Pinas Locas Quetzaly

Instagram Post 6/5/2018

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As summer temperatures grow more intense, so does our thirst for a cold, refreshing beverage sipped as a counteroffensive to the heat. Never satisfied with plain water (yes, I know), I am ever on the prowl for noteworthy libations. On a recent trek through Passaic, NJ, we happened upon Piñas Locas Quetzaly at 80 Broadway Avenue where my quest was more than quenched by their over 32 varieties of tropical fruit drinks. Although armed with a menu replete with vivid photographs, I was nearly stymied with indecision over offerings like Diablito, Remolino, Quetzaraspado, Japones, and Vaso Loco. All of the icy juices are literally bursting with fruit and are often kicked up with chamoy (a Mexican condiment made from tangy fruit juice and spicy chilies) or other spicy embellishments. Many, like this mango and jicama Chamarindo, come equipped with a straw encrusted with chewy chili-tamarind pulp candy (a Mexican favorite).

Second, Fresa Mango, a relatively simple (by comparison) strawberry mango refresher that did the job and then some: be forewarned that it had been our intention to merely grab a quick pick-me-up before our meal, a plan thwarted by the fact that we underestimated just how substantial those drinks would be!
 
 

Miscelanea

Instagram Post 6/4/2018

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Tucked away in the East Village and down a few steps, you’ll discover Miscelanea at 63 East 4th St; they’ve been around for about three years and here’s hoping they stay around a lot longer. A tiny market cum sandwich counter, it serves the neighborhood well with all of the cocina mexicana essentials you’d expect like mole, Oaxacan cheese, fresh nixtamal tortillas and chorizo, canned necessities like huitlacoche and flor de calabaza and bottles of Mexican soft drinks in addition to chapulinas (roasted grasshoppers), sal de gusano (mezcal worm salt) and the like. The menu boasts about eight traditional sandwiches plus snacks and appealing Mexican beverages. Here’s half of a Pollo con Mole torta (shredded chicken breast, mole sauce, crema, lettuce, queso fresco and more), pickled veggies on the side.
 
 

New Flushing Bakery

Instagram Post 6/2/2018

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Chinese Egg Custard Tarts (dan tat, 蛋挞) are ubiquitous in Chinatown, on display in just about every Chinese bakery case and riding on dim sum trolleys threading their way through restaurants at lunchtime. They found their way to China and Hong Kong decades ago by way of Portuguese pastéis de nata and English custard tarts and are available these days in a wide variety of styles: the basic (plain bright yellow surface), brûléed (Portuguese influence), egg white, coconut, green tea, even strawberry, almond, papaya, and the list goes on. Some time ago, there was a bakery on Mott Street that touted dozens of flavors; alas, they’ve since closed, but it appears that New Flushing Bakery has taken up their mantle.

Here’s a sample of their wares: clockwise from upper right, Strawberry Milk Custard, Lemon Egg Custard, Mango Egg Custard (with tapioca balls), and Purple Potato Custard.

Cutaway views reveal purple potato lurking within one and a strawberry layer at the bottom of another.

New Flushing Bakery is located at 135-45 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, Queens.
 
 

He Nan Cuisine

Instagram Post 6/1/2018

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Continuing with Henan and comfort food themes, here’s a dish from He Nan Cuisine aka He Nan Flavor, aka Henan Feng Wei, formerly connected to what is now Spicy Village on Forsyth St in Manhattan. Located in Flushing, Queens at 136-31 41st Ave, it’s easy to miss; you need to descend a few steps to access this old school super casual restaurant. No English was spoken but the menu provided adequate translations of their fare and I was fortunate that on this particular visit one of my dining pals spoke the language.

I’ve enjoyed Kou Wan previously at Elmhurst’s sadly missed Uncle Zhou. Here, there are eight variations from meat ball, ground meat, and chicken to this one, “crisp meat”, all available with or without noodles. It’s a simple, homespun dish consisting of meat that’s been floured, fried, and simmered in a sauce seasoned with star anise and a touch of black pepper. Despite its name, don’t expect a bowl of crisp meat; I suspect that these nuggets had indeed been crispy bits of pork prior to preparation but the end result is soft, succulent and delicious. With so many more promising dishes on the menu, I’m looking forward to a return visit.
 
