This Tibetan soup smells like stinky French cheese.
“Have you had it before?” the waitress at Phayul asked when I ordered the tsak sha chu rul ($3.99), or “beef and Tibet cheese soup.” The note of concern in her voice was in no small part due to this dish’s rather pungent bouquet. I nodded my assent and waited for the bowl of what smells not unlike a Tibetan tallegio to arrive. (more…)
The sukati roll’s the very essence of Himalayan Heights.
For as long as I have been eating my way through Queens, Tawa Foods has housed a small battalion of South Asian ladies rolling out scores of paratha and roti. As Jackson Heights has morphed to become Himalayan Heights the tiny Tawa has taken on a co-tenant, the wonderful Nepalese restaurant Dhaulagiri Kitchen.
Nepali in the front and Pakistani in the back Tawa tells the story of the neighborhood. As Nepalese and Tibetans diners seeking a taste of back home tuck into exquisite thalis—mounds of rice ringed with various pickles and curries—South Indians stroll in to stock up on some of the freshest Indian bread in Queens. The space is a fusion of two cuisines that have seldom, if ever, mingled. To my mind this is a great shame. Thus was born the sukati roll.(more…)
The Arepa Lady’s cart drew Smorgasburgesque lines.
After a week-plus on jury duty to say I was psyched for last Friday’s Viva La Comida festival is the height of understatement. The night be before I was like a child on Christmas Eve. Visions of street food—Peruvian tamales, Mexican sandwiches and tacos, Puerto Rican lechin, Tibetan dumplings, Indian chaat, Colombian arepas, Filpino BBQ, and Irish drunk food—danced in my head. The festival which took place on 82nd St. between Baxter and Roosevelt in Jackson Heights was curated by my fellow fresser, Jeff Orlick who knows a thing or two about street food in the Heights and elsewhere. (more…)
Dim sum at East Ocean Palace will lift your spirits if you are on jury duty.
“A food writer?” Judge Ira H. Margulis asked as I squirmed in my seat hoping not to be picked.”Well, what’s good to eat around here?” “With the exception of Dani’s House of Pizza it all stinks,” I replied. As a reward for my culinary candor both the defense attorney and the assistant district attorney deemed me fit to sit on a jury. The case was expected to take a week or less. It wound up taking 10 days.
In those 10 days I found only two things that were truly delicious. One was the dim sum at East Ocean Palace (113-09 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills), a short walk from Queens Borough Hall. If only I’d served in Manhattan, then I could have undertaken a survey of the neighborhoods Vietnamese sandwiches, Cantonese roast meats, or eaten myself silly at Xi’an Famous Foods. Alas I was serving my time in Kew Gardens, where East Ocean Palace is the only game in town for good Chinese. The dim sum—shrimp in rice noodle, flaky pork pies, and dumplings—was quite nice, but one juror can only eat so much dim sum. (more…)
I’d just finished a most restorative coctel de camaron y pulpo from Pedro El Cevichero, when I encountered a miniature Ecuadorean snack stand off the corner of 80th and Roosevelt. “Que es esto?” I asked in my best bad Spanish, pointing to a stack of brown plastic-wrapped slabs. “Cocada de coco, uno cincuenta ,” the proprietress said as I fished through my pockets for $1.50. The little brown slab consisted of shredded coconut bound together with lots of sugar. Sticky, sweet, and coconutty a perfect bit of sweetness after a big serving of seafood. As I munched away the little old lady told me she’s at her post on Saturdays and Sunday, and handed me a card that read, “Doña Luisa,platos tradicionales Ecuatorianos.” I showed up around 3, so if I had to guess I’d put her hours at late morning to evening. Among the other traditional Ecuadorean specialties on offer that day were quimbolitos, which a quick search of the gustatory interwebs reveals to be a delectable cake steamed in a leaf.
Doña Luisa, 80-08 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, weekends only
I should really stop eating, do some stomach stretching exercises, or hit the gym real hard today. I say this not out of any desire for physical fitness, but because I feel ill-prepared for Viva La Comida! The street food festival being held tomorrow from 4 p.m.to 10 p.m on 82 St. between Roosevelt and Baxter Aves., promises a dozen undersung street food superstars from Queens and beyond. Street foods of many nations will be represented, including the supersized Mexican sandwiches of Tortas Neza to Tibetan momos from the Potala cart. I am most impressed by the fact that festival curator Jeff Orlick has been able to lure Lechonera La Piraña away from the Bronx. The machete-wielding Piraña makes the best Puerto Rican roast pork I’ve ever had. (more…)
As I wrote earlier this week the ginormous Pumas from Corona’s Tortas Neza, is one of my favorite sandwiches in Queens. It’s named for the truck’s owner’s favorite soccer team. The truck offers many other slightly less titanic sandwiches, each named for a Mexican soccer team. About a month ago some pals and I met up with James Boo to help him produce the above video love letter “to the moment of celebration when your oversized, painstakingly assembled sandwich hits the counter, informing you that those dinner plans will have to be postponed.” Tortas Neza is also one of the many food trucks and vendors that will be at the upcoming Viva La Comida! festival in Jackson Heights.
Dhaulagiri Kitchen, a tiny Nepalese outfit that’s the latest eatery to take up residence inside roti bakery Tawa Foods, is easily my favorite place in Jackson Heights these days. It’s named for the third highest mountain peak in the world, but as far as I’m concerned the flavors here—fiery pickles; sukuti, an air-dried beef jerky; and spicy chicken choila—are the tops. Lately I have been partaking of this eight-seater’s thalis. Thali literally means plate and it consists of a mound of rice ringed by various accoutrements, including pickles, daal, fried bitter melon, mustard greens, and a center of the plate item like chicken beef, or goat. The rice and the sides are refillable.
One day I was eating a fish thali ($11) whose main attraction was two crisp fried hunks of fish, a nattily dressed gent entered. As I ate my fish and rice while picking at the gudruk, a Nepalese kimchi of sorts, and other pickles arrayed around the circumference of the thali he rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands. And then he got down to business. (more…)
I’ve dubbed the sector of Jackson Heights bounded by 72 and 74 Streets, between Roosevelt and 37th Avenues, Himalayan Heights due its profusion of Tibetan and Nepalese eateries. There are now three carts specializing in momo, the steamed dumplings beloved by all members of the Himalayan diaspora. My tendency is to downplay the area’s remaining Indian restaurants, but the truth is that those few blocks of Jackson Heights are a rich tapestry of interwoven ethnic enclaves. There’s even a Little Bangladesh on 73 Street. It’s favorite part of my food tours of the neighborhood,particularly when the Baul Daada Jaal Muri shop is open. (more…)
Gaajar burfi, a carrot-based Indian sweet from Maharaja Sweets in Jackson Heights.
Sweets made with milk, nuts, lentils, and spices are an important part of religious festivals in India. Later this week, Hindus will observe Raksha Bandhan–or Rakhi, for short–a Hindu festival celebrating relationships between brothers and sisters.
The sweets (mittai, in Hindi) eaten at Rakhi represent the sweetness of the bond between siblings. On the morning of Rakhi (Aug. 21) a sister ties a decorative red thread on her brother’s wrist, signifying her hope for his well-being. In return, a brother gives his sister gifts of sweets and money, signifying his promise to always protect and care for her.
Laddoo, jalebi, gulab jamun, and rasgulla are especially popular, but I prefer less common Indian sweets like milk cake, gaajar burfi (made with carrot), and anjeer burfi (made with fig). You can find all of these at Maharajah Sweets on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens—my go-to source for Indian sweets in New York City. (more…)