Happy Diwali! (2021)

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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!
 
 

Panshi Restaurant

For me, one of life’s pleasures is wandering into a steamtable-equipped ethnic restaurant with compliant eager eaters in tow and pointing at a succession of trays filled with often unidentifiable goodies until we decide that we’ve probably ordered enough to stuff everyone to the gills. (I know. I’m easy.) In this case, it was Panshi Restaurant at 168-37/39 Hillside Ave in Jamaica, Queens. I had been craving Bangladeshi food, their specialty, and what came to the table was potent and satisfying.

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In addition to rice, dal, roti, and salad, we selected four vegetable dishes, pumpkin, borboti (long green beans), palak vaji (spinach), and alu vaji (fried shredded potato).


We opted for two kinds of bhortha (you may see bharta or similar spellings), potato (aloo) and eggplant (baingan). Bhorta is an intensely flavored vegetable mash, usually redolent of mustard oil, that’s used as a condiment: check out the two bowls at the top of this photo.

And speaking of gills, if you go to a Bangladeshi restaurant, you do want to order fish. (Why? Examine the unobstructed access to both fresh and salt water on a map. From Banglapedia: “In Bangladesh there are 401 species of marine fishes and 251 species of inland fishes in fresh water and brackish water.” Not bad for a country the size of New York State.) The three bowls at the bottom of the photo are shrimp and vegetables, a dish she called “small fish” and another dish she called “small fish”. The check read “shoal fish”, but from photos on the interwebs, those are considerably larger than these. Still, very tasty.

Panshi also touts a catering service and a menu including Chinese and Pan-Asian fare, but stick with the dishes from Bangladesh if you go.
 
 

Happy Diwali (2020)

(Originally posted in October, 2019. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses may be closed – temporarily, we hope – and prices may vary.)

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The 2019 Collection

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!
 
 

Fuska House

Instagram Post 11/7/2019

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Ask anyone from Bangladesh about fuchka (ফুসকা – you might see fushka, phuchka, phuska, or fuska as it’s spelled on the Fuska House truck) and they will recount a personal story laden with affection and often a wistful touch of homesickness about this beloved street food. Fuchka is Bangladesh’s take on Indian panipuri: It starts with puri, a deep-fried, puffed up, hollow shell of unleavened bread filled with a variety of components, often including potato, onion, cilantro, delicious aromatic spices, and thin, tangy tamarind chutney. It’s that wonderfully drippy chutney that dictates that you pop the whole thing into your mouth all at once to get an eye-popping burst of those savory ingredients coming together in a symphony of flavor.


The Fuska House truck is parked on 37th Ave near 73rd St in Jackson Heights, Queens. While you’re there, check out the other snacks they offer like this Mix Vorta: slices of fresh mango and peara (guava) so piquantly seasoned as to awaken even the most tired taste buds.
 
 

Happy Diwali! (2019)

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

The 2019 Collection

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!
 
 

Merit Kabab Palace

Instagram Post 4/15/2019

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Wandering around Jackson Heights yesterday looking for something with which to celebrate Poila Boishakh, Bengali New Year, we stumbled upon these Chicken Lollipops outside the venerable Merit Kabab Palace, 37-67 74th St, Queens. Featuring Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese and Bangladeshi food, Merit is well known to locals and the clued-in for quick and tasty South Asian fare.

Wing drumette meat is scraped along and pushed down the bone (frenched), marinated a bit, coated in a colorful seasoned batter, and deep fried to produce a snack that’s as appealing to the eye as it is the palate. Not a dish particularly associated with the holiday, these were too cute to resist – not to mention the fact that the hungry celebratory crowds got the better of us. Well, there’s always next year.

Shubho Noboborsho! শুভ নববর্ষ
 
 

Ittadi Garden and Grill

Instagram Post 3/22/2019

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Since I was in Jackson Heights the other day and since I love Bangladeshi food, both for the spice level and the mustard oil, a visit to Ittadi Garden and Grill was in order. It’s a steam table affair facilitated that day by an accommodating waitress who was kind enough to identify anything unlabeled.

