Red Bowl Noodle Shop – Pork Roll

Instagram Post 3/10/2019

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I don’t know for sure if the grab-n-go goodies lined up in front of Red Bowl Noodle Shop, 40-52 Main St, Flushing, are a separate concession or part of the restaurant itself. I do know that they’re pretty tasty and it’s a breeze to buy a couple of items en route back to the Flushing Main St 7 train or the LIRR station at the end of the day.

[1] Here’s Pork Roll, wrapped in bean curd skin and filled with unusually sweet, finely ground pork seasoned with fish paste (no, it doesn’t taste fishy) and chunks of onion. It comes with a spicy sweet tomato sauce on the side, but if you use it, don’t overdo it.

[2] The inside scoop.

[3] I took this photo in 2010 when the iconic Red Bowl actually perched, precariously it seemed, atop the building.
 
 

Goshtgizhda

Instagram Post 3/9/2019

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Bukharan Jews emigrated from Central Asia’s Emirate of Bukhara, now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, after the fall of the Soviet Union; many came to the US and settled in Forest Hills and Rego Park, Queens. Evidence of this population can be seen in markets and shops along 108th Street, “Bukharan Broadway”, but cross Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway and you’ll discover another pocket in Kew Gardens Hills. Sadly, a number of businesses there were devastated by a massive fire in December, 2016. Eternal survivors, many rebuilt their establishments as well as their lives. One such triumph is Haim’s International, a market at 72-68 Main Street, where we found these savory Bukharan meat pies called goshtgizhda.

[1] Two similar but distinct varieties were available. The first, triangular in shape like a sambusa or samsa hailing from the same region, boasted thinner, softer, puffier dough and a double shot of seeds, poppy and sesame.

[2] The second, a spherical orb, featured a thicker, stiffer dough and was strewn with sesame seeds alone. They shared a similar filling of diced beef and onions that had been cooked together with lamb fat if I am to believe my taste buds and recipe research. A delightful find.
 
 

Chat & Juice Express

Instagram Post 2/26/2019

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“Live Pani Puri!” proclaimed the signs along Jersey City’s Newark Avenue. A common Indian street food, pani puri consists of a crispy spherical shell filled with potatoes or chickpeas, doused with chutney (usually tamarind) and chat masala (a spice blend) and sprinkled with sev (crunchy chickpea noodles); its yogurt-laden counterpart is dahi puri. Each purveyor’s recipe is unique, and therein lies the fun of taste-testing a series of them. Pop one into your mouth whole, no biting please. But “live”? Perhaps in a nod to authentic street vendors back home, Jersey City’s method of production is replicated at a station within the confines of a restaurant where your pani puri, sweet or spicy, is produced à la minute.

[1] Around the corner at 2978 JFK Blvd, Narendra Patel and his wife Hetel own Chat & Juice Express, a small shop dedicated to Gujarati street snacks. (BTW, you might see the word spelled chaat elsewhere.) Here’s their version of dahi puri adorned with jewel-like pomegranate seeds.

[2] This is Dabeli, a peanutty Gujarati specialty that features mashed potatoes and Narendra’s own special masala blend. Definitely worth a stop along a pani puri crawl!
 
 

Sitafal Basundi

Instagram Post 2/25/2019

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Exploring ethnic neighborhoods with likeminded foodnerd friends is pretty much my favorite pastime. On a delightful crawl through Jersey City, NJ, we stopped along the way at Rajbhog Sweets, 812 Newark Ave. We were all familiar with their outpost in Jackson Heights, Queens, but this venue appeared to offer a slightly different selection of mithai, chaats, and snacks so I was intrigued.

Peering into one of the freezer cases, I spotted a plastic container unceremoniously hand labeled “Sitafal Basundi” (second photo). Sitafal is the Hindi word for custard apple, a luscious tropical fruit that’s available in season at ethnic markets and sidewalk fruit stands if you know where to go (hint 😉). Basundi is a rich, creamy dessert, particularly popular in western India, that can be served warm or chilled. Made from long cooked cream, whole milk or sweetened condensed milk plus nuts, fruits and spices like cardamom and saffron, one could think of it as kulfi semifreddo. Being a fan of Indian sweets of every fashion, I’m rather partial to it and this version was delicious.

So many more wonderful places along that strip, I need to return soon. Who’s coming with me?
 
