Naranjilla/Lulo

Instagram Post 8/4/2019

Newark New Jersey’s Ironbound district is a mecca for all things Portuguese and Brazilian. I did a somewhat comprehensive post way back in April 2019 about Teixeira’s Bakery although I need to do another now that I’ve emerged from the sugar coma. Just kidding. I haven’t.

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This post, however, is concerned with produce, specifically the fruit known as naranjilla in Ecuador and Panama and lulo in Colombia. Even a nodding acquaintance with high school Spanish (and I remember a student who did indeed nod off in that class) would lead you to believe that it’s a “little orange” but although the fruit is little and orange, it’s not in the citrus family. It’s a cinch to track down at one of the five (count ’em, five!) Seabra’s markets in the area, all within walking distance of each other. (Next visit.) In NYC, you can readily find the pulp frozen and sold in pouches in many Latin American markets.

The fresh fruit is green when unripe, orange when ripe (like these), and although you can eat the fruit out of hand (squeeze out the juice and discard the shell), it’s more commonly incorporated into a batido or liquado, a shake, either milk- or water-based or ice cream. Some report that the flavor is a cross between rhubarb and lime (well, yes, but…). Suffice it to say that it’s tart (you’ll want to add sugar), the color of the juice is greenish even when ripe, and because it’s not overly sweet (I know how important that is to some of you) it’s an easily customized drink.

The first photo shows it cut across its equator. In the second photo, I’m holding a quarter-inch slice in front of what passes for a window in my apartment in an effort to capture a schmancy, backlit view.

Pro tip: Don’t go on a Sunday – restaurants, bakeries, markets and bars are open, but most other shops are closed. (I know, I know, what else would a foodie be interested in there anyway?)

Watch for my upcoming post about that day’s visit to a rodízio style churrascaria.
 
 

Hey Chick

Instagram Post 8/3/2019

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As part of the prep for my Elmhurst food tour, I decided to do a compare-and-contrast exercise between Taiwanese style popcorn chicken vendors at HK Food Court at 82-02 45th Ave. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Salt & Pepper Chicken at Hang (stall 15). This post examines the differences between theirs and that of Hey Chick in stall 3.

Given a cursory glance, it’s easy to assume they’d essentially be the same, but there are a few key distinctions. Hey Chick’s chix seems to be a bit juicier, attributable perhaps to slightly larger chunks of chicken. Hang’s hangs its hat on the fact that it’s Salt & Pepper Chicken, not the more ubiquitous and gentler flavor profile. And finally, when I was there at least, Hey Chick has taken a leaf from other popcorn chicken purveyors I’ve visited and was more generous with their fried basil.

Note that IMHO, both were good – it’s just an assessment of the fundamentals. In other words, if you’re a seasoned popcorn chicken lover, it will be a basal comparison.
 
 

Peruvian Festival 2019

Instagram Post 8/2/2019

If you love Peruvian cuisine as much as I do, you don’t want to miss New Jersey’s annual Peruvian festival held on the last Sunday of every July. Accompanied by an exuberant parade celebrating the country’s culture and national heroes, it’s traditionally staged in “Little Lima”, a neighborhood in Paterson that’s home to America’s largest Peruvian community, although this year’s culinary extravaganza took place in Passaic. A few photos of the delights we enjoyed:

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Anticuchos on the grill. Tender, marinated beef heart – Peruvian street food at its finest. Don’t be faint of heart about trying this: it’s just another cut of beef, and a particularly delicious one at that. If you like grilled meat, you’ll love this.


Anticuchos on the plate, always complemented by papas a la Huancaína, potatoes napped with a yellow, slightly spicy (from the aji amarillo pepper), cheesy (from the queso fresco) sauce. (And yes, that’s a bit of tripe peeking out from beneath.)


Smoked pork with arroz chaufa, Peruvian fried rice seen at almost every booth. It’s borrowed from the Chinese culinary tradition: chaufa and chaofàn are cognates.


Seco de Cabrito. Goat stew with papas a la Huancaína and arroz chaufa (of course).


