Lhasa Liang Fen

While we’re on the subject of savory Elmhurst food, here’s a shout out to Lhasa Liang Fen, the diminutive restaurant at 80-07 Broadway that serves up Tibetan treats.

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

This is a peak rendition of Chicken Jhol Momo, dumplings that hail from Tibet and Nepal (and Queens, it would seem) that can be fried or steamed like these and are available with a number of fillings; jhol refers to the broth in which they are bathing, and here, it is wonderful. There are some differences between Tibetan and Nepali style momos (more about that in an upcoming post); jhol is a Nepali variation.


Beyond the jhol, the filling in this momo is a cut above others I’ve had in these parts, and that’s saying something: you can’t swing a cat-o’-nine-tails in this neighborhood and not hit a momo joint.


Life imitates art.

And a big thank you to the lovely staff who provided special treatment for our large group. Now I need to return and seriously eat my way through the rest of their menu!
 
 
To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Elmhurst Food Court Redux

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

I did one of my Ethnic Eats In Elmhurst food tours on Sunday. I always arrive early to ensure that the businesses we’ll be visiting are still open (hey, stuff happens), that they’re not out of the goodies we were specifically angling for (that’s happened too), and that my Plan B shelters against inclement weather are available (I’ve been lucky with that one so far).

As I walked past what used to be HK Food Court at 8202 45th Ave, the long shuttered entrance was open – and I smelled food! I tentatively entered and amid significant ongoing construction, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, there were three vendors preparing and displaying their wares in what was something between a dry run and an extremely soft opening. If you go – and you really should – be aware that all the signage hails from the original incarnation and bears no connection to the current vendors (see final photo). But they were indeed open to the public and that’s all the encouragement I needed.

Shortly thereafter, my guests arrived and we checked out the most sprawling of the three. I was told their name would be “Happy Market” and they had been there for only two days. (Timing is everything, right?). In addition to a tempting selection of Cantonese roasted/BBQ ducks, pipa duck, char siu, spareribs, and crispy pig, there was a steamtable set up that I usually associate with “four items plus rice” you’ve probably seen in Chinatowns everywhere, congee, and a considerable array of dim sum.

Everything we tasted was excellent so yes, it’s back on my itinerary. More details to follow, but here are five hastily snapped photos to give you an idea of how things looked; I’ll be doing reports as more vendors populate the new food court.

 
 
Having witnessed the demise of so many of our treasured food courts, this brings me joy and gives me hope. Stay tuned….
 
 
To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

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.)

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

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:

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

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….

 
 

Elmhurst Ethnojunkets Are Back!

Onward and upward!

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago (a big thank you to all my guests!) and now Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst is joining the lineup; Flushing and Bay Ridge are just around the corner.

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works. For the time being, I’m only scheduling Little Odessa and Elmhurst.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Elmhurst, Little Odessa, Flushing, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Elmhurst?
A: We cover a lot of geography on our Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst adventure! We’ll savor goodies from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and parts of China. And if you’re into cooking, we can explore a large Pan-Asian supermarket along the way.

Here are just a few of the delicacies we usually enjoy on this ethnojunket. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

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

Thai Pork & Peanut Dumplings

Taiwanese Pineapple Cake


Nepali Momos


Zaab Chicken Wings


Malaysian Silver Noodles


Pandan Tart Cake


I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

A Ukrainian Ice Cream Novelty

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

I can read enough Russian to know when I’m seeing Ukrainian (both are written using the Cyrillic alphabet) – like the label on this package.

The brand is Ласунка (Lasunka) a leading producer of ice cream in Ukraine; it means delicacy or, loosely translated, sweet tooth; пирожено-морожено means cake-ice cream; грушове indicates pear (pictured on the label – look closely); and з карамельннм соусом translates as “with caramel sauce.” (Дякую, Гуглити.)


What appears to be a brown cardboard cup is actually a soft edible bowl (the “cake”) cradling three cute soft ice cream florets. The ice crystals are the byproduct of storage, not the product of creativity, but they were so pretty, I couldn’t resist taking a photo before dispatching them.


And you’ve probably already surmised that I came across this treat while doing prep for my Little Odessa ethnojunket.

You can sign up and taste one for yourself! Please visit the Ethnojunkets page to learn more about my neighborhood food tours and join in the fun!

Hope to see you soon!

🇺🇦 Слава Україні! 💙💛

 
 

Sparzha

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

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!
 
 

Ramadan 2022 – Nishallo

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

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the holy month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad; this year, Ramadan begins at sundown on Saturday, April 2. During that period, about 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk. The meal that marks the end of each day’s fast is called iftar and often commences with three sweet dates that help restore blood sugar levels, after which the menu will vary by country and regional specialties.

