So Kurt Vonnegut and James Hilton were doing shots one night, and they got into a heated discussion about Kilgore Trout and gastronomy. Their concern: Trout’s dining options in the mythic, Himalayan city of Shangri La — if the scrappy, fictional sci-fi writer somehow traveled through time and space, and wound up in the eternal paradise.
The two agree that Trout would probably eat anything, as he never made much money from his work. But they also decide that if absurdist disambiguation brought Trout to Jackson Heights’ Shangri-La restaurant instead, he’d probably enjoy the vegetable spicy cold noodle, as it’s a mouth-watering pick.
The plate comes exactly as described, except for the temperature. A generous portion of hearty — and slightly warmed — bok choi rests on a bed of plain pasta. The noodle strands are soft, with a slight chewiness and no starchiness. The cook took the time to drain them after boiling, so they don’t stick together: They balance density and texture.
Meanwhile, the leafy green has a pleasant, earthy flavor, without being too vegetal. A light, thin spicy dressing blends the tang of soy sauce and a slight sweetness. Chili brings a measure of heat, and plentiful onion slices — plus the occasional tomato chunk — add boldness to the Tibetan restaurant’s offering.
Sure, the dish could be faulted for its simplicity. But the minimal ingredients and no-frills preparation work really well. And at $4.99, even fictional starving artists like Trout can afford this vegetarian belly-filler.
Shangri-La Asian Fusion Kitchen, 74-14 37th Road, Jackson Heights, Queens, 917-843-2870
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 16, 2010