Nishallo

Instagram Post 6/7/2019

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On a recent ethnojunket through Brooklyn’s Little Odessa, we visited one of my favorite venues, Tashkent Market at 713 Brighton Beach Ave. One of my goals on these food tours is to introduce guests to tasty food they’ve never sampled before, but this item was new to me as well and like everything else in their extensive array of prepared foods, it was home-made. Needless to say, I was compelled to buy it, take it home, and research the heck out of it.

Nishallo (aka nisholda) is an exceedingly sweet dessert that’s native to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and prepared exclusively during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Made primarily from sugar, whipped egg whites, and water, it’s a dead-on ringer for Marshmallow Fluff (as you’d expect from the ingredients) if perhaps a bit classier because of a touch of star anise and/or licorice root. It makes its appearance as part of iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast. Frequently used as a dip for the flatbread naan, it’s particularly appropriate after 17 hours of abstention from eating because its high sugar content jumpstarts the metabolism.

Are you interested in tasting something new and delicious from another part of the world too? Check out my ethnic neighborhood food tours! Click here to learn more.
 
 

Brooklyn Suya

Instagram Post 6/6/2019

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[1] Suya is a popular street food in Nigeria (and elsewhere in West Africa) and there’s little doubt as to why. Sliced beef and other meats are marinated, skewered, grilled, liberally peppered with a spicy, peanutty, powdery seasoning blend and generally accompanied by slices of raw onion. Brooklyn Suya maintains the tradition at 717 Franklin Ave in Crown Heights with its Suya Bowls: choose steak, chicken, or shrimp and two of kale, plantain, egg, or avocado, all over rice. Or, you can order suya solo, sans all those healthy accoutrements; that’s what you see here.

[2] Extreme close-up of chicken, steak, and shrimp – just to get the juices flowing. It’s a tiny space, with a few window perches and a counter, so you might consider take-out, but that didn’t deter us. Incidentally, they sell their custom blends of seasoning/marinade if you want to try your hand at making suya – but if you enjoy cooking, I suspect you’ll find dozens of other uses in the kitchen for their piquant spice blends.
 
 

More 2019 World’s Fare Vendors

Instagram Post 6/3 and 6/5/2019

Four more vendors from the 2019 World’s Fare that took place recently at Citi Field in Flushing.

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Duck Season brought out their 10% duck fat burger, duck fat fries, and Brooklyn poutine with duck bacon, cheese sauce and gravy; shown here is their BBQ rub smoked duck sandwich on a brioche. Wabbit Season was nowhere to be found but you can find Duck Season’s whereabouts by following them @duckseasonnyc on Facebook or Instagram.


Brooklyn’s Korzo Restaurant (667 5th Ave in Park Slope) offered up their Slovak halušky. Residing somewhere along the gnocchi<–>dumpling continuum, these little hand-cut pillows are made from flour/potato dough and served with a tangy bryndza cheese sauce topped with bacon and chives. Central European comfort food.


Alexandra Dettori (AD) Catering and Events brought their 🇪🇷 Eritrean tacos to the party. If you’ve enjoyed dining at any Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant, you’re familiar with injera, the spongy flatbread that serves as the foundation for dishes like wot, the region’s emblematic dense stew. AD’s fusion concept is the Eri-Taco – mini injera, in this case supporting a spicy diced beef wot. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram @adcateringandevents.


Nansense featured their Mantu, first-rate dumplings from Afghanistan packed with savory beef and onion, slathered with garlicky yogurt and tomatoey split peas, and hit with dried mint and cilantro. Often a fixture at Smorgasburg, follow them @nansensenyc on Instagram or Facebook to be certain of their whereabouts. Comfort food that’s delicious 🇦🇫 (or as the emoji appears on some platforms, AF). 😉

 
 

Tania’s Kitchen

Instagram Post 6/2/2019

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If you’ve never tried Haitian food, whatever are you waiting for? Some of the best I’ve tasted comes from Tania’s Kitchen, a family owned catering and pop-up business that operated a booth at the 2019 World’s Fare a couple of weeks ago in Flushing and they were one of my favorite vendors.

