Feijoa

Instagram Post 7/12/2019

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One of the things I love most about doing ethnojunkets is introducing my food tour guests to international treats they’ve never tasted but soon won’t be able to live without. (That’s what puts the junkie in ethnojunkie 😉.) So I was unusually pleased during a recent jaunt through Brooklyn’s Little Odessa when a participant whose birthplace was Colombia gleefully recognized a favorite fruit in the gourmet produce section of Gourmanoff, an upscale Russian market, that she hadn’t seen locally elsewhere – feijoa. She happily instructed the others in her technique for selecting a ripe one as well as consuming it – which made my job easier!

Also known as “pineapple guava”, “Brazilian guava”, “fig guava” and “guavasteen”, the fruit’s flesh is soft in the center growing firmer and a bit grainier (a little like a pear) approaching its thin green skin. In the same family (Myrtaceae) as the guava but not the same genus, the aroma is almost perfumy. Its flavor is full-bodied and tropical, intensifying nearer the skin which itself can be eaten but has a decidedly different character, floral in nature.

So what was the connection between my exultant Colombian guest and this posh Russian market? Turns out that the feijoa is native to two regions of the world: Colombia (and other parts of South America) and Russia (and former Soviet Union countries)!

🎶 Reunited, and it feels so good! 🎶
 
 

Santol

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! 🙂
 
 

Doña Fela’s Tamales Peruanos

Instagram Post 5/6/2019

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Oh, the myriad food puns I could do about this marvelous treat – but fear not, I won’t. (Feel free to contribute your best in the comments though, if you’re so inclined.)

These are anticuchos, skewers of tender, grilled marinated beef heart that hail from Peru, typically served with papas a la huancaína, slices of boiled potato slathered with a creamy, spicy, yellow pepper (aji amarillo) sauce, shown here with a spibble of spicy salsa to the right of the luscious meat. The name has its roots in Quecha, the indigenous language of the Peruvian Andes: “anti” refers to the Eastern region of the Andes, “kuchu” means cut.

But the best part is that you don’t have to travel to South America to indulge – simply head for Doña Fela’s Tamales Peruanos cart at Roosevelt Ave and 90th St right on the border of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, Queens on weekend afternoons. They serve up other authentic Peruvian delicacies and antojitos as well, like picarones (deep fried doughnuts, only better) and more, but I’m not going to provide a long list here because I want you to focus on their mind-blowingly delicious anticuchos – especially if they’re new to you. They’re one of my absolute favorite street foods and if you like grilled meat, even if you’re not a fan of organ meats, these will win you over.

Okay, just one pun since you saw this one coming anyway: I ❤️ Anticuchos!
 
 

Onion Pockets

Instagram Post 4/1/2019

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Oh by the way….

About a week and a half ago during the Jewish holiday Purim, I wrote about some delicious hamantaschen I found at Queens Kosher Pita & Bakery, 6838 Main St in Flushing. As I was checking out, I spotted a tray of somewhat nondescript looking baked goods lacking any external clues as to their nature. Upon inquiry, I was told that they were Onion Pockets to which my (typical) response was, “Sure. Why not? One please.”

From its outward appearance, I wasn’t expecting much, but as I worked my way through it, it grew on me. The filling was overwhelmingly onion – not much else in there – but the soft, yielding dough was sweet and provided a perfect contrast to its relentlessly savory stuffing. Wish I had asked for more than one.
 
 

Ayoba-Yo

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Part five in a series of reports.

Some folks look forward to the annual celebration of their birthdays or anniversaries; for me it’s the occasion to cover America’s largest food and beverage trade show right here in New York City, Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show. (Check out full coverage and a description of a recent event here.) Aside from the fact that it affords the chance to hob and nob with other professional foodies, see what products and brands are trending and poised to make a breakthrough, and get a sense of what the industry thinks the marketplace is craving, it gives me the opportunity to turn you on to new products to watch for locally or even order online.

South African food doesn’t get enough love but the folks from Ayoba-Yo are changing that; their marketing material states that the term ayoba-yo is used to express amazement, agreement, and approval and they’re hoping that’s how you’ll react when you sample their wares.

At the top of the first photo is biltong, air-dried, grass-fed beef jerky slices: yielding and flaky with a light, tangy seasoning featuring salt, coriander seeds, Worcester powder, pepper, and vinegar; it’s also available in a spicy version with cayenne and chili powder added. The texture falls somewhere between jerky and chipped beef. Because it’s air-dried rather than cooked in some fashion, it’s not fatty or greasy and comes across as rather healthy.

Below the biltong is droëwors, South Africa’s jerky. These beef sticks are drier than the average Slim Jim with a pleasant seasoning that’s not overwhelming; black pepper, cloves, coriander seeds, salt and vinegar figure into the mix.

You can learn more about Ayoba-Yo and order their products at https://www.ayoba-yo.com.
 
 

Leek & Celery Salad – Polish Ethnojunket

Instagram Post 3/23/2019

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I’m still contemplating whether I should add a new neighborhood ethnic food tour to my roster of ethnojunkets, this time through Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a focus on Polish cuisine.

I suspect some folks think that Polish food is rather one note – although a good note to be sure – opining that kielbasa and pierogies can only take you so far. But there’s more to the cuisine than you might realize. Take this bracing Salatka z Porem i Celerem (Leek & Celery Salad). You don’t usually think of leeks in the starring role of a cold salad and their snappy presence here easily serves to awaken a jaded palate. Adds a further touch of excitement to that Kielbasa Wiejska with a dollop of zingy horseradish cream we’ll be sampling along the way.

