Asian Bowl – Part 2

Instagram Post 3/7/2019

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In yesterday’s post, I effused about Asian Bowl, 101-11 Queens Blvd in Forest Hills, arguably the best Burmese restaurant currently in NYC. This is one of the very few restaurants where I am compelled to work my way through the entire menu – the Burmese side of it, that is.

[1] Latphat Thoke. Latphat (you may see lahpet or other spellings) are fermented tea leaves; thoke (pronounced toke with a clipped K) is a salad. It’s a popular Burmese dish and one of my all-time favorites. As a matter of fact, a few years ago I wrote about my idiosyncratic trials and tribulations in developing a recipe for it here called “One Thoke Over the Line”. Asian Bowl’s rendition was very good; I do wish they had used a heavier hand with the tea leaves – perhaps a shortage that day? – but that’s a personal preference. Nonetheless, it was delicious: a foundation of cabbage and tomatoes decked out with crunchy dried fava beans and soy beans, spiked with bird peppers and fresh garlic and the titillating funk of fermented tea leaves in a tangy dressing. Do it.

[2] For a change of pace, try the Sechat Khauk Swal, a simply seasoned but tasty wheat noodle dish with chicken and scallions. I asked John, the owner, what sort of noodles were in the dish – thick? thin? flat? round? Fishing for the right descriptive words, he grabbed the rubber band that had been girding the morning’s mail. “Like this!” he grinned. Visual aid to the rescue!

More to come tomorrow.

Major h/t to Joe DiStefano (chopsticksandmarrow.com) and Dave Cook (eatingintranslation.com).
 
 

Asian Bowl – Part 1

Instagram Post 3/6/2019

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Promise me that you’ll disregard the restaurant’s pan-Asian sounding name. Promise me that you’ll ignore the fact that the menu still lists sushi rolls and General Tso’s Chicken to attract the local lunch crowd. But above all, promise me that you’ll go to Asian Bowl, 101-11 Queens Blvd in Forest Hills, because that’s where you’ll find some of the very best Burmese food in New York City right now. John, the new owner, will happily answer your questions about menu items (yes, you’ll have questions), and Aye, his wife who does all the incredible cooking, will ensure your return with her remarkable range.

[1] Pa Zun Chin Thoke. A thoke is a Burmese salad and the cuisine has many to offer. Pa zun means shrimp, chin means sour, and this fermented shrimp salad, served cold, is undoubtedly authentic. A little spicy with a delicious mild funkiness, it’s an amazing assemblage of textures and flavors playing against each other that come together with every bite.

[2] You might even find a few unfamiliar ingredients lurking within like this pickled crosne (pronounced krone, rhymes with bone). Don’t be startled by its appearance; it’s just a Chinese artichoke and it’s yummy.

[3] Fried Beef with Spicy, as the menu reads. When this hit the table, it looked like it might be a chewy, dry jerky similar to Nepalese sukuti. Nope. A little crispy on the outside, but tender on the inside with a medium spice level and surrounded by caramelized onions, it was another winner.

Trust me, you don’t want to miss Asian Bowl. Order from the Curry and Group A à la carte sections of the menu along with some clearly identified soups, and you’ll be as blown away we were on that frosty afternoon.

I promise.

More to come tomorrow.

Major h/t to Joe DiStefano (chopsticksandmarrow.com) and Dave Cook (eatingintranslation.com).
 
 

More Mitsuwa

Instagram Post 3/4/2019

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In addition to the specialty shops and restaurants that accompany their extensive selection of Japanese packaged and prepared foods, Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ plays host to a series of promotional events. Currently, for example, three exhibitors from Japan are presenting bespoke Japanese sweets, premium dashi (Japanese soup stock), and luxurious seafood bento. The products are available for a limited time at the store and, I was told, once they go back to Japan, so does the opportunity to sample them locally.

Marumasa, hailing from Yamanashi Prefecture, featured a regional style of fried chicken (kara-age) along with other deep fried snacks. This set included [1] fried shrimp nestled within onigiri (rice balls) which were excellent and [2] chicken that would have been good had it not suffered from being out of the oil for too long rendering it cold and a bit greasy, an uncommon happenstance I was told.

[3] A fixture among Mitsuwa’s restaurants, Tendon Hannosuke specializes in tempura bowls. Shown here is the Original Tempura Plate with whitefish, two shrimp, soft-boiled egg, nori and vegetables.

