Tsirosalata – Titan Foods

Instagram Post 2/15/2019

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Since my friend and I were poking through Astoria prior to lunch at a nearby Greek taverna (more about that in an upcoming post), a visit to my favorite Greek market, Titan Foods at 2556 31st St, seemed a fitting appetizer. (Pro tip: the Greek pronunciation is tee-TAHN, stress on the final syllable.) It’s my go-to place for their overwhelming selection of feta and other cheeses, unparalleled olives, delicious homemade baked goods, and any Greek comestibles one could possibly crave. There, amid many tried and true delicacies in the refrigerator case, was something I had never tasted, tsirosalata. Needless to say, that was reason enough for me to buy some.

Tsirosalata (τσιροσαλάτα) is smoked mackerel preserved in oil, so it’s a triple threat: mackerel is a strong tasting fish to begin with, smoking it only doubles down on the intensity, and anything preserved in oil that super dense probably has the staying power of the Parthenon. Truth be told, it was a bit much even for me. Clearly, tsirosalata is not intended to be consumed straight out of the container unescorted, so my first action was to marinate it; I used a light vinegar with some sugar, onion and dill and let it luxuriate just until it capitulated.

Satisfied with its newly docile demeanor, my next step was to dress it. Thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, black and green Greek olives, fresh dill and lemon wedges were impeccable companions, but the capers and pink peppercorns made it perfect.
 
 

Keki Modern Cakes

Instagram Post 1/19/2019

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You know the line that formed outside the door the day that Keki Modern Cakes opened at 79 Mott St in Chinatown? I was in it, mainly because they were (unconsciously) utilizing their unusual cakes to demo the mechanics of momentum in the window, and I’m the nerdy type. In case you missed it, Keki makes “Bouncy Cheesecakes” and they do live up to the promise of their name.

[1] On a postprandial visit to their midtown location, 315 Fifth Ave at 32nd St, my lunchmates and I indulged in the ube variety. Light, fluffy, adorably jiggly and not too sweet (it seems to be so important to so many), the flavors of cheese and ube were present but subtle. Pretty good, actually.

[2] Bisected.

[3] They also offer castella sponge cakes, tarts and “pot pies” that look like larger tarts in flavors like blood orange, melon banana, and pumpkin (these may be seasonal), as well as [4] fancy cheese cakes, described on a chalkboard just above the yellow neon imperative, “Let’s Bounce”. Sure, why not?
 
 

Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky

Instagram Post 1/18/2019

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One of the delights of living in NYC is enjoying easy access to our five or six Chinatowns and the culinary treasures they embrace. Tucked away at 95A Elizabeth St is Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky, a tiny shop that delivers big flavor in the form of freshly grilled, delicious jerky – a regularly scheduled stop on my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket. The word “jerky” has its roots in the Andean Quechua language – ch’arki meaning dried, salted meat – and this savory-sweet version is unique. They offer three kinds of meat in two spice levels and two styles.

[1] The first style (and my favorite) comes in the form of slightly charred squares of wonderfully seasoned pulverized chicken, pork, or beef. (Sometimes they have a combo of shrimp and pork – if you see it, get it.) The three varieties are similar in appearance: chicken is slightly pinker than pork which is lighter than beef; the flavors are identifiable – if you’re eating one labeled chicken, you know it’s chicken; the texture is supple (chicken is subtly more tender than beef); and their distinctive seasoning blend is the reason to go here. All three are available in spicy as well as regular designations; “spicy” has a finish with a tiny kick, but well within anyone’s tolerance.

[2] They also make a style that consists of very thinly sliced meat (pork or beef) with seasoning similar to those above, available in spicy and non-spicy recipes as well. In terms of texture, expect a little more resistance – after all, you’re chewing an actual slice of meat. The second photo shows an example of the two side by side.

[3] How it’s done. I can attest from experience that this is a universal favorite; if you’ve never tried their jerky, put it at the top of your to-eat list.

(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!)
 
 

Happy Diwali!

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Dear Friends,

I can no longer keep this to myself. I am an addict, hooked on mithai. What’s that? You don’t know about mithai? Mithai are Indian sweets and since Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is upon us, I can think of no better time than now to tell you my tale. So gather round your diyas and check out my post “Indian Sweets 101: Meeting Mithai” right here on ethnojunkie.com!
 
