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Crawling through Jackson Heights

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Crawling through Jackson Heights

yumyum | Sep 16, 2002 03:32 PM

This Boston hound met up with AbbyLovi for a spur of the moment crawl through Jackson Heights on Saturday. Armed with Abby's "list" of must-try places, my own ideas from lurking on your board and two big appetites, we got a lot accomplished in three hours. Read on...

After rendez-vousing at Chongyap Korean market (wrayb's fabled market) we took a quick look at what was on offer -- they didn't have the little pancakes that I had heard tale of. They DID have the walnut/date sweets that are so good, but I was in the mood for savory food, so I demurred. We knew we had to move on.

We headed on over to the fabled Pakistani bread ladies. It is, as described on the board, like walking into someone's kitchen. Someone who doesn't know English and who is making thin, flaky bread for sale. Then you start timidly saying things like "aloo paratha?" A shake of the head. You try again... "moorghi paratha?" Another shake. Then one lady comes up and starts talking a string of words, none of which sound like paratha. You say firmly, "Yes." And they seem satisfied. About 10 minutes later you are presented with a hot steaming item in a paper towel and then in a plastic bag. You give your dollar and you are done. We walked out into the street and gingerly dug in. It was the flaky buttery bread stuffed with some kind of savory aromatic mixture that included onions, chickpeas and various spices. It was delicious and mysterious and even though we had no idea what it was, we loved it. I was in heaven... a secret pakistani bread treat.

We swung into Patel brothers market and I so wished I had taken a gander at my Indian cookbooks before coming so I could buy some fabulous spices -- they all looked so good and fresh and it was very busy so the turnover would be good. I did pick up some mini-pappadums that are made in a factory in Chenai that has been doing them forever(I had just read about them in the latest Saveur) and some kind of after dinner treat defies description. It just looks lovely.

From there we wandered over to Maharaja sweets and snacks so I could pick up some samosas for the dinner party that evening. We had another one of those funny miscommunications where I was asking if they had the minty spicy sauce that comes with and they pointed to some kind of yogurty thing -- definitely not what I wanted but luckily they were laughing along with us, so I didn't feel I had to buy some. Instead I bought samosas and some other snack item that were soooooo good that night with cocktails before dinner. We asked about kulfi and they pointed to some pretty standard looking ice cream treats in the freezer. Abby wanted to sample some pastries so she ordered by pointing and assembling a little box of mystery bites. The savory stuff at Maharaja was really good -- all vegetarian and spicier than usual.

We decided we'd try to find the tamale ladies (another heart-pounding adventure) and we did... right where they were supposed to be, next to the boarded up bus stop on Roosevelt. We both bought a pork tamale for later. Although I admit it was like money burning a hole in my pocket. I wasn't hungry but I wanted to eat that tamale. I did make it about halfway home in the car before I couldn't take it anymore and I dug in. Heaven... very simple with pork and spicy green mole on the inside and tender masa on the outside. It would have been better eaten right away, but we were pacing ourselves, you know.

Next stop -- Filipino bbq -- once you walk a few blocks, all of a sudden you are in little Manila. So bizarre... I had only thought of JH as an Indian mecca... but one block was Guatemalan, next was Ecuadoran, next was Filipino... Jim had suggested we get a sausage at this restaurant (name escapes me at the moment but I grabbed the menu) and as we needed a little sit-down then, it worked out. We were the only gringos in the place and got lots of attention... two girls looking really white, ogling the plates. The sausage was great. All sweet and sour and very charred on the outside. We also had some chicken adobo which was not as good as my own version. Abby ordered a mango juice, delicious, and I got some sort of sickly sweet bubble-gum flavored drink with tapioca pearls and gelatin cubes. It sucked, but it was very pretty. Just way too sweet for my palate... in fact, all the Filipino food seemed to be sweet. Then I looked around and saw that most patrons had multiple cans of classic coke to wash down their meals. I don't know how these people don't go into sugar shock. We did! All of this was accompanied by very very loud Frank Sinatra being pumped into our dining room from a loud speaker. All in all a great new experience for me.

Back to the food....We stopped into Sripaphai and they didn't have any anchovies or little crabs to take away, just mainly sweets. We declined and walked around a bit more. We decided to get off the main drag to find some chorizo a few long blocks away. By this time the humidity was bad and we were hot and in sugar shock so we were sad to find the Spanish shop was closed. We wandered back via a street fair that boasted the typical second-quality underwear, socks, faux Kate Spade bags and MAGNETS... and these were in the shape of food. Well, suffice to say we bought some magnets in the shape of food-stuffs. They are a pleasing reminder of my JH crawl.

When I reluctantly had to get back in my car to get back, I had a full belly, a sugar rush, some amazing Indian snacks, and multiple magnets. It was perfect!

The next day I had the great fortune to sample some treats from Myers of Keswick, British food purveyor in the Village. They make the most excellent sausage rolls, cornish pasties, and Scotch eggs -- which are hard boiled eggs with a sausage shell and a crumb coating. It was only the traffic that got in the way of scoring bialies from Kossars like I did last time... on recommendation from chowhound.

If I lived in your fair city I would be 300 pounds. Thanks Abby and the rest of you who posted your finds. We Boston hounds stand in awe of your culinary riches, clams aside.

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