IGA’s Kalimantan Bazaar

Instagram Post 1/22/2020

Quick post about two soups selected by my dining pals at the Indonesian Gastronomy Association’s Kalimantan Bazaar this past weekend. (Incidentally, Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, shared with Brunei and East Malaysia, and will ultimately be the new home to Indonesia’s capital.)

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Soto Banjar is a delicious Indonesian soup from Banjarmasin, the capital of West Kalimantan/Borneo, with chicken, noodles, hardboiled eggs, crispy fried shallots and (I think, because I was distracted) perkedel, potato patties.


Tekwan. Fish soup with top-notch dumplings make from ground fish and tapioca flour, served with wood ear mushrooms and veggies.

Follow IGA on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

The Making of Martabak

Instagram Post 1/20/2020

I’ve posted before about martabak (or martabak manis – manis means sweet), one of my favorite Southeast Asian desserts; it’s usually available at one of the three monthly Indonesian food bazaars, but this past weekend, the Indonesian Gastronomy Association (IGA) outdid itself by presenting a live demonstration revealing the way it’s made.

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Without giving away any recipe secrets, batter is added to a special lidded frying pan that cooks and steams the pancake; a leavening agent causes it to rise into its characteristic honeycomb sponge-like consistency. The green color comes from pandan (screwpine) paste; it’s my favorite variety and highly recommended.


It’s slathered with margarine (which is considerably more malleable and easier to work with on the sunny streets of Indonesia than in the chilly atmosphere of a capacious Elmhurst assembly hall).


The sweet stuff which can appear as any or all of chocolate sprinkles, cheese, nuts, and sweetened condensed milk is added over half; the plain side is folded over the top (and I do mean over-the-top) of the enhanced side…


…and cut into serving pieces.

More photos of the event to come.

Follow IGA on Facebook or Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao

Instagram Posts 1/17 & 1/18/2020

Finally got around to visiting Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in their new digs at 39-16 Prince St in Flushing, Queens – or so the Google would have it: the first thing you need to know is that the entrance is actually on 39th Ave (133-42) at the corner of Prince St. Elusive geography notwithstanding, our hungry horde congregated to devour a representative sampling from their menu. Everything we ordered was tasty, but the soup dumplings overshadowed the dishes they consorted with.

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Arguably best known for their Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), we selected three varieties from among six options. These charcoal gray, brooding purses are fabricated from dough fragrant with black truffle, fulfilling my expectations; the soup, secure within, was fine.


Insider’s view of the Truffle Soup Dumplings revealing flecks of truffle peppering the pork.


Chicken Soup Dumplings. The soup brought a touch of spice and ginger to the meat, good contrast to the preceding round.


But the champion of the trio was their classic Steamed Crabmeat and Pork Soup Dumplings, the filling everything you could hope for, the soup surprisingly full-bodied and a bit sweet, the genesis of Nan Xiang’s reputation, and which may very well have been the highlight of our meal.


Pan Fried Pork Buns (aka Sheng Jian Bao) from the Signature Dim Sum section of the menu were top notch.


Four Happiness Kao Fu – braised wheat gluten with bamboo shoots, wood ear and shiitake mushrooms. I admit I’m a sucker for Kao Fu and I was pleased to see the dried lily flowers as a component – no guarantee of that in some versions.


Spicy Bamboo Shoots from the Little Cold Dish section of the menu; a little too chewy, could have benefited from a touch more spiciness.


Beef Tendon in Chili Oil from the same part of the menu. If I had been paying attention, I would have suggested the Spicy Beef and Tripe in peanut chili sauce (fuqi feipian). Next time.


Shanghai Pan Fried Noodle – thick noodles stir fried with bok choy, shredded pork and “house special sauce”. Nice chew, not bad.
 
 

Homemade Pumpkin Pie – 2019

Instagram Post 1/16/2020

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One more from my holiday home cookin’ collection. Believe it or not, it took years to get this Pumpkin Pie recipe right – years, because I only make it biannually so the upgrade opportunities are few and far between. First trick is to use only fresh pumpkin, and the small sugar pumpkins at that – none of that canned stuff. (Yes, I’ve read the propaganda from some who claim that it’s all the same – IMO they know not whereof they speak.) My recipe includes three milks (inspired by tres leches cake): sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream along with brown sugar, eggs, spices, and such. Here, it’s topped with homemade Pecan Brittle and whipped cream.


The view before slicing and adorning. (Yes, I add the pecan brittle at serving time so it doesn’t get icky.) The crust has been another labor of love, intended to evoke the taste of a cinnamon sugar cookie. (Perfect with pumpkin, right?) The flavor is spot-on, but the texture needs a bit more finessing. Ah well, back to the groaning board. 😉
 
 

Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks and Bacon

Instagram Post 1/15/2020

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Okay, you asked for it – and thank you so much for your input! Here’s another home cooked holiday dish (my own recipe once again), Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks and Bacon: layers of Yukon Gold potatoes, crumbled bacon, leeks sautéed in bacon fat 😲, plus heavy cream and seasonings. For some reason everyone tears into this baby first until they finally get around to noticing that there’s turkey on the table. (I suspect their attention is redirected birdward because of the cornbread chestnut stuffing with dried cranberries, currants, aromatics, all the herbs in the Simon & Garfunkel song, and then some. Just not photogenic though, so no photo.)


