Farmers Restaurant – Part 2

Instagram Post 1/9/2019

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More from Farmers Restaurant, 1692 86th St, Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst’s budding Chinatown where the food was delicious and the language barrier insurmountable. I’m certain about the first dish shown here, Crab and Fish Maw Soup. Fish maw is swim bladder, dried and then reconstituted for soup; if you frequent Chinese markets, it’s easy to find in transparent cellophane or plastic packages. It has little flavor of its own, but is quick to take on that of other ingredients. See second photo for a closer look.

Apologies if you are troubled by the sight of disembodied birds’ heads but there’s a carefully placed specimen on our serving of tasty Crispy Fried Pigeon.

Despite the communications difficulties, I’d definitely return to Farmers Restaurant; it was a meal to remember.
 
 

Alsalam Restaurant

Instagram Post 1/8/2019

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Did you know that Fifth Avenue is in Manhattan and 5th Avenue is in Brooklyn? The Bronx and Queens have their own as well, but Brooklyn’s is in our sights today – more specifically, Alsalam Restaurant & Meat Market at 7206 5th Ave in the Middle Eastern Bay Ridge neighborhood. Their awning tells it all: gyros, BBQ chicken, shish kebab, falafel, meat pies, and zaatar “pizza” along with grocery items like cheese, olives, nuts and halal goodies in general – just what you’d hope for and expect ’round these parts.

Here’s their lamb shawarma, a tasty treat enjoyed a few months ago when the weather was more like that of Lebanon – juicy lamb, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, graced with a creamy yogurt sauce (and yeah, I added my own hot sauce! 😉).
 
 

Super HK Food Court

Instagram Post 1/7/2019

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Another visit to Super HK Food Court, 37-11 Main St, Flushing, in the basement of Super HK Supermarket, this time to Stall 21. I didn’t catch the English translation of the name (if it was even there to be caught), but the Chinese characters are 客來勤 (Ke Lai Qin) literally: Customers Come Frequent. That last character can also mean diligent or hard-working; either way, the name is surely aspirational.

[1] This is Fried Fish Belly, not to be confused with fish maw (swim bladder). I’ve had fish belly elsewhere, particularly in some dim sum parlors where I suspect the bellies were from smaller fish since they were significantly more tender than these. Their unanticipated texture is a little difficult to describe – they’re soft but resilient and chewy, not really crunchy (peanuts are crunchy), not really crispy (chips are crispy), but you can easily hear the sound of your tablemates chomping down on them; definitely a tasty dish though.

[2] Braised eggplant, a classic crowd pleaser; they did a good job with this one as well.

Stay tuned for more from the depths of Super HK Food Court….
 
 

Kopitiam

Instagram Post 1/4/2019

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Nonya cuisine came about as the a result of Chinese immigration to Malaysia and Singapore during the 15th through 17th centuries; it’s a happy admixture of Chinese and indigenous Malay cooking with a soupçon of Portuguese, Dutch and British elements tossed in for good measure. Heritage aside, it’s hands-down delicious. The outstanding Kopitiam (Hokkien for “coffee house”) brings this cuisine to their super casual eatery at 151 East Broadway on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

[1] Pandan Chicken – gently seasoned ground chicken formed and swaddled in pandan (aka screwpine) leaf; [2] denuded. Add the browning maillard effect and the permeating flavor of pandan and you’ve got a perfect snack.

[3] Pan Mee – chewy, hand pulled, roughhewn noodles are the star of this anchovy broth that also features crispy fried anchovies, wood ear mushrooms, spinach, and minced pork; [4] droolworthy photo.

[5] Lobak – Five-spice seasoned pork roll wrapped in beancurd sheet and fried. Gotta love it!

[6] Salted Egg Chicken Wings – Wings are always great, of course, but the salted egg condiment is a flight of fancy that sends this snack over the top.

[7] Dessert anyone? Malaysian desserts aren’t overly sweet and these two filled the bill nicely. Pulut Tai Tai (pulut is Malay for glutinous rice) tinted with the suddenly ubiquitous blue morning glory flower (that’s the tai tai part) keeping company with Kuih Lapis, the puffy, thousand layer butter cake touched with cinnamon. Kuih are bite-sized sweets or snacks (spelled kueh in Singapore or kue in Indonesia) and lapis means layers; kaya (delicious coconut egg jam) on the side.
 
 

Chutney’s – Part 4

Instagram Post 1/3/2019

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Feeling the urge to go back to Jersey City for Indian food at Chutney’s, 827 Newark Avenue where everything was wonderful. If you’re a vegetarian (and some of my best friends are 😉) and you like Indian food, you need to go here; no menu scrutiny required – everything is vegetarian and absolutely delicious.

Mount Road Parotta with Salna – listed as a Chef’s Special (and it was special indeed), it’s a multilayered flatbread with a long-cooked tomato curry. I’m told this is a street food in India; if that’s the case, I want to live on that street.

Curd Rice – Curd refers to unsweetened yogurt. So simple: rice that has been steamed beyond the pale with yogurt, mustard seeds and cilantro. Comfort food for sure.

Onion Chili Uthappam – aka uttapham, it only looks like pizza. The batter is similar to that of a dosa, but these are thick as a pancake with (in this case) onion and chili cooked right in the batter.