Ceviche with camote (sweet potato), papa, and maiz tostado (toasted corn nuts), the classic combo. I saw a few versions at the festival; stands offered divergent types of fish and each had its own custom recipe for leche de tigre, the ceviche marinade.


Two of my favorite ice cream flavors sharing a single cup: lúcuma on top and cherimoya in a supporting role. The flavor of lúcuma has been compared to butterscotch or a mix of maple syrup and sweet potato; it’s difficult to find fresh lúcuma locally but the frozen pulp is easy to come by in Latin American markets. Cherimoya, sometimes called custard apple, can be found fresh fairly easily – frozen pulp is also readily available. If you have a blender, buy the frozen pulp and try your hand at making a batido!

Mark your calendars for next year’s event!

 
 

The Bund

Instagram Post 8/1/2019

Named for the waterfront tourist destination in Shanghai that features modern skyscrapers alongside historical architecture, The Bund at 100-30 Queens Blvd in Forest Hills features Shanghainese cuisine alongside customary Chinese fare.

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My dining buddy had his heart set on hock, specifically The Bund Special Crispy Pork Hock – crackling skin, yielding meat, everything you’d want from a hock plus a gratuitous toss of broccoli florets on the side, presumably a colorful nod to healthiness. (Nice try.)


This cold appetizer is one of my favorite Shanghainese dishes. Called “The Bund Special Spongy Gluten with Woodear Mushroom & Peanuts” on the menu (a mouthful, both literally and figuratively), I know it as Kao Fu. Unpacking the description: gluten is made from wheat (you might have sympathy for seitan, a wheat gluten product) – if you purchase it straight in a Chinese market, it looks a bit like whole wheat bread; spongy, an apt adjective because this form soaks up juices as if it were one; wood ear mushrooms (aka cloud ear, black fungus, tree ear fungus, and a raft of other names) don’t have much flavor but they bring contrasting texture to this dish. If there were any peanuts to be found, I didn’t catch them; still, I liked it well enough.
 
 

Tito Rad’s Grill

I recently brought a large group of fellow Filipino food fans to one of my favorite restaurants, Tito Rad’s Grill, the OG (since 2006), real-deal, pinoy restaurant at 49-10 Queens Blvd in Woodside, for a sumptuous repast. Since Filipino food is one of my favorites, I particularly enjoy introducing it to folks who want to learn more about it first hand. Here are a few of the delicious dishes we enjoyed on this occasion and from past visits, in no special order.

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Lumpia

Spring rolls, sprung originally from China. A savory appetizer or snack filled with chopped vegetables and sometimes meat, they’re deep fried and crispilicious.

Lumpia Sariwa

Lumpia are usually found fried. This version, Lumpia Sariwa (sariwa means fresh in Tagalog), springs from China’s popiah, and since I always take the road less traveled, we opted for these. Sautéed vegetables and chicken wrapped in a lettuce leaf that itself is rolled into a soft wheat flour crepe, served with peanut sauce.

Ukoy

Bean sprout fritters with shrimp and vegetables served with a spicy vinegar-garlic sauce.

Sizzling Sisig

One of my all-time favorite dishes, Filipino or otherwise. Chopped pork belly simmered until it surrenders into tenderness, grilled with onion and a little hot pepper until it achieves ultimate yummitude, served on a sizzling platter and topped with a raw egg. Take that photo fast, then stir in the egg while the dish is still hot so it cooks and brings its ineffable richness to the party. (Yes, that means I liked it.)

Belly Lechon (Before)

A stunning presentation, this is the “Before” picture. Slow roasted pork belly marinated with lemongrass and spices in all its crispy, porcine glory; this porky miracle has to be ordered a day in advance. Unless I’m mistaken, a collective gasp was clearly audible as the roast was reverently borne to our table. A hush fell over the assembled diners as we closed our eyes to take our first bite. And of course there was no loss of decorum as we scrambled to snatch up the ample leftovers. Of course.

Belly Lechon (After)

The “After” picture, a study in pulchritudinous rhizanthous verisimilitude. Looks like a pretty flower too.

