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.
 
 

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! 🍨
 
 

Pata Market – 2022

My first post about Pata Market dates back to July, 2018 and this will be the eighth (!) so you know I’m enamored with the place. I stopped by on a recent excursion to Elmhurst as I was scoping out new options for my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour – and yes, Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway is always part of the itinerary.

I picked up three snacks. (Actually I picked up seven, but these were arguably the most photogenic of the lot.)

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I usually think of Hoi Jo as deep fried crabmeat rolls, but the ingredients listed were pork, carrots, bean vermicelli, garlic, salt and pepper. Chewy, salty, crunchy, yummy. (Wasn’t that a song from the late 60s?)


The label read Thai Pancake Stuff which I’ll interpret as Thai stuffed pancake. They’re a layered affair: pandan custard enveloped in a solid crepe and then wrapped in a latticed crepe revealing shreds of sweet egg.


The inner workings, bottom, and top.


Kaw Neaw Moo. Delicious grilled marinated pork on a stick, at once sweet and savory, with perfectly prepared sticky rice. So good.

Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

More Elmhurst treats to come….
 
 

Tindahan

Now that I’ve completed my uber-prudent “post-COVID” exploration of the latest and greatest purveyors of memorable mouthfuls for my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour, I thought I’d let you in on a few of the places I visited. If you follow me, you know that Zaab Zaab is begging for a return visit. Here’s another new kid on the block – at 81-04 Woodside Avenue to be specific.

Since the cuisine of the Philippines is one of my favorites, I was excited to stumble on this Filipino-owned establishment. Tindahan, the Tagalog word for store, packs its shelves, refrigerator case and freezer with Filipino groceries and prepared food. The focus goes beyond the typical necessities to embrace some specialty items I haven’t found in local pan-Asian markets. (Join me on this ethnojunket and I’ll show you what I found!) A few teasers:

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Turon. A deep fried lumpia (spring roll) containing a split plantain and a bit of jackfruit for sweetness.


A bibingka is a baked cake usually made with rice flour but cassava or wheat flour is not uncommon. This one is cake-like, soft, sweet and moist within, and topped with potent salted egg and coconut so you get sweet on salty on sweet. Best when warmed, it’s a delicious study in contrasts; get a bit of each in one bite!


Lola’s Empanadas. André told me his grandmother (“lola” in Tagalog) made these so that’s what I’ve been calling them ever since, and they’re outstanding – again, best served warm. Baked, not fried, the sweet dough is filled with pork and chicken, raisins, carrots and peas. I love the fact that they’re doughy inside; I hope that doesn’t change.


The inner workings.

Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

More to come….

 
 

Sparzha

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I’ve been doing food tours in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood for so many years that by now, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of hurricanes called Sandy and pandemics called COVID, I know Little Odessa like a second home. Consequently, there’s not a lot about the vast array of Eastern European, Central Asian, and Russian cuisines that leaves me stumped. But happily, every exploration brings some kind of surprise and a recent visit brought this one:

Each of the numerous markets offering prepared food presents a different roster of dishes. One of them (come on my Little Odessa ethnojunket and I’ll take you there 😉) had an unfamiliar item in the cold salad section. The sign read “спаржа,” the word for asparagus.

I caught the eye of the woman behind the counter. “The sign says ‘sparzha,’ but that looks like bean curd skin; is it bean curd skin?” I asked expectantly.

“You can read this?” she replied, avoiding my question. “I give you a taste.”

On this ethnojunket, we sample a broad range of culinary specialties. One of them is that of the Koryo-saram, people who in the 1920s and 30s fled from Korea to Russia when Japan occupied their homeland and who were subsequently moved to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan by Stalin; they adapted their cuisine to whatever was available there. Turns out this is another one of the dishes they created. (More about that – and why it’s called asparagus – on the tour.)

It is indeed bean curd skin, known as соевая спаржа, soy asparagus. In Central Asian cuisine just as in that of East Asia, it doesn’t impart a lot of flavor but it does provide a little chew – texture is its prime directive here. Fresh dill and a light dressing inform the dish but do not overwhelm it; the carrot is for color.

I’d consider it a side, certainly not a main. As a matter of fact, IMHO it would be a perfect foil for khe – think spicy Korean ceviche – which we sample on the tour as well.

Hope to see you soon!