Omonia Café

Instagram Post 7/15/2019

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The venerable (established in 1977) Omonia Café, longtime fixture for Greek and Italian cookies and pastries, is still going strong offering a more wide-reaching menu than its original mission – but for me, it’s still the OG (original Greek) bakery in the neighborhood. Three classic cookies followed me home from 76-12 3rd Ave, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; clockwise from the top:

Tulumba, deep fried until golden then drenched in sweet syrup, these are spongy in texture despite an appearance that promises a touch of crackle.

Melomakarona are made from flour, sugar, walnuts, honey and the usual suspects lurking in a Greek Christmas cookie; they’re distinguished by the addition of olive oil to the dough. This cookie must surely be healthy because olive oil is good for you, right?

Kourambiedes (you might see kourabiedes) are Greece’s entry in the international wedding cookie competition vying with Mexican, Italian, Danish, and Russian contenders. All are fragile shortbread cookies and rather similar to each other (shhhh!). Off topic: Why is it that all the wedding cookies I’ve encountered crumble and fall apart? Just sayin’.
 
 

Feijoa

Instagram Post 7/12/2019

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One of the things I love most about doing ethnojunkets is introducing my food tour guests to international treats they’ve never tasted but soon won’t be able to live without. (That’s what puts the junkie in ethnojunkie 😉.) So I was unusually pleased during a recent jaunt through Brooklyn’s Little Odessa when a participant whose birthplace was Colombia gleefully recognized a favorite fruit in the gourmet produce section of Gourmanoff, an upscale Russian market, that she hadn’t seen locally elsewhere – feijoa. She happily instructed the others in her technique for selecting a ripe one as well as consuming it – which made my job easier!

Also known as “pineapple guava”, “Brazilian guava”, “fig guava” and “guavasteen”, the fruit’s flesh is soft in the center growing firmer and a bit grainier (a little like a pear) approaching its thin green skin. In the same family (Myrtaceae) as the guava but not the same genus, the aroma is almost perfumy. Its flavor is full-bodied and tropical, intensifying nearer the skin which itself can be eaten but has a decidedly different character, floral in nature.

So what was the connection between my exultant Colombian guest and this posh Russian market? Turns out that the feijoa is native to two regions of the world: Colombia (and other parts of South America) and Russia (and former Soviet Union countries)!

🎶 Reunited, and it feels so good! 🎶
 
 

Khanom Thai – Sweets

Instagram Post 7/11/2019

When I approach Khanom Thai’s stall (number 10) with ethnojunket guests in tow and they ask, “What’s good here?” I can honestly answer, “Everything.” With a focus on sweets but not to the exclusion of savories (that’s another post), Khanom Thai obviates the need to seek out another venue for dessert after eating our way though Elmhurst’s HK Food Court (82-02 45th Ave in Queens).

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These are Bean Cakes with Salted Egg. Soft, flaky, swirly layers of creamy, tissuey dough swathe a confection of mung bean paste surrounding a heart of salted egg yolk. But don’t deconstruct it: just take a bite and taste why it’s remarkable. When you look closely and stop to think about it, these are really a sweet metaphor for the egg reimagined, its white shell protecting its two-tone sunny contents.


Coconut Pancakes, griddled fresh, right before your hungry eyes, warm and chewy. The color difference isn’t chocolate vs something else; it’s merely two different types of ground rice batter.


Obscenely decadent dessert: rich vanilla ice cream, sliced bananas and chocolate sauce oozing onto a warm roti, rainbow nonpareils for a bit of crunch. ’Nuff said.
 
 

Coco Malaysian Cuisine

Instagram Post 7/10/2019

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Decades ago, one of my favorite dim sum parlors in Manhattan’s Chinatown was the beloved Hee Seung Fung, better known to its patrons as HSF. (Anybody here remember it?) It was there that I first encountered a dish called Silver Noodle. Served under an inverted small plastic bowl to keep it warm, it consisted of thick, chewy semi-translucent rice noodles with every imaginable protein and a variety of vegetables in a brown sauce. But the key ingredient, the one flavor that stood out above the rest for me, was its wok hei (aka wok qi), the breath of the wok, created by stir-frying over incendiary heat.

When HSF closed, I didn’t know where to track down this seductive dish; I’ve since learned that it can be found in restaurants featuring Malaysian, Singaporean, Hong Kong, and other cuisines that hail from regions near Guangdong. Silver noodles go by many handles, silver needle noodles and rat tail noodles (because of the tapered shape at one end) to name but two.