 

Fuding Wok

Instagram Post 5/31/2018

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I had seen signs touting Fuding Meat at a number of venues in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Since I had never tried it, I was intent upon persuading my dining buddy who was already familiar with the stuff to share a bowl, so we ventured into Fuding Wok at 5216 Seventh Ave. The texture was not unlike a dumpling – not the kind of filled Chinese dumplings you’d find in this neighborhood, but rather more like the slippery, fluffy, slightly chewy pillows that float atop a dish of chicken and dumplings.
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Curious about the ingredients, I tracked down a recipe translated (I’m using that word very generously) into English in a clandestine corner of the interwebs. Fuding meat, named for a county-level city in northeastern China, is composed of pork (cut from the hind leg), pork fat, potato starch plus either cassava starch, wheat starch, or corn starch and a touch of seasoning, emulsified, extruded, sliced, steamed and finally served up in soup. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
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At least eight condiments including my personal favorite, Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp, graced each table and provided a playground of flavor combinations to enhance our soup.
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Here’s the aforementioned sign that provides the key to tracking down fuding meat at that location and apparently at other comparable outposts. Since I’m a sucker for comfort food, this handily filled the bill. Best enjoyed on a dreary, rainy day, but don’t let good weather stop you!
 
 

Alimama Tea

Instagram Post 5/30/2018

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Ready for something unusual? Check out recently opened Alimama Tea, 89A Bayard St, Manhattan, and their unique assortment of mochi doughnuts and Asian inflected cream puffs. The donuts don’t look remarkable but they’re actually based on mochi, the sweet Japanese rice cake, and as soon as you take one chewy bite, you’ll get the picture. I chose the most straightforward in appearance in order to get to the heart of the issue, Brûlée with a crisp, burnt caramelized sugar glaze, but there are more fanciful flavors like Salted Caramel Nutella, Coconut Dark Chocolate, Cereal, Matcha, and Onyx, each topped with a harmonious glaze.

Cream puffs have a place of honor here as well and are available in yuzu, matcha, and ube (shown here, intact and hacked), light and not overpoweringly sweet.

Naturally, since it’s a tea shop, the cold brew tea list is extensive. Here’s Floral, described as butterfly pea tea, rose, and chrysanthemum with tapioca balls; both cold and hot drinks are available. There’s an emphasis on organics and health including vegan and gluten-free options, but that didn’t deter my (well-satisfied) quest for sweets!
 
 

Let’s Makan

Instagram Post 5/29/2018

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Let’s Makan (“makan” = “eat” in Malay), a newcomer to Manhattan’s Chinatown at 64A Bayard St, proves the adage that good things come in small packages. Every foodie I know is buzzing about this little snack shop’s Apam Balik, a Malaysian crêpe (available in traditional, pandan, ube, or chocolate), folded around a filling (your choice of butter, ube, Nutella, pumpkin, taro, or kaya), with toppings like peanuts, corn, toasted coconut flakes, cornflakes, or seasonal fruit. And if the decision sounds overwhelming, they have some tried and true suggestions for you like “Auntie’s Favorite”.

1) Open wide! Here’s a peek inside my pandan apam balik with kaya (a jam made from coconut, eggs, and sugar), peanuts, and corn.
2) …in progress…
3) …lined up and ready to rock.

Sweet and so delicious! Speaking with the enterprising owner, Michelle Lam, I was impressed with how passionate they are about bringing unique and authentic Malaysian flavors here; I’ll return soon to try their savory dishes too, like Pan Mee, Curry Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak, and Flat Rice Noodle with a variety of delectable additions – more decisions! I highly recommend that you check out Let’s Makan as soon as you can; bring your appetite and don’t forget your sweet tooth!
 
 

National Humanitarian Fundraising for Myanmar Food Fair

Instagram Post 5/27/2018

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A sunny Sunday earlier this month brought the first “National Humanitarian Fundraising for Myanmar Food Fair” to Elmhurst, Queens at the St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway. There was nary a word of English in the signage and since I’ve never studied Burmese, I was equipped only with the knowledge of many delectable Burmese dishes I’ve enjoyed in the past – so sans proper names, here’s a plate of spicy deliciousness: Clockwise from 6:00, a taste of eggplant curry; a pink fermented shrimp and red onion salad; a sample of pork curry peeking out from behind spicy dried shrimp.

I did manage to get the name of the second one: Nan Pya Dok, flat wheat noodles with curry chicken. So good!
 
 

Old Tang – Part 2

Instagram Post 5/26/2018

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I just learned that the “noodle half” (the other half is a bakery) of Old Tang formerly at 135-45 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, Queens has closed. (See previous post.) 😢 We hope they return🤞but we will never forget the delicious dishes we enjoyed like this wonderful beef noodle soup.

Sing along with photo #2:
🎼 Should old acquaintance be forgot,
🎵 and never brought to mind?
🎵 We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
🎵 for Old Tang’s Sign! 🎶