[1] There was a wide variety of fish as is to be expected in a Bangladeshi restaurant, but only one was anonymous, a whole fish about six inches long. I was told it was Baila, aka Bele, and that it was less bony than Hilsa (which can be a challenge in that regard if you’re particularly hungry); I later learned that it’s a species of the freshwater goby. The sauce was savory, spicy, and splendid slathered over the rice.

[2] Another essential in Bangladeshi cuisine is vorta (you may see bharta, bhurtha, or the like), a vegetable or fish that has been boiled then mashed and seasoned with chilies, mustard oil, and spices, existing somewhere along the condiment/side dish continuum. I requested a mix and received (left to right) fish, potato, broccoli (top), eggplant, and onions & chili, each wonderfully spicy but with its own character.

[3] I asked about the golden shreds punctuated by slivers of green chilies in the vegetable section and learned it was papaya, but unlike any papaya I had experienced, ripe or unripe, for this was soft as a boiled vegetable and retained only a tiny trace of its papayaness; I enjoyed the preparation. Dal and a small salad came with the meal.

Ittadi Garden and Grill is located at 73-07 37th Rd, Queens. Always worth a stopover.
 
 

Korai Kitchen

Instagram Post 1/31/2019

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Bangladeshi cuisine is different from Indian cuisine and even that of West Bengal, and one of the best ways to sample it is in a buffet setting where you can taste a bit of many delights. Fortunately, Korai Kitchen, Jersey City’s first Bangladeshi eatery, features a lunch buffet (Tuesday – Friday) and a weekend buffet that spans lunch and dinner Friday through Sunday with an ever-changing array of dishes.

[2] Annotated photo of my first (ahem) plate.

[3] Buffet is currently their only format, no formal menu yet, although you can order a few special items on weekends like hilsa, the beloved national fish of Bangladesh.

[4] A bhortha (you may see bharta) is an intensely flavored vegetable or fish mash, usually containing mustard oil, which is used as a condiment or over rice. Here is the quartet shown on my plate which included Karela Bhaja. Karela is a spiky cousin to Chinese bitter melon and bhaja means it’s been fried.

Other items that didn’t make it to that first plate included [5] a shutki (dried fish, in this case dried shrimp) dish, potent and delicious, and [6] dessert that comprised chai; lacha semai, made from vermicelli and hot milk; and mishti doi, a sweetened, thick yogurt, almost the texture of a custard or pudding and a personal favorite.

Lots more at Korai Kitchen, 576 Summit Ave, Jersey City where the owner, Nure Rahman is beyond helpful and absolutely charming, and Mama Rahman is in the kitchen making everything by hand.

And yes, I’m going back.
 
 

Happy Diwali! (2018)

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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!
 
 

Jhal NYC

Instagram Post 4/19/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Ask anyone from Bangladesh about #fushka (ফুসকা) and they will recount a personal story laden with affection and often a wistful touch of homesickness about this beloved street food. Fushka is Bangladesh’s take on Indian panipuri: It starts with puri, a deep-fried, puffed up, hollow shell of unleavened bread filled with a variety of components, often including potato, onion, cilantro, delicious aromatic spices, and thin sweet tamarind chutney. It’s that wonderfully drippy chutney that dictates that you pop the whole thing into your mouth all at once to get an eye-popping burst of those savory ingredients coming together in a symphony of flavor.

Convinced that you want to try this? Here’s your chance to savor one of the best I’ve ever tasted brought to you by the folks from Jhal NYC on Saturdays this summer at the Queens Night Market. Find their booth and you will not be disappointed!

And if you want to avoid the opening night crowds, remember to get your sneak preview tickets before they run out! They’re available for April 21st and 28th for only $5. Purchase yours at https://queensnightmarket.ticketleap.com/. It’s all happening at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

www.queensnightmarket.com