The original idea was to while away a late, beautiful Sunday morning with a Vietnamese coffee in the park, but then I noticed the steamed HK rice roll cart.
He's one of two carts who front the shopping center that houses the two Phos (Bang and Bac), Nusara, Penang and NY Supermarket. They both have stuff like fish balls and tea eggs, only this guy features four kinds of rice rolls - take your pick of baby shrimp, pork, beef or chicken. They're a buck twenty five a piece, unless you want an egg in there as well - that'll cost you fifty cents extra. You can also side it with some fish balls, something I've noticed to be a common practice. I ordered up two, one pork, one baby shrimp, with everything, and then took pleasure in watching the man go to work.
For anyone who's only gotten rice rolls in a dim sum joint, watching them get made is actually part of the fun. The apparatus itself is a pleasure to behold - a metal steamer with thin drawers. The guy pulls out a drawer, pours liquid gluten in a thin, even layer across the surface, pours in the meat and scallions and closes the drawer up for steaming - I'd say anywhere between a minute and a half to two minutes. He then opens the drawer, scrapes out the gluten and deposits it in a styrofoam container, where it becomes an undulating, jiggly mass. With a thin layer of tart, red hot sauce across the top, this thing is what Monk would have called an "ugly beauty."
A good rice roll is part slippery, part firm - shouldn't be too much of either. This one had that balance, and was quite tasty. Having them fresh off the steamer makes all the difference. Just needs a little hot sauce to bring it all together. I dug the pork a little more than the shrimp - the flavor punched through a little more, but both were good. I sat with my rice roll and my Vietnamese coffee on a bench that caught the sun just right, and had a front and center view of about 10 Chinese women doing Tai Chi with boom box accompaniment. I had all I needed in that moment, and all was well with the world.
Better living through street food.
Nusara Thai Kitchen
82-80 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373
Broadway Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373