Conquering the Fear of Fusion in Flushing

27 Nov

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I admit I have a fear of food fusion. I see that word in a restaurant’s sub-name and I immediately throw up my own red flags; the food won’t be authentic; it will be a watered down version of what it should be, the restaurant wants to have it both ways, and on and on. There are exceptions however and when Zio chose Pho Mekong, a restaurant in Flushing that boasted both Thai and Vietnamese food, I really wasn’t concerned. The distinction between the food of Thailand and that of Vietnam to many westerners, myself included, is a small one; most don’t even know the difference.

The restaurant was located in the back of strip mall surrounded by a Korean market and a Korean family barbecue restaurant where you ordered your raw meat by the bulk to cook on the table top grills.

“Maybe we should just go here,” Zio said as he gazed at the Korean signage of the barbecue restaurant. “It’s much more exciting than Vietnamese or Thai.”

Zio was getting cold feet about his choice. Maybe he also had that inner fear of fusion. I told him that it’s always best to trust your initial instincts. He did and as we assembled after our Thai/Vietnamese dinner, again gazing at the Korean Family Barbecue restaurant, Zio’s instincts proved right. Despite the fusion of the two cuisines, the dinner was a success.

The soup of the house, of course, was Pho and we noticed many local diners in the restaurant were happily slurping from the gallon-sized bowls of soup layered with brisket or thin slices of round steak, cooked in the hot broth. None of us, however, chose to order what was the specialty, at least in the restaurant’s name, of the house.

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Fish ball soup

Gerry who was a little under the weather with a stomach ailment braved the trip to Flushing and, displaying even more bravado, ordered fish ball soup and an appetizer of oysters smothered in a rich, dark oyster sauce. Stomach ailment be damned.

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Oysters for whatever ails ya

Tom kha gai, the traditional Thai chicken soup Eugene ordered presented a dilemma. Eugene often crows about his affection for coconut, milk or anything else about it. And tom kha gai is made with a coconut milk base. But it also includes an abundance of mushrooms and there was the dilemma. Eugene, as far as I know has no fear of fusion, but he does have a mushroom phobia. And there they were littered within the silky coconut milk broth. Undeterred, he fished each mushroom out and then proceeded to slurp down what was left of the soup.

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Squid with Thai chilies

Zio’s dilemma was not quite as serious. He had stated from the get go that he was going to order the beef curry stew, but at the last minute, the waiter poised with pen in hand to take his order,  Zio switched to squid with Thai chili sauce. Why, we wondered?

“If I ordered the beef curry stew it would put us over our budget,” he said. “The squid is cheaper.”

No one was counting pennies and if we were that would have left Mike from Yonkers unfazed considering he ordered a whole salmon that, fried and covered in the same chili sauce that was on Zio’s squid, was enough to feed  his own enormous appetite and maybe also that of a very small child.

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Shrimp lemongrass soup with plenty of mushrooms

I also ordered soup; the shrimp lemongrass variety and happily ingested all the mushrooms I found within. To complement the soup, I had a vermicelli salad topped with grilled pork. I wasn’t sure if the salad was Vietnamese or Thai, or some fusion concoction of the two, and, frankly, I didn’t give a damn.

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Vermicelli salad with grilled pork

Pho Mekong

15632 Northern Boulevard

Flushing, Queens

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