If you’re into Japanese cuisine, cooking, and culture, Mitsuwa Marketplace is worth the short bus ride across the river for a few hours of exploration and dining. And if you have a little extra time, there’s a bookstore (Kinokuniya) and a home décor emporium (Little Japan USA) right nearby. (PS: Don’t miss the creamy, delicious soft-serve which we gobbled too hastily to photograph!)
 
 

Asmau Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/2/2019

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Another stop along our Bronx West African food crawl captained by Dave Cook from eatingintranslation.com some months ago was Asmau Restaurant at 1460A Boston Rd in Foxhurst. They serve up some fine Ghanaian food and we were keen to sample whatever they had to offer that day. In no particular order, that afternoon’s indulgences included:

[1] Egusi soup, always tasty, thickened with crushed melon seeds and served here with chicken.

[2] Peanut butter sauce (or peanut soup) with beef.

[3] Tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[4] All of the above are incomplete without some kind of fufu; that’s what turns these sauces, soups and stews into a meal. As with all West African doughy starches, you pinch off a bit, dip it into the delectable soup or sauce, and enjoy – really hands-on cuisine! From the bottom moving clockwise, here are omo tuo, banku and corn fufu. Omo tuo is made from rice cooked with more than the usual amount of water; that technique produces softer grains which are then pounded and shaped into a ball. It works particularly well with peanut stew or soup. Banku is a fermented variety made from cassava sometimes blended with corn; we paired it with the egusi soup. The corn fufu worked well coupled with the tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[5] Black eyed peas and plantains, no explanation needed, but so good!

[6] Chicken soup with vegetables.

I admit to being a major fan of West African food; it differs from nation to nation so if you haven’t tried any yet, there’s plenty to keep you busy in every borough of New York City. Keep following my posts to see more!
 
 

Bravo African Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/1/2019

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Some months ago, a group of us led by the redoubtable Dave Cook of eatingintranslation.com fame joined in a West African food crawl through the Bronx stopping at Bravo African Restaurant, 1473 Westchester Ave in Soundview, for these two Senegalese dishes.

[1] The first, Ceebu Yapp (you might see thiebou yapp), literally rice with meat, in this case grilled lamb, is a classic dish served here with an oniony gravy over a bed of broken rice, all the better to drink up the juices. Was it a coincidence that the three most colorful items on the platter, green bell pepper, yellow corn, and red scotch bonnet just happen to match the colors of the 🇸🇳 Senegalese flag?

[2] So many names for this hearty West African staple: Mafé (or maafe or maffe) is peanut (or peanut butter or groundnut) stew (or soup depending upon its viscosity) otherwise known as sauce d’arachide, tigadèguèna or domoda (depending upon your whereabouts). Its tomato base was underpinned with beef, carrots and potatoes and, to my palate, bore a striking resemblance to another West African favorite, palm nut soup, but peanutty for sure. The spice level can vary from one recipe to the next, but by any name it’s always a crowd pleaser!
 
 

Vatan – Part 2

Instagram Post 2/28/2019

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If for some reason it were necessary for me to go vegetarian, I could handle it thanks to the cuisine of India: so many types of preparations infused with so many herbs and spices in so many combinations create what feels like a boundless array of choices. It’s a cuisine that can be both subtle (the distinction between types of dal for instance) and overwhelmingly intense in the same bite. You can partake of this palate pleasing panoply at Vatan, the exceptional all-you-can-eat vegetarian Indian restaurant at 409 3rd Ave in Manhattan. My friend and fellow Instagrammer @gustasian invited me to join her for dinner in the transcendental dining room (see yesterday’s post) where your server delivers courses from a set menu; you can request additional helpings of any item that was appealing.

The entrée thali (see second photo for labels):
• Toor Dal – boiled lentils cooked with Indian spices
• Kheer – rice pudding with dried fruits
• Chole – chickpeas cooked with garam masala, an Indian spice blend
• Ful-Gobi – cauliflower and green peas sautéed in a savory sauce
• Bhaji – sautéed spinach and corn
• Batakanu Sak – potatoes cooked in a mild red gravy
• Papadam – thin lentil wafers
• Puri – puffed whole wheat bread
• Roti – whole wheat flatbread

[3] The entrée complements:
• Khadi – soup with yogurt and besan (chickpea flour) with aromatic spices
• Khichdi – lentils with rice and assorted vegetables
• Pulao – rice with (undercover) peas

[4] We also ordered Rotla, a Gujarati specialty: flatbread served with classic embellishments of ghee, garlic chutney, and jaggery (palm sugar) and yes, they did work together. Dessert was Indian ice cream, gulab jamun (fried dough in sweet syrup), and masala chai.

Vatan is a delicious unique experience both for the food and the atmosphere; I highly recommend it, especially à deux.
 