Curious to learn more about this hearty cuisine? Any Polish food fans out there? Weigh in please! (Poor choice of words, perhaps. 😉)
 
 

Hobak Chaltteok

Instagram Post 2/23/2019

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For an abundance of Korean supermarkets far beyond the handful that Manhattan has to offer, head out to Northern Boulevard in Flushing. One such business, Hanyang Mart, aka H&Y Marketplace, 150-51 Northern Boulevard, is brimming with Korean staples, produce, fresh fish and meats as well as homemade ready-to-eat fare.

While wandering through the store, I noticed this hobak chaltteok; it looked tempting, so I was compelled to purchase it. When you see tteok (sometimes dduk) 떡 on a Korean menu or label, it refers to Korean rice cake. Hobak (호박) means pumpkin, chaltteok (찰떡) means glutinous rice cake; pumpkin seeds usually figure into this #snack for a little texture. Steam to soften (or microwave if you’re careful not to overdo it) and you’ve got what I suspect is a healthy snack: not too sweet with a satisfying chew that should keep you busy for a while.
 
 

Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky

Instagram Post 1/18/2019

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One of the delights of living in NYC is enjoying easy access to our five or six Chinatowns and the culinary treasures they embrace. Tucked away at 95A Elizabeth St is Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky, a tiny shop that delivers big flavor in the form of freshly grilled, delicious jerky – a regularly scheduled stop on my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket. The word “jerky” has its roots in the Andean Quechua language – ch’arki meaning dried, salted meat – and this savory-sweet version is unique. They offer three kinds of meat in two spice levels and two styles.

[1] The first style (and my favorite) comes in the form of slightly charred squares of wonderfully seasoned pulverized chicken, pork, or beef. (Sometimes they have a combo of shrimp and pork – if you see it, get it.) The three varieties are similar in appearance: chicken is slightly pinker than pork which is lighter than beef; the flavors are identifiable – if you’re eating one labeled chicken, you know it’s chicken; the texture is supple (chicken is subtly more tender than beef); and their distinctive seasoning blend is the reason to go here. All three are available in spicy as well as regular designations; “spicy” has a finish with a tiny kick, but well within anyone’s tolerance.

[2] They also make a style that consists of very thinly sliced meat (pork or beef) with seasoning similar to those above, available in spicy and non-spicy recipes as well. In terms of texture, expect a little more resistance – after all, you’re chewing an actual slice of meat. The second photo shows an example of the two side by side.

[3] How it’s done. I can attest from experience that this is a universal favorite; if you’ve never tried their jerky, put it at the top of your to-eat list.

(And remember, subscribing to ethnojunkie.com to receive updates about the latest posts and upcoming tours is a piece of cake. Or easy as pie, perhaps. Just use the Subscribe button on any page!)
 
 

Dating Shop

Instagram Post 12/23/2018

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It was the tiniest of booths in the miniest of malls at 136-37 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing. Its cutesy pink sign purred “Dating Shop”. Not what I – understandably – had speculated, it turned out to be a miniature venue that sold Chinese edibles, a little of this and a wee bit of that. Ironically, Instagram’s geocoding for the diminutive location calls it Flushing Department Store, a rather grand name, but it did hold this great surprise.

I can read enough Chinese to decode 老式大辣片 “Old Fashioned Large Spicy Slice”, a temptation sufficient to make the purchase. Diving into the interwebs, I was able to loosely interpret some other words that alluded to processing methods like natural juice stock and, more important, something like “memories of long ago childhood tastes”.

Beautifully translucent, spicy with a resilient chew, absolutely delicious and a real find IMHO, I have never seen this particular brand of bean curd skin anywhere but Dating Shop despite my best efforts to track it down. My next challenge is to determine how to use it optimally. Yes, it’s delicious just as a straight-ahead snack, but it begs to be rolled around something (sticky rice and cut like Japanese maki?) or sliced into matchsticks and mixed into fried rice; dozens of ideas come to mind. Have any of you seen this brand or do you have some thoughts about culinary treatments?
 
 

Serabi vs Cucur: Battle of the Indonesian Kue

Instagram Post 10/23/2018

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So many kue, so little time, but I was determined to get to the bottom of the puzzle. On a recent visit to the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar at St. James Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, I had purchased some kue (diminutive Indonesian sweets/snacks) from Pecel Ndeso’s booth, but I misidentified them in an earlier post. So I returned, and thanks to extensive discussion with the vendor and then another vendor who sold the same snack under a different name and my Indonesian friends @nigelsie (aka @hellomoonman), @fefeang (owner of the Taste of Surabaya booth at the bazaar), but especially to @erm718 for her detailed descriptions, I think I’ve got it now, to wit:

The first photo is serabi. @erm718 writes, “Serabi making is very similar to American pancake making, where the batter is spread onto a lightly oiled pan, but not flipped.” (See the browned bottom of the kue in the lower right of the photo.) “Traditionally clay pans are used for serabi, but now metal pans are also used.” Holes bubble up on top as the serabi cooks. Variations exist distinguished by the thickness of the kue and the toppings; the one in this photo, serabi basah (basah means wet), came accompanied by a bag of coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar. Thicker than a typical pancake and with a light, fluffy, almost fine-crumb cakey texture, the flavor was enhanced by the addition of a little pandan essence (that’s where the green tinge comes from). Warm, anointed by the sweet coconut milk, the taste intensified; definitely a treat.

The kue shaped like a flying saucer is cucur. @erm718 writes, “Cucur’s batter is poured into lots of hot oil and deep fried; cucur is eaten as is.” There’s a bit of a chewy quality to it, its puffy, airy interior adding to the sensory pleasure; it benefitted from a little warming as well.

Thanks for your help, Elika!

Lots more to come from the bazaar….