Warung Selasa

In Indonesia, a warung is a small, informal, often family-owned food stand and selasa means Tuesday.

In Elmhurst, Queens, Warung Selasa refers to the long-running, home-cooked lunch adventure presented by Indo Java Groceries every Tuesday and it is always a treat.

I wrote about Indo Java at 85-12 Queens Blvd here way back in 2015 and I’m happy to report that they’re still going strong. Here’s what we enjoyed last Tuesday:

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Bakmoy Ayam. Tender bites of stewed chicken served over rice, topped with fried garlic chips and scallions along with marinated hard-boiled eggs, accompanied by crisp shrimp fritters on the right. The cooking broth is served on the side to be mixed in, the dark sauce is shrimp paste and the red condiment is spicy sambal.


Soto Daging. A rich soup with chunks of beef, liver, and tripe kicked up with turmeric, herbs and spices. Rice on the side with more crispy bits on top.

Call 718-779-2241 to order ahead.

(And after lunch, be sure to check out the delicious Indonesian desserts inside the shop!)
 
 

It’s Durian Day! (Or Not…)

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Durian happens to be one of my favorite fruits, and while June 26 isn’t officially Durian Day, I agree with Fly FM, an English-language radio station based in Malaysia, that it should be.

You’ve probably heard the oft-quoted aphorism about it, “Tastes like heaven, smells like hell” but if you’ve never sampled durian, you might discover that you actually like it; a number of folks I’ve introduced it to on ethnojunkets have experienced that epiphany. There are gateway durian goodies too, like sweet durian pizza (see below), durian ice cream, candies, and freeze dried snacks and they’re all acceptable entry points as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s a post from the past, Durian’s Best Kept Secret, that recounts the story of a little known venue in Brooklyn where an assortment of durian cultivars can be purchased and enjoyed – and I did both, of course.


And a while back, it was my pleasure and privilege to write this piece, Durian Pizza in Flushing, for Edible Queens Magazine.

Happy Durian Day! 🤞
 
 

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.

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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.
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Indonesian Fried Chicken

Instagram Post 5/19/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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The seasoning packet shouted “Kentucky” in eye-catching, bright red, bold, decorative brush script underscored by a tiny legend that whispered “Fried Chicken Seasoned Flour” as if to subtly continue the thought. Beneath that, however, it was the “Tepung Bumbu Ayam Goreng” that caught my eye; I was in a Southeast Asian market in Queens (where else?) so I was hooked. Since then, it’s been perched on a pantry shelf along with so many other this’ll-keep-forever-so-there’s-no-hurry-to-use-it-right-away items, but if ever there was a time to frolic in the kitchen, it’s now.

Let’s get the first question out of the way: “Does it taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken?” Hell, Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore since they changed the recipe. The seasoning blend was modest, but not objectionable. I prepared it using dark meat chicken in a familiar nugget configuration and resisted the urge to tweak the seasoning (until the second batch).


To their credit, they got the wheat flour/tapioca flour/rice flour balance just right: the chix was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And since I had everything I needed to make it, that’s my own Indonesian nasi goreng (fried rice) on the side.

Which international cuisine should I fiddle with next?
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Mie Goreng

Instagram Post 5/15/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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I’ve been craving Indonesian food of late (I miss those weekend bazaars!), so when I remembered that there were fresh Chinese noodles in my freezer, I knew what I would make: mie goreng. My Indonesian friends might point out that this recipe traditionally calls for spaghetti-shaped egg noodles or even ramen rather than linguini-shaped wheat noodles, but today’s impulse came from a longing for that unique flavor profile and since I had almost everything on hand except for the proper noodz, the result was what you see here.

Chicken was the sidekick to the fried noodles. The non-noodle component consisted of shredded carrots, cabbage, red pepper, celery, baby bok choy, scallions, onions and garlic, a bit of reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and tiny dried shrimp, and the all-important ribbons of fried egg. The sauce combined ketjap manis (sweet), soy sauce (salty), oyster sauce (umami), sambal oelek (spicy), a bit of sesame oil (aromatic), and ground peanuts (yum). The garnish was a spicy coconut bumbu condiment that I had in the freezer, acquired at one of the aforementioned bazaars.

The marvelous white crisps on the right are shrimp flavored Indonesian krupuk (you might see kerupuk) and they’re positively addictive. In the package, they appear to be hard little chips, but they miraculously puff up almost instantly when subjected to hot oil; actually, they’re almost as much fun to prepare as they are to eat. Since I had already dragged out the deep fryer, I grabbed a few other examples of these crispy delights (yes, I have way too many in the pantry), some Indonesian and some Indian, in assorted colors and with varying flavors from garlic to potato to just plain salt. They come in so many varieties, I could do a post on those alone.

I still have a little of that sauce left and some terasi (shrimp paste) as well, so I see nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) in my future. 😉
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

IGA’s Kalimantan Bazaar

Instagram Post 1/22/2020

Quick post about two soups selected by my dining pals at the Indonesian Gastronomy Association’s Kalimantan Bazaar this past weekend. (Incidentally, Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, shared with Brunei and East Malaysia, and will ultimately be the new home to Indonesia’s capital.)

