Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand
04/15/14 12:47pm
MATZOBALLS1

Think those are Easter eggs? Take a closer look.

Passover and Easter fall so close together that it was only a matter of time before they were combined in a culinary mashup. That’s precisely what my adopted Jewish mother Times Ledger food critic Suzanne Parker has done with her interfaith matzoh ball soup. Parker, the Jewish half of a mixed marriage, serves her interfaith matzoh balls for Passover, Easter dinner, or both if the supply holds. (more…)

04/14/14 10:48am
RICEROLL2

Noodle Village’s rice rolls are a sweet chewy delight.

“I never get anything else there,” she said, “because my inner six-year-old makes a bee line for the rice rolls.” We were talking about Noodle Village So Good, a stall just at the bottom of the escalator in New World Mall, which traffics in congees, soups, and noodles, with a side line in xiao long bao. I told her that as a six-year old I’d eaten my fair share of shrimp and pork chang fan at Mei Lai Wah Coffee House in Manhattan’s Chinatown. I’d always thought of them as more of snacky type meal than a treat, but I could tell from the way she spoke about them Noodle Village’s rice rolls fell clearly in the treat category. (more…)

04/11/14 10:27am
Songkran,or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals iin Queens.

Songkran,or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals iin Queens.

The ornate gilded roof of Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram rises majestically above squat brick apartment buildings of Elmhurst. The temple, its grounds, and the shrine room with its Emerald Buddha are so spectacular that I always include it in my tours of what I like to call SEA Elmhurst. Even more amazing though is the temple’s annual Songkran—or Thai New Year—festival featuring music, kick boxing, a beauty pageant, and an immense Thai buffet that draws an equally immense crowd. (more…)

04/10/14 10:28am

“Sure I eat with my hands,” you  say. “Fried chicken, burgers, tacos.” Let me clarify, do you eat South Asian food—Indian, Tibetan, Bangladeshi, Pakistani—with your hands? I’ve tried it a couple of times with Nepalese food at Dhaulaghiri kitchen. In theory and practice I understand that it’s tastier that way, but since I was raised using a knife fork to eat rice I’m self-conscious and almost always opt for utensils.

Arun Venugopal on the other hand was raised with the Desi tradition  of eating with his hands and discusses it in the wonderful WNYC Micropolis video above. He makes the point that in Indian restaurants, people don’t eat with their hands, saving that secret practice for meals at home with family. Based on what I’ve seen in Queens I’d say that’s not the case among South Asians, but that’s only because they feel so at home when eating in the borough’s ethnic enclaves.

“My Dad’s attitude is, it’s just very impersonal to eat with a fork or knife or chopsticks,” Venugopal says. “One of his sayings is, ‘the hand is our God given fork.’” So here’s what I’d like to know, have you tried eating south Asian food with your hands? Did you like it, or did you find it off-putting? Do agree with Arun, is it the secret to everything tasting better? Let me know in the comments.

04/09/14 12:48pm
PAMBAZO-1

The pambazo in all its ruddy, messy glory.

“I’m sorry, my friend. After tomorrow no more tortas you,” is probably one of the more depressing things I’ve heard the jovial Galdino “Tortas” Molinero, the Mexican sandwich- and soccer-obsessed genius ever say. It was back in late October when his truck’s license expired. So I was very glad to learn from my amigo Jeff Orlick that Tortas has been operating out of window adjacent to Juan Bar on Roosevelt Avenue for several months. Which brings us to the subject of today’s post, the pambazo, an off menu special that appears nowhere on the list of the Mexico  City native’s roster of more than a dozen gargantuan tortas. (more…)

04/08/14 10:45am
FURUNJELLY2

Green bean sheet jelly with red oil, for vegetarians and chiliheads alike.

To a certain kind of Chinese food aficionado the very mention of Fu Run conjures up three words: Muslim lamb chop. And it is well that it should. For the ruddy rack of lamb that’s been braised, deep fried and rolled in cumin and sesame is truly spectacular. When I showed Dave Beran the executive chef of Next around downtown Flushing a while back he told me he wanted to take it easy on cumin forward dishes. I insisted the Muslim lamb chop was a must-eat, and he relented, and was glad to have done so. As a card carrying carnivore I am loath to admit two of my favorite dishes from our Fu Run meal were vegetarian. (more…)

04/07/14 10:37am
PAPLEAN

Pork crackling’s the perfect garnish for a bowl of pork blood soup.

Pata Paplean is a favorite stop on my food tours of Elmhurst because it has some of the best Thai style street food I’ve had in New York. On weekend afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. the funky bar named for a gorilla in a Bangkok zoo serves up $4 bowls of noodle soup. Moo toon consists of slightly sweet amber broth with tender bits of pork, meaty mushrooms, and some greenery. Paplean’s tom yum is one of the busier bowls of tom yum I’ve ever come across in Queens. Two kinds of fish balls, ground pork, pork liver, and sliced pork fill the bowl along with two crisp sheets of fried dough. Yesterday though I was initiated into the pleasures of kuay tiew nam tok moo, or pork blood soup. (more…)

04/04/14 10:53am
PLOMBIR

“Best what we have,” from Mother Russia and Dadu via Rego Park.

When it comes to Russian luxury the first thing that comes to mind is caviar and Faberge eggs not ice cream. Nevertheless I could hardly resist this new brand of Russian ice cream I spotted yesterday at one of the many gourmet shops that line the Bukharian Broadway that is 108th Street in Rego Park. Russian ice cream is one of the reasons I love living in Rego Park, but honestly the packaging is usually more interesting than the ice cream itself. And so it proved to be with Dadu’s Luxury ice cream.

The package container a wafer cone packed with decent chocolate ice cream, hardly the equivalent of Magnum’s level of luxury. I’m just glad it didn’t cost more than $1.75. The real luxury was to be found in eating it as I walked down the street on the first real day of spring

To submit your delicious finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY. And while you’re at it, check me out on Instagram, joedistefanoqns.

04/02/14 10:15am
SW-FLETCHERS

A low and slow take on an Italian-American classic.

When I was growing up barbecue was synonymous with cookouts and birthdays. These days I draw the distinction between backyard grilling and low and slow American barbecue. A while back I made a pilgrimage to the whole hog heaven that is North Carolina. Heck, I even have a barbecue alter ego, Joey Deckle. But back in the 70s my birthday was the perfect excuse for the old man to throw a blowout BBQ. Hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken grilled with tomato and garlic were all on the menu, but my favorite was always his sausage and pepper sandwiches. So when I heard Matt Fisher was doing a low and slow take on this Italian-American classic at Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue I decided to take a trek out to Gowanus. (more…)

03/31/14 12:41pm
LAGMAN

Bella Roza’s beefy lagman will do you good.

The combination of the bone chilling dampness and a lingering cold have been conspiring to turn C+M into a soup blog. Last week I found myself at Bella Roza, a Rego Park pizzeria turned samsa and Uzbek bread bakery. “Do you have soup?” I asked the grandmotherly woman behind the counter who looked at me quizzically. “Lagman?” I said reaching into the fevered recesses of my brain to recall that I once heard that they serve the hand-pulled beef noodle soup. “Ah yes,” she said with a glimmer of recognition in her eye. I took a seat and dipped some crusts of bread into Bella Roza’s excellent hot sauce as I waited for my soup.   (more…)