Little House Redux

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I’m toying with the idea of launching a Bensonhurst ethnojunket in light of the many international food opportunities along 86th St in Brooklyn. I’ve been visiting all of them in search of the best of the best and one of my favorites is the new incarnation of Elmhurst’s now closed Little House Café. The signage touts “Little House Restoran”, the press refers to Little House Malaysian Kitchen, but the owners are the same folks that operated the original venue that we would frequent on my Elmhurst food tour and that I posted about at least eight times – so yes, I liked it!

Kuih are Malaysian snacks – sweet, savory, salty, and ubiquitous throughout the region. A particularly striking example is Little House’s Nine Layer Cake and it tastes as delightful as it looks.

Little House is located at 2012 86th St and you know I’ll be back soon!

And, a serious question: do you think I should do a Bensonhurst ethnojunket? Please comment below!
 
 

Amayar Kitchen

A couple of months ago a few friends and I ventured out to Amayar Kitchen, a Burmese restaurant in Maywood, NJ (a rather remote location – or so it seemed to me). Here’s a quick overview of our lunch that day.

From the Appetizers section:

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Veggie Fritters – a tempting assortment for starters.


Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – known to all at the table as Lahpet Thoke, but the menu shied away from all but a few Burmese designations.


Tofu Salad – the yellow tofu is a clue that we’re doing Burmese cuisine. It gets its color from yellow split peas and turmeric.

From the Noodles section:

See Jet Noodles – roast duck with garlicky noodles.


Bait Noodles – named for the seaport on the southern tip of Myanmar, the noodz are topped with shrimp, sausage, a fried egg, beans and bean sprouts.

Aung San Fried Rice with roasted beans, a fried egg, and Three Layer Pork Curry – the special of the day. (I’m guessing that “three layers” refers to the pork belly stripes!) The best dish of the group IMO.

Desserts:

Assorted Burmese Cakes/Jellies


Coconut Sticky Rice Cake in Banana Leaf – sweet roasted coconut inside a dumpling made from pounded sticky rice, the most intriguing of the lot.

I do wish the food had been a little more hard-core, but I’m guessing that they offer what the location would likely accommodate. Delightful folks: we wish them all the best!

Amayar Kitchen is located at 111 East Passaic St, Maywood, NJ.
 
 

And While We’re on the Subject…

In reference to a recent post of mine featuring Smoked Herring from Brooklyn’s West Indian Labor Day Parade, a couple of folks asked, “You said you picked up a mountain of goodies. What else didja get?”

So here’s what I had the presence of mind to grab photos of, taken on the fly:

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Jerk Chicken from two different stands so I could A/B them. FWIW, they both got an A+ 😉.


Jamaican Fried Fish, just because I was craving it.


Djon-Djon Rice (aka Diri Djon Djon), a Haitian delicacy that gets its color from black mushrooms.

And yes, everything was delicious – and not just because I had been fantasizing about it for three years!
 
 

Dia de los Muertos

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You’ve heard it before: “Oh, Día de los Muertos is Mexican Halloween, right?”

Wrong. Día de los Muertos is decidedly not Mexican Halloween any more than Chanukah is Jewish Christmas – and if any unenlightened soul tries to tell you that, please disabuse them of that fallacious notion inmediatamente!

The Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, is celebrated from October 31 through November 2 (dates may vary depending upon the locality) – and “celebrated” is the proper word: families congregate to memorialize loved ones who have passed away, but it is seen as a time when the departed temporarily revivify and join in the revelry rather than as a sorrowful occasion. Additionally, these days Día de Muertos, as it is also known, serves as a paean to the indigenous people with whom it originated in pre-Hispanic times.

In the year 1 BC (Before Covid), I headed out to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to get myself into the Día de los Muertos spirit. Sequin-eyed, neon icing-coiffed calaveras (sugar skulls) are relatively easy to find in the neighborhood; this one came from Panadería La Espiga Real, 5717 5th Avenue. Although spirits don’t eat, this one seemed particularly interested in the pan de muerto I picked up at La Flor de Izucar, 4021 5th Avenue.

This bread of the dead is customarily embossed with bone shapes, sometimes crossbones, sometimes in a circle, and other traditional embellishments such as skulls and a single teardrop. It’s a barely sweet, simple bun (like so many Mexican panes dulces), light and airy with a tight crumb, and topped with sesame seeds or sugar (like this one) with hints of cinnamon, anise, and orange flower water.


Above: A view of the inner sanctum.
 