Punugulu – crispy outside, puffy and pillowy inside, these deep fried treats are made from rice batter and served with chutneys and sambar on the side.
 
 

Farmers Restaurant – Part 1

Instagram Post 1/1/2019

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Every now and then, I pull up a photo of something that was absolutely delicious but that I failed to post about. There was always a good reason for my ostensible lack of diligence and in this case it was a language barrier. Here’s what I can tell you: it was one of the excellent dishes we enjoyed at Farmers Restaurant, 1692 86th St, Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst’s nascent Chinatown, and I’m fairly certain it corresponded to what the menu identified as Sautéed King of Fry with Summer Fruit, a pretty literal translation of 夏果小炒王 (Xia Guo Xiaochao Wang). A Cantonese dish, it combined sweetly fresh seafood, green beans, scallions, macadamia nuts and, I suspect, XO sauce and it was wonderful. In researching, I’ve seen a couple of dubious references to it or something like it in dusty corners of the interwebs but there’s not much else I can tell you since I couldn’t elicit much firsthand information. Still, everything we ate was positively droolworthy and yes, it warrants a return visit.
 
 

Battle of the Baos

Instagram Post 12/28/2018

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Soup dumplings, Xiao Long Bao, XLB, 小笼包, call them what you will, are universally prized regardless of the appellation. Literally “little basket bun” because they are steamed and served in a little basket often made of bamboo, the wrapper encloses a tasty meatball (usually pork), sometimes with the addition of crabmeat and/or crab roe, swimming in a rich broth (usually pork).

Fans champion just the right skins (a little elasticity, not too thick but not so thin that it breaks upon dislodgment from the steamer), just the right filling (flavorful, proper consistency, and moist unto itself), just the right soup (savory and porky, not playing second fiddle to the meat), and just the right ratio of soup to filling. In short, sort of like Goldilocks’ appraisal of Baby Bear’s personal effects: “juuuuuust right.” Shown here are three representatives:

[1] The Bao, 13 St Marks Place in the East Village, sister of Flushing’s Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao
[2] Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown
[3] Diverse Dim Sum, Stall 12 in the New York Food Court, 133-35 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing
[4] A peek inside an example from Joe’s

My original intention was to do a roundup of favorites but there are already enough of those bouncing around the interwebs (along with innumerable treatises on the “right” way to eat them), that I decided that rather than proclaiming a subjective winner (spoiler: there isn’t just one), I’d like to hear from you! Where are the best XLBs in your opinion?

Perhaps a crawl is in the offing!
 
 

B&D Halal Restaurant

Instagram Post 12/27/2018

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B&D Halal Restaurant at 163B W 29th St in Manhattan is a gem. Specializing in West African food, they offer an extensive variety of delicious choices in a steam table format, always the perfect opportunity to taste a bit of a multitude of goodies. You’ll find rice dishes like chebu jen and jollof rice, stews based on okra, peanut, cassava leaf and potato leaf, and a wide variety of hearty preparations featuring goat, lamb, chicken, and fish along with a separate salad bar – more than anyone could sample in a single visit.

[1] Sauces/stews over a starch are a hallmark of West African cooking. This plate (top left moving clockwise) shows okra sauce with an errant zesty beef meatball, okra powder sauce, cassava leaf stew over rice, and peanut sauce over fonio. (By rights, each sauce should accompany a starch.) My sweet, earthy bouye drink (made from baobab fruit) and potent ginger beer (not shown) were righteous beverages.

[2] This admittedly overcrowded plate shows the aforementioned chebu jen (broken rice in a tomatoey sauce to which you add some close-at-hand fish), goat, jollof rice, lamb dibi (grilled lamb) and several chicken and fish selections. And all this was at lunchtime! Different options (including fufu) materialize at dinnertime.

Pro Tip: Go a little after 12pm. That’s when the lunchtime crowd peaks, but it’s also when many more items become available.
 
 

La Newyorkina

Instagram Post 12/26/2018

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Carmen Miranda ain’t got nothin’ on her.

Known for their fruitilicious paletas (ice pops), rich Mexican ice cream, and authentic baked goods, La Newyorkina can now be found at North 3rd St Market, 103 North 3rd St in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (along with seasonal popups and brick and mortar locations in the West Village and Red Hook). That’s where we picked up this “little” postprandial treat – strawberry on top, horchata in a supporting role. ¡Que rico!
 
 

I Eat Lao Food – Ping Seen

Instagram Post 12/22/2018

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Fifty million Instagrammers can’t be wrong! Okay, I’m exaggerating, but every review I’ve seen of I Eat Lao Food, located at North 3rd St Market, 103 North 3rd St in Williamsburg (but only until January 15) is positively glowing. Just like their cuisine.

Here’s Ping Seen – “ping” means grilled, “seen” means meat. Deliciously marinated skirt steak with laotian jeow som, the classic spicy, sour, sweet, salty dipping sauce for grilled meat on the side. Even if you’re neophobic, this dish is universally accessible and is an absolute must. (Well, that is, along with everything else on the menu! 😉)

Okay. That’s it. I’m fresh out of exclamations and exhortations. Just this: If you suffer from FOMO on what might be the best food you’ll taste in 2018, please go there while you still can! All I want for Christmas is to see these folks open up a permanent brick and mortar venue.

I promise to save you a spot in line!