Since I’ve been hanging around Elmhurst of late, I thought I’d sample a few restaurants’ efforts. Shown here is the rendition cooked up by Coco Malaysian Cuisine, 82-69 Broadway, where it’s called Stir Fried Pearl Noodle – yet another name. They do my memories justice. We usually score an order of this on my new Elmhurst ethnojunket by the way. (Hint: Click here! 😉)
 
 

Mama’s Kitchen

Instagram Post 7/9/2019

Two treats from Mama’s Kitchen, Stall 28 at Elmhurst’s HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave in Queens. They continue to hone their menu and it keeps getting better with each iteration.

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I’ve written poignantly about my fondness for this dish, the epitome of the homiest of Chinese home cooking, tomatoes and eggs. I give Mama much credit, for this is possibly the boldest version I’ve tasted in a long time. It’s all about their take on the seasoning; whoever is in the kitchen has a style of their own. All I know is, my mama could never cook this way!


This is their spin on the Southeast Asian classic, Roti Canai. It’s usually served with a chicken curry sauce, but this version is rather different from any I’ve experienced; its seasoning had overtones of Thai herbs and spices but still wasn’t something one would immediately identify as Thai. In order to more firmly establish its culinary character, I’ll return to have another go at it. This task will be a breeze since Mama’s Kitchen is one of the stops on my new Elementary Elmhurst Ethnojunket (Shameless Self-Promotion Department 😉). Visit my Ethnojunkets page to learn more. Hope to see you soon!
 
 

XinJiang House

Instagram Post 7/8/2019

As I sift my way through the stalls and their respective menus at Elmhurst’s HK Food Court, 82-02 45th Ave, some gems have begun to emerge; XinJiang House, number 17, is assuredly one of them. They offer the Halal cuisine of Xinjiang, the Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China near Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Because of the political conflict there, the public at large is becoming more aware of the plight of the Uyghurs who are in essence being persecuted for aspiring to pursue their lives and their culture in a homeland of their own, an “Eastern Turkestan”. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about these people and their cuisine.

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This is Spicy Lamb Chop with Noodles (also available with rice). Succulent lamb riblets (on the bone where the meat is sweetest) accompanied by chunks of potato and intensified with green and red chilies plus palpable nubs of ginger and garlic. Gilding the lily, this all goes over a bed of wide, thick, chewy, hand pulled noodles to soak up the juices – not visible in this photo, but you’ll dream about them later.

I was curious about the dish that’s probably the least accessible on their menu, Spicy Lamb Feet. There’s precious little meat on these, but that’s to be expected; you’ll be consuming skin for the most part, but the heady broth (too trivial a word) that’s the consummation of this preparation is just remarkable. Pour it over the accompanying rice and prepare to be amazed.
 
 

Muzzles’ Muzzlebag Burger

Instagram Post 7/6/2019

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🎶 Ist das nicht ein Schnitzelbank? 🎶 Nein, das ist ein Muzzlebag. Or more specifically, Muzzles’ Muzzlebag Burger, a dumpling on a sandwich. Let’s unpack this bag starting with the main component, an elongated German dumpling (think ravioli on steroids) known as a maultasche (maul means meal, tasche means pocket), here filled with ham, pork, beef, eggs, spinach and onions. It’s placed on a pretzel bun, slathered with a generous helping of caramelized onions and topped with parsley, chips on the side.


A closer look at a bisected naked maultasche. Muzzles turned up last weekend at a stall at LIC Flea & Food and can be found at Smorgasburg as well. Check their schedule @muzzlesofficial on Instagram.
 
 

New York Indonesian Food Bazaar

Instagram Post 7/5/2019

Ever tried Indonesian cuisine? It’s one of my absolute favorites and I always recommend this event not only for the innumerable possibilities, but for the quality of the cooking. Whether you know and love the food or you’re a first-timer, I urge you to head out to Elmhurst, Queens on Saturday, July 6th, for the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar, an event that’s held monthly at the parish hall of St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway. I suggest that you arrive close to the starting time, 11am, to catch the greatest variety of options. From two of my favorite vendors:

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Kantin Rica Rica’s Ayam Rica Bumbu Manado, a signature dish from Manado, North Sulawesi: chicken with chilies, scallions, shallots, lemongrass and turmeric was delicious.

If you like your pork on the sweet side, try their Sate Garo with peanut sauce: pork shoulder, peanuts, chilies, scallions, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, and ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce).

Three treats provided by my friend (full disclosure) Fefe at Taste of Surabaya. From the top, clockwise: Dadar Gulung, a sweet coconut kue (snack) that gets its green color from pandan; Wingko Babat a Javanese coconut pancake; and a savory corn fritter – each was wonderful. Hope to see you there!
 
 

Lamoon

When I write about restaurants on Instagram, they’re usually brief takes accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here on ethnojunkie.com, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But because of Instagram’s character count limitations, it’s often necessary to break up a review into several parts. This one originally appeared as four posts, published on 4/24, 4/27, and 5/19/2018, and 7/4/2019.


