Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.
Like many Japanese drinking snacks kanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220
2. Thai taro crunch
Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168
If Chester Cheetah were Indian he’d be hawking this salty snack. While it is manufactured by Frito-Lay, this junk food (whose name means crunchy), bears little resemblance to its American cousin. Kurkure are the desified version of crunchy Cheetos. Flavors like Naughty Tomatoes, sharp and tangy with notes of clove and cinnamon; Masala Munch, replete with the sulfuriness of black salt; and the fiery chili chatka will open jaded junk food palates up to new worlds of flavor. I score mine at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, but Kurkure can be found at any decent sized Indian grocer. Patel Brothers, 37-27 74th Street, Jackson Heights,
Crunchy, salty, and slightly tart these ruddy grasshoppers are like beer nuts for adventurous eaters. When I stopped by Mexicana Bakery earlier in the week they still had plenty left. One $6 bag should be plenty for any Super Bowl party. Mexicana Bakery, 88-04 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-507-6381
5. Lays Thailand Meng Kum Pla
Lays Thailand, manages to channel the country’s culinary culture with a line of chips from the fishy and fiery like Hot and Spicy Crab and Hot Chili Squid to my favorite, Meng Kum Pla. The latter turns a Thai snack consisting of lime, chili, dried baby shrimp and ginger wrapped in leaves into a funky chili-lime explosion of a potato chip. Sugar Club, 81-20 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY, 718-565-9018
6. Kering tempe
This spicy Indonesian brittle is made from tempe, potatoes, and peanuts and sings with Southeast Asian flavors. Crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and spicy, it’s the only way I can abide the fermented soybean noxiousness that is tempe. Abide is an understatement. I can easily polish off a box of the stuff in a sitting. It’s also grea ton ice cream.
OK Indo Food Store, 88-15 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, 718-606-0104
7. Khanom bueang
You’re going to have to wait until the weekend to buy khanom bueang for your Super Bowl festivities, because that’s the only time Khao Kang makes them. The rice flour crêpes smeared with meringue come with one of two fillings: a sweet one with coconut and foi thong, strands of candied egg yolk, and a savory version filled with ruddy salted coconut seasoned with dried shrimp and sesame seeds. Compare them to tacos if you must. Crunchy and sweet, yet still light they are simply amazing. At a buck apiece you can afford to buy enough for the whole team. Khao Kang, 76-20 Woodside Avenue, Elmhurst, 718-662-8721