All That and a Bag of Krupuk

Back in 2016, I wrote a post dedicated to my interminable quest to discover the ultimate ethnic crunchy snack chip. It featured krupuk (you might see “kerupuk” as they’re called in Indonesia or other spellings since they’re enjoyed throughout Southeast Asia) – amazing crisps that are 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 – but you can also find them sold in bags and ready to eat.

My sweet friend from Indonesia, Elika, whom I met at the New York Indonesian Food Bazaar in Elmhurst many years ago, has stayed in touch with me and recently sent me an assortment of authentic kerupuk. Each photo depicts a single variety before frying (bottom of each plate) and after (top) so you can get an idea of the transformation they undergo.

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Kerupuk Gandum. Gandum means wheat, one of a variety of starches from which kerupuk are made.

Emping Belinjo. Belinjo (padi oats) seeds are ground into flour and used to make emping, a type of kerupuk. Padi oats have a slight bitter, but not at all unpleasant, aftertaste. They’re not really “oatey” in the Cheerios sense because they’re another species, but they’re certainly more like oats than corn or wheat since there’s a satisfying nuttiness to them. Elika suggests a sprinkling of salt on these to lessen the bitter taste.

Emping Belinjo Udang. Udang means shrimp. Emping are available in styles such as manis (sweet), pedas (spicy) and madu (honey) and flavors including garlic and shrimp.

Rengginan – sweet rice puffs.

Kerupuk Udang – my absolute favorite of the group!

But you don’t have to take my word for how delicious these are! If you’d like to taste them yourself (and maybe get some to take home) you can find a wide variety of krupuk on three of my ethnojunkets, Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst, Snacking in Flushing, and Manhattan’s Chinatown. Food tour season has begun, and I’d be happy to introduce you to these crispy, crunchy gems.

To learn more about my food tours, please check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

Sin Kee

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Sin Kee, located in the Queens Crossing Food Court, 136-20 38th Avenue, Unit #4, markets itself as serving up 21st Century Hawker Cuisine in NYC. I had read about their Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly Rice Platter so I had to investigate to see if it would make a good candidate for my Snacking in Flushing – the Best of the Best Ethnojunket.

The dish, Lu Rou Fan, is served over jasmine rice with a side of braised egg and sautéed preserved mustard greens, and it’s chef Richard Chan’s special sauce that makes it one of their signature dishes.

And while I was there, I tried their version of Taiwanese Gua Bao – slow-cooked pork belly with peanuts, cilantro, and more mustard greens plus special sauce in case a snack-sized goodie would work better for us.

They both look good, right? But will they be on my food tour? Only one way to find out: check out my Ethnojunkets page and sign up to join in the fun!

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.

Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky

Instagram Post 1/18/2019

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One of the delights of living in NYC is enjoying easy access to our five or six Chinatowns and the culinary treasures they embrace. Tucked away at 95A Elizabeth St is Singapore Malaysia Beef Jerky, a tiny shop that delivers big flavor in the form of freshly grilled, delicious jerky – a regularly scheduled stop on my Manhattan Chinatown ethnojunket. The word “jerky” has its roots in the Andean Quechua language – ch’arki meaning dried, salted meat – and this savory-sweet version is unique. They offer three kinds of meat in two spice levels and two styles.

[1] The first style (and my favorite) comes in the form of slightly charred squares of wonderfully seasoned pulverized chicken, pork, or beef. (Sometimes they have a combo of shrimp and pork – if you see it, get it.) The three varieties are similar in appearance: chicken is slightly pinker than pork which is lighter than beef; the flavors are identifiable – if you’re eating one labeled chicken, you know it’s chicken; the texture is supple (chicken is subtly more tender than beef); and their distinctive seasoning blend is the reason to go here. All three are available in spicy as well as regular designations; “spicy” has a finish with a tiny kick, but well within anyone’s tolerance.

