>> Eat the World NYC

15 December 2017

Delicias Manabitas

ECUADOR ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡จ

Sometimes you just have to follow your instincts. On my way south through Astoria after enjoying a recent Croatia World Cup qualifier, I noticed this small restaurant on 35th Avenue. Despite having a plan for something in Sunnyside, after peeking inside it could not be resisted.

The city, and especially the four non-Manhattan boroughs are full of Ecuadorian restaurants like this, filling storefronts in somewhat fringe areas. Not as ubiquitous as Mexicans and their food, the tri-colored awnings representing Ecuador's flag are not lagging that far, they just don't hold the same accessibility in most people's minds and mainly serve the enormous expat population of their own countrymen and women.

This particular evening was starting to get very cold, so some kind of delicious warming soup was on the brain, but first an humita ($2.50, below) to get things started.


Humitas are made with masa and steamed similar to Mexican tamales, but they also use fresh ground corn as well and let this vegetable provide the tastes rather than adding meat and salsas. Much like their counterparts though, you will see vendors on the streets of Ecuadorian cities selling these beauties, although in recent years the government has been trying to "clean up" and force them to stop.

In coastal areas of Ecuador, the weather may be tropical, but a hearty and very warming fish stew known as encebollado is very popular. This stew is perfect for the winter climate here in New York City, a steaming bowl on your table and the small dusting of snow on the ground outside immediately fades from memory.


The soup is very prominent on the menu here and offered in five different versions. The one above is the encebollado mixto ($13.75), a mixture of fish and shrimp. Besides the seafood, the soup is made of onions (the word encebollado translates to "made with onions"), cassava, and pickled goodies. On top, more onions, cilantro, and tomatoes are sprinkled on to make sure your table does not remain clean.

Traditionally, the soup is enjoyed with a side of chifles, the thinly sliced fried plantains seen in the background.

The operation seems small here, but the menu also includes many different plates. Each item has a distinctly homemade feel to it, and the overall feeling of the place is a simple retreat for homesick Ecuadorians to get those tastes they miss so dearly.

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Delicias Manabitas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

13 December 2017

Macao Trading Co.

MACAU ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ด

These days on the actual island of Macau, it may be hard to discover the true historical Macanese cuisine, which brings a combination of Portuguese and southern Chinese as well as bits from throughout the Lusophone world. Thankfully Tribeca's Macao Trading Co. is here in New York City taking care of that for us, replicating the dishes that were born when the wives of Portuguese sailors were forced into substituting spices they found in the far east when cooking meals from back home.

The design is said to take its inspiration from a 1930's opium den or brothel in Macau, but most customers seem to overlook this and come here for the famous cocktails. In all honesty, this is probably the source of the most success.


We took our meal at the bar and asked for dishes one by one because of the limited space. This plan worked out beautifully as most of the energy seems to be up front, and the bartenders all take good care of you and know exactly what they are doing. The three person team working this night definitely upped our level of enjoyment in the night as a whole.

The blistered shishito peppers ($13, below) are a good start, somehow with a much higher spicy to non-spicy pepper ratio than normal.


The charred octopus ($18, below) is covered in a salsa verde and black vinegar combination, dusted with pine nuts, and garnished with baby greens and olives.


Macanese steamed fish ($32, below) is served as two thick hunks of mahi mahi. The fish is good and fresh, but the real star is the dark mushroom broth that is infused with hot ginger oil.


Besides Brazil, East Timor, and Macau, most of the Lusophone world is made up of coastal African countries from all sides of the continent. Portuguese ships colonized almost every coastline and transferred the things they found (stole) between them and on to Asia and South America. Because of this, the spices and cooking techniques of these African countries show up in Macanese cuisine as well.

Galinha ร  africana, which is called African chicken ($29, below) here, is roasted bird marinated with piri-piri. This spicy chili comes straight from southern Africa, but the Macanese would add things like the coconut milk based curry peanut sauce and serve it on a ginger sesame slaw.


If you were doing math in your head as we went along, you can see that a meal here can get pricier than most written on this website. Depending on the number of cocktails you have, a dinner for two will probably run in the range of $150-250.

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ด ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ด ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ด
Macao Trading Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12 December 2017

Kachin Traditional Food Fair

MYANMAR ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฒ

The northernmost state of Myanmar is Kachin State, a place that has seen perpetual conflict for most of the last 50 years. Always wishing to operate with more autonomy, the Kachin people have their own government and institutions in place where they can.

Enough of these people exist in New York City that 2017 marked the first Kachin Traditional Food Fair. The words Myanmar or Burma were absent from anything in the advertising or atmosphere, only the green and red flag with two crossed blades of the Kachin Independence Organization was visible, along with red and green balloons to continue the theme.

Thankfully, the conflict seems to have been left at home, as many ethnic-Burmese were also in attendance and sampling the rare foods that could not be found at some of the other events taking place here throughout the year.


A small sampling of goods and costume was on display and possibly for sale, but everyone seemed to be here to eat. Like most Burmese events, the listed start time was about the latest you wanted to show up, as the dining hall of the Elmhurst Baptist Church was already buzzing at this time with people filling up to go bags.



My first stop was for Myitkyina noodles ($5, above and below), named for the capital city of Kachin State. This dish shared a lot in common with many Burmese and Shan noodle salads, with overlapping ingredients and presentation, but slightly new tastes.



Warm tofu with noodle ($5, above and below) was another noodle salad new to me. The picture above gives a good look at the thin layer of warm homemade tofu that is layered on top of the rice noodles. As common throughout the country, the rest of the ingredients were put on top and a bowl of soup was offered on the side. This can either be enjoyed on its own or used with the noodles.


Chicken curry ($5, below) was one of three curries on offer, with pork and beef also available. Some views of all three are available at the bottom from a meal cooked the next day with everything bought for takeout.


Possibly the fastest selling item was the black sticky rice dessert ($4, below), which was gone by the time I tried to buy one. Luckily a generous tablemate pulled hers out for a photo op.



The Kachin steamed fish ($6, below) is popular enough that you see it in larger cities of Myanmar, and was selling fast at the food fair. These vendors sold it in spicy and non-spicy versions, and also offered a steamed vegetables ($5, below) as well, everything neatly wrapped in banana leaves for cooking.


Circling counter-clockwise around another steamed fish in the center, a meal the next day consisted of Kachin congee, fried chicken with sticky rice, and all three curries. Of note is the beautiful congee, which was full of flavor. Kachin state shares a border with China, but their take on this dish is so much more vibrant.


This event took place on the 2nd of December, 2017. Please follow the NYC Kachin Fellowship for information about future events and don't forget to show up early! Next time the vendors should be prepared for a large demand.

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฒ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฒ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฒ

11 December 2017

Culpepper's

BARBADOS ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ง

The corner of Nostrand Avenue and Lincoln Road might as well be draped with the flag of Barbados. The blue and yellow of Culpepper's is noticeable from some distance, and unlike many West Indian restaurants, this one does not hide its identity at all.

At first glance this is a simple takeout joint, only one small table is in the front room to sit at, but they do maintain a dining room. Behind a locked door that they can buzz you into, a few more tables are available for meals in house. If possible though, grab that table in the front space and enjoy your meal with all the action. The takeout is a steady stream, people are ordering morning, afternoon, and night.

A Bajan man (the demonym of Barbados is Bajan) was active and chatty to the staff as we were eating, wearing a hat which bore the broken trident that stars in the flag of the country.


Any first visit to a Bajan restaurant and first experience with the cuisine should start with the national dish of the island nation: Cou cou and flying fish ($15, above and below). The flying fish, besides being a delicious meal, is important in Barbados, sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Flying Fish." It also appears on souvenirs and remains an important symbol in the country despite being virtually nonexistent now because of coral reef depletion. This also has led to a price increase, but because of history the fish remains sought after and is imported for meals.

Cou cou is a cornmeal-based dish made with okra, both of which are readily available and inexpensive on the island unlike a lot of other imported foods. The dish is finished off with a good portion of savory gravy that can reach high levels of spiciness. The version here at Culpepper's is pretty tame on that front, but a small bit of pepper here and there will show up.


The tastes of course all work well together, but you can just as easily eat the fish and cou cou separately. As long as some of this delicious gravy was around, I would probably be dipping everything in it.


As this fish was being consumed, orders of the fish cakes ($0.50 each, below) were constant, almost every person coming in tacked on a few with their order. Before finishing, we had to grab a couple for ourselves.


The "cakes" are balls of bread with small pieces of fish. The whole thing is breaded and thrown briefly in the frier. After eating the gravy, it was hard to discern the subtle flavors, so these ended up getting dipped as well.


If you don't have room after your meal, be sure to take home some Bajan jam puffs ($2 each, below) for the next morning. They are available in cherry and pineapple, and the fluffy triangles might be one of the easiest ways to give yourself good island memories.


Walking by any bakery in the morning on Barbados will bring smells of jam tarts and other baked goods. Luckily Nostrand Avenue is home to Culpepper's, which keeps a case of popular pastries for everyone to have these tastes from back home.

๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ง ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ง ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ง
Culpeppers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

07 December 2017

Cakor Restaurant

ALBANIA ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

On October 28th, two days before this meal, Albanians celebrated their independence day back home and here in Belmont where the streets were still filled with flags, waving red with a black double-headed eagle. Even on a normal week, this area which is still known as the Bronx's Little Italy is more of a Little Albania. The cafes are full of Albanian and other Balkan conversations, even if everyone is still sipping cappuccinos.

The menu at Cakor is a salute to both, with many Italian pastas and seafood dishes on one side, while Balkan specialties of grilled meats inhabit the other. This is normal though, as Albania at various times in history has been occupied by Greeks, Romans, and lastly the Ottoman Empire.

As with many people of Albanian heritage here in New York, the owner calls Montenegro home, and sometimes specials from this country can show up.


After the order was placed, we asked for bread as the waiter was walking away. His answer of "This is an Albanian restaurant" first made us think that bread was not an option because of his tone, but he was simply implying that there is no Albanian meal without bread.

A basket of what he called simit showed up shortly afterwards, but was much different from the Turkish simit I have had. This light and fluffy loaf was cut up into thin sections, which we almost devoured before the rest of the meal came.


Another unordered and unbilled plate arrived with roasted sweet red and spicy green peppers as well as some delicious goat cheese.

Knowing a lot of meat was coming, a shopska salad ($10, below) was ordered as a counterpoint. This cucumber and tomato salad was laced with a lot of onions and covered in more goat cheese and a few slivers of red pepper.


Over the course of my residency in New York City and trips to the Balkans, I have enjoyed many pljeskavicas, a large and well-spiced patty of meat served between two pieces of flatbread. They offer a different way to eat it here at Cakor, called stuffed pljeskavica ($17, below), which ditches the bread and fills the meat with gooey melted kajmak, a creamy dairy product not far from cheese.


The plate also has some weird accoutrement; two fried potato wedges, a block of cheese, some chopped onions, and some more red peppers, so feel free to experiment with your taste combinations.

What was most anticipated was the mixed grill ($26, below), a gathering of meats which all seem to be expertly marinated. The traditional cevape and qofte was supplemented with suxhuk sausage, liver, kidney, baby lamb, and chicken.


Word to the wise: go for the kidney before your tablemates eat too much, as it is outstanding. The whole platter is very satisfying though.

We ordered a round of cappuccinos to finish off the filling meal and provide some digestif. The place takes on a cafe feeling in the summer when tables and chairs are outside, but even in winter groups of men come here and hang out for a long time, enjoying the food and atmosphere.

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Cakor Restaurant Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

06 December 2017

Spicy Tibet

TIBET

Back at the end of 2014, the owners of Friends Corner Cafe needed more space for their popular restaurant and decided to open up another shop on Roosevelt Avenue. Ever since, with a slightly expanded menu, Spicy Tibet has had most of its tables full no matter what time of day. As temperatures drop close to freezing, soups become necessary, and Tibetan soups are some of the most warming in the world.

But start the meal of course with a plate of vegetable momos ($5.99, below). Make sure to find a bottle of the orange momo sauce if it is not already on your table. They have meat varieties as well, but sometimes the vegetarian options have better spices inside.


Gya thug ($6.99, below) more than any other soup just looks like it will warm you up. This type of thukpa, or Tibetan noodle soup, is named for the Chinese noodles it uses. Meat and vegetables are combined with "Himalayan herbs and spices" in a hearty broth.


Then thug ($6.99, below), always uses hand-pulled or sliced noodles that are guaranteed to be fresh and homemade. Tibetan soups can sometimes be more bland than their Nepalese companions, but throw in some extra red pepper sauce if you want. Grab a piece of tingmo ($1, below background) if you are the type that likes to dip breads into soup.


This area of Jackson Heights is known for its Himalayan takeover of the last decade or more, and the options are staggering. Because there are so many people in the community, the level of quality of most places is very high. The value at places like Spicy Tibet is almost ridiculous.

[Tibet Flag Emojis]
Spicy Tibet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

04 December 2017

Arco Cafe

SARDINIA ITALY ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Many places in the city, especially in the southern reaches of Brooklyn, call themselves Sicilian. Waves of Sicilian immigrants came and settled in New York City about 100 years ago and were eventually stopped by racist and discriminatory government policy in the 1920's not unlike that which we are now seeing against Muslims, Haitians, and Central Americans today.

These Sicilian immigrants have had families who have had families, and many generations have grown up here. Some foods have stayed similar while some have evolved into Italian-American cuisine. Now for the first time that I know of, Italy's other large Mediterranean island is getting a look. Arco Cafe offers the foods and wines of Sardinia.

If you search for images of Sardinia, beautiful photographs of crystal clear aqua waters and rocky coastlines will fill your browser. The paintings that cover one brick wall here show scenes from the interior of the island though, rolling farmland and clouds that could be the Midwest. The cows in these paintings seem very happy.


