Korean American Day

Korean American Day commemorates the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the United States on January 13, 1903 and honors the contributions the Korean American community has made to this country.

In recognition of the annual January 13th celebration, I offer some pix from Mokbar, the Korean restaurant at 212 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn near Barclays Center. A bit of research reveals that Mokbar is still holding strong at that address and has two locations in Manhattan food courts as well, in Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave) and at the Hugh (601 Lexington Ave & 157 East 53rd St); you can order online from any of them.

Here’s a lookback at what we enjoyed at the Brooklyn venue in 2017 BC (Before COVID).

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From the jipbap (“set menu”), we couldn’t forgo the Jaeyook – crispy pork belly with caramelized kimchi and onions. Easy to see why.

Kalbi Mandu – dumplings filled with marinated beef, caramelized onion, and garlic chives.

Tteokkboki – brown butter rice cakes with bacon, minced pork, white kimchi, and poached egg.

A particularly delicious Ho’ Cake (Mokbar’s spin on hotteok, Korean sweet pancakes); these delights are filled with braised pork belly and served with a kimchi dipping sauce.

Mok Wings – crispy chicken wings with spicy gochujang.

Pajeon – Korean pancakes with charred scallion and garlic chives.


Revisiting Little Lima

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip. Here’s a look back to 2017.

“Little Lima” is a neighborhood in Paterson, NJ that’s home to America’s largest Peruvian community; I make it out there at least once a year for their annual festival (held around the last Sunday of July) because I’m a dedicated fan of the cuisine.

In addition to the festival and its concomitant parade, the restaurants in the area are assuredly worth a visit any time of the year – the cuisine is authentic, unpretentious, and top notch. Back in the day we explored two that didn’t make it to these pages until now.

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You’ll be singing the Cow Cow Boogie when you taste this! (Extra points if you actually know the song.) There are a few varieties of the Peruvian dish Cau Cau; this is the creole version that consists of tripe and boiled potatoes stewed together with onions, garlic, yellow aji pepper paste and a bit of turmeric to further intensify the sunshiny color. Like the next two entrées pictured, it was on the extensive menu at Somos Tu Perù.

Carapulcra, aka carapulca, is an ancient Andean stew made with pork, papa seca (dried potatoes), yuca, yellow aji panca, garlic and spices. The linguaphile corners of my wiseass brain immediately wanted to attribute its name to some portmanteau of the Latin cara (dear) + pulchra (beautiful), but no, not even close. From Wikipedia: “The original term in the Aymara language is qala phurk’a, which means a stew made with hot stones.” Nice try, though.

Patasca, hominy soup. You can spot tripe on the right and hominy throughout.

This is tiradito from El Rincon De Vanessa. It’s one of many ways Peru does raw fish and it’s not at all like ceviche, arguably Peru’s national dish. For tiradito, the fish is sliced thin like carpaccio, for ceviche it’s cut into chunks; ceviche is marinated in citrus juice that “cooks” the fish, tiradito is raw like sashimi (as a matter of fact, it has its roots in Japan) and is covered just before serving under a blanket of yellow aji pepper paste. Traditionally, it’s served with sweet potatoes and choclo – boiled, plump, Peruvian kernels of corn. It’s delicious and if you’re a raw fish fan, you should definitely try it. If you’re not a raw fish fan, you should definitely try it as well; it might just change your mind.
Rather than listing a bunch of individual links to other relevant posts that have been published here, the Peruvian tag will display them and will save you a good deal of clicking back and forth.
In Paterson, New Jersey, El Rincon De Vanessa is located at 28 Cianci St. and about 2½ blocks away, you’ll find Somos Tu Perù at 94 Market St (with an additional location at 270 Union Ave).

Don’t Let This Happen To You!

Because it’s ’tis the season, I recently found myself in a harried shopping frenzy running from one store to another in disparate parts of town overwhelmed because I was trying to fit too much into one day when I suddenly became aware that I was famished since I’d been at it for hours so I grabbed a quick bite from whatever was closest at the moment and got halfway through it when I abruptly realized that the worst had happened.

I had neglected to take a picture of my lunch.

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So here’s what was left of my karaage from Shokusaido in Industry City’s Japan Village, 946 3rd Ave, Brooklyn.
This one goes out to all of my fellow food freaks who obsessively photograph and post pictures of everything they put in their mouths. (Well, almost everything.)

Ring any bells, friends? (And I don’t mean the kind that jingle.) Your comments, please!

East Harbor Seafood Palace

It’s been a minute. Dim sum from East Harbor Seafood Palace, 714 65th St in Sunset Park, Brooklyn – all equally delicious. Last photo was taken mid-stream, just after as many empty plates had been cleared.

It is said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, so now I don’t have to write (and you don’t have to read) 10,000 words! 😉

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Mott Street Eatery 98 Food Court – Part One

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I made it to the soft opening of Mott Street Eatery 98 Food Court at 98 Mott Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown on November 11; the Grand Opening was on the 12th. Only two of the twelve stalls were set up, Domo Sushi, which featured nigiri, maki and such along with an omakase option, and 89 Eatery, the sprawling anchor, teeming with hungry patrons when I visited.

