Southeast Asian food bazaars pop up like multihued summer orchids throughout Queens. The bustling events offer a window into such cuisines as Burmese that are rarely seen in restaurants, even in this most delicious and diverse of boroughs. And even when the cuisines are represented in the borough’s eateries, there are many home-cooked dishes, seldom seen on menus. Take ayam rica rica, a fiery Indonesian chicken dish, that I tried for the first time at the Pasar Kuliner Nusantara, or Archipelago Culinary Market, held at Flushing Town Hall on June 29.
I only discovered this specialty from Indonesia’s North Sulawesi because a friend had brought a guide of sorts with him. “She’s really good at sniffing stuff out,” he said as she proffered a plate of rice with yellow tinged bits of chicken shot through with bits of chili and herbs.
Ayam rica rica, means chicken with chili and is aptly named. After a few bites my lips and palate began to hum pleasantly with a fiery heat. There’s much more to this dish than a mere capsaicin rush though. Every nooks and cranny in the irregular bony pieces—necks and thighs that were likely shattered with the flat of a cleaver—was suffused with garlic, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves and other Indonesian herbs. It was so good that I bought a container to take home. At $5 it was way cheaper than airfare to Indonesia.