Paradise Sweets 2022

I have to admit that it was a real treat to revisit my old haunts as part of revitalizing my ethnojunket, The Flavors of Little Levant and Little Yemen in Bay Ridge (read about my ethnojunkets here); the other part, of course, was tasting the goodies I had been missing during COVID isolation for the past many months.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

These dense, rich semolina squares came from Paradise Sweets, 6739 5th Ave, Brooklyn. The nomenclature can get a bit sticky (not unlike the orange blossom/rose-water sugar-syrupy Middle Eastern treats themselves): the pistachio nut laden delicacy perched on top was identified to me as Basbousa, the two supporting players as Harissa. The harissa dressed with an almond is the basic version, the other is shot through with crunchy, flavorful fenugreek seeds.

A limited amount of interweb research (hey, you try typing with sticky fingers and see how far you get) suggested that basbousa and harissa refer to the same dessert, the choice of noun reflecting where in the world you happen to be. So far, so good. But it seems that they’re also called namoura and revani. And then, naturally, there are the English orthographic variations (haresa, hareeseh, hareesa, harisah, ad infinitum – and those are just for harissa) and a few in Arabic as well.

Wikipedia teaches us: “Basbousa is the dessert’s Egyptian name and it is called the same in North Africa. It is often called ‘hareesa’ in the Levant, and also the Egyptian city of Alexandria, though in other parts of Egypt hareesa is a different type of dessert. Also note that ‘harissa’ in North Africa is a spicy red sauce.”

And as if that last bit weren’t enough, we should also take note of the dish harissa (aka jareesh), a porridge made from boiled cracked wheat, which itself is another name for the meatier halissa, halim or haleem, a fixture in Central Asian cuisine around Navruz (aka Nowruz elsewhere) which I wrote about here.

Right. Not confusing at all.

But what’s in a name? That which we call rose water by any other name would taste as sweet!
 
 

Bay Ridge Ethnojunkets Are Back!

The Flavors of Little Levant and Little Yemen

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago, Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst and Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best more recently – and now Bay Ridge is ready to go!

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Flushing, Elmhurst, Little Odessa, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Bay Ridge?
Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge is home to so many Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries that it should have earned the moniker “Little Levant” long ago; the influx of Lebanese, Yemeni, and other Middle Eastern and Arab Americans makes it the ideal neighborhood for an ethnic food tour. (Did you know that Bay Ridge and Beirut are cognates? Just kidding.)

But there’s a lot more to it than that: the locale was formerly home to a thriving Norwegian community and now welcomes shops and markets representing Mexico, Poland and more – and our mission is to sample the flavors of all of them! It will be an entertaining, educational, and delicious tour during which we’ll enjoy Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Scandinavian, and Mexican fare.

Here are just a few of the delicacies we usually enjoy on this ethnojunket. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

(Click on any image to view it in mouth-watering high resolution.)






I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

Lamb Dumplings in Flushing

I just realized that I haven’t posted any dumpling pix in quite a while, so here’s some research from my Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best ethnojunket: takeout from Chinese-Korean Dumplings & Noodles, Booth 30, in Flushing’s stalwart New World Mall on 136-20 Roosevelt Ave.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Luscious lamb dumplings, because who doesn’t love dumplings?


The inner workings.

So many great vendors there and we’ll go to a number of them. Curious about which ones we actually visit? Take the tour and find out! (Hint: The name of this ethnojunket says it all! 😉)

To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Hay Hay Roasted

Prowling around Manhattan’s Chinatown, I spotted a display of roasted/BBQ meats hanging in the window of Hay Hay Roasted at 81 Mott Street, the space formerly occupied by Hoy Wong. The collective term for these favorites is siu mei (燒味), not to be confused with the popular dim sum dumpling, shu mai (燒賣). Since I had never sampled their wares (thanks, COVID) I was compelled to rectify the situation. The results:

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Whole Duck. I always ask for it not to be cut into pieces; in addition to cobbling together some impressive homemade faux Peking Duck buns (you can read my Faking Peking Duck story here), the carcass provides a base for an incredible duck soup.


Roasted Crispy Skin Pig. Sweet, succulent meat lounging under a blanket of crispy skin. What more can anyone ask for?


Honey Roasted Pork. Shoulda bought more.
 
 

It’s Pride Month 2022!

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Looking through my photos for a sweet way to celebrate Pride Month and I found this – from a post about some great food from Dek Sen, the Isaan Thai restaurant in Elmhurst. (Where I just happen to do an ethnojunket! 😉)

More Pride posts to come during the month. Stay tuned….
 

 
 

Santacruzan Festival 2022

The 44th Annual Santacruzan Festival and Flores de Mayo celebration in Jersey City last Sunday encompassed two stages for live performances, a flea market, family activities, and religious processions – but you know I was there for the food vendors! Here are a few delicious Filipino treats that we sampled:

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Lechon (pork belly) – With its all-important crispy skin, served over a split rice ball and accompanied by a cucumber-tomato-onion salad.


Sisig – Plated over rice; pork on one side, chicken on the other.


Longganisa – Filipino sweet sausage that, regardless of its name, is more like chorizo than Spanish longaniza.


