Republic of Booza

Instagram Post 7/9/2018

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Booza (بوظة), an ice cream that hails from the Levant and Egypt, is known for two qualities, its stretchy consistency and its ability to resist melting. The elasticity comes from mastic, the resin that makes Turkish Delight delightfully chewy, and its prowess in fending off the consequences of Middle Eastern heat stems from sahlab (aka salep), a thickener that’s also used in beverages and puddings.

The stylish Republic of Booza offers seventeen flavors in three categories: classic (like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), global (like horchata, red miso and mango-tajín) and “experimental” (like salted Oreo, Sichuan white chocolate and saffron peppercorn). Always eager to explore the roots of an ethnic dish before venturing into a more fanciful rendition, I chose Original Qashta, subtitled “candied cream”. (And I coyly chose “roots” here because sahlab is made from ground orchid tubers.) I was familiar with the word qashta from my Bay Ridge, Brooklyn ethnojunkets where it appears as ashta (colloquially) or kashta (more formally) and refers to the Middle Eastern clotted cream spiked with rose water or orange blossom water that suffuses many desserts of the region. My second selection was pistachio, simply because it seemed like an appropriate option given the territory. Because there’s no overrun (air that’s a component of most commercial ice creams), booza is remarkably creamy. Both flavors were delicious and the texture was a cool experience.

Since July is National Ice Cream Month, I’ll be writing a featured post about ethnic ice cream here on ethnojunkie.com in which I’ll attempt to run the global gamut of frozen, creamy treats. For now, I highly recommend your making the journey to Republic of Booza at 76 North 4th St in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (no passport required), especially in this heat. Suffice it to say that this may be the most unusual ice cream you’ve ever tasted…and that isn’t a stretch!
 
 

Brooklyn Kolache Co.

Instagram Post 7/8/2018

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You can track down the sweet and savory Czech pastries known as kolaches as well as select coffee and tea in the namesake bakery, Brooklyn Kolache Co. at 520 DeKalb Ave. These folks have ported small-batch Texas style kolaches to Bedford-Stuyvesant, “Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn”. Texas style? Yes, it’s a thing – and they’ve taken care to keep everything as sustainable, locally sourced, and organic as possible. This puffy blueberry cheese kolache made a righteous quick breakfast.

Second photo shows a peek inside.
 
 

Claro

Instagram Post 7/7/2018

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The Spanish word claro carries many meanings from “clear” to “sure!” and among those definitions is “distinct”. Perhaps that one best describes Claro, 284 Third Ave in Gowanus, in that it’s not your typical Brooklyn Mexican restaurant. Attention to its Oaxacan roots is evident not only in their distinctive spin on the cuisine but also from the clay dinnerware to the décor. Claro’s reputation is as much about its aura as it is about the food, and although we weren’t blown away by any flavor bombs, the freshness and quality of the ingredients were evident as we enjoyed the boon of ideal weather in the charming backyard.

[1] Yellowfin Tostada – tuna marinated in a pasilla oaxaqueña sauce with avocado, orange, and chicharrónes

[2] Barbacoa Tacos – beef cheeks and garlic scapes

[3] Pork Memela – made with heritage pork ribs in a sauce of chile de arbol, topped with fresh crumbled farmer cheese

[4] Mole Negro – meltingly tender short ribs with grilled Mexican green onions and potatoes

Portions are a little on the short side; upscale to be sure, what you see here is exactly what we ordered plus a single drink for each of us – total for our party of four including tax and tip was about $190.
 
 

Khao Nom – Pak Moo Noodle Soup

Instagram Post 7/6/2018

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I’ve sung the praises of Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave, Elmhurst before, and I’ll do an encore for sure, but a brief reprise for now: we had already decided on our order when we noticed someone at a nearby table enjoying a bowl of soup. Fresh rice noodle dumplings, pork rib, pork loaf, ground pork and oh, that perfectly cooked egg grabbed our attention. Upon merely seeing it, we unanimously agreed that we had to have it, so Pak Moo Noodle Soup was added to our order and it did not disappoint. Even the broth was amazing: more flavorful, complex, and richer than I anticipated.

I’ll feature their celebrated desserts in an upcoming post.
 
 

Fan Fried Rice Bar

Instagram Post 7/6/2018

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A relative newcomer (about three months) to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and certainly a welcome one is Fan Fried Rice Bar at 525 DeKalb Ave. A cozy, sunny spot with only a few tables, they offer a number of Taiwanese delicacies like Popcorn Chicken, Fried Bone-In Pork Chop, Taiwanese Sausage, and Mushroom Mapo Tofu, but the real focus is on their novel fried rice variations.

