Happy Diwali!

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

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!
दिवाली मुबारक
Happy Diwali!


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

I recently returned to Newark’s Ironbound district, the mecca for all things Portuguese and Brazilian. The area is host to six suburban-sized Seabra’s supermarkets all within walking distance of each other – the mother lode of Portuguese and Brazilian food cravings! Since I was traveling solo that day, I and my OCD decided to hit every one in order to compare and contrast.

And it was absolutely worth the exercise, because I struck gold in the form of Brazilian prepared food.

I’ve written here about churrasco, Brazilian style grilled meat; churrascarias often offer rodízio where waiters parade an assortment of meats impaled on formidable skewers directly to your table. So I was more than pleased to see that a couple of the Seabra’s I visited had continually replenished extended steam tables and refrigerated counters brimming with a diversity of grilled meats, seafood, authentic Brazilian dishes and the best pão de queijo I’ve had in a long time.

Item by item, I filled my containers, hastily scribbling notes between each addition in order to subsequently identify and further research it.

I arrived home with my treasures and piled them onto the three plates shown here – not for serving purposes but so that you could see the sheer variety and abundância; obviously, there are considerably more than three meals represented here. Everything was delicious and, more important, a fraction of the cost of venturing out to a churrascaria a few times.

So it wasn’t quite rodízio because I had to serve myself, but it was close enough, hence the title of this post.

And yes, I’m going to do this again. Soon.

Greenpoint – Part 2 (Farsz)

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

There are a couple of Polish/Eastern European food markets along Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint that probably present as 99-cent stores to an unacquainted customer. You’ll find several aisles showcasing jars of pickled vegetables (expect cabbage, beets, cucumbers and the like), canned fish, jams and preserves, cookies, and beverages plus a refrigerator case containing fish fillets packed in a variety of sauces (yes, please) and an assortment of processed cheeses (no, thank you). You won’t find fresh kielbasi: those are left to a (dwindling) number of specialists in the neighborhood that I’ll cover in an upcoming post.

If you read me, you know I’m drawn to the less familiar, like this jar of Farsz. Google Translate, my best friend, suggested “stuffing” or “forcemeat” as a translation followed by “mushroom” (pieczarkowy) and “for casseroles” (do zapiekanek). The product consists primarily of minced mushrooms and just enough bread to hold it together in addition to a gentle touch of seasoning. The company’s website recommends using it for dumplings (pierogi, obviously) as well as in soups and sauces.

Since I’m so suggestible, I decided to make pierogi; served them up with bits of bacon, fried onion, snipped chives, and sour cream on the side. They turned out pretty well for a first attempt; next time (if there is one because making pierogi from scratch is labor intensive) I’d combine the mushrooms with some mashed potato. Unfortunately there’s a good deal left in the jar and I don’t know if it will freeze well until another rigorous kitchen session seems like a good idea. (Yeah, right.) I bet it would make a yummy pasta sauce with a bit of cream though. (Easy, peasy.) Hmmm…maybe with a toss of peas? (Who, me? Suggestible?)

And just a reminder that I’m doing this series of posts to see if you are interested in my putting together a Greenpoint ethnojunket. When we’ve reached the last one, let me know what you think! Stay tuned….

July is National Ice Cream Month! Celebrate Globally!

The story began here:

Every August, as a routinely flushed, overheated child, I would join in chorus with my perspiring cohorts, boisterously importuning, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Little did I realize that rather than conjuring dessert, I was conjugating it and probably laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fascination with foreign languages and world food.

We lived in close proximity to one of the best dairies in town; it was known for its wide assortment of locally produced natural flavors, certainly sufficient in number and variety to satisfy any palate. Perhaps my obsession with offbeat ice cream flavors is rooted in my frustration with my father’s return home from work, invariably bearing the same kind of ice cream as the last time, Neapolitan. Neapolitan, again. My pleas to try a different flavor – just once? please? – consistently fell on deaf ears. “Neapolitan is chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s three flavors right there. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.” Some kids’ idea of rebellion involved smoking behind the garage; mine was to tuck into a bowl of Rum Raisin….

There’s lots more to the story, of course. Click here to get the full scoop! 🍨

And in This Corner – Samarkand Bazaar!

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

I’ve been offering ethnojunkets in Brooklyn’s Little Odessa for over 10 years and I’ve witnessed some stellar Eastern European and Russian food markets fail, only to be replaced by even brighter stars. The prepared food buffet is the feature attraction at these locations.

They come and they go. Some are eclipsed by the competition, some just self-combust for no apparent reason, some are even decimated by natural disasters. (Anyone else remember the beloved M&I International Foods that succumbed to Hurricane Sandy back in 2012? We can be BFFs.) Exquisite Foodland caught COVID and closed for a couple of years, but it has reemerged seemingly unscathed. Gourmanoff regrouped into yet another NetCost Market, its parent company.

And not long ago, in the shadow of the spectacular Tashkent Market opening across the street from it, Brighton Bazaar gamely attempted to hang on but was ultimately extinguished by its rival. When their gates came down for the last time, I wondered what business(es) would occupy those digs.

Enter Samarkand Bazaar. It positioned itself head to head against its neighbor, Tashkent Market. The battle will be noteworthy in that they are cut from the same piece of cloth, at least superficially. They both stock comparable regional baked goods, produce, refrigerated and frozen food, cakes and desserts, smoked fish, and boxed, jarred, and canned food. Not to mention the fact that they are less than 300 feet from each other.

