Mochipia

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You know about mochi, the popular Japanese rice cake, often sweet but not necessarily, made from glutinous rice pounded into paste.

You might not know about hopia, pastries hailing from the Philippines and Indonesia that can be found with a variety of fillings like ube (purple yam) or sweet bean paste enclosed within either a flaky or a cakey dough.

This product is called Mochipia, a portmanteau of mochi and hopia, both in name and composition. They’re filled with ube/macapuno paste surrounding a chewy mochi center that provides a snackworthy contrasting texture. Macapuno is a cultivar of coconut, sweet and jelly-like in texture, and often found in combination with ube in Filipino snacks because the two flavors are deliciously compatible.

And, of course, we always get some along the way on my Elmhurst food tour. Want to know where? Get the details on my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst page and sign up to join in the fun!
 
 

Bicol Express

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One of my first posts on this website, “Dem Are Good!”, exposed my fondness for (read: addiction to) Nagaraya Butter Flavor Cracker Nuts. (IYKYK. And if you don’t, take my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour and I’ll hook you up – they’re called CRACKer Nuts for a reason.) Like all good things, it seems they have become harder to track down as the years have gone by, but my source, Phil-Am Food Mart at 70-02 Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, often has them in stock.

In addition to providing the elusive Cracker Nuts I had been stalking, Phil-Am also offers a considerable selection of top notch locally made prepared food. Since Filipino cuisine is one of my all-time favorites, I can never visit without picking up at least one main dish, in this case a pint of Bicol Express.

Bicol Express is made with pork stewed in spicy coconut milk infused with shrimp paste and laden with green chilies. Named for the Bicol Express, a passenger train that ran from Manila to the Bicol region in the Philippines, I guess you could think of this dish that’s both creamy and spicy as running from one terminus on the flavor route to another.

It should be served with rice, so I made my version of Bagoong Fried Rice. (Oversimplification: Start with onions, garlic and the all-important Ginisang Bagoong sautéed shrimp paste; fry together; add pre-cooked refrigerated white rice; continue to fry; add scallions and sometimes mangoes to finish.)

Masarap!
 
 

July is National Ice Cream Month! Celebrate Globally!

The story began here:

Every August, as a routinely flushed, overheated child, I would join in chorus with my perspiring cohorts, boisterously importuning, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Little did I realize that rather than conjuring dessert, I was conjugating it and probably laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fascination with foreign languages and world food.

We lived in close proximity to one of the best dairies in town; it was known for its wide assortment of locally produced natural flavors, certainly sufficient in number and variety to satisfy any palate. Perhaps my obsession with offbeat ice cream flavors is rooted in my frustration with my father’s return home from work, invariably bearing the same kind of ice cream as the last time, Neapolitan. Neapolitan, again. My pleas to try a different flavor – just once? please? – consistently fell on deaf ears. “Neapolitan is chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s three flavors right there. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.” Some kids’ idea of rebellion involved smoking behind the garage; mine was to tuck into a bowl of Rum Raisin….

There’s lots more to the story, of course. Click here to get the full scoop! 🍨
 
 

July is National Ice Cream Month! Celebrate Globally!

The story began here:

Every August, as a routinely flushed, overheated child, I would join in chorus with my perspiring cohorts, boisterously importuning, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Little did I realize that rather than conjuring dessert, I was conjugating it and probably laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fascination with foreign languages and world food.

We lived in close proximity to one of the best dairies in town; it was known for its wide assortment of locally produced natural flavors, certainly sufficient in number and variety to satisfy any palate. Perhaps my obsession with offbeat ice cream flavors is rooted in my frustration with my father’s return home from work, invariably bearing the same kind of ice cream as the last time, Neapolitan. Neapolitan, again. My pleas to try a different flavor – just once? please? – consistently fell on deaf ears. “Neapolitan is chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s three flavors right there. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.” Some kids’ idea of rebellion involved smoking behind the garage; mine was to tuck into a bowl of Rum Raisin….

There’s lots more to the story, of course. Click here to get the full scoop! 🍨
 
 

Santacruzan Festival 2022

The 44th Annual Santacruzan Festival and Flores de Mayo celebration in Jersey City last Sunday encompassed two stages for live performances, a flea market, family activities, and religious processions – but you know I was there for the food vendors! Here are a few delicious Filipino treats that we sampled:

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

Lechon (pork belly) – With its all-important crispy skin, served over a split rice ball and accompanied by a cucumber-tomato-onion salad.


Sisig – Plated over rice; pork on one side, chicken on the other.


Longganisa – Filipino sweet sausage that, regardless of its name, is more like chorizo than Spanish longaniza.