 

Purple Dough – Ube Leche Flan

Instagram Post 10/3/2018

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Another purple treat from Purple Dough, 38-05 69th St in Woodside, Queens. This time, the new bakery presents ube leche flan – dense flan lounging atop ube (purple yam) cake. Surprisingly, this beautiful dessert isn’t overly sweet, so a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt if you want to dress it up a little – if you can wait to get it home!
 
 

Tian Jin Meat Pie

Instagram Post 10/26/2018

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Upstairs at the downstairs Golden Mall.

Folks who are new to Flushing’s OG Golden Shopping Mall at 41-28 Main St often just head downstairs (the former digs of Xi’an Famous Foods) to prowl the labyrinthine basement and enjoy the wares of a handful of vendors including the everything-is-delicious-here Tian Jin Dumpling House. Sometimes, however, they neglect the street level merchants; here’s an example of what you’ll find there from Tian Jin Meat Pie, 天津餡餅.

Top right, a hefty bing (餅, Chinese wheat-flour pancake or pie) stuffed with delicious savory ground lamb; on the left, a chive, egg, and vermicelli somewhat thinner, floppier bing; and a folded scallion pancake for support. Unlike the fried scallion pancakes you typically find in a menu’s appetizer section, this doughy, steamed beauty is perfect for filling with whatever treats you find appropriate, perhaps from the bins there or elsewhere in Golden Mall. Or do as I do, buy some to warm up and experiment with at home.

[1] Chive, egg, and vermicelli bings at the ready.
[2] Lamb bings in front being upstaged by the yellow conical items on the left and to the rear: Chinese cornbread. Yes, it’s a thing.

[1] One of the aforementioned bins…
[2] …and another.
[3] Look for this sign just to the left of the Golden Shopping Mall entrance.
 
 

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.
 
 

Pretty Pastries from Portokali

Instagram Post 8/21/2018

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Whenever I’m in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, I pay a visit to Portokali Gourmet Market at 1509 Sheepshead Bay Road. As their signage reminds us (see second photo), the name comes from the Turkish word for orange, portakal. In addition to Turkish delicacies, you’ll find a respectable assortment of Russian and near-Russian products in this medium sized well-stocked market as well: cheese, meats, olives, coffee, dried fruits and nuts in bulk, preserves and the like, candies, cookies, and fresh baked goods. My guess is that local carbnivores come in to grab a “coffee and” before they start their day.
 
 

Pata Market – Sakoo PakMor

Instagram Post 8/13/2018

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Many years ago I used to frequent a Thai restaurant that offered the street food Sakoo Sai Moo (you might see it as saku) as an appetizer. (Sakoo = tapioca – think sago, sai = stuffed, and moo = pork.) So we have a chewy tapioca starch-based steamed dumpling stuffed with deliciously seasoned pork and peanuts and meant to be consumed wrapped in a lettuce leaf with fresh Thai bird peppers. I was heartbroken when they went out of business and have since been on the lookout for these favorites at Thai prepared food places. Unfortunately, I usually find a sweet version stuffed with peanuts but no pork. Until now. Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens and their comprehensive grab-n-go spread came to the rescue with a container labeled Sakoo PakMor that contained four peanut dumplings plus two more filled with pork. Yes!
 
 

In a Pickle at Net Cost Market

Instagram Post 8/13/2018

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One aspect of the larger Russian/FSU markets that I particularly appreciate is the freedom to buy just a few bits of many items from their extensive prepared food arrays. I seldom choose a whole fish because I can’t be certain if I’m going to like the preparation and I’m disinclined to make that kind of commitment. But casting about for something different, I decided to tackle something new and these two beauties lured me in. I reeled them in at Net Cost Market (net, get it?), 8671 18th Ave in Bath Beach, Brooklyn: the one at the top is hake – smoky and very salty, it tasted a little like smoked whitefish but not as oily. The other is ice fish – being a small specimen, its flesh wasn’t flaky, but rather tight like smelt. Both were good, each was very different, and now I’m hooked on trying various fish from there and similar markets.

Incidentally, while at Net Cost, I spotted these tanks at the self-serve pickle area: brine from green tomatoes, red tomatoes, sour pickles, and half-sour pickles. I confess that I succumbed to the temptation to check and make sure that nothing was swimming in them. 😉

#fishingforlaughs