But, of course, the real reason to visit either one is the overwhelming selection of prepared food. They present many of the same dishes; Samarkand has a few I haven’t seen in Tashkent, although Tashkent has many not to be found in Samarkand. I’ve tasted well over a dozen of Samarkand’s offerings; Tashkent has a slight edge IMHO but I’m willing to wait until Samarkand gets it sea legs.

Slides of just a few of their goodies:

Want to know what these yummy dishes are? Want to try ’em? You know what to do. Join me on my “Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa” ethnojunket! Check it out here!


There are few things about which I am a purist. (One is not ending a sentence with a preposition. See first sentence.)

Another is the pronunciation of the versatile and much beloved fresh pasta filata cheese, mozzarella.

Now, I’m not advocating that we all embrace the charming Sicilian-American argot, “mootzadell” like the neighborhood paisans I remember affectionately from my yout – er, youth.

That’s a long ō in there. Mozzarella rhymes with “Totes umbrella”.

“Matzarella” just cheeses me off. To my ears that sounds like a diminutive female Jewish cracker.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the real subject of this post.

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

MozzLab at 502 Henry St, Brooklyn, is a contemporary cheese shop specializing in hand stretched mozzarella made fresh daily (along with its cousins, buffalo burrata, treccia and stracciatella) plus a few other cheeses as well as an array of Italian sandwiches incorporating them, a tempting selection of antipasti, and a mini Italian market.

I had heard about their “Mozzarella Bagels”, a sandwich that includes prosciutto, speck (a type of cured, smoky ham), and mortadella in which bagel-shaped mozz stands in for the bread. I planned to get just the dairy part as a surprise for a vegetarian friend who loves mozzarella but the hitch was that they don’t sell the cheesy toroid by itself. I’m unsure why fulfilling the request was so daunting; I tried explaining what I wanted in English, then to the staff in my defective Spanish (hablaban español pero no inglés) and finally in fractured Italian to the owner (the Big Cheese?) who was adroitly stretching fresh mozz with great panache before my eyes. But when I referred to him as “Il Maestro”, he smiled and made a couple for me as a special order while I watched.

The first photo shows what I did to mine when I got it home (those sandwiches looked too good); the second shows the plain unadorned version I gave to my friend.

Everything I tasted from MozzLab was top quality and the atmosphere projected the warmth and camaraderie you’d hope for from a local business and its regulars. Kind of reminded me of the handful of Italian specialty shops from my neighborhood as a kid.

Global Gourmet Revisited

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

Back on September 2, I wrote about the nascent market at 1103 Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn’s Little Odessa and I stopped by recently to check out their progress.

From what I observed, the focus is on Turkish cuisine:

Turkish brands and foods line the dairy and freezer cases and the shelves…

…along with two generous double decker cases of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

The butcher area was still being prepared, but it did look welcoming.

The bakery was ready for prime time, however, and was displaying its wares including Ottoman style marble Turkish delight.

It seems to me that any region whose cuisine includes both dough and cheese has a signature dish that layers them in a delectable baked creation and Turkey is no exception; an enormous pan of su böreği alongside some other just-out-of-the-oven baked goods grabbed my olfactory attention as I entered.

I’ll go back to try it when the meat section is complete, but if it tastes as good as it looked, there’s one more treat to include on my Little Odessa food tour! Check it out here!

Happy Diwali! (2022)

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

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!
दिवाली मुबारक
Happy Diwali!

New Section: Ukraine

I’ve created a new section on this site that highlights the cuisine of Ukraine. The prologue begins like this:

Odessa is a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. It is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches and charming 19th-century architecture.

In the latter half of the last century, many Odessites who emigrated to the US came to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood, now known as “Little Odessa”. I took this photograph on that beach – and tweaked the colors, just a bit.

As a kid, I studied history from a book titled World Civilization; “civilization” was defined as the advancement of the arts, science, culture and statecraft. At the time, it seemed to me that statecraft had as much to do with waging war as anything else. History was something that was about 2 inches thick and had 537 pages.

When I was in high school, I would eavesdrop on my father reliving World War II in exhaustive detail with his buddy, Jack, over highballs; they had served together in the army overseas. I still have his captain’s bars and his Purple Heart. War became a little more real, more than just something you read about; war had certainly affected my father.

In college, we would watch television nightly, transfixed as Walter Cronkite narrated terrifying scenes from the war in Vietnam; I wondered if I would be drafted. War became even more real; war was affecting me.

But now, I know someone who actually lives in Kyiv and although I am fortunate to not be an eyewitness myself, the horrors of war have never been more real for me.

Her hobby is cooking; that’s how we met – through Instagram of all things. She loves nature in its beauty ardently, the flora and the fauna. We communicate on occasion, a genuine, personal one-to-one correspondence. She is very real.

And every time I hear the reports of the latest atrocities, I worry if she is well. If she is alive.

This corner of my website is dedicated to you, Olya. You and all the brave, stalwart, resilient, heroic, beautiful people of Ukraine.

Stay safe, Olya. Stay safe.

🇺🇦 Слава Україні! Героям слава! 🇺🇦

Over the years, I have enjoyed and continue to learn more about Ukrainian cuisine; I prepare it at home, and now bring people to visit Little Odessa in Brooklyn so they can experience it firsthand.

It is a small gesture, I know, but at least I can introduce others to a part of the vibrant culture of these resolute people who are giving their lives and losing their loved ones in their quest to preserve democracy.

Here, then, are a few dishes from my Ukrainian posts, with more to come….
Click here to see the new section and the cuisine. You can always visit as it grows by selecting Stories -> Ukraine in the top navigation bar. Дякую!