Cafe At Your Mother-in-Law

Instagram Post 11/12/2018

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It may come as a surprise to some that North Korea and Russia share a border: 11 land miles of “terrestrial border” and 12 nautical miles of “maritime border”, and during the Japanese occupation in the 1920s–30s, some Koreans escaped to Russia via this route. Subsequently, Stalin moved all Koreans in Russia to Central Asia, mostly Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan; they self-identified as Koryo-Saram and their fusion-by-necessity cuisine is the focus of this post. You may have tasted some version of the spicy shredded carrot salad (morkovcha) offered by most Uzbek restaurants but it’s khe that I’ve come to crow about and Café At Your Mother-in-Law, 3071 Brighton 4th St just off Brighton Beach Ave in Brooklyn, does a remarkable job with it. Meaty chunks of raw fish marinated in vinegar, onions and Korean red chili are the main ingredients (recipes vary) in this delectable dish; [2] a cooked beef version is also available with slightly different seasonings but equally delicious. [3] Pegodya, a steamed bun stuffed with cabbage and meat that comes with a special house sauce, makes a good accompaniment. Khe is the reason I take folks to this restaurant on my Little Odessa ethnojunkets and I’m pleased to report that it’s always a hit.

I’m also pleased to report, speaking of ethnojunkets, that now you can book a food tour with me at your convenience without waiting for the next one to be announced. During colder weather and the holiday season, I tend to do fewer scheduled ethnojunkets, but that doesn’t mean that I stop doing them! Simply click here to find out how!
 
 

The Khinkali is Behind Door Number 1, Manti

Instagram Post 10/17/2018

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How can you tell the difference between Uzbek manti and Georgian khinkali? I mean, they’re both big, beautiful meat-filled dumplings, generally boiled or steamed, that hail from Former Soviet Union states. At first glance, they do seem similar but the shapes are the most evident giveaway: manti are pinched closed, sometimes completely sealed, sometimes with little gaps, and they look a bit like a flower or a pyramid or perhaps a child’s fist. Khinkali, on the other hand are always twisted closed in such a way that they resemble a Chinese soup dumpling on steroids, with a little topknot to be employed as a handle for refined eating. (There are those who eschew consuming the topknot, claiming that it’s just too doughy to be anything more than a mechanism for conveying dumpling to mouth; others happily chew it up because it’s part of the package, literally and figuratively.)

Manti fillings (photo 2) vary depending upon provenance, seasonality, and recipe (they’re actually Turkic/Central Asian) and are typically found bursting with juicy, deliciously seasoned lamb and onions diced into tiny chunks (when they’re hot, unlike these), although pumpkin varieties are not at all uncommon. Khinkali from Georgia, a Christian nation (Uzbekistan is predominantly Muslim) usually contain a mixture of ground pork and beef.

And how do they taste? I thought you’d never ask. That’s where personal experience comes into play. And if you join me on my Little Odessa ethnojunket this Saturday, October 20 (pretty sneaky, right?), we’re likely to procure one or the other or both as we eat our way along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn. If you’d like to join us for the adventure, please click here for more information and to sign up. Hope to see you then!
 
 

Kutaby

Instagram Post 10/10/2018

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Azerbaijani food is similar to the cuisine of Georgia (FSU Georgia, that is) but they lay claim to certain dishes such as kutaby as their own. A thin, tortilla-like crepe filled with ground lamb and luscious seasonings, folded in half and griddled, it’s an object of universal culinary lust for anyone whose lips have ever caressed it.

And, by the way, it may make an appearance at my upcoming Little Odessa ethnojunket (what a segue 😉), Saturday, October 20, where we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn.

For more information and to sign up, click here. Hope to see you then!
 
 

October 20th Ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa, Now Boarding!

There’s a new ethnojunket on the horizon scheduled for Saturday, October 20, 2018 where we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue. We’ll share Georgian cheese bread as well as Turkish and Russian sweets and treats along with amazing dumplings, authentic ethnic dishes, and so much more. The cost is $65 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!

The photos below show a few of the delicacies we’ll taste. And for a sneak preview of just one part of the tour, check out my post about the amazing Gourmanoff. Is it a market or a theater? Join me and see for yourself!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com).

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This is Babka? Really?

Instagram Post 10/2/2018

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When we hear the word “babka”, we usually imagine a freshly baked loaf of irresistible sweetness fashioned from yeast-dough twirled around cinnamon or chocolate filling, topped with a crumb streusel, a slice of which will be perched beside tomorrow morning’s coffee. Or at least I do. So if you wandered into Taste of Russia at 219 Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn’s Little Odessa, you might be surprised to see that selfsame word (but in Russian) labeling this noodle and raisin pudding. I might have used the Yiddish phrase “lokshen kugel” (noodle pudding) to describe this Central European dish, but regardless of the sign (photo 2), it was immediately identifiable as something I needed to buy. Dense with eggs, milk, butter, and sugar and sporting a crispy, browned cap, this treat was delicious but fulfilled its role best as a desserty snack rather than a morning carbobomb. Definitely good eats and a potential treat along my Little Odessa food tour.
 
