Goblin’ Futomaki on Halloween

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

Halloween is just around the corner and I wanted to indulge in something that didn’t involve Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, or Kit Kats, so I’ll be goblin’ futomaki that’s decked out in an All Hallows’ Eve costume – I guess that makes it both a trick and a treat. (But, not gonna lie, I’m waiting for the post-holiday sales: just as leftover Thanksgiving dinner tastes better the next day, so does leftover half-price Halloween candy.)

In obeisance to the official black and orange Halloween rubric, the black monstermaki (futomaki means thick or fat roll) is wrapped in nori, its conventional costume, and its orange sidekicks are swathed in soy wrappers that come in five flavors/colors: original soy, sesame, spinach green, turmeric yellow, and paprika orange.

I filled them with kani (krab sticks), avocado, cucumber, strips of sweet kanpyō (dried gourd) and most important, eel because – in keeping with the holiday spirit 👻 – it’s only one letter away from EEK!

And in case you’re wondering – no, I’m not handing out these spookomaki on October 31; the kids are supposed to scare me, not the other way around!


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

Qurutob (you might see kurutob) is often said to be the national dish of Tajikistan. Essentially a bread salad (Tajikistan’s answer to Italy’s panzanella, perhaps?), qurutob ascends beyond the level of granting second life to shards from a stale loaf in that it features fresh fatir, a flaky, layered bread that provides the recipe’s foundation.

The distinguishing ingredient is a sauce made from qurut (you might see kurt), balls of dried, salty yogurt about ¾ of an inch in diameter that are crushed and rehydrated in hot water; shreds of bread are torn and soaked in the resulting liquid to form the base of the salad.

The next layer typically consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion slices (I sautéed them a bit to soften and sweeten), cilantro and other herbs. Sometimes bits of roasted lamb shank are added, but it’s optional. My garnish of choice was chopped scallion, toasted walnuts, and a few fresh chili peppers.

Mix well and try to get a bit of everything in each bite.

It’s a breeze to make and economical to boot. If you’re curious and you’d like to give it a go, both the bread and qurut are readily available either in Tashkent Market, Brooklyn or in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

(Of course, traveling to Uzbekistan will render the proposition considerably less economical, but you do you. 😉)


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

You know about mochi, the popular Japanese rice cake, often sweet but not necessarily, made from glutinous rice pounded into paste.

You might not know about hopia, pastries hailing from the Philippines and Indonesia that can be found with a variety of fillings like ube (purple yam) or sweet bean paste enclosed within either a flaky or a cakey dough.

This product is called Mochipia, a portmanteau of mochi and hopia, both in name and composition. They’re filled with ube/macapuno paste surrounding a chewy mochi center that provides a snackworthy contrasting texture. Macapuno is a cultivar of coconut, sweet and jelly-like in texture, and often found in combination with ube in Filipino snacks because the two flavors are deliciously compatible.

And, of course, we always get some along the way on my Elmhurst food tour. Want to know where? Get the details on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst page and sign up to join in the fun!

Spooky Season

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

This post is dedicated to someone who loves Spooky Season as much as I love Christmas. Her devotion to all things pumpkin-spice rivals my passion for eggnog. I get it: these ephemeral seasons only come around once a year, and we are obliged to indulge enthusiastically before they evanesce.

But because my focus is all about international treats and since Spooky Szn is as American as apple – er, pumpkin – pie, I’ve never been able to write about it here and still stay within my rubric.

Until now.

I spotted these dim sum at the Main Street level grab-n-go outpost of Royal Queen Restaurant in Flushing. They’re not pumpkin flavored of course and they’re not filled with candy, but they are filled with sweet bean paste so as far as I’m concerned we have an acceptable crossover here.

Couldn’t resist taking a minute to PShop it a bit! 🎃

Herring in Garlic Sauce

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

Okay. One more post from my Little Poland explorations. I discovered several brands of herring each offering a number of divergent styles in the refrigerator cases of Polish food markets in Greenpoint. In this case, the brand was Lisner and the style was “in garlic sauce”. Not all of the products were equally enjoyable but this one easily made the cut.

Plated over shiso leaves (yes, I know, but I’m all about multiethnic), I dressed it up with cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet onion and tiny adorable cucamelons, aka Mexican sour gherkins (yes, I know, but I’m all about…), Mediterranean capers (yes, I know, but…) and snipped Chinese garlic chives (yes, I…you get the idea), accompanied by a hyperbuttered toasted poppy seed bagel.

Lots of good eats in this neighborhood!

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival – 2023

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

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 29. Here are two pandan mooncakes, one with preserved egg yolk and a mini version without, from Chinatown’s Fay Da Bakery.

And here’s one of my favorites, Five Mix Nut Moon Cake, from Golden Fung Wong Bakery at 41 Mott St – one of the stops on my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket, of course!

Since 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, known for his elegance among many other characteristics depending upon where you do your research, I decided to purchase an assortment of these elegant delicacies in order to share them, virtually, with you.

For a deep dive into the holiday and these delicious treats, you can get the skinny – er, poor choice of words there – in my Chinese Mooncakes Demystified page detailing their similarities and differences in an attempt to shed some light (moonlight, of course) on their intricacies.


Le 2023 Lait de Poule Est Arrivé!

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

Eggnog! First sighting of the year!

It’s like waiting for this year’s vintage Beaujolais Nouveau to appear: Le 2023 Lait de Poule est arrivé! (They say that the French have a word for it, and I have to admit a certain fondness for their spin on the word “eggnog”, lait de poule: hen’s milk.)

If you’ve read me, you know that I have a few (ha!) guilty pleasures when it comes to holiday food, and for me, nothing heralds the advent of the season like the first appearance of eggnog on supermarket shelves. And snatching it away precipitately as they do every year when the yule log’s embers have barely begun to evanesce only makes the anticipation and craving for next year’s batch more intense.

But which one(s) to buy? The brands in this photo may not be my fave – they’re merely the first I’ve found this year: September 27 to be precise! But fret not. I and my OCD are here to offer you the benefits of my research and experimentation regarding this happy holiday quandary. Please check out my essay, An Eggnog Excursus – and unlike the holiday libation itself, it’s available year-round under “Deep Dives” on my homepage!


National Dumpling Day – Part 4

I’m going to quit while I’m ahead – although there are so many more delicious varieties out there!

So here’s the final installment, Part 4, of National Dumpling Week.

A couple of friends asked if there would be kreplach but I couldn’t find a photo of any lurking in my files, so I’ve got a year to take one and lead with that delicacy for next year’s National Dumpling Day – er, Week!

Like making dumplings, making this series was a labor of love, so thank you checking it out!