The meal started with salumi e formaggi ($19.50, above), a selection of Sardinian cheeses served with four types of cured meats and olives and covered with pane carasau, the traditional flatbread of Sardinia. This thin but rigid flatbread is more like a cracker and is great for eating the meat and cheese. Conceived by shepherds, this bread has been eaten on the island for at least 3000 years!

Once the bread is removed, the plate looks kind of like the garbage barges that float down the East River taking away the city's unwanted scraps. This appetizer fared very differently, with not a single scrap remaining when the meal was over.


Arco Cafe offers some Sardinian wines that may have not been on your radar before. We had a $50 bottle of Cannonau, the name of Grenache grapes planted on the island. It paired lovely with everything we ate. We also sampled the Monica, which someone with sweeter tastes might prefer.

Squid is fished off the coasts of Sardinia and is one of their most eaten products, making the insalata di calamari ($14, below) a no-brainer. These large pieces are super fresh and needs no spices or sauce, the squid and arugula speak for themselves. If you want a bit more zing, ask for an extra side of the lemon dressing.


The famous pasta of Sardinia is malloreddus, grooved and folded pieces that are sometimes referred to as Sardinian gnocchi. This does not capture the uniqueness of this pasta though, as it has a feeling all its own in your mouth. Maloreddos alla Campidanese ($15.50, below) is al dente pieces with tomato and sweet sausage ragout.


Sardinians love their pork, often roasting suckling pigs for many uses. These sausages are unfortunately about as close as you can come to a Sardinian pig roast here in New York, but the dish is fantastic and so full of flavors. The grooves of this unique pasta grab good quantities of tomato sauce for each bite.

After-dinner digestif selections are of note here as a shelf full of amaro is available as well as mirto, a Sardinian liqueur made from the evergreen myrtle shrub. Salute!

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น
Arco Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

30 November 2017

Little Mai African Restaurant & Social Club

LIBERIA ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท

Most people driving down the road would not give this storefront a second glance. Two metal gates are closed to the pavement, blocking the windows, while the dark glass door can not be seen through even on a cloudy day. No neon sign helps you figure out something is actually happening here under the awning.

But swing that door open, and a large space comes into view once your eyes adjust. Not quite fancy, but definitely much more than you expect from the exterior. Tables are set with red and black plates, napkins rolled around silverware, and wine glasses.

The decor is spartan, but various charming fabrics and images from West Africa adorn the walls and give the place warmth. The best piece of decoration was the clock below giving a sense of how things might run around here if you come inside in a rush.

Get it?

The TV is set to MSNBC but on this visit the only thing audible was reggae. The large speaker was taken over by someone's phone, which intermittently beeped with incoming messages and interrupted the music.

The menu is simple, and changes daily. Each day of the week brings two new dishes, and there is no wiggle room beyond that as far as we could tell. Fufu was overheard to be a weekend item, so rice comes standard with the dishes on weekdays.

What day it is during your visit determines what you will eat.

The proprietor in the kitchen welcomed me with a handshake when I approached to talk about an order. Apparently the restaurant has been around since 1999, and he treated me as a friend who has been coming in since those early days. An order of both available meals was entered, and the interaction ended with a fist bump.

If you are thirsty, grab a drink from one of the refrigerators in the corner. These units are residential, and therefore have no glass to see inside, but feel free to open them all up and find what you want.

The Tuesday highlight is palm butter ($13, below), served with a mountain of white rice. The finished product is not so much unlike other groundnut stews made in the region, but Liberians are known for their spicy foods and a good deal of heat is built into this rather than just plopping a scotch bonnet pepper on top. A mixed bags of meat and fish are used, ensuring that each bite is a bit different than the last.


When the dish arrived we were asked if we wanted an extra plate to share. When we said we could use one of the ones on the table, another man told us those were just for show. This brought smiles to our faces, and another white plate arrived for our use.

We also said not to bring more rice since another mountain would have been completely redundant, so our order of potato greens ($13, below) came out alone. These greens had a slightly sweet taste to them without any bitterness, and were also joined by a combination of meats. The taste was positive, but unlike any I had ever had before.


We barely finished half of our gigantic plates and had to ask for to-go containers. It was sad to think about leaving though, as the atmosphere was so cordial. After some brief conversations with the proprietor and other man, I perused the bulletin board which seems to be the hub of finding out what is going on in the Liberian community.


From the limited amount we could try, I would assume that any day would be a good one to come here to Little Mai. It is a block away from the University of Rutgers Hospital, if you ever happen to be visiting.

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท
Little Mai African Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato