Until this past weekend, I never really had much desire to visit the Queens International Night Market. The idea is good, but I usually tend to visit places in their natural environment, the festivals I attend are country-specific. I have wanted to visit Burmese Bites again, the only good Burmese pop-up no matter what the NY Times and Robert Sietsema are telling you about others. But Corona Park on a Saturday night? Sigh...
This changed instantly when relative newcomer Eat Offbeat announced that they would be a vendor. Eat Offbeat is hiring chefs that are refugees in the United States from various countries, giving them the opportunity to cook the foods they love for others here that might not have tried them. Their chefs currently hail from Syria, Eritrea, Nepal, and Iraq.
The only problem (for me, not office folk) is that until Saturday, the food was only available as a catering menu that required large orders. Since New York City no longer has an Iraqi restaurant, I decided to make my way there and try out the food and support what seems to be a great organization.
Like most orders at the market, one tray of three small potato kibbeh costs $5. They are served plain and leave the meat and internal spices to do the talking. The thin layer of potato mash wraps the beef and is lightly deep fried.
At least three of the chefs were there helping, but only two dishes were available. In addition to the Iraqi croquettes, a Nepalese dish called Manchurian ($5, below) was also being served. Colorful peppers and onion top a deep red cauliflower that is also fried in a mild sauce, and it is served over an unseen bed of basmati rice.
It was their first night at the market, and first time in public as far as I could tell. The sweltering evening with "real feel" temperatures hovering around a hellish 45 degrees made their job all the more tough. It was obvious that everyone involved in the operation was kind though as the company's co-founder was introducing them all to each patron.
Best of luck to Eat Offbeat, check out their website and cater your next event with something new.
As portions are small at the market, there were a couple extra dishes ordered from other stands, which I have included below.
Deep fried fish skin, HK Street Food
Ceviche, Inti Sumaq Peruvian Cuisine