“You finally went,” my friend Greg, one half of the dynamic duo that is Food & Footprints, commented on an Instagram post of a Peruvian picarone—a lovely sweet potato and squash donut—at the Antojitos Doña Fela cart in Jackson Heights. I’d been trying to visit the Vendy nominated Peruvian snack specialist for weeks, but until last Sunday had missed the cart, which is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. only weekends.
“Do you have chicharron con camote?” I asked Doña Fela’s daughter, about the pork belly and sweet potato sandwich that’s a common breakfast in Peru. “Let me see, we might be sold out,” she said while I hungrily eyed a bunch of pork belly and camote, or sweet potato, sizzling on a corrugated cast iron grill. “One last order,” she said.
Despite the name chicharron, the star of the sandwich is not crunchy. Lipsmackingly unctuous slabs of pork belly and sweet potato are stuffed into a torpedo-shaped roll along with lightly pickled red onions. It’s a fatty mess in the best possible way, and takes well to the vinegary hot sauce. It is not as over the top as some restaurant versions, but is nevertheless quite satisfying—everything a Peruvian street cart breakfast sandwich should be.
As I ate, I watched Doña Fela prepare picarones, forming rings of dough with her hands ams and sliding them on to a dowel. “I’ll never be able to eat an entire order of five,” I mused wiping pork fat from chin.
Thankfully Doña Fela was kind enough to sample me one. The airy treat was scented with anise and drizzled with a syrup that has just a whisper of orange. Next time, I’m going to try Doña Fela’s ceviche, if only to leave room for a full order of picarones!
Antojitos Doña Fela, NW corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 90th Street