The good news is that street food has become much more profuse in the last year, via windows, sidewalk stands, and full-blown food courts, so that now there are probably two dozen opportunities to purchase things like curried fish balls on skewers, bowls of congee, vegetable-stuffed bings, pot stickers, and chicken wings as you walk south on Main Street from the 7 train terminus. Newest to arrive is a food court right on the same spot where the Peking duck sandwich disappeared, at the southwest corner of 40th Road and Main Street.
The English sign sings out Happy Food, though a Mandarin-speaking friend noted that the Chinese name is Big Mouth. It occupies the entire ground floor of the corner building and has a sign outside that proclaims — as if it were a bistro in Bushwick — "Soft Opening," promising a 20% discount on prices that were not that high to begin with. At the end of the long hall is a seating area with only three trestle tables, and lines of people with their fast-food purchases waiting to sit down. Between the tables and the front door are four activity areas arranged along two parallel counters. Make your selection, pay at one of three registers, and then return to the counter to collect your food.
Right inside the front door on your left is a rather conventional display of Chinese charcuterie, with some gruff butchers whose lovable side never seems to make an appearance. Nevertheless, at the current 20% off, the meat and poultry is a great deal. There are the usual strips of anise-lacquered pork tenderloin, Peking duck, steamed chicken, barbecued geese, sausages, cuttlefish, and the thing I selected for this visit: five very plump chicken wings for the bargain price of $9.71.
Next, moving toward the back, is a long counter with 32 tubs in a steam table. From these you may select three or four dishes for $5.25, which are then served over a mountain of rice with a soup appetizer. You may also select a bowl of warm soy milk in lieu of soup. There are similar deals in all the Chinatowns, but never has been seen such a colorful array of dishes, including chicken in a Malaysian coconut curry, fish heads braised in hot pickled chiles, baby bok choi and half-dozen other vegetable selections, thick slices of soy-braised pork belly, duck-blood stew, and clams with black bean sauce.
Right across the aisle is a station that peddles cold salads, four of which involve chicken feet. There’s also a spicy cabbage slaw; a mock duck that’s one of the best in Flushing, featuring mushrooms wrapped like internal organs inside several layers of tofu skin; pig ears sliced thin; well-oiled cloud ear fungus; gobs of gluten with yellow leeks — you get the picture. Single servings are priced at $2 and $4, assortments somewhat more.
It’s a worthwhile addition to the food scene of the neighborhood, and a place uncommonly accessible to outsiders.
Another long counter features dim sum of every sort, along with congee and crullers, and hot-and-sour soup. There are rice noodle sheets wrapped around shrimp or scented beef, steamed buns filled with pork, siu mai of various sorts, shrimp har gow, and a dozen other types of buns and dumplings, most at $2 per serving and constituting a quick grab-and-go snack for shoppers.
Yes, Happy Food/Big Mouth offers few surprises. But in its selection of pan-Chinese standard street fare, nodding more to the south than the north, and to the evident excitement of the new patrons, it’s a worthwhile addition to the food scene of the neighborhood, and a place uncommonly accessible to outsiders. 40-28 Main Street, (718) 321-1389.