the instant your mouth recovers from the last bite.

The other appetizers were also good (but nothing could top the awe from the raw shrimp!).  The larb salad was standard and fine.

The esarn sausage was fun to eat.

It's a balancing act to get all the pieces of ginger, red onion, peanut and sausage into one bite, but when you did, it was perfect !

The crab roll appetizer reminded me of an overfried shu mai (skip).

The jungle curry, recommended at a medium spice level, was still very spicy.  The dish was overflowing with fresh vegetables - tender baby corn, bright green beans, and plenty of baby Japanese eggplant.

The papaya salad was my other favorite of the night, and comes with option of salted crab, which I'd recommend you get also, especially if you enjoy sucking out squishy bits of crab meat from the shelled legs strewn throughout the salad.  A funky texture that is unique and quite tasty.

The BBQ beef appetizer comes with a great red sauce, but otherwise unremarkable - other than it was perfect for dissipating the amount of spice incubating in your mouth from all the other dishes.

Our bellies were bursting after the night as we made our way back to the train station to return back to our home boroughs.  If this night was any indicator, I need to visit Queens more often !

Han's Nonsensical Rating: Between the mindblowingly tasty raw shrimp appetizer and the warmth and friendliness of the staff, Ayada Thai is my new favorite restaurant find.  We can't wait to return there again to try more plates (and eat more raw shrimp!)  Arepa Lady is worth looking into also if you don't face an atrocious wait (arepa de choclo for the win!).

Ayada Thai
78-03 Woodside Ave. (Woodside Ave & 78th St)
Ayada on Urbanspoon

Arepa Lady
Roosevelt Ave & 79th
Jackson Heights, NY


  1. sweet corn arepa, pretty please!!

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