 

Smoked Herring – After and Before

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Flashback to Brooklyn’s West Indian Labor Day Parade where I picked up a mountain of goodies I had been yearning for in its absence (thanks again, COVID) – more than I could consume in a single sitting, so lots of savory leftovers awaited my post-parade machinations.


Smoked herring, a Caribbean fave, topped my list and there were a couple of vendors poised to satisfy my craving. The “before” photo (above) shows the herring, accompanied by (counterclockwise) breadfruit, festival (a sweet, fried, crispy outside, tender inside, oblong cornmeal and flour dumpling that you need to try if you ever see it) and fried bake (no, that’s not an oxymoron – the adjective distinguishes it from roast bake, but that’s a post unto itself) as secured on day one.

In the “after” photo (top), I sandwiched the remaining smoked herring with some pickled hot peppers and sweet peppers in the bake that remained and cobbled together some breadfruit salad – similar to potato salad but unique. (I first tasted breadfruit salad at a Garifuna festival in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where indigenous people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were doling it out at multiple stands and I got hooked immediately.)

Late to post, I realize, but so good I had to share.
 
 

Happy Diwali! (2022)

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Dear Friends,

I can no longer keep this to myself. I am an addict, hooked on mithai. What’s that? You don’t know about mithai? Mithai are Indian sweets and since Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is upon us, I can think of no better time than now to tell you my tale. So gather round your diyas and check out my post “Indian Sweets 101: Meeting Mithai” right here on ethnojunkie.com!
 
 
दिवाली मुबारक
Happy Diwali!
 
 

Pelmeni

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According to one source, Pelmeni have been described as “the heart of Russian cuisine”. Unlike Ukrainian varenyky (see my last post), I’ve never found pelmeni (пельмени) that were made with a sweet filling – they’re customarily fashioned from a variety of ground meats and occasionally mushrooms – but like their cousins across Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, they’re almost always served with sour cream (сметана).

These came from Tashkent Market on Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn, one of the highlights on my Little Odessa ethnojunket, and were purchased specifically for my recent “Everybody Loves Dumplings” series. I garnished them with fried, thinly sliced onions that had been the topping for some Tashkent salad that I bought during the same visit.

If you know Tashkent Market or if you’ve joined me on one of my food tours to that neighborhood, then you know that perforce I also acquired several additional bags of droolworthy goodies – not with the intention of posting, but because, um……research! Yeah, that’s the ticket!
 
 

Varenyky

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Here’s another temptation that was included in my recent four-part “Everybody Loves Dumplings” series but surely deserves a post of its own.

Like similar dumplings of differing names and nationalities, varenyky (вареники), one of Ukraine’s national dishes, can be found in a pair of divergent guises: sweet, filled with cheese and/or fruit; and savory, stuffed with meat, potatoes, or cabbage, and customarily crowned with fried onions, occasionally bacon, and almost always accompanied by a dollop of sour cream.

These cheese varenyky are served with a homemade sour cherry sauce; all dumplings are comfort food, of course, but these sweet treats easily sashay into dessert territory.

And yes, the blue and yellow color scheme was by design.
 
 

Ravioli

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There were a couple of dishes that were included in my recent four-part “Everybody Loves Dumplings” series that had never been featured in a post of their own.

Since I seldom order ravioli in an Italian restaurant (although I truly love it), I picked up a legit brand of frozen cheese ravioli for this photoshoot and topped it with my own bespoke meat sauce.

I’ve been developing and perfecting that grail of a recipe for more years than I can count (since I first got into cooking as a matter of fact) and frankly it’s one of the best creations I’ve ever come up with; I’m truly proud of it and seldom share the anchovy oil stained recipe with anyone. (Yes, that’s a hint.) As a matter of fact, I often have some in my freezer because it keeps incredibly well and makes for a quick, but impressive, meal.

I wasn’t certain that this post would be Instaworthy since it was partially based on something out of a supermarket freezer case, but I would ask you, please – consider the sauce.

😉
 
 

National Pierogi Day

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National Pierogi Day happens on October 8, but that’s certainly no reason not to indulge on the other 364 or so. Typically associated with the cuisines of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, pierogi are known by many names, varenyky in Ukraine for instance.

This photo was taken during a 2019 visit to the beloved Polish & Slavic Center Cafeteria at 177 Kent St in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; they’ve been closed because of COVID-19, but we’re definitely hoping for a refresh.

Bits of bacon and sautéed onion with sour cream on the side, of course, adorned these Pierogi z Kapusta (cabbage) which I ordered because I like saying “kapusta”.

Try it.

See what I mean?