 

Ends Meat

Instagram Post 2/22/2019

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My dining buddy and I had set our sights on Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, our self-imposed mission to hunt down good eats within its seemingly endless labyrinth. (“Haven’t we been down this hallway already?” “I think so, but the antique stove was on the other side last time.”) Indecision gave way to hangry frustration and, exasperated, we declared, “Let’s just share a sandwich here while we figure out where to go.” Little did I realize we were in the presence of virtuosity.

Ends Meat in Building 2 at 254 36th Street, has been specializing in aging and drying meat in their salumeria and butcher shop since 2012; old-style Italian techniques inspire their nose-to-tail cured meats. The sustainably raised animals come from local family farms where non-GMO feed is the order of the day and no hormones or antibiotics are used.

And the sandwich? Not something your mama would have packed in your trusty school lunch box. Behold the Beefneck Sandwich laden with caramelized onions, pickled cucumbers, cheddar cheese and thousand island dressing. Undeniably delicious. Now I have to go back and try some others (the Hogfather and the Bacon and Pate were calling my name as well).
 
 

Allan’s Bakery – Codfish

Instagram Post 2/21/2019

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One more highlight from our Caribbean Crawl along Nostrand Ave in Brooklyn, this time from Allan’s Bakery, 1109 Nostrand Ave. In a previous post, I raved unabashedly about Allan’s definitive Trinidadian currant rolls and coconut rolls. In addition to their sweet offerings, they do a top notch job with savory items as well.

[1] Here’s a codfish patty that was bursting with flavor (and filling); chicken, beef, and veggie are also available.

[2] A little Trini vocab for the uninitiated: “Bake” refers to bread – it can be fried, baked, or even roasted; there’s coconut bake as well. This is Fried Bake and Codfish – definitely good eats.
 
 

Peppa’s Festival

Instagram Post 2/21/2019

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Postscript to my last post about Crown Height’s jerk chicken. At Peppa’s, 791 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, we also picked up a side order of festival, the sweet fried dough that’s a typical accompaniment to savory Jamaican cuisine. These deliciously puffy, light cornmeal and flour dumplings are island favorites (mine, too) and Peppa’s Jerk Chicken may well serve the best I’ve ever had. See second photo for a close-up.
 
 

Battle Jerk Chicken

Instagram Post 2/20/2019

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On our recent Caribbean Crawl in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the judges chewed over jerk chicken, pitting [1] Triple D’s Place, 771 Washington Ave, against [2] Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, 791 Prospect Place. I’ve always been a huge DDD’s fan (huge, because I’ve eaten so much of it), but I also dig Peppa’s so this was a greatly anticipated one-on-one competition.

Both were delicious, of course, but it seemed that the experience wasn’t quite canonical. New recipes? I doubt it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Then I recalled that in addition to classic jerk seasoning, the chicken should be shot through with piquant smokiness. Both seemed anemic in that regard, and that led me to the theory that perhaps in warmer weather only, the chicken is grilled outdoors where billowing clouds of sweet smoke announce its whereabouts, but in winter, it’s cooked indoors so it doesn’t get that ecstatic intensity that I associate with jerk orthodoxy.

As usual, my OCD got the better of me so the next day I headed off to Triple D’s to confirm my suspicions – and to procure a large order to go. Yep, that’s the ticket! (And speaking of tickets, the local gendarmes frown upon streetside gastronomy, so get it whenever it’s available!) Come spring, I’ll arrange a proper rematch.
 
 

Pilar Cuban Bakery

Instagram Post 2/17/2019

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Pilar Cuban Bakery, 397 Greene Ave in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is the recently opened extension of Pilar Cuban Eatery, their restaurant next door. A handful of tables entices you to taste the authentic baked goods on the spot in case you can’t wait to get your goodies home, and trust me, one bite and delayed gratification goes out the window.

[1] This picadillo empanada was stuffed with ground beef seasoned with a unique sofrito that set it apart from others I’ve tried; the breakfast empanada was brimming with eggs, cheese and plantain (it’s also available with house-made chorizo).

[2] The roast pork tamal was flavorful as well.

[3] Simply put, the flaky crusted guava and cheese pie killed. Remember that you’re enjoying Cuban cuisine, so if you’re accustomed to a Mexican guayaba y queso pan dulce (not to take anything away from them) this will be a different, delicious experience and worth every calorie.
 
 

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.