Queens is fortunate to have two Chinatowns, the bustling downtown Flushing, home to a wealth of regional Chinese cuisine, and the somewhat mellower Elmhurst, which in addition to Cantonese, Sichuan, and Henanese fare, features some of the best Southeast Asian food to be found in all of New York City. That includes Indonesian food, notably the Indonesian Food Bazaar, which takes place tomorrow at St. James Church. What follows is a pictorial guide/plan of attack for eating your way through tomorrow’s festivities, which run from noon to 5 p.m.
As Indonesian food nerd/Instagrammer @dan.bukit points out it’s best to arrive before 1 p.m. for the greatest selection. By 2 p.m. some of the stands start to run out. Since my eyes are quite often bigger than my stomach, I immediately head over to one of the snackier stands and have one of the Indonesian beef pies known as martabak. That way I can take my time exploring the festival without being hangry. Many folks like to bring a posse of four or five friends to share. I prefer to go it alone, although I usually run into a fellow food geek to share with.
A team of ladies whips up fresh gado gado, grinding the sauce on a shallow Indonesian-style mortar and pestle. It’s not really my thing, but it’s a classic dish that always draws a crowd and is great for vegetarians.
Carnivores won’t want to miss out on beef and lamb satay skewers grilled over hardwood charcoal and served with a peanut sauce.
One of my favorite things to eat at the St. James Bazaar is Nur’s bubur ayam, a porridge topped with chicken. This is no plain Jane congee though. Topped with shredded chicken, crullers, day-glo colored rice crackers, fried soybean, peanut sauce, and chili, the thick porridge is a delicious riot of textures and flavors. Find Nur and her bubur ayam just past the gado gado brigade. She and her family also prepare a lovely turmeric drink.
On the right-hand side of the stage is an outfit called Pecel Ndeso whose banner yellow and red banner promises “Authentic Indonesian Food.” They’re not lying either, their gudeg, or young jackfruit stewed in coconut milk and aromatic spices, is phenomenal. The beef on the combo plate was excellent as well.
On the left hand side of the stage is a gent who prepares freshly fried noodles. I did not personally try them, but they look great!
Many of the stands sell set meals packed in boxes. Taste of Surabaya, a stand just past the noodle man makes a killer fried chicken happy meal known as nasi kuning.
Just past the porridge stand find Lydia, who’s busy pouring cups of one Indonesia’s most beloved desserts, es cendol. It consists of palm sugar syrup, topped with squidgy green squiggles scented with pandan over ice. It’s way better than bubble tea and a great way to cool your palate if you’ve indulged in too much chilies.
I hope this little guide has whet your appetite for tomorrow afternoon’s festival. The best strategy? “If it looks good, eat it,” as my pal Andrew Zimmern likes to say. Tomorrow’s bazaar takes place in a church. Would you believe there’s another one that takes place in a mosque in Astoria throughout the spring and summer?
NY Indonesian Food Bazaar, St. James Parish House, 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst