05/15/18 10:32am

The more austere lugaw (left) and golden yellow arroz caldo at HOI with crispy tofu.

My mother is from the Philippines, which is why my family called rice porridge lugaw when I was growing up. Even my father now calls rice porridge lugaw even though he grew up in Taiwan calling it mai. The lugaw we made at home was usually a bland rice-and-water-only affair, without even salt. Occasionally, my mother would make chicken lugaw by braising drumsticks in the simmering rice, a rudimentary version of the chicken porridge known as arroz caldo.

On the all-day breakfast menu at the House of Inasal in Woodside, you’ll find both lugaw and arroz caldo. (If you order before noon, they come with free taho, Philippine-style dòuhuā, extra soft tofu topped with sago pearls and arnibal, a syrup made from brown sugar, ideally muscovado.) (more…)

05/11/18 10:19am

Behold: Elmhurst’s most elusive Malaysian layer cake.

A few weeks ago on the Voyages of Tim Vetter podcast I posited Instagram has replaced Chowhound, particularly when it comes to hyperlocal culinary exploration. Case in point, Little House Cafe. Had I not been seen my dear friends Food & Footprints posting about this Elmhurst bakery/cafe I’d never have known about its giant Singaporean style chicken curry bun and top-notch char kway teow. Nor would I have ever tried the elusive and epic taro pudding cake.

My friends and I first spotted the multilayer creation lined up in the pastry case and didn’t have the appetite for it because we’d just dispatched the aforementioned giant curry chicken bun along with several pieces of Malaysian brown sugar sponge cake and other goodies. When it was described as layers of coffee jelly, pudding, taro cake, and sponge cake we were all quite curious. (more…)

05/03/18 8:49am

HOI’s fish fryup feeds two normal eaters, or one very hungry blogger.

I count myself a big fan of Filipino breakfast and I was pleased to see a rundown of it on Saveur recently. When it comes to Filipino food, I’m usually all about the pork, but not when it comes to breakfast. When I find myself at a Filipino restaurant in the a.m. I forsake my affections for crispy pata and lechon kawali. At the Filpino breakfast table my heart and stomach belong to dasilog, a fried dried milkfish, served with sinagag—garlic fried rice—and itlog—a sunnyside up egg. Or at least they did until recently. (more…)

04/18/18 10:41pm

“You got to try our Cuban,” George Landin owner of street wear boutique All The Right told me when I stopped by other week to sign his copy of my guidebook “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss.”

Landin was referring to a Cuban sandwich on the menu of his latest venture, the Corona Diner, which opened this past summer. Just as my book is a love letter to Queens so is Landin’s diner. A mural featuring a who’s who of Queens—from rappers like Action Bronson, Run-DMC, and Nas to stars like Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, and Lucy Liu—lines one wall and the doors to the kitchen mimic those of the 7 train. (more…)

04/15/18 11:20pm


My usual routine for Songkhran, or Thai New Year, involves a visit to Elmhurst’s home of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram to partake of the food and festivities. Unlike in years past the weather was quite chilly, making for less than optimal conditions for a holiday that involves plenty of water splashing.

So instead of visiting the Emerald Buddha to ring in the year 2561, I partook of some Thai rubies. Not actual rubies mind you, but rather the Thai dessert called thabthim krub, which translates to crunchy rubies. I’d just polished off three bowls of boat noodle soup at Pata Paplean, when my dear friend Cherry, the cook and ringleader of the weekend noodle popup, dropped a half quart container on my table with the gruff affection she reserves for those she truly cares about. I poured the contents of the container—rubies, emeralds, jackfruit, young coconut, and coconut milk stained red from sala syrup—into a bowl.

The sweet, cold dessert soup was quite refreshing after a few rounds of of spicy noodles. The red and green jewels consist of bits of crunchy water chestnuts encased in tapioca. Even though it was freezing outside it warmed my heart and soul to eat this dessert made by one of the older ladies in the Thai community. Best of all its available every weekend, although I did feel especially blessed to be eating on the day of the neighborhood’s Songkhran celebration. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2561.

Pata Paplean, 76-21 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-651-2076 

 

04/04/18 9:33pm

When winter ain’t playin’, it’s time for Himalayan!

It’s been two years since Kamala Gauchan, my adopted Nepalese mother, decamped from Queens’ Himalayan Heights to Manhattan’s Curry Hill. Back when she held court in her shoebox of a restaurant carved out of a corner of Tawa Roti I ate her food weekly. These days I trek to her roomier spot on Lexington Avenue whenever I have a dental appointment. Which happened to be the case during Monday’s snow storm.
After a filling, it was time to fill my belly. When I entered Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, Gauchan and her crew had just opened for the day and a mantra to Ganesh—Om Gan Ganapataye Namo Namah—played over and over on the flat screen next to a signed photo of Andrew Zimmern. For a moment I considered jhol momo—dumplings in a spicy broth—but I knew soup was the ticket for a wintry spring morning. (more…)

10/02/17 10:55pm

It’s been a big week for Ms. Tjahjadi as The New York Times called my dear friend Chef Dewi in last week’s Hungry City. Chef Dewi formerly of Java Village now cooks at Indo Java a small Indonesian grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens. Every Tuesday afternoon you can stop by for lunch, usually with a choice of a dish or two, served up by Dewi. This pop-up, affectionately called Warung Selasa (Tuesday “Food Stall”), is perhaps the best way to experience Indonesian food in New York, according my local Indonesian food guru Dan Hill who was kind enough to interview Chef Dewi between bites of his bakso mangkok.

When did you start cooking?
I started cooking from home in New York in 2003.

You didn’t cook in Indonesia before you moved here?
No, never. I worked as a secretary. Cooking wasn’t a hobby of mine. I learned how to cook when I moved to New York. I helped my mother cook at home as a child, but that was it.

Do you remember your favorite cooking of your mother’s when you were a child?
No, but I learned from my Mom that if I wanted to eat something, I had to make it from scratch. I had to prepare all the ingredients and cook everything. So I remember the cooking process, but I never cooked. For example, if I wanted to make lontong sayur. I would have to make the lontong by cleaning the rice and making the lontong. The vegetables I would have to cut, like the chayote . . . and at that time there wasn’t grated coconut, so at that time we had to grate the whole coconut by ourselves. So everything had to be done from the beginning.

Bakso mangkok, literally a bowl of beef meatball soup inside a bowl made of beef itself.

So you knew how to do all these things, but you didn’t like cooking?
No, I didn’t like it. I liked making cake. I liked baking, but I never did that either! [laughs]  (more…)