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Soto Banjar is a delicious Indonesian soup from Banjarmasin, the capital of West Kalimantan/Borneo, with chicken, noodles, hardboiled eggs, crispy fried shallots and (I think, because I was distracted) perkedel, potato patties.


Tekwan. Fish soup with top-notch dumplings make from ground fish and tapioca flour, served with wood ear mushrooms and veggies.

Follow IGA on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

The Making of Martabak

Instagram Post 1/20/2020

I’ve posted before about martabak (or martabak manis – manis means sweet), one of my favorite Southeast Asian desserts; it’s usually available at one of the three monthly Indonesian food bazaars, but this past weekend, the Indonesian Gastronomy Association (IGA) outdid itself by presenting a live demonstration revealing the way it’s made.

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Without giving away any recipe secrets, batter is added to a special lidded frying pan that cooks and steams the pancake; a leavening agent causes it to rise into its characteristic honeycomb sponge-like consistency. The green color comes from pandan (screwpine) paste; it’s my favorite variety and highly recommended.


It’s slathered with margarine (which is considerably more malleable and easier to work with on the sunny streets of Indonesia than in the chilly atmosphere of a capacious Elmhurst assembly hall).


The sweet stuff which can appear as any or all of chocolate sprinkles, cheese, nuts, and sweetened condensed milk is added over half; the plain side is folded over the top (and I do mean over-the-top) of the enhanced side…


…and cut into serving pieces.

More photos of the event to come.

Follow IGA on Facebook or Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule; find them at the Elmhurst Memorial Hall, 8824 43rd Ave, Queens, monthly.
 
 

Little House Cafe – More Savories

Instagram Post 1/8/2020

Picking up from a few days ago, here are a trio of savory dishes from the remarkable Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Ave in Elmhurst, Queens as promised.

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Chow Kueh Teow (you might see char kway teow) is practically a national dish in Malaysia and Singapore but is enjoyed throughout all of Maritime Southeast Asia in innumerable variations. Thick rice noodles along with rice cakes are the foundation accompanied by shrimp, squid, pork and bean sprouts in a rich, dark sauce that is the essence of this stir-fry. Good eats.


Bakwan Udang – an Indonesian treat; deep fried shrimp fritters, crispy on the outside, yielding within. And yes, those are whole shrimp on top, shells and all. (I told you they were crispy!)


Chai Kueh – steamed dumplings with dried shrimp, jicama and carrot.

And as usual, everything we tasted was great!
 
 

Upi Jaya

Instagram Post 12/2/2019

Outside of the (approximately) monthly Indonesian Food Festivals I’ve written about, Elmhurst, Queens also plays host to a number of Indonesian restaurants. Upi Jaya at 76-04 Woodside Ave has been doing an admirable job of dishing up the cuisine for locals as well as visitors (they’re a stop along my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst Ethnojunket) for 15 years. Here are four items from the Appetizers section of the menu, each a tasty starter or a snack in its own right and all with universal appeal.

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Risoles (you might see rissoles) – a snack assembled from a crepe rolled around seasoned chicken and diced vegetables (not unlike a Chinese egg roll in structure), covered with breadcrumbs and deep fried.


Lemper Ayam. Lemper is a snack made from coconut sticky rice compressed with any number of fillings, in this case ayam (chicken) that’s been lightly seasoned, rolled into a banana leaf and steamed.


Batagor: a portmanteau of bakso (a meat or fish paste), tahu (tofu), and goreng (fried), a specialty of West Java. Fried fish cake with peanut sauce; the crispy topping provides the contrast to the soft, chewy fishcake.


Arguably the best known Indonesian dish outside of Indonesia and a popular street food there, satay (or sate) is seasoned meat, skewered and grilled, often served with peanut sauce. An international favorite.

Main dishes in a future post.
 
 

Pandan Durian Crepes

Instagram Post 11/21/2019

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Durian, as you may know, is that much maligned fruit whose reputation is “Smells like hell, tastes like heaven!” But if you’ve never actually tried it, you should, and you might discover that you actually like it; a number of folks I’ve introduced it to on ethnojunkets have experienced that epiphany. Sweet and creamy, you could think of it as the fruit that makes its own custard.

These plush pillows are pandan crepes, filled with durian and cream and might well be another gateway drug to durian devotion: no unpleasant aroma, just a delicious tropical fruit flavor. (IMHO, pandan and durian have an affinity for each other.) I found these at last Sunday’s Elmhurst bazaar presented by the Indonesian Gastronomy Association.

IGA-USA is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to introduce Indonesian culture to people in the US, particularly in New York City. They stage this event which is as much about the culture as it is about the cuisine approximately monthly, so follow them on Facebook or on Instagram @iga_newyork to stay apprised of their schedule. Maybe you’ll get to try these emerald treats too.

(And perhaps this post will satisfy those of you who complain that I don’t post enough greens! 😉)