Oy Benne!

Instagram Post 6/22/2019

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I’m not certain about the linguistic prowess of the folks from Oy Benne!, the Queen’s Night Market Italian-Jewish comfort food vendor, but I am certain about their cooking prowess. “Oy”, of course, is a Yiddish interjection, but were they trying for the Italian “Bene” meaning good? I was so taken with their culinary concept that I neglected to ask.

[1] Their gastronomic fusion idea is not lost in translation, however. Matzo Brei is a savory dish made from softened pieces of matzo soaked in beaten eggs and fried, the Jewish kitchen’s answer to French toast if you will. Traditionally accompanied by sour cream and applesauce, here it gets a sweet bacio from Italy by swapping in ricotta for the sour cream and cherry preserves for the applesauce, along with a few other tweaks to the canonical recipe.

[2] At the Queen’s Night Market press event, Oy Benne was featuring chopped chicken liver made with duck fat instead of schmaltz (chicken fat), unexpectedly served with a sweet, fruity topping. Matzo never had it so good. Check the QNM schedule to see when they’ll be there next.

Che geshmak!


Instagram Post 6/21/2019

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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, 68-12 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 kanafeh, give this one a try (available particularly around Ramadan); I highly recommend it.

Sabor Ecuatoriano Bakery – Humitas de Maiz

Instagram Post 6/19/2019

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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.

Chao Thai – Grilled Sausages

Instagram Post 6/18/2019

So since I was in Elmhurst, I went to Chao Thai, the tiny Thai restaurant at 85-03 Whitney Ave. Just for kicks, I ordered the two grilled pork sausages offered on their appetizers menu: Northern Thai Sausage (A21) and E-San Thai Sausage (A22) with an eye toward delineating a simple distinction between the two for anyone curious. Both come with lettuce, sliced onion, shredded ginger, and the slender Thai peppers often called bird’s eye chilies.

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They’re very different, of course: Northern Thai Sausage (ไส้อั่ว), transliterated as “sai oua” and similar variants, highlights spicy notes of red curry paste.

E-San Thai Sausage, (E-San refers to Northeastern Thailand and also sports many spellings like “Isan”) is called “sai krok Isan” (ไส้กรอกอีสาน) and can be distinguished by its fermented flavor profile.

My understanding is that “sai” which appears in both names, among its many definitions means intestine in this case – or casing if you prefer 😉.

Which is better? Depends on what you’re in the mood for (you knew I was going to say that) but if I were introducing someone to Thai sausage for the first time, I’d probably opt for the sai oua only because for a newbie, spice is usually easier to get past than funk!


Instagram Post 6/17/2019

My quest to eat my way through the new HK Food Court in Elmhurst, Queens at 82-02 45th Ave continues. It’s not born of gluttony, I assure you. One of the goals of my food tours is to present guests with unusual and delicious examples of international treats from the neighborhood, and the only way I can do that authoritatively is to experience a wide variety of what’s available myself. Hey, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it! 🐷

Khawachen presents the cuisine of Tibet, certainly a welcome change of pace in any food court. If the video tout heralding the stall looks familiar, I believe it hails from the original Lhasa Fast Food in Jackson Heights – you know, Queens’ worst kept food secret – because of the ownership link between the two.

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Lamb Thenthuk Fried. Hand-pulled thumb-sized wheat noodles (also available in soup), sautéed with peppers and onions. The accompanying condiments were a good idea. If you like thick, chewy noodles, you’ll be happy with these. If you don’t…really?

[1] Fried Beef Momos were distinguished and tasty.

[2] The obligatory peek-a-boo shot.

More to come from HK Food Court soon.

Mr. Liu Henan Wide Ramen – Big Squid

Instagram Post 6/15/2019

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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.


Instagram Post 6/14/2019

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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

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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? 😐

Chinese-Korean Dumplings & Noodle

Instagram Post 6/10/2019

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An irresistible presentation of lacy pan-fried dumplings from Chinese-Korean Dumplings & Noodle (aka Joong Han Boon Sik), stall number 30 in the New World Mall Food Court, 136-20 Roosevelt Ave, one of the stops on my Flushing food court ethnojunket. Choose from among thirteen varieties including pork & fennel as well as pork, shrimp, sea cucumber, cabbage & crabmeat (which I need to return for). These were lamb and luscious; even the side of cabbage was tasty. Too pretty to eat – but somehow that didn’t stop me! 😉

Want a taste? Check out my ethnic neighborhood food tours! Click here to learn more.

Doshirak Box

Instagram Post 6/9/2019

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Dosirak (도시락), in Korea, denotes a lunchbox kind of meal, packed up and ready to travel, their often compartmentalized grab-n-go version of Japanese bento boxes. Doshirak Box, in Flushing, is the name of a shiny new Korean place at 136-31 Roosevelt Ave suitable for a quick snack or takeout. (The syllable “si 시” is pronounced “shi” in Korean.) I landed there on the first day of their soft opening – that’s code for they didn’t yet have everything on their incredibly extensive menu of about 75 items. After striking out a couple of times, I went for the kimbap (김밥), Korea’s version of Japanese maki; kim (you might see gim) refers to the nori wrapper and bap means cooked rice.

I’ve always been a fan of kimbap – to my mind there’s something picnicky and informal about it. I chose the Spicy Tuna with Perilla Leaves: pickled daikon, carrots, perilla leaves (akin to shiso leaves popular in Japanese cuisine), and spicy tuna salad. In my experience, tuna kimbap is always made with canned tuna, not the raw, chopped, kicked-up tuna you may know from similar Japanese rolls, and this one is true to form. Maybe that’s why it seems picnicky and informal to me.