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!
 
 

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 – 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!
 
 

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
 
 

Pata Market – Sai Oua

Instagram Post 8/9/2018

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Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens has won me over with their prepared food, particularly the savory items like this Sai Oua. Sai (intestine) oua (stuffed – an apt description of sausage in general) hails from the northern region of Thailand. The stuffing is ground fatty pork with that immediately identifiable, signature northern Thai flavor attributable to chilies plus some combination of shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, fish sauce, turmeric and red curry paste. Pata Market’s was right up there with my favorite renditions.

In addition to both sweet and savory items displayed on tables (most of the shop is given over to those), there are freezer cases and reach-in refrigerators protecting perishables and hard-to-find ingredients like crickets and silkworms for the culinarily adventurous.
 
 

Little House Cafe – Pandan Cake

Instagram Post 8/8/2018

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Pandan cake (not the multi-layered cake) from the grab-n-go prepared food area near the register at Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens. What you see is what you get. It’s pandan. It’s cake. What’s not to like? 😋

(Now that I think about it, a scoop of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory’s pandan flavor 🍨 would be perfect with this. More shopping to do!)
 
 

Pata Market – Part 2

Instagram Post 8/4/2018

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The departure of Sugar Club, the beloved Thai snack bar and prepared food market in Elmhurst, Queens left a void that is currently being half filled (because the space was subdivided – the other half is a tea shop) by Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway. I was pleased to find a considerable assortment of grab-n-go snacks, both sweet and savory. I’ve written about the sweets – now for some savory items.

Today’s post covers their Kanom Jeen Nam Ya Paa, noodles with spicy fish curry. Kanom Jeen are thin, fresh rice noodles, an integral part of Thai cuisine; Nam Ya Paa refers to the spicy jungle curry (heavy on the spice with no mitigating coconut milk) soup. The curry, replete with chunks of fish, tiny fish balls and chicken feet is thickened with pork blood and seasoned fearlessly; the noodles, cabbage, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, and bitter melon are packaged separately for à la minute addition. Definitely good eats! More savories from Pata Market to come.

PS: Do you have any idea how much restraint it took to not plop a fish ball into the chicken’s foot for this photo? 😂