You’re looking at Diri Djon Djon (black rice that gets its color from dried black mushrooms, a Haitian specialty), Banan Peze (fried plantains), Pikliz (pronounced Pick-leez, spicy pickled cabbage), and up top, delicious Griot (incredible deep fried pork) and Kodenn Fri (equally incredible deep fried turkey). It isn’t easy to make meat so tender and so crispy at the same time, so mèsi anpil to the talented chef!

What’s that? You missed the World’s Fare? No problem because you can find them at the Queen’s Night Market this summer. Check out taniaskitchen.nyc for their schedule, then head to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturdays from 5pm to midnight. Bon manje!
 
 

Black Label Donuts

Instagram Post 6/1/2019

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Winner Winner, Donut Dinner! Okay, maybe not dinner, but deliciously filling and definitely a winner. More specifically, the winner of the “Best in Show: Sweet” category at the recent World’s Fare 2019.
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There are two elements that make Black Label Donuts so special. The champions (IMHO) start with a 24 hour cold fermented brioche dough (Richard Eng, the culinary master behind these creations, knows his carbs) and the ever-changing gourmet flavors that are uniquely creative like matcha crème brûlée, rosemary lemon/olive oil curd, lavender blueberry, azuki ichigo (red bean/strawberry) and sake kasu cherry. Shown here are the Japanese Elvis – banana brioche, torched bananas, and smoked bacon with a peanut butter-miso glaze – and the Kalamansi Buttermilk Lime. Both were outstanding.
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Currently, they’re only available in pop-up format, so follow them on Instagram @blacklabeldonuts and on facebook.com/BlackLabelDonuts. And wherever they are, get there early, because they sell out fast!
 
 

Kashkar Cafe

Instagram Post 5/29/2019

While fine tuning my ethnojunket through Little Odessa, I visited Kashkar Café, 1141 Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn. Kashkar serves the food of the Uyghur people, a primarily Muslim ethnic group who live in the Xinjiang region of northwest China near Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan; as you’d expect, the fare is a comingling of Chinese and Central Asian cuisines and definitely worth getting to know.

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Ashlangfu (ашлангфу) salad, aka lang-foo noodles. If you’ve enjoyed Chinese mung bean jelly noodle, you’ll recognize these slippery slices as their cognate, liangfen. The dish included bits of lamb and chopped vegetables in a light, tangy sauce, but lurking unexpectedly beneath the pile was lagman, Uyghur’s claim to noodle fame (Chinese cognate: lo mein).

Kazi (you might see qazı) was described as “pickled sausage from the beef meat in home styles”; in Central Asia, kazi is made from horsemeat, so the annotation was reassuring. This isn’t a ground meat type of sausage, rather it’s dry cured rib meat in a natural casing, served cold. Not particularly pickled in flavor, it was dense and earthy and the vegetables plus a squeeze of lemon were a welcome accompaniment. A little goes a long way with these slices, but it’s worth doing once.

This was a winner. Tsomyan (цомян), cognate with chow mein, was described as sliced fried dough and lamb meat with vegetables. When you see “dough” on the menu, it refers to a thick doughy noodle that’s a little reminiscent of Xi’an hand pulled noodles if a bit drier; the term distinguishes it from lagman noodles. Splendid char on those chewy noodles; really excellent.

