Nigel “Moon Man” Sielegar is a pretty busy guy. In addition to running the Moon Man Indonesian desert stand at the Queens Night Market, and helming the award-winning Corse Design Factory, he teaches at SVA, and still finds time to eat his way across Queens. Be sure to stop by to say “‘Hello, Moon Man’ this Saturday night!” I’m not quite sure where he found the time to answer Seven Questions, but I’m glad he did!
1. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Queens?
I’m originally from Surabaya (for those who don’t know, it’s the second largest city in Indonesia). I moved to United States when I was 18 for college. I lived in Chicago for a good 5.5 years before I moved to New York in 2007. I’ve been living in Queens ever since and I love it here.
2. What do you like most about the neighborhood you live in?
To me personally, Queens (or in my case, the border of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst) is the model of a perfect neighborhood. The diversity of people is unbeatable, within the same block you can hear multitude of languages being spoken by passerby. Race, religion, and skin color don’t matter much. Everyone respects each other’s culture and embrace the myriads of differences. There’s a system of coexistence that you just can’t find in other places.
As it is true everywhere else in the world, when the culture is rich, the food is rich. The choices and quality of food in this neighborhood is incredible, and you can find anything from down to earth dumplings and kebab carts, humble family restaurants, all the way to fancy steakhouses all within walking distance. You can’t find this anywhere else in New York. (more…)
The year that just drew to close was a year of personal challenges—coping with chemo via congee—and achievements—publishing a guidebook to Queens—all while eating my way through New York City’s most delicious and diverse borough. Herewith, are 17 from 2017.
1. Most Super Soup Dumplings
I’ve been a fan of Helen You’s dumplings since long before she became the empress of Dumpling Galaxy. My favorite at Tianjin Dumpling house in Golden Mall remains the lamb and green squash. Yang rou xiao long bao, or lamb soup dumplings, are one of the off-menu stars at Dumpling Galaxy. The little packages bursting with unctuous lamb broth are so good that they have become a staple of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. Dumpling Galaxy, 42-35 Main St., Flushing, 718-461-0808
2. Choicest Chang Fen
I cut my teeth on Cantonese steam rice rolls at Mei Lei Wah in Manhattan’s Chinatown, so this breakfast staple will always have a special place in my heart and stomach. About a year ago Joe’s Steam Rice Roll opened in downtown Flushing and I knew right away that it was somethings special. For one thing he’s grinding fresh rice as opposed to using rice flour like everybody else in New York City, which imparts a delicate flavor and texture. Turns out that Joe himself went to Guangzhou to learn his craft and brought the equipment back with him. My favorite is the shrimp and egg with green onion. Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, 136-21 Roosevelt Ave., #A1, Flushing
3. Duckiest Thai Arancini
OK fine, they’re not quite Italian rice balls, but the trio of crispy sticky rice balls served with Thailand Center Point’s larb duck with crispy rice ($13.95) do a great job of soaking up the piquant sauce. The shredded meat—mixed with roasted rice powder and shot through with herbs and just the right amount of chilies—is superb. Thailand’s Center Point, 63-19 39th Avenue, Woodside, 718-651-6888(more…)
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…)