The bazaars held throughout the summer at Masjid Al Hikmah are among my favorite food events. As fall approaches, the parking lot, once crammed with satay hawkers, fish grillers, and gado gado grannies empties and I’m left with no place to enjoy this most wonderful of Indonesian pot lucks. I sorely missed the smiling vendors and their delicious food. Or at least I did until this Saturday. It turns out that the food festival still goes on every Saturday from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., albeit in very abbreviated form.
Before I headed out to Astoria I gave a call just to verify, one weekend they weren’t there because of a children’s festival. One of my favorite vendors—Ida Zenal who sells some lovely soto bakso ($4), a beef soup bobbing with squidgy beef balls, yellow noodles, and rice vermicelli—is the core of this scaled-down operation. Doctored up with vinegar, the sweet sticky soy sauce kecap manis, and a dose of fiery sambal, it’s a tasty way to ward off a late autumn cold. When I asked after my friend, I was told, “She’s downstairs teaching.”
“What do you call this sambal?” I asked the gal who graciously served me in the small room on the sisters side of the masjid. “Sambal,” she said. “Yes, but what type?” “Oh, this is sambal bakso.” I enjoyed my soup in a room full chattering of ladies in multicolored dress and hijabs, their Saturday best as it were. On the way out I grabbed a $1 bakwan, a veggie fritter from a table laid with many similar snacks, including sticky rice with chicken. As I walked back toward Steinway, I happily munched on the veggie fritter occasionally nibbling on the green chili. I’ve a feeling I’m going to become a semiregular at the little brother of the summer food bazaar.
Masjid Al Hikmah, 48-01 31st Ave., Astoria, 718-721-8881