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AND speaking of Little Odessa, there are some slots open for Tuesday, June 4th’s ethnojunket along Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach Avenue! Simply click here to find out how to join in the fun!
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Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies

Instagram Post 5/31/2019

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Every now and then, some genius comes up with a brilliant idea for combining two beloved baked goods into a single treat, a portmanteau of pastry if you will. The cronut comes to mind. That marriage often begets lesser, more commercialized offspring which will remain nameless here. But sometimes a star is born unto this hallowed union and it is this miracle of which I bring good tidings.
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Okay, so I got a little carried away. But that’s what happened at the press event for 2019’s Queens Night Market when I tasted Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies. Resting on a foundation of flaky pie crust, topped with buttery, crumbly, caramelized streusel and filled with just the right amount of gooey pecan magic to balance it off (cherry and chocolate pecan are available too), Janie’s cookies comprise the best parts of the pie and they’re heavenly. (Oops, there I go again.)
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Janie’s personal story is the stuff of which legends are made; visit her website janiebakes.com to learn more or follow her on Instagram @janiebakescakes, but even better – taste for yourself. You can find her and her life-changing cookies (there’s a poignant reason they’re called that) at the Queens Night Market: head to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturdays from 5pm to midnight until August 17 and again from September 28 to October 26.
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Say Hallelujah! 😇
 
 

La’Maoli

Instagram Post 5/30/2019

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Over the next few days, I’ll show you some pix from the over-the-top feast that was the 2019 World’s Fare a couple of weeks ago in Flushing.

Cuisine from Antigua and Barbuda doesn’t get enough love around these parts, and La’Maoli represented the Caribbean island nation swimmingly. You’re looking at sunbathed ducana and saltfish, and of everything I tasted that day, this brought the biggest smile to my face.

Ducana, a sweet Antiguan specialty, lies somewhere along the dumpling<–>pone continuum and is made from grated sweet potato, coconut, sugar and spice, coconut milk and sometimes raisins; it’s wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled until firm (and yes, I took a bite out of one so you see inside). Saltfish is dried salted cod, cooked with onion and tomato (I’ve seen this called “buljol”) and can often be found keeping company with ducana. I neglected to ask about the greens, but I suspect it was “chop-up”, another local dish, consisting of okra, eggplant, and spinach. Each item complemented the others perfectly and all went far beyond the definition of delicious.

Not to take anything away from the other terrific vendors there (more photos to come tomorrow) but La’Maoli’s food was unsurpassed. They’re caterers and they pop up at events from time to time, so follow them on Instagram @lamaoli_ to find where they’ll be – and I bet you’ll find that big smile there too.
 
 

Dolma House Restaurant

Instagram Post 5/27/2019

The Southern Caucasus lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and comprises Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The three states have diverse cultures and cuisines and happily we are privileged to partake in all of them right here in New York City.

The word dolma and its many linguistic cognates refers to any of a vast number of stuffed vegetable dishes prepared across the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Central and Western Asia, the Middle East, and our current focus, the Southern Caucasus, specifically Azerbaijan. The eponymous Dolma House is located at 311 Avenue X in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

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A mix and match lunch special featured one such dish, Kalam Dolma, (cabbage stuffed with lamb), plus Harcho (spicy lamb soup), and Lobio Salad (red kidney beans with chopped walnuts), all of which were good for sure (lunch specials anywhere being what they are) but I urge you, as I always do, to forego the prosaic in favor of the distinctive.

Turshi Plov – rice topped with lamb and dried fruits. Plov is another of those words with cognates that spread across half the planet: pilaf, pulau, etc. The topping, in this case, featured preserved chestnuts, apricots, plums, and raisins along with unctuous, tender lamb. But the rice was the star: cooked with lamb fat that was so delicious we sopped up the residue with our lepeshka, bread fresh from the tandir.

Chigirtma – chicken, eggs, and tomatoes cooked together with onions and served up in a cast iron pan. For starters, just the union of eggs and onions is pretty magical; eggs and tomatoes are besties as well. Combine the three and you’ve got a ménage that guarantees a happy ending. (I have it on good authority that the word chigirtma means “screaming”. Just sayin’.) The chicken, taken alone, is a little dry but this is one of those dishes where you need to get a bit of everything in each mouthful to reveal its awesomeness. Good stuff.
 
