Yi Mei Bakery

On a recent Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket, I picked up some satisfying snacks at Yi Mei Bakery, 81-26 Broadway.

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A variation on classic char siu bao. There was a subtle sweetness to these Roast Pork Pastries, a perfect combination of thin slices of juicy char siu, flaky dough, and black and white sesame seeds. If you buy one to take home, definitely warm it up for maximum enjoyment.

The Meat Floss Cake was indeed cakey per its name: pillowy soft, savory and salty but also with a slight overtone of sweetness. Each cake was coated with meat floss and comprised two halves married by a thin layer of creamy custard (see last photo).

If you’re unfamiliar with meat floss, meat (pork is common) is cooked in a sweetened, spiced mixture until it’s soft enough to be shredded and fried resulting in a final texture that’s fluffy and looks a bit like wool. It’s remarkably versatile and commonly used as a topping for rice or congee, as an ingredient for filling buns and pastries, or for just plain snackin’. You’ll see it in two similar variations at your local Asian supermarket, pork fu and pork sung, and based on my experience I think the shelf life is practically eternal.

Want to know if these treats will be part of our Elmhurst food tour? Only one way to find out. Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

Eid al-Fitr – 2023

Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast, is the Muslim holiday that signifies the conclusion of month-long Ramadan; in 2023, it begins on the evening of April 20, but the date can vary a bit as it is subject to the sighting of the moon. It is known as “Sweet Eid” in contrast to Eid al-Adha, the “Salty Eid”, coming in June.

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Ma’amoul are shortbread cookies filled with a paste made from dried fruit, often dates but sometimes figs, or nuts, such as walnuts or pistachios; they’re frequently associated with Ramadan but fortunately are available year round. Paradise Sweets, the Middle Eastern bakery at 6739 5th Ave, was offering three kinds the day I stopped by: clockwise from left, pistachio, walnut and date.

Can a cookie actually melt in your mouth? These were wonderfully fragile, disintegrating into a crumbly powder like a Mexican polvoron: you’ll start with a bite, but you’ll want to finish with a spoon. For those who don’t care for uber-sugary cookies, the good news is that this version is not especially sweet; I discovered that the flavor seems to blossom in the company of a hot beverage – tea or Arabic coffee would be perfect.

Some of the smaller markets along the way were offering prepackaged ma’amoul like this one from Pâtisserie Safa, a Montreal based company. Its structural integrity was sturdier than the freshly baked specimens and the cookie was surprisingly tasty.

Both the dough and the filling were significantly sweeter than the locally crafted examples and I detected a welcome note of orange blossom water that enhanced its flavor profile.

Another survivor of the pandemic is the stalwart bakery Nablus Sweets at 6812 5th Ave. These are Qatayef (aka Atayef), made only during Ramadan and especially for Eid al-Fitr; they’re often sold by street vendors in the Middle East. They start out with a batter akin to that of pancakes but they’re griddled on only one side, then they’re filled with white cheese or nuts, folded into a crescent, fried or baked, and soaked in sweet rose water syrup. This pair enclosed a syrupy chopped nut filling.

They’re thicker and chewier than I anticipated – I was expecting a straight ahead, lighter pancake texture based on what I saw as they were being prepared:

Fresh off the griddle. Some folks buy them just like this, ready to be brought home to be filled with the family recipe (of course) of creamy cheese or walnuts, sugar and cinnamon.
And there are still some openings on my Flavors of Little Levant and Little Yemen ethnojunket on April 30; sign up to join in the fun!

Battle of the Cheezy Noodz

I’ve said it before: any region whose cuisine includes both dough and cheese has a signature dish that layers them in a delectable baked creation. Sometimes that dough is leavened and baked into bread, sometimes it’s dried and boiled into noodles – an oversimplification, I know, but you get the idea.

At its most fundamental, Noodles and Cheese, unadorned with sauce, meat, or veggies, is at once down-to-earth gratification and elegant-in-its-simplicity indulgence. (Ashkenazi Jews will immediately home in on Lokshen mit Kaese.)

On a recent “Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa” food tour, I decided to do a comparison of two examples, achma from Georgia and su böreği from Turkey. Interestingly, but unsurprisingly when you think about it, achma is considered a member of the khachapuri family (Georgian breads) and su böreği belongs to the borek clan (stuffed filo pastry).

Most recipes for these call for a combination of two compatible cheeses: a salty, crumbly type like feta plus a soft, springy variety like mozzarella. You’ll see imeruli and sulguni in Georgia and beyaz peynir or künefe peyniri in Turkey, for example. Essential features for any of these treats are a crispy crust enclosing soft noodles and melty, slightly salty cheese. I purchased a slice of each from two different markets and brought them over to the boardwalk for an A/B comparison.

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Here’s the Georgian Achma…

…and here’s the Turkish Su Böreği.

Want to know more about them? Which one prevailed? I’ll tell all when you join me on my Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa ethnojunket. There are still some openings on my April 25 tour; sign up to join in the fun!


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Since food tour season is in full flower and there are some new businesses in the neighborhood, I decided to revamp my Middle Eastern Bay Ridge ethnojunket. Did you know that Bay Ridge and Beirut are cognates? Just kidding.