Inihaw Tuna Belly

Inihaw means grilled. Inihaw Tuna Belly means decadent. This one must be ordered in advance as well; it’s available in three sizes, large shown here. Plays happily in the company of rice; excellent dipping sauce and achara (Filipino pickled green papaya) on the side.

Inihaw Tuna Belly

Alternately, you might want to take a deeper dive with Inihaw na Panga, Grilled Tuna Jaw. Also an advance order, it comes in three sizes – small, medium, and large. Don’t be intimidated by the jaw (or by the double basses you imagine you hear playing menacingly in the background 🦈). Even if you’re not familiar with tuna anatomy (tunatomy?), you’ll find it pretty easy to navigate and actually kind of fun. Did I mention that it’s delicious as well?

Ginataang Langka

When you see ginataang on the menu, that’s your cue that the dish is made with coconut milk; langka is the Tagalog word for jackfruit, in this case green, unripened jackfruit where it functions more as a vegetable than a fruit. And yes, there’s pork in this delicious dish, too, because even a vegetable side dish needs pork.

Palabok

Steamed rice noodles lurking under a cover of shrimp sauce, garnished with hard-boiled egg, crumbled crispy pork rinds and scallions.

Pinakbet

Ampalaya (bitter melon), calabaza squash, green beans and more, plus pork (of course), in a shrimp paste sauce. Another great dish from the Filipino repertoire.

Dinuguan

A rich stew prepared from pork in a luscious gravy that includes vinegar and pork blood. Now, don’t go running off! I’ve said it before: Numerous cultures are at home with it – blood rice cakes in China, blood pancakes in Sweden, in addition to sausages from Great Britain and Ireland, morcilla in Spanish speaking countries worldwide, boudin in France, and so many more in Northern and Eastern Europe. Pretty much everywhere actually. And you also know that I only recommend truly tasty food; I have never been one to embrace the sensationalism of “Look what gross thing I just ate!” No. This is genuinely delicious. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Sinangag

Garlic Fried Rice. Just what it sounds like, and it’s the perfect accompaniment for dinuguan.

Bicol Express

Another classic Filipino dish. Vegetables simmered in spicy (only slightly so here) coconut milk; we ordered the version with meat because I’m incorrigible. Named for the Bicol Express, a passenger train that ran from Manila to the Bicol region in the Philippines, I guess you could think of this dish that’s both creamy and spicy as running from one terminus on the flavor route to another.

Crispy Pata

In this context, the Tagalog word pata, as in Spanish, refers to an animal’s leg. Pig knuckle/trotter/hock, massaged with ginger and garlic, deep fried until the skin is crispy and the meat is falling apart tender, accompanied by a spicy dip and always served impaled on the best implement to rend it asunder.

Laing

Made from taro leaves and coconut milk – gotta get your greens, right?

Humba

Braised pork in a sweet fermented black bean sauce (the defining ingredient) with mushrooms and onions. And a hard-boiled egg.

Beef Kaldereta

Kaldereta, from the Spanish caldereta or cauldron (note the serving vessel), refers to a stew. This example is a mildly spicy rendition with beef, olives, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Lechon Kawali

The undisputed king of crispy deep-fried porky goodness, fried pork belly. Lechon is roast suckling pig and kawali refers to the way in which it’s prepared, deep fried in a wok (kawali). It’s sliced into delicious chunks and served with a vinegar garlic dipping sauce usually made with (but not really tasting like) liver. Crispy skin, meltingly tender pork belly – I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this dish!

Masarap!
 
 
Tito Rad’s Grill is located at 49-10 Queens Blvd in Woodside, Queens.
 
 

Zheng Zhou Noodles – Chinese Fried Pancake

Instagram Post 7/28/2019

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Zheng Zhou Noodles, Stall #28 in the New World Mall Food Court, 136-20 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, is arguably best known for its liang pi noodles, but I’m more enamored of this dish, called simply Chinese Fried Pancake. If you’re familiar with Malaysian kottu paratha, you’ll recognize its cousin here. It may look like noodles, but the difference is all in the chew; it starts with a thin pancake sliced impossibly perfectly into noodle-like strips, it’s available in beef, lamb, pork, chicken, egg, or vegetable versions, and it’s wonderful. My kind of comfort food.
 