[2] They also make a style that consists of very thinly sliced meat (pork or beef) with seasoning similar to those above, available in spicy and non-spicy recipes as well. In terms of texture, expect a little more resistance – after all, you’re chewing an actual slice of meat. The second photo shows an example of the two side by side.

[3] How it’s done. I can attest from experience that this is a universal favorite; if you’ve never tried their jerky, put it at the top of your to-eat list.

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Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro

When I write about restaurants on Instagram, they’re usually brief takes accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here on, updated almost daily, by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But because of Instagram’s character count limitations, it’s often necessary to break up a review into several parts. This one originally appeared as three posts, published on January 14-16, 2019.

On beyond the eastern terminus of the 7 train in Flushing lies an overwhelming phalanx of Korean eateries on Northern Boulevard. One notable exception is Singapore-centric Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro at 161-16 Northern Blvd, approximately a three block walk from the Broadway stop on the LIRR Port Washington branch and definitely worth a visit. Here, in no special order, are some of the dishes we ordered.

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Hokkien Fried Noodles – egg noodles comingling with rice noodles, seafood (I saw fish cake, shrimp and squid), and a healthy dollop of belachan (dried shrimp paste) on the side, in what the menu described as a seafood broth. I see the word “broth” and I expect soup but I’m pleased to report that it was more of a sauce, and a delicious one at that. The belachan which I’d normally describe as aggressive, wasn’t at all overpowering and was a welcome addition to the dish.

Otah Otah (you may have seen otak otak on Indonesian menus) is a deftly seasoned mixture of fish and shrimp paste wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Each juicy bite provided a burst of seafood flavor with a gentle kick. Incidentally, the repetition of a word as part of a grammatical construct is common in Malay, and in linguistics is referred to as reduplication (a word which itself seems redundant); the Indonesian cumi cumi (squid) and gado gado (a vegetable salad) come to mind. Often, as in the case of otah², appending a “²” to the word is used as shorthand. Yum².

If you’ve never indulged in Hainanese Chicken, this is the place to go. It’s slow poached and comes to the table pale yellowish-white in color with slippery slick skin. Always remarkably tender, this version seems extra juicy and practically melts in your mouth; even the white meat is extraordinary. Here, it’s served with two sauces, a potent red chili sauce and a green herbal sauce the menu describes as pesto. The mild chicken and formidable sauces are a yin-yang combination that coexist in perfect harmony. I’m accustomed to seeing a particularly delicious rice made with chicken stock and chicken fat accompanying this dish, particularly in the Thai variation, khao man gai, but I didn’t find it on the table; a closer inspection of the menu after I left revealed Hainanese Chicken Rice as a side. I regret missing it; don’t make the same mistake.

Look for Cai Tow Kueh (you may have seen it as chai tow kueh), another Singapore favorite, in the Snacks section of the menu. It consists of chunks of radish cake (daikon), steamed first then stir-fried along with bits of egg and vegetables in a sweet soy sauce that clings to the cai tow kueh; it’s another treat that gets high marks for both texture and flavor. It’s also available with belachan sauce instead of the sweet rendition; it would have been overkill to order one of each so I’ll just have to go back!

Soft shell crab is always delicious but it’s especially delectable in Yummy Tummy’s deep fried Chili Sauce Soft Shell Crab, bathed in spicy goodness. It was surrounded by fried mantou poised to soak up the amazing sauce – so good we asked for an additional order of just the buns to ensure that nary a drop would go to waste.

Bah Kut Teh is a mild, slow cooked pork rib soup made with Chinese herbs; the small size came with two ribs along with a few other bits of pork and some mushrooms. By itself, it left something to be desired, but it was served with a much needed sauce that was akin to Chinese dumpling sauce.

We ordered the Durian Cheesecake for dessert and it was wonderful. I’m a huge fan of the King of Fruits so I may be biased, but the layer of durian purée was sweet, gentle and perfect for first timers.
Yummy Tummy Asian Bistro is located at 161-16 Northern Blvd, Queens.