Isaw – Grilled pork intestine on a stick with sukang pinakurat (a savory vinegar sauce). The vendor eyed me skeptically. “You eat this?” she asked. “You made this? I eat this!” I replied. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Masarap!
 
 

Tindahan

Now that I’ve completed my uber-prudent “post-COVID” exploration of the latest and greatest purveyors of memorable mouthfuls for my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour, I thought I’d let you in on a few of the places I visited. If you follow me, you know that Zaab Zaab is begging for a return visit. Here’s another new kid on the block – at 81-04 Woodside Avenue to be specific.

Since the cuisine of the Philippines is one of my favorites, I was excited to stumble on this Filipino-owned establishment. Tindahan, the Tagalog word for store, packs its shelves, refrigerator case and freezer with Filipino groceries and prepared food. The focus goes beyond the typical necessities to embrace some specialty items I haven’t found in local pan-Asian markets. (Join me on this ethnojunket and I’ll show you what I found!) A few teasers:

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

Turon. A deep fried lumpia (spring roll) containing a split plantain and a bit of jackfruit for sweetness.


A bibingka is a baked cake usually made with rice flour but cassava or wheat flour is not uncommon. This one is cake-like, soft, sweet and moist within, and topped with potent salted egg and coconut so you get sweet on salty on sweet. Best when warmed, it’s a delicious study in contrasts; get a bit of each in one bite!


Lola’s Empanadas. André told me his grandmother (“lola” in Tagalog) made these so that’s what I’ve been calling them ever since, and they’re outstanding – again, best served warm. Baked, not fried, the sweet dough is filled with pork and chicken, raisins, carrots and peas. I love the fact that they’re doughy inside; I hope that doesn’t change.


The inner workings.

Check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

More to come….

 
 

Elmhurst Ethnojunkets Are Back!

Onward and upward!

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago (a big thank you to all my guests!) and now Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst is joining the lineup; Flushing and Bay Ridge are just around the corner.

Ethnojunkets FAQ:

 
Q: What’s an ethnojunket anyway?
A: An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without.

Q: Which neighborhoods do you cover?
A: My most popular tours are described on the ethnojunkets page but there are always new ones in the works. For the time being, I’m only scheduling Little Odessa and Elmhurst.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Elmhurst, Little Odessa, Flushing, Little Levant, etc.]?
A: Any day you’d like to go! Simply send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! (Pro Tip: Check the weather in advance for the day you’re interested in to facilitate making your choice; we spend a lot of time outdoors!)

Q: I’ve seen some tours that are scheduled in advance for particular dates. Do you do that?
A: Yes, in a way. When someone books a tour (unless it’s a private tour) it’s always fun to add a few more adventurous eaters to the group – not to mention the fact that we get the opportunity to taste more dishes when we have more people (although I do like to keep the group size small). You can see if there are any openings available in the “Now Boarding” section of the ethnojunkets page. Subscribers always get email notifications about these.

Q: What will we be eating in Elmhurst?
A: We cover a lot of geography on our Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst adventure! We’ll savor goodies from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and parts of China. And if you’re into cooking, we can explore a large Pan-Asian supermarket along the way.

Here are just a few of the delicacies we usually enjoy on this ethnojunket. (Not that I’m trying to tempt you to sign up! 😉)

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

Thai Pork & Peanut Dumplings

Taiwanese Pineapple Cake


Nepali Momos


Zaab Chicken Wings


Malaysian Silver Noodles


Pandan Tart Cake


I hope you’ll sign up and join us! The cost is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com and I’ll email you with details.

I’m looking forward to introducing you to one of my favorite neighborhoods!
 
 

Treats from the Filipino Araw ng Aruga Festival

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

Ube, the purple yam that turns up in so many Filipino desserts, and buko, the yielding flesh of young green coconuts, make an ideal combination in this Ube Buko Pie from Chibop’s Bakehouse in Forest Hills, Queens; note the slices of tender coconut throughout the top layer. The colorful interior begs for your attention, but don’t overlook the crust – delicate and crumbly, the perfect blanket to swaddle the sweet filling. Top notch.


Merienda NYC featured a trio of fried goodness on a stick – Kwek Kwek, Kikiam and sliced, flattened fishballs; a selection of sauces was available. The latter two are made from ground fish paste…

…and kwek kwek are quail eggs that have been battered and deep fried. (You can decide if the name is onomatopoeia reflecting the sound that quail make when laying their eggs.)


Emz Native Delicacies featured Suman Malagkit, sticky rice and coconut milk steamed in a banana leaf, sweet and salty at once. Nicely done.

The pop-up Araw ng Aruga (Day of Care) Festival took place last Saturday. If you’d like to learn about food events like this in advance, I highly recommend checking out Eating In Translation for their comprehensive weekly listing – that’s where I get all my info about upcoming festivals!
 
