The type of person willing to trek to deepest Queens in search of real-deal Chinese food is also likely to be the kind who avoids malls. But because the foodie frisson has always had something to do with the bracing disconnect between sumptuous eats and challenging surroundings—the more deafening the din, the more garish the lighting, the chewier the noodle, or so the theory goes—Flushing’s food malls exert an irresistible pull. Here, a suggested itinerary for a Queens food-mall triathlon.
Bid farewell to Flushing Mall (set to be demolished next year to make way for a mixed-use megadevelopment) with a coolly spicy bowl of vegetable noodles ($4) from Hai Di Lao, next door to the original Xian Famous Foods. Conserve precious stomach space at Xian by forgoing classics like cumin lamb noodles (its other branches will still survive, after all) and priming your palate with the novel and refreshing Tiger Vegetables Salad ($4.50), a miniature symphony in green: julienned scallion, jalapeño, cilantro, celery. 133-31 39th Ave.
You may find it difficult to figure out where one establishment ends and another begins after descending into Golden Mall’s underground labyrinth, but no matter. The rewards are many, not least of which: the impossibly moist dumplings at both Xie Family Dishes ($3 for a dozen) and North-South Dumplings. Right across the narrow passageway from another Xian outpost are the characterful hand-pulled noodles of Lanzhou Handmade Noodles, swimming in a bestiary of different broths ($4.50 to $6.50). 41-28 Main St.
New World Mall
Brassy upstart New World Mall falters in the savory department but excels at dessert. Duck out of the main space’s cafeteria-style-table scrum and into the comfortable confines of Manji Dessert Inc., which bills itself as the only U.S. bastion of Hong Kong–style desserts and specializes in fusiony mango-based confections like mochi filled with jewel-like centers of burstingly ripe mango ($3.75). 40-21 Main St.