Isaw – Grilled pork intestine on a stick with sukang pinakurat (a savory vinegar sauce). The vendor eyed me skeptically. “You eat this?” she asked. “You made this? I eat this!” I replied. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Masarap!
 
 

Flushing Ethnojunkets Are Back!

Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best!

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago and Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst more recently – now Flushing is stepping up to the plate! (And Bay Ridge is just around the corner.)

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works. For the time being, I’m only scheduling Little Odessa, Elmhurst, and Flushing.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Flushing, Elmhurst, Little Odessa, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Flushing?
A: On this ethnojunket, we’ll choose from a seemingly endless collection of authentic regional delights from all over China: Heilongjiang, Shandong, Henan, Shanghai, Shaanxi, Guangzhou, Hubei, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Japan and Taiwan as well. And as if that weren’t enough, we’ll finish with some amazingly rich Chinese influenced American ice cream! If you’re into cooking, we can also check out JMart, a sprawling Asian supermarket. All this within four blocks!

Here are just a few of the delicacies we usually enjoy on this ethnojunket. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

(Click on any image to view it in mouth-watering high resolution.)

Dim Sum and Dumplings and Buns – oh my!


Dan Tat – Hong Kong Egg Custard Tarts


Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken


Xiao Long Bao – Soup Dumplings


Oodles of Noodles


Jian Bing – Chinese Crepe


I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

Happy Market Dim Sum Details

A week ago, I wrote about my visit to the ongoing revitalization of Elmhurst’s Food Court at 8202 45th Ave and promised to show you a close up of some of the dim sum I brought home from Happy Market, so here’s a quick overview of three examples:

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Beef Ball. Finely pulverized beef, classically served over bean curd skin with Worcestershire sauce on the side just as you’ve probably experienced in your favorite dim sum parlor. Tasty.


Siu Mai (or Shu Mai). A universal favorite executed perfectly here. These are larger than the typical dumpling and it’s clear why: I discovered a whole shrimp in one of these – no, not a baby shrimp, but a seriously good sized specimen! Big hunks of pork as well – the word “hearty” comes to mind. The texture of the filling is robust and chunky (as it should be) and its flavor is excellent.


Chiu Chao Fan Guo (or Teochow Fun Kor or so many other clever Anglicizations). The thick glutinous rice wrapper envelops mushrooms, peanuts, pork, Chinese chives and more; I cut one open to give you an idea of the inner workings. As juicy as it appears in the photo.

All were truly delicious and left me wanting more – and as I mentioned, it’s back on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour. And if you’re curious about which of the many dim sum items we actually indulge in, well, you’ll just have to take the tour! 😉

To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Lhasa Liang Fen

While we’re on the subject of savory Elmhurst food, here’s a shout out to Lhasa Liang Fen, the diminutive restaurant at 80-07 Broadway that serves up Tibetan treats.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

This is a peak rendition of Chicken Jhol Momo, dumplings that hail from Tibet and Nepal (and Queens, it would seem) that can be fried or steamed like these and are available with a number of fillings; jhol refers to the broth in which they are bathing, and here, it is wonderful. There are some differences between Tibetan and Nepali style momos (more about that in an upcoming post); jhol is a Nepali variation.


Beyond the jhol, the filling in this momo is a cut above others I’ve had in these parts, and that’s saying something: you can’t swing a cat-o’-nine-tails in this neighborhood and not hit a momo joint.


Life imitates art.

And a big thank you to the lovely staff who provided special treatment for our large group. Now I need to return and seriously eat my way through the rest of their menu!
 
 
To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Elmhurst Food Court Redux

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

I did one of my Ethnic Eats In Elmhurst food tours on Sunday. I always arrive early to ensure that the businesses we’ll be visiting are still open (hey, stuff happens), that they’re not out of the goodies we were specifically angling for (that’s happened too), and that my Plan B shelters against inclement weather are available (I’ve been lucky with that one so far).

As I walked past what used to be HK Food Court at 8202 45th Ave, the long shuttered entrance was open – and I smelled food! I tentatively entered and amid significant ongoing construction, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, there were three vendors preparing and displaying their wares in what was something between a dry run and an extremely soft opening. If you go – and you really should – be aware that all the signage hails from the original incarnation and bears no connection to the current vendors (see final photo). But they were indeed open to the public and that’s all the encouragement I needed.

Shortly thereafter, my guests arrived and we checked out the most sprawling of the three. I was told their name would be “Happy Market” and they had been there for only two days. (Timing is everything, right?). In addition to a tempting selection of Cantonese roasted/BBQ ducks, pipa duck, char siu, spareribs, and crispy pig, there was a steamtable set up that I usually associate with “four items plus rice” you’ve probably seen in Chinatowns everywhere, congee, and a considerable array of dim sum.

Everything we tasted was excellent so yes, it’s back on my itinerary. More details to follow, but here are five hastily snapped photos to give you an idea of how things looked; I’ll be doing reports as more vendors populate the new food court.

 
 
Having witnessed the demise of so many of our treasured food courts, this brings me joy and gives me hope. Stay tuned….
 
 
To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!