Between my spookomaki and the kuromame for the nattophobic posts, I’ve been eating a lot of Japanese food lately, so today’s choice would be Chinese without further deliberation.

I’ll cut to the chase: everything I tasted was truly outstanding – and considering I had just enjoyed great dim sum for lunch in Sunset Park less than a week ago (post coming soon), that’s saying a lot.

They offer 35 kinds of dim sum…

…25 varieties of soups and congee with you tiao (Chinese crullers) and additional meats available to accompany them…

…and 16 items in the BBQ section along with mix ‘n’ match selections.

Where to begin? I chose three of my favorites from among the impressive array of dim sum, all of which were remarkable:

Chaozhou Dumplings (aka fun guo), fresh from the steamer, featuring peanuts and bursting with crunchy vegetables. Top notch.

The inner workings.

XO Sauce Pork Rice Roll. This was made as a special order with a wait of just a few minutes, and it was also excellent. I’ve often seen XO sauce touted on a menu but not readily apparent in the dish; in this case there was no question. And as you can see, plenty of pork.

The inner workings.

Bean Curd Sheet with Pork. Definitely a fan.

The inner workings.

Of course, I’ll come back for the congee and BBQ – and for the eleven other stalls as they get going. This is definitely my idea of fun.

Stay tuned for Part Two – lots more to come!
And most important, I’ll say it again: Here is another delicious opportunity for all of us to do the right thing – now, more than ever, please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!

Yemen Café

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

I pulled up this post because a friend mentioned that I had often sung the praises of Yemen Café’s remarkable Lamb Haneeth – so while it’s fresh in my mind, here are a few photos from one of my group visits taken back in May, 2017.

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If you bring a large group to Yemen Café, 176 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, and everyone wants to order the delectable slow roasted Lamb Haneeth (and really, that’s the point), you can prevail upon them to bring out an enormous platter of lamb and rice as you see here. Note that every cut is different, but all are unbelievably tender and equally delicious. It’s their most popular dish and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll understand why.

With a single order, you won’t get to choose your cut, but it’s guaranteed to be a treat.

The Kibdah appetizer was excellent as well; sautéed lamb liver with onions and tomatoes served with hot clay-oven bread that, alas, didn’t make it into this picture.
Yemen Café has two locations: 176 Atlantic Ave and 7130 5th Ave, both in Brooklyn.

Leticia’s Ecuadorian Restaurant

Maybe it was because on that day I had eaten less than I should have and walked farther than I should have carrying more than I should have on less sleep than I should have gotten the night before. Maybe.

Emotionally, it was a little surreal – like a scene in a French New Wave film from the late 50s, underscored with that quaint, quirky, quintessentially European music that telegraphs an atmosphere of utter happiness and convivial hyperfamiliarity, music that gets louder just before everything starts to get strange.

The weather was perfect for outdoor dining that day. “A drink to start?” asked our cheerful-as-a-Disney-bluebird server as if we were regulars or on some level had known each other forever. The menu listed one of my favorites. “Horchata, please,” I requested, expecting either the creamy white rice drink or the opaque, grayish jicaro-based beverage. She quickly returned with a semi-translucent vividly pinkish-purple (or possibly purplish-pink) citrusy libation and disappeared before I had a chance to inquire.

Surreal is when the unfamiliar happens in familiar surroundings.

An animated manager-type emerged as out of a trippy mid-last-century flick, ever so eager and more than happy to help us, his newest old friends, with ordering from the extensive menu. “But first,” I asked, “this is horchata?” He accommodatingly explained that it was Ecuadorian horchata, horchata lojana to be precise, an herbal drink made from a combination of flowers and herbs: lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon balm – that explains the citrusy notes – mint and chamomile to name just a few of the ingredients. Horchata can blush: we live, we learn.

The pageant of surreal delight continued: the diner behind me excitedly exhorting a curious sidewalk passerby to come in and try the delicious food, she eats there all the time (turns out she lives just upstairs), and here are her recommendations; the couple seated catty-corner to me (he spoke only Spanish, she had some English), overheard as she was enthusiastically and sibilantly demonstrating an English plural for his edification: “Say beanssss.” These days, it doesn’t take much to bring a smile to my face. “This place engenders joy!” I thought aloud, caught up in the aura.

Enough about the ebullient ambiance. You want to know about the food, don’t you?

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Leticia’s had been recommended by a friend for their Chaulafan – a cognate of Chinese chao fàn, fried rice – and it was excellent. Ecuadorian style fried rice with shrimp, chicken, beef, vegetables, eggs, onions, bell peppers, and sliced avocado on top paired with sweet plantain under a hillock of cheese sauce. The surreal part? Its ceramic serving vessel was so cleverly designed to look like a Chinese take-out food container that it made Andy Warhol’s famous artwork seem like just another advertisement for Campbell’s Soup.