 

Vatan – Part 1

Instagram Post 2/27/2019

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Vatan is as much about the experience as it is about the food – and the food is excellent. Vatan (वतन) is the Hindi word for motherland and the decor, presided over by Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom, good luck, and the remover of obstacles, is calculated to transport you to a Gujarati thatch-roofed hut where you relax and enjoy all the delicious vegetarian food you can eat served by a helpful, friendly guide. If you’d like more of something, simply ask and it will appear on your table. I was invited to dine there by my friend and fellow Instagrammer, the amazin’ @gustasian, whose presence made the event all the more memorable. 🙏

In this post we’ll examine the appetizers, varied and delectable (see second photo for labels):
• Sev Puri – crispy shells filled with potatoes, green gram (mung) beans, yogurt and chutney
• Ragda Patis – potato cutlet in white bean sauce
• Samosa – savory pastries filled with spicy potatoes and onion
• Muthia – steamed flour with spinach
• Chana Masala – garbanzo beans with onions and coriander
• Khaman – puffed cream of wheat flour cakes similar to dhokla
• Mirchi Bhajia – fried hot peppers with garam masala
• Batata Vada – fried potato balls in chickpea flour batter

Third photo: the accompanying chutneys (clockwise from 10:00)
• Carrot Sambharo (mustardy!)
• Fried Garlic
• Mango Chutney
• Tamarind Date Chutney
• Cilantro Chutney

And that’s just the dazzling first course! Stay tuned for more from Vatan, 409 3rd Ave in Manhattan.
 
 

Legend Chicken

Instagram Post 2/25/2019

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Seems like I always discover tremendous treats in the teeniest mini-malls when I visit Flushing; Legend Chicken, tucked away in stall number 2 (of only 4!) at 135-15 40th Road in Queens, is a notable case in point. They obviously take pride in offering cage-free, hormone-free, halal-certified poultry, but the fact that all their Taiwanese street food is truly delicious and cooked to order is what won me over. Three examples:

[1] Leg Cutlet prevailed over Legend Pops and Legend Chicken in the “which one should we get” deliberation. Tasty – and there’s always a Next Time to try the others.

[2] Blood Rice Cakes. Don’t be shy, you might like ’em. You won’t know until you try.

[3] Hashbrowns. Your comfort zone reward for trying the blood rice cakes 😉.

There are additional chicken variations on the surprisingly extensive menu along with specialties like Taiwanese sausages, taro and turnip cakes, Venetian tofu and a few items I had to ask about: amid avian accessories like gizzards, necks and hearts, spades made the cut. Nope, not card suits. Turns out those are tails, aka the Pope’s nose, aka the part that goes over the fence last. The real deal.
 
 

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Instagram Post 2/24/2019

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Having to shop at IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn is always a good excuse to take a side trip to Hometown, the top notch Bar-B-Que restaurant at 454 Van Brunt St. The sound system treated us to a superbly curated mix of oldies that harmonized with the cold beer I was clutching and made the long wait tolerable: plenty of time to peruse the menu. Gotta get the pastrami bacon, gotta get the lamb belly, gotta get the brisket. Lip-smackin’ good. In other words, the Real Thing.

Speaking of side trips, our sides were coleslaw, potato salad, mac & cheese, cornbread, and collard greens. Yum. More of the Real Thing.

Problem was, I had too much time to study the menu. Korean sticky ribs? Vietnamese hot wings? Did somebody say ethnic food?

That day, I learned my lesson to never stray: you don’t order seafood at an upscale steak house and you don’t order ethnic food at a rustic locale called Hometown. Want mouthwatering fulfillment? You want the Real Thing.

Over the sound system as we were leaving, Marvin and Tammi broke into their Top 10 hit from 1968.
 
 

Mango Mango Dessert

Instagram Post 2/23/2019

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With a name like Mango Mango Dessert, you know what you’re getting yourself into before you even enter. This chain of franchised Hong Kong style dessert and ice cream shops features a multitude of mango desserts of course, but do check the menu for other specialties like mille crepes (the popular thousand layer treat) as well as coconut, durian and other tropical goodies. Four of us descended upon the 136-28 39th Ave location in Flushing and sprung for the Mango Combos A and B.

[1] Combo A included (left to right): special mango juice, sago (tapioca) and pomelo with mango ice cream, three mango mochis, and snow white juice (coconut) with mango and black rice.

[2] Combo B comprised a pair of mango pancakes, mango juice and glutinous rice balls with ice cream, and snow white and mango juice with sago and pomelo with ice cream.

You got a jones for mango? You know where to go, man.