[1] Numb Numb Pastrami Fried Rice with chili paste, scallions, pastrami, onions and peanuts. I get a pronounced Szechuan málà peppercorn hit delivered with a lot of char (as opposed to wok hei); the pastrami itself is salty, moist, and a little smoky, but unlike the deli style pastrami you might expect from the name. Definitely good eats.

[2] Breakfast Fried Rice is good any time of day with tasty thick cut bacon, eggs, peas and carrots, and everything-bagel seasoning. No numbing peppercorns in this one, but plenty of salt, intensified by the toss of potato chips atop.

And yes, I’m a fan of the Fan. 😉
 
 

Pata Market – Part 1

Instagram Post 7/5/2018

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The departure of Sugar Club, the beloved Thai snack bar and prepared food market in Elmhurst, Queens, left a void that is currently being half filled (because the space was subdivided) by Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway. I was pleased to find a considerable assortment of grab-n-go snacks, both sweet and savory, but since I didn’t have time to buy a fridge full of food that day, I picked up only two items from the sweets department.

I didn’t catch the name of the white squares, but I thought they were quite good – crispy puffed rice with a sugary “icing”, at once sweet and salty, and believe it or not, a little buttery; those black sesame seeds provide a significant flavor component as well as decoration. They’re keeping company on this plate with Quail Egg Candy (Khanom Kai Nok Krata) also known in Thailand as Turtle Eggs. You could tell from the modest price that no quail (or turtle) eggs were harmed in the making of this snack (I wouldn’t call it “candy”) – the name stems simply from the shape. The dough is made from sweet potato; they’re a bit sweet and somewhat chewier and more resilient than a doughnut. I have a feeling that they’d be a lot better fresh out of the deep fryer.

The second photo shows a view of bisected Quail Egg Candy to give you the inside scoop.

I’ll report back on how the savories stack up after a future visit.
 
 

Hong Kong Taste – Part 2

Instagram Post 7/4/2018

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If you haven’t been to Hong Kong Taste, 47-21 90th Street at the corner of Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens, you’re missing an opportunity. Each time I go, there’s something different I want to try, and each time I try something different, I want to go back again for more.

[1] This is Dai Pai Dong Style Cheong Fun, impossibly thick, chewy rolled rice noodles – a plateful of comforting satisfaction.

[2] Cart Noodle Soup: The obligatory noodle lift shot. There are scores of combinations of noodles and add-ons. (And no, I haven’t done the math – too busy slurping. 😉)

[3] The equally obligatory helicopter shot featuring their Taiwanese Style Popcorn Chicken (the spicy seasoning is sprinkled on the top, so mix ’em up a little) and curry fish balls – more chewy goodness – not to mention their amazing housemade curry and garlic sauces which I’ve posted about before.

And I’ve barely made a dent in their menu so stay tuned – more to come!
 
 

Sing Kee – Fresh Squid with Pepper and Spiced Salt

Instagram Post 7/3/2018

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Perfectly tender, perfectly seasoned, perfectly fried Fresh Squid with Pepper and Spiced Salt was one of the best dishes we had at Sing Kee Seafood Restaurant, 42 Bowery – OG Cantonese in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Sometimes, less is more.

(Like the text of this post! 😉)

More dishes from Sing Kee to follow….
 
 

Lahi – Crispy Pata

Instagram Post 7/2/2018

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I’ll say one thing for the folks at Lahi: they know how to do pork! In this context, the Tagalog word “pata”, as in Spanish, means an animal’s leg, and Crispy Pata is one of my absolute favorite Filipino dishes. It’s a pig knuckle/trotter/hock, deep fried until the skin is crispy and the meat is meltingly tender, accompanied by a soy-vinegar dip. Here, it comes to the table topped with crunchy fried noodles, a garnish I’ve not seen elsewhere which perhaps gilds the lily a bit, but I’m not complaining. One day, I’ll eat a whole one of these by myself, even if somebody’s watching! (Although they might want some too. 😉)

More dishes from Lahi, 51-24 Van Loon St in Elmhurst, Queens, to follow.
 
 

Chao Thai – Soft Shell Crab Chu Chee

Instagram Post 7/1/2018

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It’s soft shell crab season, so we sidled over to Chao Thai at 85-03 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, Queens for their Soft Shell Crab Chu Chee bathed in a mildly spicy sauce of Thai red curry with coconut milk and topped with red pepper and kaffir lime leaf. Missing from this photo, but not from our table, is an order of sticky rice to soak up the savory goodness.