Call me Ethnojunkie. An Ethnic Food Evangelist. A champion of Ethnic Food for the Rest of Us.
I live to absorb ethnic culture — the music, the languages, the cultures in general, but especially the cuisines — hence the moniker ethnojunkie. My passion for international food extends beyond simply eating; I delight in cooking it and learning about the cuisines and the ingredients that compose it. But — perhaps most of all — I enjoy sharing it with others and turning them on to flavors that they may never have experienced.
My idea of a perfect day is one spent wandering through one of New York’s many ethnic neighborhoods, prowling around the local food shops, letting the sights and smells and sounds wash over me. The transcendent moment occurs when decoding a label on an Asian food product that’s devoid of English and recognizing that it says “Five Spice Tofu” while a Balinese gamelan CD tinkles (all right, cacophonates, if you will) in the background. I never tire of tasting novel foods and cooking with new ingredients.
My Checkered Career
During my ivy-covered years at Yale, I was involved with its radio station as an on-air personality, and subsequently worked in broadcast radio in New Haven for a few years while I was developing my next career: music. Career #2 encompassed composing and producing award winning music for film and broadcast media (including TV’s Captain Kangaroo and the Muppets). During that time, I merged my right brained interest in music with my left brained penchant for electronics, math, and physics and began working with synthesizers, computers, and what was at the time suspiciously called multimedia. Cross-fade to Career #3: that of software developer (programmer, coder, as you will) where I created software for leading publishers including Simon & Schuster Interactive, Macmillan Digital, and Time Warner. This in turn led to Career #4 as COO of a successful software and internet development firm. Career #5 involved my directing a not-for-profit organization whose mission was to educate consumers about sustainably raised, organic, locally sourced food.
Which brings me to the present and the reason I’ve told you all this; I reckon I have time for one more career.
Why is this site different from all other sites?
There are countless superb websites and blogs residing on the interwebs whose sole and steadfast mission is to serve up wonderfully written reviews meticulously detailing the cuisine, the décor, the ambiance, the service, the menus, the prices, and the location of tens of thousands of restaurants ranging from haute cuisine to holes in the wall from around the corner and around the world. This isn’t one of those.
By the same token, you’ll find a plethora of websites and blogs featuring recipes from aaku pappu to zwieback, categorized by course, ingredient, ethnicity, lifestyle, holiday, allergy, popularity, nutrition, method of preparation, length of preparation, difficulty of preparation, cost of preparation, and lack of preparation. This isn’t one of those either.
So what is this site about anyway?
Glad you asked.
It’s about turning you on to ethnic food you may never have tried. Now, that does not refer to dumbed down versions of pseudo-ethnic culinary doppelgangers that have invaded the shelves of your local supermart. Quite the contrary. There is incredibly delicious authentic international food out there that is immediately accessible to everyone’s palate and I want to share it with you.
Did you ever wander into an ethnic market and wonder about all that weird produce? And the contents of all those intriguing jars and cans and packages wrapped in seemingly indecipherable labels written in some foreign tongue? And all that prepared food in the refrigerator case? And what you would do with it all if you brought it home? And if you’d even like it when you got it there?
My mission is to shed some light on that experience. Maybe even share a few words in some of those languages — just enough to coax a smile from the person on the other side of the counter who, recognizing that you “know the good stuff” and are eager to learn more, might offer a mouth-watering suggestion that you’d never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.
I’ll introduce you to some ethnic treats you can just buy and consume immediately as you’re walking out of the store (er, doesn’t everybody do that?) and also to ingredients you can cook with — or at least throw together and make something tasty out of. No special talent or equipment required. Following the suggestions here (hardly recipes) will be a piece of cake. Or easy as pie. Easier, actually.
And yes, of course, I’ll also offer the occasional go-here-because-you-need-to-taste-this-dish-NOW recommendations as well as some tricky quicky versions of ethnic fare which you can whip up in a trice after work that are guaranteed to amaze and mystify your family and friends. (Check out my Faking Peking Duck recipe.)
But at the end of the day, I’m a storyteller. And that’s how I hope to get you hooked — short of actually bringing you with me to one of New York’s incredible ethnic neighborhoods. And that can be arranged too; several years ago, I introduced a series of ethnojunkets (food-focused walking tours) wherein we eat our way through some of my favorite ethnic enclaves.
In the meantime, in addition to the blog, you can peruse some of my food writing under the Stories heading if you’re so inclined. Check out the Instagram category to see up-to-the-minute brief posts covering my dining explorations almost daily, or look for more complete restaurant reviews in the Restaurants category. Want to know more about my ethnic neighborhood food tours? I call them “ethnojunkets” and you can learn all about them (and see what’s coming up next!) here. And if you’d like to see what I’m up to in the kitchen, there are lots of photos in the Home Cookin’ section.
– Rich Sanders, ethnojunkie (rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com)