 

The Case for Kholodets

Instagram Post 9/19/2018

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When I was a kid my mother would stash a can of Campbell’s consommé in the refrigerator until its contents congealed – her attempt at Cordon Bleu cookery. This actionable offense was my unfortunate introduction to aspic. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that aspic could be delicious.

This is kholodets (холодец), a savory meat aspic popular in Russian and Eastern European cuisines. Chilled meat stock gels naturally because of its high collagen content although gelatin is sometimes added to double down on the texture. Formerly a wintertime addition to the menu, contemporary refrigeration has made kholodets a year round treat.

I couldn’t resist backlighting this example that’s mostly chicken with a clandestine carrot slice or two set into aspic. Its appetizing flavor is anything but neutral; neutral gelatin would be gross, right? If you think of it as “meat jello” or some kind of weird delicacy, you probably won’t like it; I suggest approaching it with an open mind (and an open mouth) and try to appreciate it for what it is – in this case, cold chicken in its perfectly seasoned jus – rather than what it’s “sort of like”.
 
 

Reminder: Our Ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa is Now Boarding!

There’s a new ethnojunket scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2018 in which we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn’s Little Odessa. The cost is $70 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! Here’s an example from our last tour.

Tula Pryaniki (тульский пряник) are sweet honey cakes characterized by a raised imprint on top – in this case тульский identifying Tula, the city in Russia from which they hail, and its coat of arms – covered with a sugary glaze to bring out the image. I’ll let the packaging speak for itself:

лакомка – the brand name, “Gourmet”
с фруктовой начинкой – “with fruit filling”, in this case apple and apricot
вкусный, сытный – “delicious, satisfying”
ароматный – “flavorful”
содержит мёд – “contains honey”

What more can I say? For more information and to sign up for Saturday’s ethnojunket, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com).

(And remember, subscribing to ethnojunkie.com to receive updates about the latest posts and upcoming tours is a piece of cake. Or easy as pie, perhaps. Just use the Subscribe button on any page!)
 
 

Ethnojunket to Brooklyn’s Little Odessa Now Boarding!

There’s a new ethnojunket on the horizon scheduled for Saturday, September 15, 2018 where we’ll sample the delights of Russian and Former Soviet Union cuisine along Brighton Beach Avenue. We’ll share Georgian cheese bread as well as Turkish and Russian sweets and treats along with amazing dumplings, authentic ethnic dishes, and so much more. The cost is $70 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!

The photos below show a few of the delicacies we’ll sample. And for a sneak preview of just one part of the tour, check out my post about the amazing Gourmanoff. Is it a market or a theater? Join me and see for yourself!

For more information and to sign up, send me a note in the “Leave a Reply” section below (or write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com).

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

Pretty Pastries from Portokali

Instagram Post 8/21/2018

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Whenever I’m in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, I pay a visit to Portokali Gourmet Market at 1509 Sheepshead Bay Road. As their signage reminds us (see second photo), the name comes from the Turkish word for orange, portakal. In addition to Turkish delicacies, you’ll find a respectable assortment of Russian and near-Russian products in this medium sized well-stocked market as well: cheese, meats, olives, coffee, dried fruits and nuts in bulk, preserves and the like, candies, cookies, and fresh baked goods. My guess is that local carbnivores come in to grab a “coffee and” before they start their day.
 
 

In a Pickle at Net Cost Market

Instagram Post 8/13/2018

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One aspect of the larger Russian/FSU markets that I particularly appreciate is the freedom to buy just a few bits of many items from their extensive prepared food arrays. I seldom choose a whole fish because I can’t be certain if I’m going to like the preparation and I’m disinclined to make that kind of commitment. But casting about for something different, I decided to tackle something new and these two beauties lured me in. I reeled them in at Net Cost Market (net, get it?), 8671 18th Ave in Bath Beach, Brooklyn: the one at the top is hake – smoky and very salty, it tasted a little like smoked whitefish but not as oily. The other is ice fish – being a small specimen, its flesh wasn’t flaky, but rather tight like smelt. Both were good, each was very different, and now I’m hooked on trying various fish from there and similar markets.

Incidentally, while at Net Cost, I spotted these tanks at the self-serve pickle area: brine from green tomatoes, red tomatoes, sour pickles, and half-sour pickles. I confess that I succumbed to the temptation to check and make sure that nothing was swimming in them. 😉

#fishingforlaughs