Half a lifetime ago Zak Pelaccio taught me to ball up khao neuw or Thai sticky rice and dredge it through the bracing liquour that sat at the bottom of a platter of papaya salad. We were gathered around the table at what was then the best Thai restaurant in Queens, Zabb Elee. Zabb is gone and Zak decamped for Hudson, New York, a while back. As for me I’m still in Queens, and have watched the Thai restaurant scene in the environs of Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside blossom.
Whenever I’m at a Thai table there’s always sticky rice. Sometimes it acts a foil for savory dishes. Sometimes it’s the centerpiece of a dessert as with the pandan-scented sticky rice that acts as the foundation for Sugar Club’s over-the-top mango sticky rice.(more…)
One of the first places I lived in Queens was Woodside. Walking Roosevelt Avenue to hit Thai places, Filipino spots, and taco trucks turned me on to the delicious diversity of food that makes the borough my favorite place to live, eat, and play. There’s one place I never frequented in all my time in Woodside though, La Flor, a cafe restaurant helmed by journeyman Chef Viko Ortega. I only just got around to meeting Chef Viko and trying his wonderful nuanced dishes. I was mightily impressed by his cooking. As were my friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club. That’s we’ve decided to have Chef Viko cook our next dinner Mexico Meets France and Italy via Roosevelt Ave. which takes Tuesday May 17, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Chef Viko was kind enough to take some time away from the kitchen to answer seven questions.
How did you get into cooking?
I started baking when I was 13 years old in my hometown of Puebla, Mexico. In 1987 when I was 21 the main reason I came here was that I was tired of baking. So I came here and figured out that the only way to make decent money was back to the kitchen. I started doing pizza and pastry and salads. I cooked at dozens of restaurants including Larry Forgione’s An American Place. I can’t get away from baking though. The starter I use to make all the breads at La Flor is 24 years old.
Atlantic salmon with potato gallettes.
How would you characterize your cooking at La Flor?
I would say it’s a combination of everything I learned. I mix Italian, French, Mexican—that’s one of my favorites—a little bit of Asian. So it’s kind of fusion and I just love food. The dishes that you’re going to find here you’re not going to find anywhere else, I just love to play.It’s me. (more…)
The Filipino affinity for crunchy pork crackling—whether in the offalpalooza that is sizzling sisig; sheets of crunchy lechon (suckling pig) skin; or chicharron bulaklak, flowers of pork fat—is legendary. This is perhaps best seen by the vast selection of pork crackling on offer at Filipino markets like Phil-Am Food Mart in Woodside’s Little Manila. The shop contains at least a half dozen varieties many in clear packaging bearing names like “Tito Al’s” and “Elena’s.” Sucker that I am for commercial junk food from other cultures I opted for a jaunty looking package of Chicharron Ni Mang Juan on a recent visit. It’s quite possibly the strangest Filipino chicharron I’ve ever had for one simple reason: It contains no pork whatsoever. (more…)
Super Bowl 50 is almost upon us, and as usual, I’m only just learning which teams will face off Sunday evening. Such is my interest, or lack thereof, in football. Despite my apathy for team sports, I do hope all who watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers have a great time. Thus as a public service C+M presents a list of global snacks and goodies all of which are available in in Queens and will give your Super Bowl party much more flavor than guacamole and onion dip.
1. Mee krob (Thai)
The name of this popular Thai snack literally translates to crispy noodles. It’s no mere salty indulgence, though. Like so many of my other favorite Southeast Asian snacks, the tangle of noodles and fried bits of egg is salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Tamarind and chili combined with a chewy sweetness make mee krob eat like a Thai Rice Krispy treat. Find it at the counter at Elmhurst’s Sugar Club. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-865-9018
2. Fried jeffrox fish (Filipino)
Find this pescatarian answer to potato chips at Phil-Am Market, a paradise of Filipino groceries and snacks located in Woodside’s Little Manila. The translucent sheets of fried dried fish are available on Thursday through Sunday. The crunchy critters come with a sidecar of seasoned vinegar and make for excellent, if somewhat odiferous, snacking. Phil-Am Market,40-03 70th St, Woodside 718-899-1797(more…)
Sisilog is an offal lover’s dream breakfast. Photo: Sherri Tiesi
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as good breakfast, whether kari laksa or straight up all-American eggs and bacon. Filipino breakfast though, with its catalogue of silogs takes the morning meal game to a whole new level. Silog is a portmanteau of sinagang (fried rice) and itlog (egg). Thus longsilog is sweet pork longanisa sausage and eggs and dasilog, stars dried mikfish. The latter was my favorite until I discovered sisilog, which takes the porky offal extravaganza that is sizzling sisig and turns it into breakfast.
“Breakfast Served All Day!” exclaims the menu at Woodside’s House of Inasal. Scanning the list I immediately knew I was going to order the sisilog ($15.95). After all, why settle for pork sausage and eggs when you can have a fry-up of pork belly, liver, onions, and green chilies? (more…)
Hardboiled eggs, ground beed, and pickled red cabbage meet in the rikitaqui.