One of the treats along the route is sellou (سلّو, aka sfouf or zmita), a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted flour and ground almonds, sesame seeds, sugar or honey, cinnamon, and anise; as you’d expect, recipes vary from family to family. At Nablus Sweets, 6812 5th Ave, Brooklyn, I spotted a huge brown mountain of it and purchased a small knoll, broken here into two little hillocks. It’s soft in texture, somewhere along the cookie<–>brownie continuum but drier, crumbly but crunchy from nuts – just break off a chunk and enjoy, perhaps with a cup of tea. If your knowledge of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean sweets is informed primarily by honey drenched baklava and knafeh, give this one a try (available particularly around Ramadan); I highly recommend it.

There are still some openings on my Flavors of Little Levant and Little Yemen ethnojunket on April 30; sign up to join in the fun!

White Rabbit Ice Cream

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My first taste of Chinese candy came about when I was a kid; it was so very long ago that I can’t even remember which Dynasty it was. The novel confection was White Rabbit, a chewy, creamy, milk-based taffy (although technically, it’s toffee because it contains dairy) and it’s a godsend to dentists world-wide.

Years later, when boba drinks were just becoming the rage in Chinatown and the line for the solitary Tiger Sugar in Flushing coiled around the block, an enterprising challenger, With Sugar and Tea (long gone but not forgotten), opened up nearby. The flavor of its signature drink boasted spot-on doppelganger rabbitude.

Three’s the charm, of course, and the ultimate rabbit out of a hat trick is this White Rabbit ice cream that I stumbled upon recently in SF Supermarket when I was prepping the 2023 version of my Elmhurst ethnojunket. It sports an ingenious lid that conceals a handy spoon and it definitely tastes like the real deal.

Which naturally raises the question (especially since this is the Year of the Rabbit) will we sample this delicacy on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket?

Only one way to find out. Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

Hong Kong Food Court Update – Part 2

As I indicated in my last post, some additional vendors have emerged at the new incarnation of Hong Kong Food Court (82-02 45th Ave in Elmhurst) and it’s my self-imposed duty to keep you informed about them!

I was encouraged to find a Burmese stall, Thar Gi, with a menu of about eight items including this Burmese Thick Noodle Chicken Salad.

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In addition to their standard menu, there’s a display case featuring a selection of dishes, mostly curries with various proteins and the same sauce, targeted for heating up at home. I asked if they could heat one up for me and this is their Beef Curry. They didn’t have rice. Go figure.

I’ve enjoyed a great deal of Burmese food over the years – even prepared some myself – and I’ve always been a stalwart fan. I was hoping for a little more personality from these two dishes. We’ll see if anything changes as they settle in.

And here’s one more from Lan Zhou Ramen, highlighted in my last post: Cumin Lamb Burger. Definitely tasty and on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour!


Hong Kong Food Court Update

It’s coming along slowly but surely – not as slick-looking as any of the food courts in Flushing, but it’s the cuisine that counts, right?

Some additional vendors have emerged at the new incarnation of Hong Kong Food Court (82-02 45th Ave in Elmhurst) since I last wrote about it and one of the second batch is an outpost of Lan Zhou Ramen. (If you’re not familiar with their other locations, you should know that they’re more than just ramen.)

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Their extensive menu included this admirable Cumin Lamb Noodle. The chef hand-pulled the noodles for my dish as I watched each step in the process; the noodz were as thick and chewy as I had hoped, the spice level was good, and the only thing I might have wished for was a bit more cumin presence – still, it was as satisfying as any I’ve enjoyed elsewhere.

And from the What-A-Long-Strange-Trip-It’s-Been Department: Their brightly lit signage, artistically inscribed with vivid red Chinese characters and identifying it as booth #23 looked familiar; certainly there are not 22 other stalls in HKFC’s current configuration. So when I got home, I checked the photo I had taken during their glory days back in 2019 and sure enough, it’s the selfsame sign.

Here’s hoping that’s a good sign!

Passing the wide assortment of dim sum on my way out of the food court, I couldn’t resist this Ham Sui Gok (咸水角), always one of my favorites. It’s crispy fried on the outside…

…with a chewy glutinous rice dough enveloping pork and perfectly sauced veggies on the inside; it’s sweet and savory at once and definitely filling.

Stay tuned for more new vendors – some I’m happy to report, are unique. And yes, of course, it’s a major stop on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour!

Shrimp and Salmon Kurze

I meant to include these photos of shrimp and salmon kurze in my recent post about some new goodies I found at Tashkent Market, but I was late dropping off the film at the drug store so the prints weren’t ready.

Just kidding.

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These dumplings hail from Dagestan, located at the southernmost tip of Russia. The distinctive fluted shape and the long ridge running from one end to the other define the kurze style.

Kurze fillings vary widely as dumpling fillings are wont to do. I’ve seen recipes for beef, lamb, cheese, potatoes and others, usually fortified with chopped tomato and onions and often described as “juicy”. Although I wouldn’t choose that descriptor for this pair, I can vouch for the fact that they were moist and delicious.

Want to try ’em? Join me on an “Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa” ethnojunket! Check it out here!

Fried Manti

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Daytime temperatures have been in the 50s and that means Spring is Here!

The hell it is.

But to be fair, we have had a few great days recently that turned out to be perfect for a Little Odessa ethnojunket. We prowled around fledgling markets and bakeries that are just starting out, and the redoubtable Tashkent Market is always coming up with different offerings like this Fried Manti with Beef (consumed on the boardwalk, of course).

There are a lot more novel flavors to experience on my “Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa” ethnojunket including some tasty Turkish treats – more about those later. Check it out here!