Now that King Frost has officially made his presence known with the arrival of winter storm Jonas, it is officially soup season. Sure I’ve had plenty of bowls over the course of the past two months. But now it’s on, time to bring in the big guns. So here are seven of my favorites spanning a variety of styles—from sweet medicinal Chinese concoctions to savory noodle soups and spicy sinus clearers—and regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Best of all you can find all of them without leaving the world’s borough, Queens.
1. Pozole rojo, Taqueria Coatzingo
This Jackson Heights cantina is known for its tacos, but the specials are the real stars. That’s where I discovered pozole rojo, the spicier cousin of the Mexican pork and hominy soup. As the name implies, the broth is red—very, very red—thanks to loads of chilies. Pozole rojo employs chicken rather than pork as a base. Served with the standard pozole fixings of diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper, I like it think of it as Mexican penicillin. Add a few squeezes of lime along with a handful of onion and the other seasonings for one of the most head-clearing soups to be found on Roosevelt Avenue. Sour, spicy, and packed with fresh herbs, hominy, and chicken it’s sure to cure what ails you. Best of all it’s always on the specials menu! Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-424-1977(more…)
Fish tacos are tricky business. The batter fried ones are OK, but to this eater they seem like little more than fish and chips gone South of the Border. I prefer my fish tacos with a batter and a hard fry like they do at Tortilleria Nixtamal, where they use skate wing. The other day though I encountered a kind of seafood taco I never tried, octopus tacos. (more…)
Last week I committed a crime against good taste. Spurred on by a blizzard of panic and the promise of free grub I ate at Chipotle. As a staunch believer in the law of culinary equilibrium, I soon realized my folly and had to set matters straight by eating some real Mexican food right quick. So the very next day I jumped on the 7, intending to grab some tacos de carnitas from Tortas Neza.(more…)
An arepa de choclo in all its cheesy, gooey glory.
One of the coolest things about Roosevelt Avenue during the World Cup is the team spirit and national pride that pervades the street. The air crackles with energy, particularly after a win. And on Saturday, Colombia won, and they won big. It was the first time that the national team made it this far, and folks in the street were partying like it too, dancing and waving flags until late into the night. Saturday also marked a monumental win for Colombian street food. The family of The Arepa Lady, the patron saint of Colombian street food in Jackson Heights, opened the doors to their restaurant.
I like to think that this street food dream team’s opening helped buoy team spirit back home. I know it buoyed my spirits. Ever since I heard several months ago that there was going to be an Arepa Lady restaurant, I’ve been watching the space with eager anticipation.
A seafood feast in the back of a Jackson Heights deli.
La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano is one of my favorite places to eat in the summertime. It’s run out of a deli and trafficks in Mexican style shrimp and seafood cocktails made with a mysterious and delicious tomato elixir. Recently the proprietor Pedro expanded his operations to seven days a week and added a counter and small kitchen. He also added some new menu items. (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
Chatime food court, home to Flushing’s fiercest fried chicken rivalry.
Once upon a time not too long ago on the corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue in New York City’s most magical Chinatown there was a food court that went by the name Savor Fusion. Its overlord was a distinguished Taiwanese gent named Bobby Lee, who looked like he just stepped out of a Hong Kong gangster flick. Depending on the day’s vibe, the mustachioed Bobby was either chilling with his attractive and much younger wife, getting into a fracas with rowdy patrons, or giving out fruit to his handpicked roster of vendors who represented cooking styles from all over China. One thing was always certain though, excellent food turned out by two female chefs.
Mind and palate-blowing Sichuan fare—dan dan mian, spicy fried fish, and all manner of spicy pickles—was the specialty of the charmingly gruff Zhū Dà Jiě. Home-style Taiwanese chow, including lovely salt and pepper fried chicken, was the province of the equally gruff matriarch of Taipei Hong. Sadly Savor Fusion is no more, but Zhū Dà Jiě. now has her own restaurant, which is quite excellent. Taipei Hong and its magnificent chicken were but a distant memory. I’d given up all hope of ever tasting it again. Then one day I ran into the chef on Roosevelt Avenue. I’d already eaten a substantial meal at the New World Mall, but she insisted on showing me her new joint. (more…)
Shrimp coktels in the sun, a taste of Mexico City on Roosevelt Ave.
I recently wrote about the return of Pedro El Cevichero to the streets of Jackson Heights. This past weekend I checked out his new digs. Pedro has taken his old sign reading La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano, or “the corner of Mexican shrimp,” with him and he’s gained three helpers. By the time I got to him I felt like I’d already eaten my way through half of Thailand. So in lieu of eating a coktel de camaron, I took a mouth-watering photo of a pair of freshly made ones. I can’t wait to go back and try the first coktel of what are sure to be many. Shrimp coktels are available in three sizes ($8, $10, $12). The excellent mixto, shrimp and octopus is ($6, $8, $10). Find Pedro on weekends at Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.