This is nishallo (aka nisholda), an exceedingly sweet dessert that’s native to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and prepared exclusively during Ramadan; it makes its appearance as part of iftar. Made primarily from sugar, whipped egg whites, and water, it’s a dead ringer for Marshmallow Fluff (as you’d expect from the ingredients) if perhaps a bit classier because of a touch of star anise and/or licorice root. I understand that for some natives of Uzbekistan, it rekindles heartwarming childhood memories, not unlike Fluff for some nostalgic Americans. It’s often used as a dip for warm flatbread and is particularly appropriate after 17 hours of abstention from eating because its high sugar content is said to jumpstart the metabolism.

I found it, along with other Ramadan specialties, at Tashkent Market, 713 Brighton Beach Ave in Brooklyn, one of the highlights on my Little Odessa ethnojunket. If you like the idea of tasting something new and delicious from another part of the world, please visit my Ethnojunkets page to learn more about my neighborhood food tours and join in the fun!

More about Ramadan foods during the month.

Ramadan Mubarak!
 
 

Little Odessa Ethnojunkets Are Back!

Good news! COVID hospitalizations are waning and seasonal temperatures are waxing and that means it’s time to bring back ethnojunkets!

We’re getting the ball rolling with Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa and I’ll be adding the rest soon.

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works. For the time being, I’m only scheduling Little Odessa.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Little Odessa, Flushing, Elmhurst, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Little Odessa?
A: Here are just a few of the Eastern European, Central Asian, Russian, and Former Soviet Union delicacies we usually enjoy on our food tour along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

(Click on any image to view it in mouth-watering high resolution.)
The overarching term is khachapuri, literally “cheese bread”; they’re commonly filled with tangy, salty sulguni cheese and imeruli, a fresh crumbly cheese which when melted together combine to make stretchy, cheesy nirvana. Georgian adjaruli is shaped like a kayak, the center of which is filled with cheese; a raw egg and a chunk of butter are added just as it’s removed from the oven. Stir the mixture: the egg cooks and combines with the butter and melted cheese. Break off pieces of the bread and dip them into the cheese mixture. What’s not to like?


Uzbek manti, Russian pelmeni, and Azerbaijani kutaby in the back. Azerbaijani food is similar to the cuisine of Georgia but they lay claim to certain dishes such as kutaby as their own. A thin, tortilla-like crepe filled with ground lamb and luscious seasonings, folded in half and griddled, it’s an object of universal culinary lust for anyone whose lips have ever caressed it.


Curd Snacks are not unlike a cross between an Eskimo pie and chocolate covered cheesecake; individually wrapped, they come in an assortment of flavors from chocolate and vanilla to the more esoteric blueberry, blackberry, and raisin.


Salads: At the top there’s fried lagman, a savory noodle dish (also found in soup) of the Uyghur people, an ethnic group living in East and Central Asia. Moving clockwise there’s khe, raw fish marinated in onion, spicy red pepper and vinegar. Russia and North Korea share an 11 mile border; the Korean culinary character of khe is obvious. Finally, there’s norin (aka naryn). Very fine noodles and a generous measure of cumin accompany thinly sliced beef. So good!


I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

Two More from Tashkent Market

Two more quick bites from Tashkent Market on Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, one of the stops on my Little Odessa ethnojunket, as I continue deliberations regarding its post-pandemic resumption.

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

I’ve written about steamed manti before – the Turkic/Central Asian fist-sized dumplings often filled with juicy, delicately seasoned lamb and onions diced into chunks. These are Uyghur style fried manti, every bit as delicious as their steamed cousins.


And the inner workings, of course.


This one was new to me. The sign read “Men Caprese Salad”, the dish itself was hidden beneath a snowdrift of freshly grated cheese (therefore no visual clues) and nary a staffer could tell me anything about it in any mutually intelligible language.

So of course, I bought some.

On my way out, I glanced at the receipt: “Salad Men Caprice” was the spelling this time – still no help. But from having shoveled into it, I inferred that a connection to Italian caprese salad was specious: no sign of tomatoes or basil although the shredded cheese looked not unlike a firm mozzarella.


When I got it home, this is what I found: chopped hard boiled eggs, cubes of beef (likely boiled), shredded cheese (a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese it seemed), and lots of mayo and salt. So sort of a pumped-up egg salad. Pretty tasty, actually.

Later, I did manage to turn up a single website specializing in German and Russian travel and restaurants that referred to it: “The ‘Men’s Caprice’ salad is an invention of the Soviet era (although the name likely appeared quite recently). The gist of it is to take the most simple and satisfying ingredients and prepare a salad so that a hungry man has a full belly.”

Sounds right to me.

Lots more on my Little Odessa ethnojunket – if and when!