Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival – 2018

Instagram Post 9/21/2018

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A visit to any Chinatown bakery this time of year will reveal a spectacular assemblage of mooncakes (月餅, yue bing) in a seemingly infinite variety of shapes, sizes, ornamentation, and fillings, all begging to be enjoyed in observance of the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated this year on September 24th. Here are two pandan mooncakes, one with preserved egg yolk and a mini version without, from Fay Da Bakery at 83 Mott Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

To learn more about the holiday and these delicious treats, please check out my Chinese Mooncakes Demystified post detailing their similarities and differences in an attempt to shed some light (moonlight, of course) on their intricacies. Link in profile.

中秋节快乐!
 
 

Chuan Tian Xia – Pork with Garlic Sauce

Instagram Post 9/20/2018

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Sichuan restaurants are rare in Brooklyn’s Chinatown and Chuan Tian Xia at 5502 7th Ave is the newest in Sunset Park. First in a series, here’s an attractive presentation of Pork with Garlic Sauce; cucumber slabs provided the foundation for this creative bit of architecture.
 
 

The Case for Kholodets

Instagram Post 9/19/2018

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When I was a kid my mother would stash a can of Campbell’s consommé in the refrigerator until its contents congealed – her attempt at Cordon Bleu cookery. This actionable offense was my unfortunate introduction to aspic. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that aspic could be delicious.

This is kholodets (холодец), a savory meat aspic popular in Russian and Eastern European cuisines. Chilled meat stock gels naturally because of its high collagen content although gelatin is sometimes added to double down on the texture. Formerly a wintertime addition to the menu, contemporary refrigeration has made kholodets a year round treat.

I couldn’t resist backlighting this example that’s mostly chicken with a clandestine carrot slice or two set into aspic. Its appetizing flavor is anything but neutral; neutral gelatin would be gross, right? If you think of it as “meat jello” or some kind of weird delicacy, you probably won’t like it; I suggest approaching it with an open mind (and an open mouth) and try to appreciate it for what it is – in this case, cold chicken in its perfectly seasoned jus – rather than what it’s “sort of like”.
 
 

Purple Dough Cookies

Instagram Post 9/18/2018

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Purple Dough is the name, but green dough is in evidence as well. Located at 38-05 69th St in Woodside, Queens, this new bakery has a Filipino perspective on creative custom baked goods. Shown here are ube and coconut-pandan cookies: soft, chewy and sweet, they were the most modest items in the case and were absolutely delicious.
 
 

Vietnamese Pandan Cake

Instagram Post 9/14/2018

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In addition to the assortment of bánh mì you’d expect, Paris Sandwiches at 213 Grand St in Manhattan’s Chinatown sells a modest selection of components for DIY construction so you can roll your own, as it were, including freshly made baguettes, pickled daikon-carrot salad, and a few Vietnamese processed meats. They also carry an assortment of grab-n-go items such as spring rolls, desserts and the like, and baked goods like this Vietnamese Pandan Cake, Bánh Bò Nướng, sometimes called Honeycomb Cake. Its characteristic texture is the key to its appeal; very much like Indonesian martabak manis but not confection filled, this light, sweet treat is a little spongy, a little chewy, and sort of like a crumpet that went missing somewhere in Southeast Asia.
 
 

Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique Day

Instagram Post 9/13/2018

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The annual event celebrating the culture of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique took place on August 26, 2018 at St. Andrew’s Playground in Brooklyn, NY. The food of the Caribbean state is what drew me in, of course, and I had set my sights on “Oil Down”, Grenada’s national dish, a stew with as many variations as there are chefs who make it. Chicken, salted meat, and salted fish all variously factor in, and expect to find dumplings, breadfruit, plantain, yams, corn and other veggies as well, but the essential common ingredient is coconut milk that suffuses everything with an indescribable richness. It’s all cooked down until only the coconut oil remains at the bottom of the pot, hence the name. The greens adorning the top are callaloo, flavorful taro leaves, a traditional component of the dish.

[Photo #2] The sign at a nearby vendor read “manicou”; if you’re concerned that manicou might be some strange sort of foodstuff, don’t worry. It’s just their word for possum. 😉

But seriously, if you’ve never tried it, it’s worth doing once. As with any kind of meat, the taste varies from one muscle to another, and this recipe was well-sauced making it difficult to disentangle the piquant flavors of the gravy and the meat itself, so it defies description; suffice it to say it was unctuous. And it didn’t taste like chicken.
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 5

Instagram Post 9/12/2018

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The last photoset from our recent amazing dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem – until I go back for more, that is!

[1] Jollof Rice with Chicken. And a hard-boiled egg. Accra’s jollof rice, the widely celebrated and beloved tomato-based West African triumph and a source of both pride and dispute among African nations as to whose version is best, was delicious as was the chicken.
[2] Pounded Yam Fufu and Okra. This time, the fufu is yam rather than cassava; different but equally tasty. The okra soup is delicious although mucilaginous – an acquired taste, or perhaps an acquired texture. Generally my advice to those who are new to okra soup is to try to think past the consistency and just focus on the wonderful flavor!
[3] Wakey (you might see waakye) with Fried Whiting and Gari. Waakye is Ghana’s culinary claim to fame; similar to West Indian rice and peas, it’s made with rice and black eyed peas or cowpeas. Gari is dried, ground cassava, a little like Brazilian manioc, but unique. And tasty fried whiting – what’s not to like?!

I’ll post the detailed story about our incredible experience as well as a roundup of everything we ate soon.
 
 

Reminder: Our Ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa is Now Boarding!

There’s a new ethnojunket scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2018 in which we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn’s Little Odessa. The cost is $70 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! Here’s an example from our last tour.

Tula Pryaniki (тульский пряник) are sweet honey cakes characterized by a raised imprint on top – in this case тульский identifying Tula, the city in Russia from which they hail, and its coat of arms – covered with a sugary glaze to bring out the image. I’ll let the packaging speak for itself:

лакомка – the brand name, “Gourmet”
с фруктовой начинкой – “with fruit filling”, in this case apple and apricot
вкусный, сытный – “delicious, satisfying”
ароматный – “flavorful”
содержит мёд – “contains honey”

What more can I say? For more information and to sign up for Saturday’s ethnojunket, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com).

(And remember, subscribing to ethnojunkie.com to receive updates about the latest posts and upcoming tours is a piece of cake. Or easy as pie, perhaps. Just use the Subscribe button on any page!)
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 4

Instagram Post 9/10/2018

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But wait! There’s more! More photos from our recent incredible dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem, that is. Continuing the cavalcade of food we loved….

[1] Eba with Egushi. So many fufus, so little time, and I admit to liking them all. In contrast to smooth, pounded cassava fufu, firmer eba has tiny flecks of gari (dried grated cassava) in it and is a little tart or sour tasting. Perfect with egushi (you might see egusi), a delicious soup made from ground melon/pumpkin/squash/gourd seeds.
[2] Banku with Baked Tilapia. Banku is fermented corn or corn + cassava dough, a little sticky, and is a typical partner for baked tilapia and other fish dishes.

More to come from Accra Restaurant….
 
 

Ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa Now Boarding!

There’s a new ethnojunket on the horizon scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2018 where we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue. We’ll share Georgian cheese bread as well as Turkish and Russian sweets and treats along with amazing dumplings, authentic ethnic dishes, and so much more. The cost is $70 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!

The photos below show a few of the delicacies we’ll sample. And for a sneak preview of just one part of the tour, check out my post about the amazing Gourmanoff. Is it a market or a theater? Join me and see for yourself!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com).

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