Stephen Yen, executive chef of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill is a pretty busy guy, so I’m pretty glad he found the time to answer Seven Questions. Not only was Chef Yen born in Queens, he was born in the Year of the Pig. Chef Yen will be preparing a very special roast pork bao at Charcuterie Masters on February 23.
1. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Queens?
I was born on Main street in Flushing. The hospital was called Booth Memorial back then. My mother’s OBGYN, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, is now president of the Hindu Temple Society in Flushing. I have a special place in my heart for Flushing. I was raised out on Long Island in a small town about an hour from NYC, been back in queens now for about 7 years.
2. I’m excited to have you roasting a pig at Charcuterie Masters! Tell me a little bit about the process?
We are going to brine the little piggie using fish sauce in the brine, this is something I learned from Robbie Richter at Fatty ‘Cue. Nowadays its common practice in most kitchens. The sodium content is where you need it to be, plus you gain all the umami! We are going to then roast the pig in a La Caja China. It’s a roasting oven that simulates the old way of burying a pig and keeping the charcoal on top. The box makes it easier for us, we don’t have to dig! I’ve used a La Caja China before and they are awesome! I usually end up throwing some seafood on top of the charcoals to snack on while we wait for the pork. (more…)
The Indonesian Food Bazaar will be bustling tomorrow.
Queens is fortunate to have two Chinatowns, the bustling downtown Flushing, home to a wealth of regional Chinese cuisine, and the somewhat mellower Elmhurst, which in addition to Cantonese, Sichuan, and Henanese fare, features some of the best Southeast Asian food to be found in all of New York City. That includes Indonesian food, notably the Indonesian Food Bazaar, which takes place tomorrow at St. James Church. What follows is a pictorial guide/plan of attack for eating your way through tomorrow’s festivities, which run from noon to 5 p.m.
Curb your hunger with the Indonesian beef pie known as martabak.
As Indonesian food nerd/Instagrammer @dan.bukit points out it’s best to arrive before 1 p.m. for the greatest selection. By 2 p.m. some of the stands start to run out. Since my eyes are quite often bigger than my stomach, I immediately head over to one of the snackier stands and have one of the Indonesian beef pies known as martabak. That way I can take my time exploring the festival without being hangry. Many folks like to bring a posse of four or five friends to share. I prefer to go it alone, although I usually run into a fellow food geek to share with.
People who are familiar with festival-style Indonesian food in New York City have probably visited the outdoor food bazaar held in the rear parking lot of Astoria’s Masjid Al-Hikmah, which usually begins with the first warm weather in April and runs through October, or possibly one of the one-off events such as 2013’s Forest Hills Indonesian Food Bazaar. Longtime Masjid Al Hikmah attendees were dismayed last year when the mosque didn’t manage to put together an event until September 21st and then tacked on two more in quick succession, October 12th and October 26th. I attended them all, of course.
Event Organizer Fefe Anggono
The innaugural edition of the City Blessing Church Indonesian Food Bazaar, which is being planned as an (at minimum) monthly event, took place on the last Saturday in February, 2015 in Woodside, Queens. The organizer, Fefe Anggono, owned and managed a restaurant in Long Island for seven years and started this event as a way to not only bring attention to the church and its rental space, but also to provide an outlet for vendors left out in the cold by the mosque’s inconsistent event-holding policies. (more…)
Last Saturday I still had a whole hog hangover and had a food tour to lead, so I knew there was no chance I’d be able to attend the Forest Hills Indonesian Food Festival, even though it was practically in my back yard. So I’m very glad that my pal Peter Cucè agreed to do a guest post about it. Peter Cucè is a food-obsessed coffee lover who intermittently chronicles New York City cafe culture via a variety of internet outlets. He has eaten his way through nearly every cuisine available locally and beyond and is now systematically working his way through regional Chinese and Korean food in Flushing and Sunset Park and cataloging his efforts via Instagram. You can also catch Peter on Twitter @petekachu. Take it away Peter . . .
The Queens-based southeast Asian food festivals have been coming thick and fast now that spring has sprung, beginning with the mid-April Songkran New Year festival at the Thai temple in Elmhurst, followed a week later (Sunday April 21st) with the inaugural 2013 date of the monthly outdoor Indonesian food festival at Astoria’s Masjid Al Hikmah, and Myanmar’s Lunar New Year fair rounding out the month.
May hasn’t been slouching in this department either, with this past weekend seeing another Burmese festival, one that happens periodically in the warmer months, at Aviation High School; a one-off Indonesian food festival this past Saturday, a fundraiser for the Roslin Orphanage in Kupang, Indonesia, held at the First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills; and this coming Sunday, the second iteration of the monthly Indonesian mosque festival held in the parking lot behind Astoria’s Masjid Al-Hikmah.
Besides being indoors, compared to the monthly mosque festival, this past weekend’s Indonesian event was conceptually different, because pork was on the menu. Although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Christians make up around 10% of the population. The church vendors were mostly Javanese/Chinese, while the people cooking at the mosque tend to be Sumatran, although there are also some Javanese at the mosque and vice versa. This ethnic religious influence reflects on the food available at each event, with the church’s Central Java leanings generally resulting in overall sweeter food, seasoned with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and palm sugar, compared to the mosque, where dishes tend to be spicier and more savory, with flavor enhancers such as shrimp paste. One major exception is the sate padang, a well-known Sumatran dish, which is almost always available at the mosque event and was notably available at the church, as I’ll get into a little more below.
Since there wasn’t anywhere for the participants to do more than the most rudimentary cooking (in actuality just reheating), this event for the most part offered food cooked ahead time and assembled at the church, whereas at the mosque a good portion of the food is cooked from scratch on site.
Once my Indonesian posse and some other friends arrived, we armed ourselves with $20 or so worth of tickets each and spread out, hunting for tasty items and bringing them back to the group for sharing, a useful strategy for trying lots of things without getting full too quickly.
On the side of the dimly lighted, cavernous room opposite the door, one of the first tables was staffed by several generations of women ladling soto babat, a yellow tripe soup with glass noodles, into quart-size plastic containers. (more…)