Bay Ridge Ethnojunkets Are Back!

The Flavors of Little Levant and Little Yemen

I resumed Exploring Eastern European Food in Little Odessa about a month ago, Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst and Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best more recently – and now Bay Ridge is ready to go!

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.

Q: When is your next ethnojunket to [fill in the blank: Flushing, Elmhurst, Little Odessa, 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 Bay Ridge?
Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge is home to so many Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries that it should have earned the moniker “Little Levant” long ago; the influx of Lebanese, Yemeni, and other Middle Eastern and Arab Americans makes it the ideal neighborhood for an ethnic food tour. (Did you know that Bay Ridge and Beirut are cognates? Just kidding.)

But there’s a lot more to it than that: the locale was formerly home to a thriving Norwegian community and now welcomes shops and markets representing Mexico, Poland and more – and our mission is to sample the flavors of all of them! It will be an entertaining, educational, and delicious tour during which we’ll enjoy Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Scandinavian, and Mexican fare.

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! 😉)

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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!
 
 

Shakshuka

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I hadn’t been considering taking a photo of this and there isn’t even any backstory except that I had been reading a food website’s newsletter that happened to be singing the praises of shakshuka. I’m told that I’m hopelessly suggestable when it comes to food choices (okay, fine, guilty as charged) so you know what took place next, totally spur of the moment.

Shakshuka comes with some weighty baggage regarding its origin and consequently a predictable carry-on of spelling alternatives. Best I can tell, it got its start in Ottoman North Africa; Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and Yemen among others proudly include it among their national cuisines, each with its own accent of course.

Essentially, shakshuka is tomato sauce (canned tomatoes are fine if you don’t have great fresh tomatoes and great amounts of time) pointed up with onions, peppers, and garlic in which eggs are poached; the basic recipe is pretty simple although it calls for a soupçon of finesse at the stove when nestling the raw eggs into the sauce. But beyond the fundamentals, international flights of fancy take off involving an assortment of seasonings that run the gamut from sweet to spicy and the inclusion of black olives, preserved lemon, feta cheese and such, as well as representative meats and vegetables (think merguez or chickpeas). Space and deference to your plans for the remainder of the day preclude my listing them all here.

My extemporaneous seasonings that day included lots of toasted ground cumin and whole cumin seeds, smoked paprika, harissa to kick it up, and cilantro as an integral ingredient as well as a garnish. Pretty straightforward, but I was motivated, and sans forethought I used whatever I had on hand. I did veer from the canon, however, by anointing it with white truffle oil post poach.

I can’t imagine this dish without bread – but English muffins instead of a more appropriate North African or Middle Eastern bread? Say it with me: because that’s what I had on hand!
 
 

Ameer Bakery

Instagram Post 3/6/2020

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My dining buddy and I were on our way between hither and yon in Paterson, NJ when we passed Ameer Bakery at 243 Buffalo Ave. We ventured in at a particularly fortuitous moment as trays of these Middle Eastern pies (manakish, مناقيش) were just emerging hot from the oven. Two types of cheese were meltingly evident; when I inquired, I was told “mozzarella” and “Arabic cheese”. The vicissitudes of helpful linguistic interpretation being what they are, I’m going to speculate that the bottom layer was akkawi (a bit like mozzarella) and the random plops atop, puffy and a bit salty, were nabulsi – but I’m guessing. No guesswork was involved, however, concerning how delicious these Palestinian pies were. My gratitude to the management for comping us these savory treats.
 
 

Al Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant

Instagram Post 8/12/2019

It was an interminable wait (but that’s not unusual for this neighborhood at lunchtime) in sweltering heat (but that’s not unusual for this city in summertime), and I was keen to explore this new-to-me ethnic restaurant (but that’s not unusual for this gourmand at any time).

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Al Aqsa Bakery & Restaurant, 6917 5th Ave in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, proudly (see second photo) serves Middle Eastern cuisine with a Palestinian flair. I was eager to try the “Mix Shawerma” which combines chicken and lamb, perfect for me because it obviates the need to make a decision. Packed with the two meats and veggies, it was worth the wait.

Since I was unfamiliar with it, I was curious about a dish on the menu called “ejjah”; Wikipedia describes eggah (from research, I don’t think the spelling is an issue) as similar to a frittata with rather elaborate seasonings and fillings. I ordered it but was disappointed to receive basically a plain omelet fried in oil with an inconsequential amount (a pinch or two) of onion and parsley. I dunno. I should return though to check out their assortment of breads and cookies that are baked on the premises; those certainly looked appetizing.