Northern Thai food is staking a claim in NYC and Lamoon at 81-40 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens is the latest leader in the Chiang Mai charge. Don’t confuse Bangkok Thai and Isaan Thai (Northeast Thailand) cuisines with that of Northern Thailand; it’s spicy for sure, but it tends to be more herbal and less sweet. The word “lamoon” carries the connotations of delicate, mild, tender, or taking care, and there’s no doubt that they pamper their guests with flavorful dishes prepared with tender loving care, but they’re not shy about presenting authentically spicy food to which the words delicate or mild would never apply. Try powerful, intense, exhilarating, or just plain amazing. If Otto is there, let him be your guide; he’s extremely helpful.

(Click any photo to view in glorious high resolution.)From the appetizer section: Kung Pare, Crispy Baby Shrimp Cloud. Crispy indeed and especially tasty dipped in the accompanying sweet sauce – I’d say you’ll be on Cloud 9 with this one, but I give it a 10 for sure.

Khao Kun Jin – Jasmine Rice and Ground Pork Marinated in Pork Blood. Don’t let the pork blood put you off; it provides color and a depth of flavor that makes this one something special. Once again, don’t neglect the sauce (this one is different) – it uplifts the dish and will do the same for your spirits!

Also from the appetizers section of the menu, fried fermented pork ribs, garlicky and distinctive.

Kanom Jeen Nam Ngeau. Kanom Jeen (you may have seen it as khanom chin) are the familiar rice noodles that are wallowing unseen at the bottom of this bowl; Nam Ngeau (aka nam ngiao) is the soup in which they are luxuriating. Spicy, replete with pork, pork ribs, cubes of pork blood (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), and tomatoes, there’s a separate side dish of crisp, cool bean sprouts, scallions, and pickled veggies (it keeps the cool side cool and the hot side hot) for mixing in.

Fried Rice Nam Prik Noom. We ordered this one with chicken but only because we were already committed to consuming a pigful of pork. Delicious to be sure, but the addition of their homemade nam prik noom (roasted green chili paste) pitched it over the top. When you visit Lamoon, make sure you try this amazing smoky, spicy condiment. (I wonder if I can get a portion of it to go; it’s that good.)

Tum Kanoon – crafted from shredded green jackfruit, ground pork, homemade shrimp paste, tomato, makrut lime leaves, cilantro and scallion. Served with sticky rice (always eaten with the fingers in Thailand) and some crispy pork rinds (think chicharrones but Thai) on the side. From the Main Course section of the menu, and another winner!

Sai Aua – you might have seen it as Sai Oua – is classic Northern Thai ground pork sausage made with chili paste, makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, and pork ear and served up with contrasting cooling cucumber. My only complaint is that I should have ordered more! A signature dish at Lamoon.

Thai Tea Pad Thai, a new member of the family. The noodles are prepared with Thai tea, a universal favorite, along with a palette of ingredients that results in a dish that doesn’t taste like you’d expect it to from its name – certainly not seasoned like the Pad Thai you’re accustomed to – and those shrimp were perfect.
 
 
Lamoon is located at at 81-40 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens.
 
 

Al-Sham Restaurant

Instagram Post 7/3/2019

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One of the newer establishments in Brooklyn’s Middle Eastern neighborhood (which I still think should be called “Little Levant”) is Al-Sham Restaurant at 7701 5th Ave in Bay Ridge. On its compact menu, you’ll find the usual suspects like hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel, but their emphasis seems to be the chicken shawarma, available on a platter with fries or as a “sandwich” (their word) since it’s really shaved into a piece of laffa (flatbread), rolled up with pickles and toum, and grilled. Toum is a sauce made primarily of olive oil and garlic that’s whipped into a fluffy, snow white blizzard of a condiment; you’ll receive a hefty dollop of it on the side if you order fries. Think of it as the Levantine answer to Mediterranean aioli.


Strategically positioned by the window, the chicken shawarma is gargantuan compared to others along the strip. Foodies fond of photographing favorite finds frequently position a quarter or a spoon beside the food for the purpose of demonstrating relative size. Here, we’ve situated a human to serve the same purpose. Kidding. But seriously, that’s one big honkin’ shawarma. As he rotated the shawarma, shaving it down, he repeatedly slathered it with a substance I couldn’t quite make out, but I’m guessing it was toum, glorious toum.

There was something undefinably fresh about this chicken shawarma (the only kind they offer, BTW); I don’t know if it was because it was a new batch or because of the continual application of toum, but here’s hoping they maintain that same quality as they whittle it down. And yes, it’s a stop along my Middle Eastern Bay Ridge food tour; to learn more, check out my Ethnojunkets page. Hope to see you!