Tres Chanchitos (translation: three little piggies). A trio of succulent meats featuring hornado – perfectly cooked slow roasted pork (note the crown of crispy skin), fritada – juicy fried pork ribs, and chorizo – Ecuadorian sausage, served with pickled onions and tomatoes, mote (aka hominy, or corn on steroids) and chulpi (aka maiz tostado, or corn nuts). “Chanchito” also refers to a three-legged pig (surreal again), a good luck talisman and the shape of many molcajetes (including mine).

So there you have it. In some restaurants the charming staff and the ambiance make it unique, in some the food is absolutely on point; Leticia’s delivers both and manages to go far beyond just special – like I said, the place engenders joy.

You already know that I’m going back. I wouldn’t be surprised if I run into you there. Because after all, surreal is when the unfamiliar happens in familiar surroundings.
Leticia’s is located at 40-32 National Street (at 103rd St just off Roosevelt Ave) in Corona, Queens.

Chinese Fried Pancake – Preserved Egg Sausage

In my last post, I wrote about Chinese Fried Pancake at 136-55 Roosevelt Ave and their humongous Mixed Grain Fried Pancake. (Correct me if I’m wrong but I think they opened sometime around November in 2020 when I was laying low.) Their signage for Preserved Egg Sausage caught my eye.

I’ve had a lot of experience with – and am a fan of – Chinese preserved eggs (aka century eggs, hundred year old eggs, thousand year old eggs, millennium eggs – do I hear epoch eggs?). When eggs are preserved in this fashion, they develop an intense flavor and aroma, the yolk turns a grayish green color with a creamy consistency, and the white becomes a gelatinous translucent brown. But I had never seen them in a sausage format.

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They’re sold as a pair of links, 8 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter; for this photo, I left one whole and propped up a cross section of its twin for display. In terms of taste, I was surprised that it was devoid of any unpleasant sulphurous/ammonia overtones often associated with the original; in my opinion it was quite tasty and not completely out of bounds for the average Western palate.

The bluish grey body of the sausage has the texture of a regular hardboiled egg and is a little salty but not overly so; I’m honestly not certain what goes into the making of it. (Possibly regular egg white with something that alters the color?) Embedded within that are bits of century egg yolk that have the creamy, slightly textured quality of hardboiled egg yolk, and bits of amber century egg white.

Closeup of a slice in what passes for normal lighting in my apartment. You can see the century egg yolk near the top and the century egg white near the bottom.

Closeup of the same slice, rotated counterclockwise and backlit, because I love that color.

So aside from playing with it, I used it in the context of congee laced with chunks of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and scallions.

You know me: always looking for something different. This counts. 😉

Chinese Fried Pancake – Mixed Grain Fried Pancake

Flashback to a couple of months ago when I set out to reconnoiter the changes in Flushing that had occurred during my pandemically enforced quarantine. The escalator was being refurbished that day, so I speedily clambered up the subway stairs with a plan to cover as much territory as possible and a list of new (to me) places to check out, keenly aware that I’d better keep moving, sharklike, if I wanted to fulfill my mission.

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But practically at the top of the staircase, I spotted Chinese Fried Pancake at 136-55 Roosevelt Ave – not on my list, but certainly enticing. Hurriedly, I ordered their signature Mixed Grain Fried Pancake; I requested the “regular” which contained egg, “crisp”, scallion, cilantro, lettuce, preserved mustard greens, and black sesame seeds. But in my haste to cleave to my schedule, I had completely missed the part of the menu listing the available add-ons including tofu skin, shredded potatoes, pork floss, nori, spicy gluten, New Orleans (really?) boneless chicken leg, Spam, Taiwanese sausage, bacon, ham sausage, and more which would have undoubtedly elevated the experience. I definitely need to go back and do some customization.

In any event, it was huge, almost unwieldy, and very filling – but certainly not the way I had intended to start a day of eating my way through Flushing’s Chinatown.

They offer quite a selection of other dishes as well like popcorn chicken, grilled squid, stinky tofu and Dongbei cold noodle to mention some of the more appealing options.

Unfurled, revealing inner workings – telltale post-bite scallopy fringe in evidence along bottom.

But there was also signage for something even more intriguing called Preserved Egg Sausage that I knew would be a prime candidate for some domestic examination when time wasn’t at a premium.

Stay tuned to see what happened next….

Fat Cat Flatbread

Prowling around what remains of Flushing’s food court scene with an eye toward revitalizing my ethnojunket there, I visited Fat Cat Flatbread, stall #6 in the New York Food Court at 133-35 Roosevelt Ave.

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As you might infer, their sole menu item is freshly made flatbread, at once crispy at the edges and yielding within, perhaps a little like a thin pizza crust; it’s available in seven varieties: pork, black pepper beef, preserved vegetable with pork, BBQ chicken, salted egg yolk & pork floss, maple sugar (really?), and red bean. Since I’m a salted egg yolk fan, I opted for that one. It was tasty, if a little monotone, and certainly more of a snack than anything else.

I wish I had chosen a different filling that might have held the promise of a heartier treat, but I imagine this is something you want to consume hot and fresh and the thought of downing two of them on the spot was daunting. There’ll be a next time.

Freshly prepared – scored…

…and folded.