 

Phayul Restaurant

When I write about restaurants on Instagram, they’re usually brief takes accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here on ethnojunkie.com, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But because of Instagram’s character count limitations, it’s often necessary to break up a review into several parts. This one originally appeared as six posts, published on May 24-26 and June 21, 23,and 24, 2019.


If you liked the old Phayul where you climbed a dubious flight of stairs, turned a narrow corner, and waited patiently, hungrily, in anticipation of snagging one of the handful of tables for some great Tibetan food, then you’re going to love the new Phayul. Technically, the address is 37-59 74th St in Jackson Heights, but you’ll find the entrance on 37th Road, just across the street from the old digs – which, by the way, are still going strong. Phayul redux is spacious and agreeably appointed with the kind of lavishly art directed menu popular with nouveau Sichuan restaurants in Flushing these days. The food itself is top notch and the new menu yields a few surprises that will ensure my return. In no particular order, here are the dishes we enjoyed on two separate occasions.

(Click any photo to view in glorious high resolution.)Soup to start, specifically Shoko Phing Sha, a medium rich, beefy broth with tree ear fungus, vermicelli noodles, and potatoes.

Spicy Tofu, simple and potent, tasted as good as it looks.

Phaksha Solo Ngoenma – now we’re getting real. Fried pork with leeks and green pepper, a little kick, a little sweet.

Phaksha Gotsel Ngoenma. By way of comparison to Phaksha Solo Ngoenma above, described on the menu as pork with garlic and red pepper. The dish features chives along with the pork and peppers which add immeasurably to the mix.

The cuisine of the Himalayas is well represented in this area of Jackson Heights, and although Tibetan food is influenced by Chinese and Nepali by Indian, momos traverse the region with little regard to provenance. Thick skinned, steamed or fried, nobody doesn’t love momos. These were stuffed with beef and fried, and frankly I lost count of how many plates we ordered.

In my opinion, the fried chicken momos were even better than the beef because of their noteworthy savory seasoning.

Described simply as Cucumber Salad, this spicy, refreshing side was augmented by scallions and peanuts; cheers for the peanuts.

Chicken Chilly by any spelling would still taste as bright. The heat sneaks up on you, but it is perfectly spicy for sure; the occasional veggie provides an essential contrast. A dish that won’t leave you cold! 😉

Fried Lamb Ribs. Fried and lamb are two words that invariably leap off a menu at me, so we ordered these impetuously and they were great. Later I saw that there were a couple of dishes by the same name; it may have had more to do with size and cut rather than preparation.


Steamed Beef Momo. What can I say? You know they’re good, especially with a jot of hot sauce (two different types on the table along with vinegar and soy-based mixtures). Also available in vegetable or chicken varieties.

Gyuma Ngoe Ma. Fried blood sausage with onions & green chilies. I confess that I love this kind of thing but I was pleased that the rest of the group were into it as well, comparing its savory, mealy, grainy filling to ethnic food from their own diverse backgrounds like the Eastern European/Jewish dish, kishka (stuffed derma).

There are many soups from which to choose at Phayul, and Bathuk Tibetan Noodle Soup was high on my list because of its little hand-rolled noodles; they’re called bhasta and are often likened to miniature Italian gnocchi. The soup is meat-based and contains veggies and a blend of herbs that started us off in the right direction.

Chele Khatsa. My kind of food: red peppers, onions and garlic are the support system for spicy slices of beef tongue. A good choice – tender and savory.

Lhasa Fried Noodle. The menu offers this dish with chicken, pork, beef, or vegetables. Pro-tip: Ask for a mix and you can taste them all!

Chicken Manchurian. “Indian influenced,” I was told by the manager, Lobsang. “Another winner,” I was told by the group.

Shogo Khatsa, spicy fried potatoes, seemed so straightforward that I almost didn’t order it, but the group took a vote, yea or nay. And I’m glad we did because indeed, upon tasting it, the yays were overwhelming.
 
 
The new Phayul Restaurant is located at 37-59 74th St in Jackson Heights, Queens.