Pata Market – 2022

My first post about Pata Market dates back to July, 2018 and this will be the eighth (!) so you know I’m enamored with the place. I stopped by on a recent excursion to Elmhurst as I was scoping out new options for my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst food tour – and yes, Pata Market at 81-16 Broadway is always part of the itinerary.

I picked up three snacks. (Actually I picked up seven, but these were arguably the most photogenic of the lot.)

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I usually think of Hoi Jo as deep fried crabmeat rolls, but the ingredients listed were pork, carrots, bean vermicelli, garlic, salt and pepper. Chewy, salty, crunchy, yummy. (Wasn’t that a song from the late 60s?)

The label read Thai Pancake Stuff which I’ll interpret as Thai stuffed pancake. They’re a layered affair: pandan custard enveloped in a solid crepe and then wrapped in a latticed crepe revealing shreds of sweet egg.

The inner workings, bottom, and top.

Kaw Neaw Moo. Delicious grilled marinated pork on a stick, at once sweet and savory, with perfectly prepared sticky rice. So good.

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

More Elmhurst treats to come….

Zaab Zaab

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I had been updating my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst tour for a few weeks and on one of my initial visits (back on April 16) I spotted Zaab Zaab, the new Isan Thai restaurant at 7604 Woodside Avenue and stopped in for a quick bite. They had only been open for six days and I had my choice of table – but trust me, it’s not going to stay that way; I’m predicting capacity seating. I selected two items from the “Snacks” section of the menu and was happily surprised to receive what I would consider more than just a snack.

I asked about the difference between two contiguous menu items, Nuer Koy and Nam Tok, since both are meat salads. I was told that Nuer Koy was “more rare” so you know which I opted for. Whether it was rare or raw is open for debate but I thought it was great; marinated beef served with fresh hard-to-find herbs, roasted rice powder, chewy pork skin, and spicy as hell, it was as delicious and authentic as any dish I’ve experienced in the neighborhood.

Quail Egg Wonton came with a righteous sweet chili tamarind sauce. My only regret is that I should have asked for an order of sticky rice to accompany the beef. You should too when you go – and I suggest you go soon!

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! 😉)

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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!

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! 🍨

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! 🤞

Look by Plant Love House

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.

Here are some pix from multiple occasions in 2016 and 2017 that were taken at Look by Plant Love House, the cozy Thai restaurant at 622 Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I dined there on a number of occasions and liked their Thai home cooking so much that I subsequently brought an assortment of foodie friends there to check it out as well. (Apologies for the grainy photos – I used the wrong film in the camera 😉 – but I can assure you that the food was significantly better than the pix!) In no special order:

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Chiang Mai Khao Soy, a Thai classic that highlights noodles two ways: Soft egg noodles swaddling chicken in Chiang Mai curry sauce topped with crispy egg noodles, accompanied by red onion, pickled cabbage, cilantro and lime.

Guay Tiao Num Tok (Pork Blood Noodle Soup). Don’t be squeamish about this one now that you know its ingredients; it deserves the popularity it enjoys back home! Thai boat noodle soup flavored with palm sugar, vinegar and Thai chili featuring sliced pork, pork balls, Chinese broccoli, and bean sprouts.

Hor Mok Pla, a seasonal special. As described on their menu: “a pair of banana-leaf cups filled with an airy, mousselike custard of finely ground fish, decorated with coconut cream, finely julienned makrut lime leaf, and red chili threads.” According to Wikipedia, the dish is associated with marriage because the marriage of ingredients within it is representative of the love of a married couple. And since everyone I shared it with seems to love the dish, that sounds about right to me.

Khao Kluk Kapi. Fried rice mixed with shrimp paste formed and surrounded by fried mackerel, Thai sausage, fried eggplant, shredded omelet, and more.

Khao Pad Nam Prik Pla Too. Another spicy shrimp paste rice platter (khao means rice), this time served with a fried whole mackerel, fried eggplant, steamed carrots and broccoli, a boiled egg and (if memory serves) fermented shrimp paste dip.

Moo Manow – moo means pork (easy to remember because of the barnyard irony); this dish consists of juicy chunks of pork dressed in garlic-chili-lime sauce served over Chinese baby broccoli.

Nam Prik Ong. Pork rinds, broccoli, and cucumber (plus jasmine sticky rice not in this photo) served with Chiang Mai’s favorite medium-spicy dipping sauce made from minced pork and tomatoes.

Num Prik Phow Tom Yum Goong Yai. Sounds like a mouthful, but let’s break it down: “num prik phow” = Thai chili paste; “tom” = to boil and “yum” is the spicy hot and sour salad you know and love, hence “tom yum” = hot and sour soup; “goong” = shrimp; “yai” = large. The menu description is “rice noodle in Thai chili paste soup with jumbo shrimp, homemade pork patty, bacon, and soft boiled egg. Not sure if the bacon is in there to complement the egg, but we sent our compliments to the chef. As I think about it, in either language, that is a mouthful – and a delicious one at that!

Pla Lui Suan. Fried fillet of red snapper covered with Thai herbs (makrut lime leaves, galangal, red onion, shallot, and mint), topped with cashew nuts and fresh chili-lime sauce.

Yum Pak Boong Grob. Crispy watercress salad with chili-lime sauce, shrimp, and minced pork, topped with crispy shallots, cilantro and peanuts. The green vegetable is known by a raft of names – fitting because it’s semiaquatic: water spinach, kangkong, Chinese watercress, morning glory, and water convolvulus to name a few; you can identify it in Asian markets by its hollow stems. Translation: yum = spicy salad, pak boong = water spinach, grob = crispy (because it’s fried).

Panang Ped. Roasted farm-raised half duck in panang curry paste, coconut milk, makrut lime leaves, string beans, and bell pepper.
Look by Plant Love House is located at 622 Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Thai Diva

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.

