Luky Duck

Thai desserts (khanom thai) are sweet but not overly so, light, and delicious. Generally, they draw from a limited repertoire of ingredients but those are mixed and matched and combined and presented in a wide array of variations. Sticky rice, jackfruit, mango and other tropical fruits, pumpkin custards, pandan, sweet egg yolk threads boiled in syrup, and black beans and mung beans and corn (oh, my!) make their way into puddings, jellies, soupy concoctions, tiny cakes, candies, and a host of other delights.

One popular dessert is look choop (you may run across it as luk chup or any number of other transliterations) which look similar to shiny marzipan but taste nothing like it. The process is painstaking: soak and boil mung beans, sweeten with coconut milk and sugar, cook it down, mold or shape into miniature vegetable or fruit shapes, paint with food coloring, then glaze with agar-agar (like gelatin, but stiffer), and the result is something perfectly precious that looks too good to eat. (Little wonder that these were formerly served exclusively to royalty.)

Elmhurst’s sweetly named Sugar Club is my hands-down favorite market for khanom thai (as well as for outstanding prepared foods as good as you’ll find in any Thai restaurant). Recently, I was perusing their dessert case and, desperately struggling to restrain myself from buying one of each, decided that I’d better choose just one – but which? Out of the corner of my eye, I spied what at first I thought might be a children’s toy: a little yellow duck. What’s that doing in the dessert case? But a closer inspection disabused me of that notion – it was look choop molded in the shape of a classic rubber ducky floating atop a sea of green gelatin!

Look ChoopDucky 1Ducky 2
So deciding which dessert to choose was easy: look choop ducky, you’re the one!

Sugar Club
8118 Broadway
Elmhurst, NY

Boffo Bofe

I received my marching orders for the Panamanian Day Parade in time to beat the band of revelers. The colorful annual procession in Crown Heights stretches along Franklin Avenue north of Eastern Parkway, but I, typically, was drawn to the food vendors clustered south of it along Classon Avenue – a sensible arrangement given the size of the jubilant throng lining the parade route.

Amid the dishes you might expect – pernil, fried fish, oxtail, arroz con pollo, stew chicken, curry chicken, BBQ chicken (you get the idea), and numerous variations on plantains and empanadas – there were a number of Panamanian specialties that caught my eye (as well as my appetite). Pictured below are cow foot soup, bofe, and chicheme. (Click to enlarge.)

Cow Foot SoupBofeChicheme
Cow foot soup is a thick, comforting dish with chunks of corn, potatoes, and assorted other vegetables and herbs that was absolutely delicious. (Don’t let the “cow foot” part put you off. Soup begins with water and bones, right?) It can be found throughout the Caribbean.

On the other hand (foot?) I’ve only found bofe (rhymes with snowday) on Panamanian menus and recipes for it on the web are scarce. Bofe is beef lung. I think the idea of it may be more daunting than the taste itself, which is milder than most offal. There were several renditions of it at the festival, but all were served with fried bread called hojaldre (from the Spanish word hoja meaning leaf) which, in my opinion, is the perfect accompaniment.

Wash it down with chicheme, a creamy, sweet, corn-based beverage enhanced with evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. Redolent of cinnamon and vanilla, it’s served hot and is vaguely reminiscent of Mexican atole.

The Panamanian Day Parade is always held on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. If you’ve never tasted Panamanian fare, jump on the bandwagon to next year’s festivities!


Now Boarding! (October 31, 2015)

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Join me on the maiden voyage of my Bay Ridge ethnojunket on Saturday, October 31 at 1:00pm as we hit the culinary high notes of Fifth Avenue. It’ll be an entertaining, educational, and delicious two hours during which we’ll sample Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Scandinavian, and even Jewish fare. The tour comprises five acts and each act has three scenes – a savory, a sweet, and a surprise.

The cost is $60 per person and includes a veritable cornucopia of food (but not beverages) so bring your appetite! You won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, leave a reply.