04/15/18 11:20pm


My usual routine for Songkhran, or Thai New Year, involves a visit to Elmhurst’s home of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram to partake of the food and festivities. Unlike in years past the weather was quite chilly, making for less than optimal conditions for a holiday that involves plenty of water splashing.

So instead of visiting the Emerald Buddha to ring in the year 2561, I partook of some Thai rubies. Not actual rubies mind you, but rather the Thai dessert called thabthim krub, which translates to crunchy rubies. I’d just polished off three bowls of boat noodle soup at Pata Paplean, when my dear friend Cherry, the cook and ringleader of the weekend noodle popup, dropped a half quart container on my table with the gruff affection she reserves for those she truly cares about. I poured the contents of the container—rubies, emeralds, jackfruit, young coconut, and coconut milk stained red from sala syrup—into a bowl.

The sweet, cold dessert soup was quite refreshing after a few rounds of of spicy noodles. The red and green jewels consist of bits of crunchy water chestnuts encased in tapioca. Even though it was freezing outside it warmed my heart and soul to eat this dessert made by one of the older ladies in the Thai community. Best of all its available every weekend, although I did feel especially blessed to be eating on the day of the neighborhood’s Songkhran celebration. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2561.

Pata Paplean, 76-21 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-651-2076 

 

04/13/18 10:48am

Qing tuan, piping hot, each filled with a savory-sweet surprise.

As anyone who talks to me about xiao long bao for more than five minutes knows, my favorite soup dumplings in downtown Flushing can be had at Shanghai specialist Diverse Dim Sum in the New York Food Court. The skin is so thin as to be translucent, and the balance of savory pork and crab broth is perfect, making the little packages a staple on my Flushing Chinatown food tours.

Last week I had a guest with a gluten allergy. I knew the rest of her party would enjoy the soup dumplings, but also wanted to give the gluten-free guest a taste of Shanghai. And that’s where the trio of multihued spheres—purple, green, and yellow—come in. I first noticed them around Easter time and suspected they were a seasonal specialty. Normally I don’t chance trying new things on a food tour, but after learning they were made from rice and various sweet-savory fillings I made an exception. (more…)

04/04/18 9:33pm

When winter ain’t playin’, it’s time for Himalayan!

It’s been two years since Kamala Gauchan, my adopted Nepalese mother, decamped from Queens’ Himalayan Heights to Manhattan’s Curry Hill. Back when she held court in her shoebox of a restaurant carved out of a corner of Tawa Roti I ate her food weekly. These days I trek to her roomier spot on Lexington Avenue whenever I have a dental appointment. Which happened to be the case during Monday’s snow storm.
After a filling, it was time to fill my belly. When I entered Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, Gauchan and her crew had just opened for the day and a mantra to Ganesh—Om Gan Ganapataye Namo Namah—played over and over on the flat screen next to a signed photo of Andrew Zimmern. For a moment I considered jhol momo—dumplings in a spicy broth—but I knew soup was the ticket for a wintry spring morning. (more…)

10/02/17 10:55pm

It’s been a big week for Ms. Tjahjadi as The New York Times called my dear friend Chef Dewi in last week’s Hungry City. Chef Dewi formerly of Java Village now cooks at Indo Java a small Indonesian grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens. Every Tuesday afternoon you can stop by for lunch, usually with a choice of a dish or two, served up by Dewi. This pop-up, affectionately called Warung Selasa (Tuesday “Food Stall”), is perhaps the best way to experience Indonesian food in New York, according my local Indonesian food guru Dan Hill who was kind enough to interview Chef Dewi between bites of his bakso mangkok.

When did you start cooking?
I started cooking from home in New York in 2003.

You didn’t cook in Indonesia before you moved here?
No, never. I worked as a secretary. Cooking wasn’t a hobby of mine. I learned how to cook when I moved to New York. I helped my mother cook at home as a child, but that was it.

Do you remember your favorite cooking of your mother’s when you were a child?
No, but I learned from my Mom that if I wanted to eat something, I had to make it from scratch. I had to prepare all the ingredients and cook everything. So I remember the cooking process, but I never cooked. For example, if I wanted to make lontong sayur. I would have to make the lontong by cleaning the rice and making the lontong. The vegetables I would have to cut, like the chayote . . . and at that time there wasn’t grated coconut, so at that time we had to grate the whole coconut by ourselves. So everything had to be done from the beginning.

Bakso mangkok, literally a bowl of beef meatball soup inside a bowl made of beef itself.

So you knew how to do all these things, but you didn’t like cooking?
No, I didn’t like it. I liked making cake. I liked baking, but I never did that either! [laughs]  (more…)