11/12/14 9:38am
REGOCAMOTE2

A Peruvian breakfast sandwich in a Rego Park diner.

An old school diner is the last place one would expect to find such Peruvian specialties as papa la Huancaina, sliced potatoes in a cheese sauce spiked with aji amarillo, and cau cau, a tripe stew. In Queens though, such cultural cross pollination is becoming more and more common. Take the Rego Park Café, where a separate menu called La Mistura Peruana went into effect over the summer.

I’ve been meaning to try out the diner’s 12-item “Peruvian mixture” for months. I had my hungry heart set on the chicharron con camote sandwich ($6.95), a typical Peruvian breakfast of pork and sweet potatoes. They were out of it the day I stopped in, so instead I slurped augadito de pollo ($4.50) a verdant chicken and rice soup that gets its color from handfuls of cilantro. (more…)

05/02/14 10:33am
CHOWZTER-CEVICHE

Chez Wong’s ceviche took top honors at the Chowzter Awards in London.

Last November I had the privilege of taking Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of Chowzter, and Richard Vines, Bloomberg’s U.K. food critic, on a whirlwind food tour of Queens. The goal of the tour was to showcase the best Queens had to offer. We only made it to about ten of the stops out of the 16 I’d planned, but we had a blast doing it, hitting such Flushing favorites as Taipei Hong’s secret fried chicken and  Soybean Flower Chen along the way.

Finding the best food item in Queens is a daunting nigh impossible task. After all it’s a vast diverse borough, and really what’s best for me—balut, tripe to name a few—might not be best for you. Leaving aside the issue of subjectivity, one thing’s for sure, I don’t ever like to eat anythings subpar. Seeking out the best is also the mission of the Chowzter app and web site. It aims to showcase the top places to eat local food in more than 70 travel destinations around the world from Lima to Singapore and points in between. I am honored to be the Chief Chowzter for Queens, which is how I found myself at the second annual Chowzter Awards in London this past weekend. (more…)

02/12/14 10:09am
Linsanity2

Peruvian hot sauce and Taiwanese chicken, together at last.

For years Queens,which is renowned for offering food from all over the world, was sorely lacking in one area; the bánh mì,or Vietnamese sandwich. All that changed when JoJu Modern Vietnamese Sandwiches opened a few years ago. The Elmhurst shop offers a whopping 17 varieties of bánh mì. The 17th sandwich on that lineup, which includes everything from pork belly to green eggs and ham, is perhaps tastiest of all. It’s certainly the most modern and the most Queens of them all. The Lin-Sanity ($5.99) is a tribute to one-time Knicks superstar Jeremy Lin. It marries his Taiwanese heritage with one of the tastiest cuisines Queens has to offer, Peruvian. (more…)

02/05/14 12:08pm
guacamaya_resized
The guacamaya, pork skin and avocado with incredibly spicy pico de gallo.      Photo: The Mija Chronicles

Welcome to the sixth installment of C+M’s ongoing series of audio guides on how to order authentically spicy food in ethnic restaurants. As a service to C+M readers Anne Noyes Saini has been compiling a series of audio guides demonstrating phrases in several relevant languages, which can be used to navigate ordering situations fraught with tricky cultural and language barriers.

Today a primer from Ignacio Morales on how to order authentically spicy Mexican food. Ignacio hails from Guanajato, a small city in Central Mexican where the guacamaya is a signature street food sandwich. The Guanajatan gutbomb consists of little more than pork skin, avocado, and spicy pico de gallo. “It’s like the most unhealthy thing in the world, it’s just a pork skin sandwich but it’s amazing,” Ignacio says. Incidentally guacamaya means macaw in Spanish. The sandwich is so named because it’s so spicy you’ll squawk like that tropical bird when you eat it. On to today’s lesson . . . (more…)

01/15/14 9:53am

A million years ago when I worked in an office, breakfast sandwiches—two eggs, with cheese, and bacon—as served by New York City coffee carts were a favorite way to start the day. In the culinary wonderland that is Queens, there are all sorts of breakfast sandwiches from all over the world. Today, a look at a few of my favorites.

 WF-SW-CAMOTE

1. Chicharron con camote at Broadway Bakery
Chicharron con camote, a sandwich of crunchy, fatty pork and sweet potatoes is a typical breakfast sandwich in Peru. The combination of the orange camote and crunchy salty pork with pickled onions and Peruvian rocoto chili pepper paste is quite satisfying. Broadway Bakery, 81-15 41st Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-457-6523

Fried crullers wrapped in eggyfried flatbread.

2. Jiān bĭng at Oriental Express Food Court
Find the jiān bĭng,or titanic Tianjin Breakfast wrap as I like to call it at the Oriental Express Food court, a few storefronts south of Golden Shopping Mall. It consists of a thin pancake coated in egg and studded with chives wrapped around a yóutiáo, or Chinese cruller. Somehow this carb-on-carb bonanza makes an old-school NewYork City egg on a roll seem like health food. Oriental Express Food Court, 41-40 Main St., Flushing (more…)

09/24/13 2:13pm
AREPALINE

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…)

07/22/13 10:24am
Best ceviche ice cream cone ever!