 

July is National Ice Cream Month! Celebrate Globally!

The story began here:

Every August, as a routinely flushed, overheated child, I would join in chorus with my perspiring cohorts, boisterously importuning, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” Little did I realize that rather than conjuring dessert, I was conjugating it and probably laying the groundwork for a lifetime of fascination with foreign languages and world food.

We lived in close proximity to one of the best dairies in town; it was known for its wide assortment of locally produced natural flavors, certainly sufficient in number and variety to satisfy any palate. Perhaps my obsession with offbeat ice cream flavors is rooted in my frustration with my father’s return home from work, invariably bearing the same kind of ice cream as the last time, Neapolitan. Neapolitan, again. My pleas to try a different flavor – just once? please? – consistently fell on deaf ears. “Neapolitan is chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. That’s three flavors right there. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.” Some kids’ idea of rebellion involved smoking behind the garage; mine was to tuck into a bowl of Rum Raisin….

There’s lots more to the story, of course. Click here to get the full scoop! 🍨
 
 

Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip. This one originally appeared as two posts, published on March 28-29, 2018.

Ever been up for Southeast Asian food but couldn’t decide which cuisine would best tickle your tastebuds? Then Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, Manhattan, has your answer with its dizzying array of Southeast Asian fare. They cover a lot of territory serving up dishes from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, India, Singapore, and various regions of China, and perusing their colorful menu is like taking a survey course in popular street food of the region.

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

We started with Original Roti, a dish you may know as roti canai, consisting of Indian style flatbread with a chicken and potato curry sauce for dipping. Properly crispy outside and fluffy within, it was the perfect medium for savoring the luscious sauce.


Roti Murtabak, another crepe, this time folded around a spiced chicken and egg mixture and also accompanied by the potato chicken curry, had a pleasantly spicy little kick to it. A cut above what we’ve had elsewhere.


Our soup course was Hakka Mushroom Pan Mee, a study in contrasts. Springy handmade noodles topped with silvery crispy dried anchovies, earthy mushrooms, chewy bits of minced pork, and tender greens in a clear broth that was richer than I had anticipated.


Spicy Minced Chicken, Shrimp and Sato – ground chicken and chunks of shrimp with sato cooked in a belacan based sauce. Sato, also known as petai and sometimes stink bean, is a little bitter, a little smelly perhaps, but quite enjoyable. Belacan is fermented fish paste; most Southeast Asian cuisines have their own spin on this pungent condiment, and it’s particularly characteristic of Malaysian food. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I think it imparts a subtle flavor that renders this dish delicious.


Spicy Sambal Seafood – plump and juicy jumbo shrimp sautéed in spicy Malaysian belacan sambal with onions and peppers was excellent – best enjoyed over rice.


Malaysian Salt & Pepper Pork Chop had a tiny bit of sweet and sour sauce gracing it. We’ve tasted versions of this dish that were crisper and thinner and unadorned by any manner of sauce. Not bad at all, but not what we were expecting from the name.


Four of a Kind Belacan – to me, the only thing these four vegetables have in common is that they’re all green! Beyond that, the flavors, textures, and even the shapes differ radically – and that’s a good thing in my opinion. String beans, eggplant, okra (not at all slimy), and sato are united by the medium spicy belacan sambal; stink bean and belacan play well together and the combination is a singularly Malaysian flavor profile.


Stir Fry Pearl Noodle featured eggs, bell pepper, Spanish onion, scallion, and bean sprouts with pork. This is actually one of my favorite dishes and not all that easy to find. Pearl noodles, sometimes known as silver noodles, silver needles, and other fanciful names, are chewy rice noodles that are thick at one end and then taper to a point at the other (look closely at the little tail at the bottom of the photo and you’ll see why one of those fanciful names is rat tail noodle). They’re generally stir-fried to pick up a little browning and a lot of wok hei (aka wok qi, the breath of the wok) that ineffable taste/aroma that can only be achieved by ferocious cooking over incendiary heat. Not at all spicy, this one is always a favorite.

Due to a communications mix-up, a couple of dishes came out that weren’t what we ordered. Everything we tasted that day was very good, but I want to make sure that you don’t end up with two or three similar dishes – for example, one belacan and/or sato offering is plenty for the table – because I want you to experience a broad range of flavors, and Wok Wok is most assuredly up to the task. Choose a wide variety of disparate dishes, perhaps even from different parts of Southeast Asia, and you’ll go home happy and satisfied!
 
 
And a reminder, once again, to please SUPPORT CHINATOWN!
 
 
Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen is located at 11 Mott Street, Manhattan.