Back in June 2016, we picked up a few “small dishes” at Thai Diva, the Northern Thai restaurant at 45-53 46th St in Woodside, Queens, all of which were great. In no special order:

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Larb Muang – Northern Thai style chopped meat salad. This version featured ground pork in a kicked-up spice blend with fried garlic and cilantro; it’s also available with chicken or beef. Crispy pork rinds (think chicharrones but Thai) on the side.

Nam Prik Ong – When you see Nam Prik on a Thai menu, you’re venturing into a fiery zone; it’s a condiment made from roasted red chilies, garlic, shallots, lime juice and fermented shrimp and soybeans; here it’s the base for ground pork and tomatoes. It’s served with mixed veggies, hard-boiled eggs and pork rinds, of course.

Sai Ua (you might see it as Sai Oua or Sai Aua). Sai (“intestine”) ua (“stuffed” – an apt description of sausage in general) is another classic that hails from Northern Thailand. The stuffing is ground fatty pork with that immediately identifiable, signature northern Thai flavor attributable to chili paste plus some combination of shallots, garlic, makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and fish sauce. Served here with contrasting cooling cucumber.

This is Tum Kanoon, stir-fried shredded green jackfruit with ground pork held together with Thai curry paste and herbs like makrut lime leaves and basil leaves. Did I mention crispy pork rinds?
Thai Diva Cuisine is located at 45-53 46th St in Woodside, Queens.

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.

Thai Green Curry

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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Spotted some basa at the supermarket yesterday and since that type of catfish is native to Southeast Asia, I thought I’d do something Thai with it, perhaps a green curry. Now, there are two ways to make a Thai curry: the right way (read, “labor-intensive”) or the best I can muster during pandemic times (read, “intensely lazy”).

When I cleave to an orthodox strategy, my recipe calls for grating fresh galangal and ginger, chopping lemongrass, garlic, shallots and cilantro, plus Thai bird chilies, makrut lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, coconut milk and then some. But lately, I don’t have the energy to even read that recipe let alone make the stuff, hence “intensely lazy” would be the order of the day.

At the market, I remembered that I had some Thai green curry paste in the freezer, so I bought the basa along with an eggplant, a can of baby corn and coconut milk and hoped for the best.

Returning to my kitchen, I heated up the coconut milk and the curry paste. But hoping for the best did not make it so. I considered what components I already had that would fix it – because it definitely needed fixing. The spice level needed to be kicked up and there was a jar of Thai Chili Paste with Holy Basil on the shelf so I added some of that, it needed to be more herbaceous so I added some cilantro and Blasphemous Basil that I had on hand, it needed salty pungency so I added fish sauce and then it needed sweetness so I added palm sugar and then it needed acid so I added lime juice. There was a jar of Thai pickled green peppercorns in the fridge from the last time (when I did it right) and a few mushrooms, so I tossed those in along with the fish and the veggies.

I tasted it. Not bad. Not bad at all.

And as I review what I’ve just written, I recognize that I had actually been halfway along the road to doing it the right way, but since my decisively committed strategy was “intensely lazy” I stopped where I stopped: far be it from me to flout a previously endorsed plan.

Moral: There’s something to be said for quitting while you’re ahead.
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Dek Sen

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos from bygone days taken at restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip. These came from a number of visits; some made it to Instagram, others made it here to, and still others never made it off my hard drive, so this is a collection that spans a few years of happy eating.

Dek Sen (literally “child noodles”), one of my favorite casual restaurants for Isaan Thai cuisine, has never let me down. Located at 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, it has always been a stop along my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket and will be again when things get rolling.

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Tiger Cry from the Starters section of the menu. Grilled marinated skirt steak with jaew sauce (chili dipping sauce). If this is what it tastes like when tigers cry, I guess those must be tears of jaew. <groan>

Dek Sen’s Tub Wann appetizer won’t leave you wannting: pork liver and red onion on a bed of greens. Ground roasted sticky rice for some crunch, lime juice, mint, scallion, and cilantro for some punch.

Zabb (very literally “delicious”) Wings. When you see zabb (you might also see zaab) it’s your clue that you’re dealing with food from the northeast region (Isaan, Isan, Isarn, et al.) of Thailand. Dusted with a crunchy coating that combines chili and lime, these wings are crisp, spicy, not at all greasy, and they definitely live up to their moniker.

Crispy Mussels Pancake, a signature dish. Fried egg pancake with mussels over sautéed bean sprouts served with Sriracha sauce.

The ever popular hot and sour soup, Tom Yum (“tom” means boil and “yum” means mixed). This one features minced pork, pork liver, fish balls, a perfectly boiled egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions, and cilantro and is topped with fried wonton and fried garlic. Yum indeed!

Ka Nom Jeen Nam Ya (you might see khanom chin or other spellings). Khanom jeen are thin vermicelli noodles made from mildly fermented rice, here supporting “special curry chicken” with fish balls and fresh vegetables, a signature dish.

Pork and Pepper with Egg. A spicy offering with a focus on ground pork crowned with basil; the crispy fried egg on the side acts as a foil to the spice level of the pork.

Phuket Chili Fried Rice. Saw this one on the blackboard so I don’t know if it’s a regular. It’s redolent of homemade royal shrimp paste and served with mackerel, a boiled egg, and steamed vegetables.

And what’s for dessert? Rainbow Crepe Cake! This was only the 4,257,369th photo of Dek Sen’s rainbow crepe cake on Instagram! 😉 But I might just have been one of the first to mention that it tasted delicious as well. “Dek” means child in Thai and if this doesn’t have you channeling your inner unicorn, I don’t know what will.
Dek Sen is located at 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, Queens.