Best ceviche ice cream cone ever!

I doubt Hugue Dufour knew yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. I didn’t think to ask as I watched him dress a ceviche with olives, jalapeño, olive oil, cilantro, and red onion and then place it in a waffle cone. Before handing it off he drizzled it with coconut milk and condensed milk and showered it with sesame seeds.

Dufour’s wife and partner in culinary crime, Sarah Obraitis, had told me to come to LIC Flea to check out the $10 M. Wells Sweet Fish Ice. She described the cone as “water-proofed with a white chocolate jalapeño sealer.” I envisioned it as something of a pescatarian King Cone. That white chocolate sealant was in the bottom of the cone, not on top though. (more…)

04/04/13 4:22pm

About a week ago I had the honor of appearing on Travel Channel’s Street Eats: U.S.A. for a segment on street foods in New York City. For those who didn’t get to see it and for those who crave more curbside cuisine I’ve devoted this week’s edition of The Seven to street food. Here then in no particular order are seven of my current street food faves. Some appeared on the show, and some some didn’t. Have a favorite street food you think I left out? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.

ELMHURST-CEVICHE1

1. Pedro El Cevichero
I first encountered Pedro’s sidewalk ceviche outside a market in Elmhurst. His Mexican ceviche mise en place includes olive oil, limes, onions, cilantro, and a tomato-based sauce. South of the Border ceviche is called coctele, as in shrimp cocktail. It’s more of a cold seafood soup than the Peruvian version. Pedro makes it right before your very eyes. It’s like watching a seafood mixologist as you listen to the 7 train rumble by overhead. Shrimp cocteles are available in three sizes ($8, $10, $12). The excellent mixto, shrimp and octopus is ($6, $8, $10). Find Pedro at Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

CHAAT

2. Baul Daada Jaal Muri Shop
This is not so much a shop as a streetside Bangladeshi chaat vendor. As the name implies there’s only one specialty here, jaal muri. Three bucks gets you an order of Baul Daada’s spicy puffed rice. It’s a sensory overload of a snack consisting of puffed rice, kala chana (black chickpeas) chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green chili paste, red onions, crunchy dried soybeans, cilantro, spicy fried noodles, and squirts and shakes from the various and sundry bottles, including some sinus-clearing mustard oil. Find Daada on 73 St. near 37 Ave. from late afternoon to around 10 p.m. weather permitting. (more…)

03/19/13 12:30pm
Ea tyour heart out Peruvian style.

Morocho’s anticuchos: one of New York City’s top Street Eats.

Way back in July I had the distinct pleasure of filming an episode of Street Eats U.S.A. for the Travel Channel. It was so long ago I almost forgot about it. The crew and I spent three days running around in the heat and humidity filming New York City’s finest street foods. The first two days were spent in Manhattan, which has some surprisingly good street food, especially Morocho Peruvian Fusion. Naturally we spent an entire day in Queens, with stops in Corona, Elmhurst, and Flushing.

You can’t go wrong with duck for a buck.

You can’t go wrong with duck for a buck.

The show airs on 3/23 at 3 p.m. EST. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was excited about being on the Travel Channel, home to Messrs. Bourdain and Zimmern. I am, however, more excited that some of Queens’ greatest street vendors—Soybean Flower Chen who sells cloud-like fresh tofu; Corner 28’s one-buck duck ladies; and Tortas Neza, Corona’s undisputed king of the Mexican sandwich—all get their turn in the spotlight. Check out a preview clip here kids.

02/26/13 2:02pm
Japanese shishito peppers, mellow by any true chili-heads standards.

Japanese shishito peppers, mellow by any true chili-head’s standards.

As the old Power Station hit goes, “Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on/Some feel the heat and decide that they can’t go on,” I fall squarely in the chili-head camp, gleefully slathering Israeli schug on shawarma and perking up ceviche with Peruvian aji verde. Iindulge in fiery fare from Sichuan to Liberia and points in between. Sometimes, though, I can’t stand the heat. Take Thai spicy, please, as in, “Take it away.” After one too many experiences with the sensation of receiving a tongue tattoo with a hot needle I have given up ordering food “Thai spicy.”

In the past when I have ordered a dish “Thai spicy” the server usually approaches, filling my water glass and asks, “Too spicy? Are you okay, sir?” “Oh, no this is good,” I’d gamely respond eyes tearing, nose running, and lips burning as I tried to power through an incendiary meal. It’s been about two years since I’ve uttered the words, “Thai spicy.” Thankfully I can always adjust the spice level of Thai dishes by adding pickled chilies or dry roasted chili powder from the condiment caddy that graces the table.

Here’s what I’d like to know: What’s the spiciest thing you’ve ever eaten? Where do you draw the line? And when you’ve crossed it, how do you cool down? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.