Albanian Suxhuk in the Bronx

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The holidays are upon us: time for my annual pilgrimage to Little Italy in the Belmont section of the Bronx. Needless to say, I gathered more than my share of calorie-laden Italian goodies, but I was focused on Albanian treats as well. Within that neighborhood there is a thriving community of Albanian markets and restaurants (check out my review of the not-to-be-missed Çka Ka Qëllu) and this year’s visit provided the unequivocally best Albanian suxhuk I’ve ever had the pleasure of overeating.

In the markets, it’s relatively easy to find this sausage dried and prepackaged (you might see sudzuka, sujuk, or sudzuk) but I was fortunate to find this soft, store-made version at Scalinada Euro Food Market, 667 East 187th Street, that ruined me forever for the prepackaged stuff. It’s a modest little store and the owner was extremely helpful in providing info and answering my questions.

I purchased one hot link and one sweet; they’re fully cooked and can be eaten as-is at room temperature or pan-fried. Since I don’t have a favorite, I made up a plate of some slices of sweet and hot, both fried and not, along with some kashkaval, sheep’s milk cheese that I thought would make a good accompaniment. Some fresh bread and a little salad completed the picture.

My Albanian friend, Mela, taught me “faleminderit,” the word for thank you, which put a smile on the owner’s face almost as big as the one on mine when I first tasted this remarkable suxhuk!

Now I need to head back to their butcher case for mish (meat) and qebapa, aka qofte, finger-sized skinless sausages made from ground meat, seasoned with onion, garlic, herbs and crushed red pepper, ready for grilling.

And no, I’m not going to wait until next year!
 
 

Pelmeni

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According to one source, Pelmeni have been described as “the heart of Russian cuisine”. Unlike Ukrainian varenyky (see my last post), I’ve never found pelmeni (пельмени) that were made with a sweet filling – they’re customarily fashioned from a variety of ground meats and occasionally mushrooms – but like their cousins across Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, they’re almost always served with sour cream (сметана).

These came from Tashkent Market on Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn, one of the highlights on my Little Odessa ethnojunket, and were purchased specifically for my recent “Everybody Loves Dumplings” series. I garnished them with fried, thinly sliced onions that had been the topping for some Tashkent salad that I bought during the same visit.

If you know Tashkent Market or if you’ve joined me on one of my food tours to that neighborhood, then you know that perforce I also acquired several additional bags of droolworthy goodies – not with the intention of posting, but because, um……research! Yeah, that’s the ticket!
 
 

Varenyky

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Here’s another temptation that was included in my recent four-part “Everybody Loves Dumplings” series but surely deserves a post of its own.

Like similar dumplings of differing names and nationalities, varenyky (вареники), one of Ukraine’s national dishes, can be found in a pair of divergent guises: sweet, filled with cheese and/or fruit; and savory, stuffed with meat, potatoes, or cabbage, and customarily crowned with fried onions, occasionally bacon, and almost always accompanied by a dollop of sour cream.

These cheese varenyky are served with a homemade sour cherry sauce; all dumplings are comfort food, of course, but these sweet treats easily sashay into dessert territory.

And yes, the blue and yellow color scheme was by design.
 
 

National Pierogi Day

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National Pierogi Day happens on October 8, but that’s certainly no reason not to indulge on the other 364 or so. Typically associated with the cuisines of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, pierogi are known by many names, varenyky in Ukraine for instance.

This photo was taken during a 2019 visit to the beloved Polish & Slavic Center Cafeteria at 177 Kent St in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; they’ve been closed because of COVID-19, but we’re definitely hoping for a refresh.

Bits of bacon and sautéed onion with sour cream on the side, of course, adorned these Pierogi z Kapusta (cabbage) which I ordered because I like saying “kapusta”.

Try it.

See what I mean?
 
 

Chuseok – 2022

Chuseok (추석) or Hangawi (literally “autumn evening”) is a major mid-autumn festival in Korea celebrated this year from September 9th though the 12th; because it’s a harvest festival, it’s sometimes referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving”. Needless to say there are traditional foods and even traditional table settings.

I wish I could say that these photos are part of that tradition, but they are, nevertheless, quintessentially Korean dishes from my local Korean deli. Here’s a rundown:

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Korean grilled mackerel, sweet and spicy pickled daikon, and seasoned cucumbers (fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and garlic).


Five banchan (Korean side dishes). In the center there’s spicy baby radish kimchi: the leaves and stems are topped by slices of the root which was about four inches long before I got to it. Then clockwise from the top: red, crunchy radish (not as spicy as it looks), green seaweed (a little slippery), savory marinated black beans, and jwipo: seasoned, pressed, and dried filefish jerky that’s sold as a street snack – chewy, a little spicy, a little sweet.


Marinated soy sauce eggs leading the parade of assorted Korean pancakes (모듬전, mo deum jeon), followed by pollock filet, kimchi (napa cabbage, radish, carrot), surimi, scallion, and seafood mix (squid, cuttlefish, clam, shrimp, mussel).

Happy Chuseok!
 
 

Chang Lai Cheung Fun

Rice Noodles kept warm in the kitchen in anticipation of hungry customers are readily found in Cantonese restaurants and dim sum parlors.

Rice Noodle Rolls, on the other hand, are frequently found in street carts, made fresh to order from (often stone ground) rice gruel ladled into a thin layer and steamed in a special multi-level cabinet. The snack is transliterated as Cheung (or Cheong) Fun (or Fan or Fen) – feel free to explore the permutations and combinations – but 腸粉 will get you 23,500,000 hits on Google and a typically frustrating translation of “Steamed Vermicelli Roll” on Google Translate.

I would attempt to describe the process, but fortunately we have local purveyors like Chang Lai Fishballs & Noodles on Grand St, east of Bowery, so since a video is worth a thousand pictures, here you go.

Fillings can include roast pork, fresh pork, shrimp, dried shrimp, beef, and more. In this case, here’s the menu from the side of the truck.

 
 

Sun Hing Lung Ho Fun

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My Manhattan Chinatown Ethnojunket covers more than just the part of the neighborhood that some people envision when they hear the word “Chinatown”. Did you know there’s a Little Fuzhou right there waiting to be explored? My Number One Spy called my attention to “Sun Hing Lung Ho Fun”, a small, unprepossessing, mom-and-pop business at 58 Henry Street where the specialties are freshly prepared rice noodle rolls (cheung fun) and rice noodles.

I perused the rice rolls side of the menu and in addition to the usual pork, chicken, fish ball, beef and such, one described as Beef Brisket Rice Roll popped out. Perfectly seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth beef, it was a welcome change of pace from the usual.

Stay tuned for more treats from Little Fuzhou!
 
 

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!
 
 

Vietnamese Summer Roll

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I have a plethora of photos of goodies I’ve purchased in the service of putting together my ethnojunkets, so I’ve decided to share some with you here. It’s part of the process of selecting the best of the best, so not all of them show up on the tours, of course.

Curious about which ones we’ll actually sample? Take a tour and find out!

This is a Summer Roll (gỏi cuôn) from Bánh Mì Cô Út at 83 Elizabeth St in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Rice paper (bánh tráng) wrapped around lettuce, rice vermicelli (bún), split shrimp, and a scallion tail served with chili sauce and a sweet/savory/spicy dipping sauce.

To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Old Street Pan Fried Dumpling

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Picked up these pan-fried pork and crabmeat & pork buns (sheng jian bao, 生煎包) from Old Street Pan Fried Dumpling (the awning reads 老 街 生 煎), 135-45 Roosevelt Ave, Queens as I was exploring the neighborhood for my Flushing ethnojunket.

A perfect snack.