How it looked fresh out of the oven and before it met its demise at the table.
 
 

Corn Pudding

Instagram Post 1/14/2020

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Never quite got around to posting any home cookin’ from the holidays so here’s one of my favorites. It’s my own recipe (of course) for Corn Pudding, a savory side dish, not a dessert pudding (but there’s a thought there 🤔). Two kinds of corn, fresh off the cob and Cope’s Dried Sweet Corn from Pennsylvania Dutch country plus eggs, cream, butter and other homey ingredients unite to produce this traditional family favorite. Love how some of the fresh snipped chives rise to the top to enhance the golden brown crispy crust.


How it looked in the baking dish pre-ravage.

Serious question: do you want to see more like this?
 
 

Cupid Cheese Fruit Cake

Instagram Post 1/13/2020

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Cupid Cheese Fruit Cake, a relatively new kid on the block, is my new durian gateway drug dealer. Find them in Flushing (of course) in the New York Food Court at 133-35 Roosevelt Ave, Stall 18. The menu touts Regular Durian Pie and a Super Durian Pie that’s even more abundantly filled than the former (you’re lookin’ at it). I was more than pleased. A return visit is in order to sample some of the other flavors – mango, banana, raisin, hawthorn, dragon fruit, and seven fairies – the last two topping my list. Ice Rice is on the agenda as well, but not before I run the table of fruit pies.

I can only imagine what this would be like with a scoop of Flushing Ice Cream Factory’s durian melting on top!
🤤


The #obligatorycheesepull
 
 

Georgian Deli and Bakery

Instagram Post 1/12/2020

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Three delectable beauties from Georgian Deli and Bakery, 2270 86th St in Brooklyn; sometimes the only road to comfort is via homespun baked goods.


Pakhlava (you might see an infinite number of alternate spellings, but Instagram restricts me to 2200 characters) – loaded with chopped walnuts and golden and black raisins, punctuated by white beze (meringue). Pakhlava and baklava share the same Turkic root word but aside from the walnuts the resemblance between them ends there: three layers of rich, sour cream based dough in contrast to multifold sheets of gossamer phyllo leaves with sweetness coming from dried fruit instead of a beehive of honey.


Crescent Cigarette Cake – walnuts and raisins again, cinnamon too, a fairly standard complement for the region. Sufficiently distinct to include here.


Qada (you might see kada) – my absolute favorite of the three. Tight roll, tight crumb; butter, flour, sugar, butter and perhaps an egg yolk (did I mention butter?) – how can something so simple be so delicious? (Oh yeah. Butter. 😉)
 
 

Laut Singapura

Instagram Post 1/9/2020

My dining buddies and I had independently visited Union Square’s Laut, the Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai restaurant, often enough to anticipate that its offspring, Laut Singapura at 31 E 20th St in Manhattan, might hold some promise. My comrades opted for more prosaic fare (more about that in a minute) but my fancy was taken by “Oatmeal Shrimp: crunchy shrimp with oatmeal sand, curry leaf, chili padi (aka Thai chili pepper), and egg floss.”

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Looks like a presentation the chef concocted hoping it would prove Instaworthy, doesn’t it? The huge shrimp were indeed crunchy (head intact, shell on, the way they should be) although the crispy coating didn’t have much character of its own; still, the shrimp per se were fine. In contrast, the bed of oatmeal “sand”, shot through with curry leaves and chili pepper, was piquant and flavorful; that savory sand is a sine qua non of this dish, deployed to complement the more passive shrimp. But it had a fatal flaw: how does one consume this architectural fantasy in public? Perhaps knife and fork to lop off a nubbin of shrimp, then dip it in the…no, the sand won’t adhere to the shrimp. Use my fingers to pinch together a bit of shrimp and a wad of sand, Indian style? Um, no. Eventually, I requisitioned a spoon, scooped up some sand, and topped that with a morsel of shrimp, the better to marry them and ultimately reveal the deliciousness of the dish – but in terms of table manners the maneuver had Emily Post rolling over in her grave.


My collaborators who traveled the more conventional route ordered Spring Rolls and Salad (came with their lunch special),


Murtabak, folded Indian crepe stuffed with ground beef, egg, onion, scallion and chili,


Sambal Belacan, shrimp, eggplant, okra, and onion in a shrimp paste sauce,


and Indian Mee Goreng, sweet and spicy egg noodles with mixed seafood…

…and were unenthusiastic about any of them.

So I put it to you, my friends: have you tried Laut Singapura? What did you order and what were your thoughts?
 
 

Little House Cafe – More Savories

Instagram Post 1/8/2020

Picking up from a few days ago, here are a trio of savory dishes from the remarkable Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens as promised.

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Chow Kueh Teow (you might see char kway teow) is practically a national dish in Malaysia and Singapore but is enjoyed throughout all of Maritime Southeast Asia in innumerable variations. Thick rice noodles along with rice cakes are the foundation accompanied by shrimp, squid, pork and bean sprouts in a rich, dark sauce that is the essence of this stir-fry. Good eats.


Bakwan Udang – an Indonesian treat; deep fried shrimp fritters, crispy on the outside, yielding within. And yes, those are whole shrimp on top, shells and all. (I told you they were crispy!)


Chai Kueh – steamed dumplings with dried shrimp, jicama and carrot.

And as usual, everything we tasted was great!