 

Lao Jie Shi Fang (Old Street)

Instagram Post 7/27/2019

The (surviving 😢) big three Flushing Chinese food courts get a lot of ink (or bytes, I suppose) and deservedly so, but there are other, smaller, aspirants nearby that beg exploration. Queens Crossing Food Court, 136-20 38th Ave, is home to Lao Jie Shi Fang (Old Street) which features mostly light fare: a selection of fried (pan- and deep-) snacks as well as some noodle soups and málàtàng.

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My initial foray was okay. Shown here is Deep Fried Potato Cake which carried a little kick, I’m guessing from white pepper, flanked by a quartet of Fried Turnip Balls comprising long shreds of turnip, crispy outside and almost creamy inside.


Ham Egg Pancake: bits of vegetables like scallion for bite, carrot for sweetness, and teeny traces of ham on close inspection. Not pretty, but a sufficiently satisfying snack on the run.
 
 

Bon Bon – Swedish Ice Cream

Instagram Post 7/26/2019

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I wrote about Bon Bon, 130 Allen Street in Manhattan, over a year ago, and I’m pleased to report that this Swedish candy shop is still going strong. In addition to sweet treats in a rainbow array of colors, flavors, and textures, they sell world famous Swedish salty licorice as well as the sweetish kind. Recently, they added a new feature to the mix, Swedish soft-serve ice cream, and since it’s National Ice Cream Month, there’s no better time to try it.

The Swedish soft-serve (mjukglass) recipe is richer than the conventional because of its greater measure of cream, but it’s the unique selection of sprinkles and syrups that provide the vital distinction. Shown here is vanilla (they have chocolate too) with licorice syrup and two kinds of toppings, salty licorice and salty licorice flakes. Amid seven syrups and eleven kinds of sprinkles, this is the combo that I enthusiastically recommend.

Generally, when you think of the customary (in the US) sticky, chewy texture of licorice, you’d question its ability to play well with ice cream, but these adornments are more like crunchy flakes of hard candy – and there couldn’t be a more perfect match. I asked if the idea was something they created themselves, but was delighted to learn that this treatment is exactly what you’d find all over Sweden, right down to the brand of syrup and the unusual dispenser with its inverted bottles. (See second photo.) If you think you don’t like licorice, let alone salty licorice, this may well be your gateway drug.

(Full disclosure: this delicious taste of Sweden was provided gratis by Robert and Ditte of Bon Bon.)
 
 

88 Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles

Instagram Post 7/25/2019

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Sometimes, you just need to go back to basics. No roof to raise. No lilies to gild. Just quiet, reliable, mood food. These are fried pork dumplings from 88 Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles, 40 Bowery in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The waitress approached. I made my request. Silently, she walked to the back. She emerged with my order in less than a minute. Because when you’re famous for something, you’re prepared to provide. Very Zen.


The obligatory I-took-a-bite-and-of-course-it-was-delicious shot.
 
 

Angela’s Ice Cream

Instagram Post 7/24/2019

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Angela’s Ice Cream at 151 Allen Street on the Lower East Side has brought freshly made, small batch, Filipino ice cream flavors to New York City and each one is delicious. The story behind the story is that Angela had been making these at home for her husband who has a passion for the stuff – so much so that they decided she should share her talents with the rest of us, hence, her first business venture which opened on June 15, 2019. Lucky us!

Dense and creamy, hand crafted with no artificial flavors (in others words, jackfruit is jackfruit, not a concentrate), it’s the first Filipino ice cream actually produced here in NYC. It’s currently available in mango, langka (jackfruit), ube (purple yam), choc-nut, vanilla, avocado (yes, and it’s the real deal), pandan, and buko-macapuno (the short but less than perfectly accurate definition is that it’s a variant of coconut). Slushies to come, calamansi flavor ice cream if we ask her real nice 😉!

Masarap! 😋