Based on the name—rikitaqui—and the menu picture I thought the Dominican sandwich I was eager to try at the newly opened Empanadas Monumental in Woodside was going to be an epic gutbomb. It turned out to be something far more subtle.
The $5.50 sandwich consists of a schmear of seasoned ground beef topped with a pleasant red cabbage slaw tomato and hard boiled eggs. There’s also some salsa roja, a red sauce that calls to mind Russian dressing, in there. The sandwich took well to the extra hot hot sauce.
All in all it was a pleasant sandwich, just not as monumental as my expectations of it. The empanadas, which come in more than a dozen varieties, including lasagna and Philly cheese steak look pretty epic though. Next time I visit, I’ll have try one along with another rikitaqui of course.
With summer coming to a fiery close, I thought it would be a good idea for Sandwich Wednesday to get its last licks in with a list of four of our favorite ice cream sandwiches in New York City.
1. Redd Foxx at Mikey Likes It
It’s probably a good thing that Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, the hiphop themed scoop shop in the East Village is a good 45-minute subway ride from me, otherwise I’d be in here every day scarfing down a Redd Foxx. Named for the salacious comedian it’s a freshly made red velvet waffle encasing a scoop of ice cream. Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, 199 Avenue A, 646-896-1836
2. Pandi Ice Cream at House of Inasal
The pandi-ice cream ($5.50) at House of Inasal is surely the most elaborate pair of ice cream sandwiches to ever be served under the 7 train. It’s a duo of ube ice cream sandwiches topped with halaya, coconut, and pinipig. Young coconut and pinipig, a crunchy beaten rice, top each scoop of purple yam ice cream. The warm slightly sweet eggy buns are smeared with halaya, a rich spread made from ube, or purple yam. Pandi-ice cream is the best most purple ice cream sandwich in Queens. House of Inasal, 65-14 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, 718-429-0709 (more…)
Alfonso Zhicay brought farm to table cuisine to Woodside.
As someone who’s been eating in Queens for more than 15 years I can safely say that I’ve never encountered a restaurant quite like Casa del Chef, an Ecuadorean-owned farm to table bistro around the corner from Filipino fast-food purveyor Jollibee. The chef in question is Alfonso Zhicay, who made his bones at places like Bouley and Union Pacific, and worked with Dan Barber for many years. I’m so very honored Chef Zhicay will be cooking alongside two other Queens culinary superstars Huge Dufour and Danny Brown at The Catskills Comes to Queens on August 1. Zhicay was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer seven questions, including the accidental road to chefdom.
I’m so honored to have you participating in The Catskills Comes to Queens. Tell me about the dish you’ll be preparing August 1. It’s a seasonal favorite with our customers that combines savory and sweet: braised short ribs -cooked for 10 hours with lots of tamarind, fruit chutneys, Madeira wine and bay leaves.
What inspired you to open Casa del Chef? For many years I have been working with wonderful chefs in world-class restaurants. I have been looking for the right opportunity to open my own place where I can fully express my skills and passions in a cozy neighborhood setting.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with? There are so many, but a few of my favorites are sherry wine vinegar, basil oil lemon dressing, and of course fresh vegetables. (more…)
Ube ice cream topped with crunchy beaten rice and coconut all in a warm roll.
The pandi-ice cream ($5.50) at House of Inasal is surely the most elaborate pair of ice cream sandwiches to ever be served under the 7 train. I haven’t been this excited about an ice cream sandwich since the Chipwich.
A friend has been encouraging me try to this dessert in the Little Manila spot for months. Yesterday it was finally hot and humid enough. “Ube ice cream sandwich with halaya, coconut, and pinipig,” read the menu. Despite the menu language pandi-ice cream turns out to be two—not one—sandwiches each served on a warm pan de sal. (more…)
“Live from killer Queens” so begins BOOMBAP! Episode 2 of a new Korean cooking showl from Woodside, Queens-based rapper Lyricks. The show takes its name from the 90s rap style with the “Dorito crunch snare” and is also a play on bap, the Korean word for rice.
Lyricks, aka Rick Lee, eschews measurements and teaches cooking in the way I imagine his parents and grandmother taught him. “I’m not trying to disrespect the ones doing it scientifically, the obes that went to school, the ones that this is their life,” he says in Episode 0. ” Much respect, I’m trying to work to your level.”
This approach combined with his MC persona makes for fun and mouthwatering watching. “It’s serious when I bring in the Kumon lamp,” he says before beginning to make braised mackerel stew for his girlfriend.
“Ladies, at my age it doesn’t matter if you’re cute. The question is, ‘Do you mince?’” Lyricks says managing to combine knife skills and relationship advice. The Korean-American rapper says that since he’s almost 30 he made his stew a little less spicy. “If you’re younger than me and your soup doesn’t look redder than this I’m a slap you.” I’m looking forward to a gamjatang tutorial.