Sabor Ecuatoriano Bakery – Humitas de Maiz

Instagram Post 6/19/2019

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

Breakfast.

There is a soft spot in my heart for humitas de maiz; this blend of corn, cheese, eggs and cream, swaddled in a corn husk, steamed, gently tinged with the warmth of direct heat, then anointed with a dollop of crema started my otherwise gloomy day with an uplifting bite of sunshine.

[1] This one came from Sabor Ecuatoriano Bakery, 40-42 82nd St, Queens, on the cusp of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and, like many of their baked goods, tasted like it came straight from the ❤ corazón.

[2] A peek inside.
 
 

Mr. Liu Henan Wide Ramen – Big Squid

Instagram Post 6/15/2019

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

Remember the Vincent Price movie “The Tingler”?

So anyway, I’ve been prowling around Elmhurst, Queens lately doing reconnaissance for my new ethnojunket and eating my way through the new HK Food Court at 82-02 45th Ave as part of the syllabus. Among other offerings, the eye-catching signage announcing stall #25, Mr. Liu Henan Wide Ramen, featured a photo captioned Big Squid on a stick with the hand-written exhortation “Try it!”. Always a fan of grilled cephalopod, that sounded like a plan; I opted for spicy. I had my kitchen scissors in tow (semper paratus – you know a better way to disarticulate a squid?) so I was able to make some judicious editorial cuts. You might consider asking for it extra spicy if you like special effects.

More to come from HK Food Court soon.
 
 

Santol

Instagram Post 6/14/2019

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

There are few moments more rewarding than stumbling upon some sort of food that I’ve never experienced. (Okay, so it takes all kinds, I guess.) Consequently, I was delighted to find santol (you might see santal) in the refrigerator case at Pata Market, 81-16 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens.

The fruit hails from Southeast Asia and according to my research looks a little like a peach-colored mangosteen before preparation. Fortunately, the troublesome work of removing the thick shell-like rind and carving the edible part into delicate slivers had already been accomplished. I separated the seeds (don’t swallow the seeds!) from the slices; it had a flavor I found mildly sweet and a little tart, and a soft, pulpy texture like a pear that’s not quite ripe.

It’s sold with a sweet, very spicy sauce made from palm sugar, fish sauce, shrimp paste, pounded dried shrimp, and chili along with a little cup of roasted coconut and peanuts plus a touch of cayenne.

Dressed with its accoutrements, it was a pleasing change of pace. If you secure one of these, be forewarned about the spice level of the syrup; it won’t assault you, but the taste of the fruit is subtle and you don’t want to overpower it. It’s a righteous complement, however.

<rant> In researching santol, I found a number of videos on the web that were actually embarrassing to watch (sorry, that’s the only word that fits) with more misinformation than I could countenance based on my own limited experience. I do understand that YMMV regarding specific cultivar and degree of ripeness, but really. If so many people in that part of the world consume and enjoy these, maybe you’re missing something and should consider giving it another go? </rant>

Have a nice day! 🙂
 
 

Egg Yolk Custard Bun

Instagram Post 6/13/2019

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

Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens just keeps getting better and better; the prepared food section (which is truly the focus of the place) has some of the best Thai food you’d ever want, and want it I do. On a recent visit there as I was scoping out my new Elmhurst food tour, I noticed a steamer box filled primarily with fluffy white baos, but it was the sign beside it depicting egg yolk custard buns that caught my eye: sweet, golden, runny, drippy, x-rated attention grabbers.

I only bought one. Whatever was I thinking? 😐
 
 

Red Bowl Noodle Shop – Pork Roll

Instagram Post 3/10/2019

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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.