Posted by: Jeffsayyes | August 7, 2013

Iftar Box Rundown

This has been a dream of mine for years – A rundown of every Iftar box in Jackson Heights. These boxes have been an item of intrigue — the to-go box of food, set up for sale outside the food establishment, only during the month of Ramadan (ENDS TONIGHT, AUG 7TH!).

What I learned when documenting is that Iftar is awesome. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from daybreak until sundown. No water, no food (but people still work during the day). This leads to lots of cranky Muslims around 5pm, and then ravenous delight as soon as approximately 8:15pm rolls around. Food – what a celebration.

In the Jackson Heights area, most of the Muslim businesses are Bangladeshi, with a minority Pakistani. I learned that there is more or less a standard Iftar box – but all are intriguing. I learned that there are some specials (like at Premium Sweets who had some awesome jalebi with all sorts of toppings like pistachio, coconut shavings, etc). And I learned that the process of fasting and relieving is a wonderful exercise in the body and spirit.

Here is the Iftar Rundown:

Premium Sweets, 3714 73rd St – $8 —–

Haat Bazaar Grocery, 3711 73rd St ($8):

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Khaabar Baari, 37-22 73rd St ($6):

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Cafe Taj, 7306 37th Ave ($6):

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Merit Farms, 3767 74th St:

Iftar Special, $5.99

Iftar Deluxe, $7.99

Al Naimet, 3703 74th St ($6):

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Jackson Heights Food Court, 73-07 37th Rd rear (Bangladeshi) ($6):

Kabab King, 7301 37th Rd ($6)

Old exterior, courtesy Joseph Aranha RIP

There are others, but the boxes weren’t as readily available. Visit the area and find a box of your own – or better yet, stay for a meal and see the madness.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | July 1, 2013

Announcing: The Ambassador Plates

This has been my dream for many years. It may be my best one yet…

The latest evolution of the Ambassador is taking place at restaurants throughout Jackson Heights, Queens. At these participating restaurants, the chef is your Ambassador. All you have to do is pay $10 (or $20) and the staff will give you their picks of the day for your meal. It’s easy to employ, and the restaurants are happy to show off their best stuff for a fair price. Look for the sticker around the neighborhood – even if they don’t speak English, just point to the sticker and your ordering will be taken care of. We’re crossing all barriers of communication here. 

See the main page for updated list of participants
Participants:

 

All of these eateries have been specifically chosen for this program. I am very lucky to be in this neighborhood, where the owners are very frequently the cooks, servers, and owners. This is a highly Himalayan list so far, but that’s because it’s the make-up of our mom-and-pop shops. In fact, Juju’s is the only place not South Asian – It’s a bagel shop with homemade salads, desserts and it’s hard to choose so this will be helpful for everyone. But for someone from Nepal, I’m sure this will help them navigate Juju’s too.

Which would I pick? I have no clue. All of these businesses I work with are such nice people, working hard and happy to show you around what they do. There are a few that I’m most intrigued with that this would be particularly helpful in – like GangJong Kitchen and Chilli Chicken, places where I know they are great but I still have no idea what to order. I def want to check out what’s new with Little Tibet; I can’t choose, every one of these places I want to learn from. I’m lucky to live here. Really, everything I do is entirely selfish – I made this so I could relieve myself from the burdens of choosing in my own neighborhood, but I hope many other people like you will take advantage of it too.

I am very excited to see what each one will do with this. Some might fail, but some will flourish. At the time, this is limited to Jackson Heights, but I would love to help make this happen in other neighborhoods throughout the city or the country, working with gov’t orgs to make it happen. Even if I am not involved, I would love to see this method employed elsewhere just to make it easier for everyone.

Please let me know about your experiences, and if you have any issues, please tell me right away and I will check in on the situation. This is all supposed to be as easy and beneficial for all parties involved. I hope this works…


 

Above, the brand new Little Tibet Restaurant

 

For more information: iwantmorefood.com/ambassador/

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 17, 2013

Momo Crawl Update

AND THE WINNER IS….

Be there at the Momo Crawl to vote and present to the winner

Sunday, May 19th
1:30pm
Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza – 37th Rd b/w 73rd/74th St.

BKgVzY2CEAEGpj5.jpg

Facebook event listing https://www.facebook.com/events/371564282950274/

At the start, you will get a mandala map in exchange for 2 bills of any denomination. People may organize into groups or go rogue. Many momo stops will sell a momo individually for $1. At 4:30pm, we will regather at the Diversity Plaza to vote, then immediately present the momo trophy.

The momo trophy is currently on view at Bombay Chat AKA Cafe K2 (73-13 37th Rd).

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 8, 2013

The Momo Crawl 2013 – Announcement

Momo Crawl on Sunday, May 19th. 1:30pm.

This must be done.

With the opening of Friends Cafe last week, there are now 19 places serving momos in the Little India vicinity of Jackson Heights. These Himalayan dumplings quietly have become the most popular dish in Queens.

To celebrate this influx of Himalayans to the area, I am organizing my 2nd Momo Crawl. This population of Tibetans, Nepalese, and the surrounding cultures have had such a positive effect on our area, I want to be strong in welcoming new immigrants to New York City. These entrepreneurs of our area, these locals who have the courage not to open up a Subway, need our support.

Last year we kept it to 30 people because of space limitations, but this year we have use of the Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza thanks to co-host Sukhi NY and are now aiming for MASSIVE.

Meeting place: Jackson Heights Plaza (37th Rd between 74th Street and Broadway, or 7301 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens)

At the meeting point, attendees will be given a map of the area in exchange for 2 bills of any denomination they choose. You will be organized in groups of 8 to facilitate momo eating. Costs for momos will be split amongst the group.  At each stop you make, your map will be stamped.  Upon your return to the plaza, we will all decide on a winner. The winner will be presented with a giant momo trophy - which in the meantime will be displayed somewhere on 37th Road by the end of next week.  (see progress of momo trophy here).

 

We must find the greatest momo.
It’s a dream come true. 

 

 

You can find me on Twitter Facebook Vine
Co-Host: Sukhi NY
Media Partner:
Village Voice’s Fork in the Road: Second Annual Momo Crawl Launches in Jackson Heights
BoroMag: Pay-what-you-want Momo Crawl this weekend
NY1 – airing Monday(4/13), Saturday (4/18)
Tasting Table – Momo Magic

Epoch Times – A Himalayan Dumpling Tour in Queens
Queens Chronicle – Who serves the best Jackson Heights momo?
New York Times – Weekend Fare

Being a vendor an event means that you’re always working and never able to walk around and visit the other businesses. My friend Noah Arenstein recently opened the newish Jewish food Scharf & Zoyer stand at Smorgasburg (you may have been following his path on Serious Eats as Chris Crowley has been documenting). I felt bad that he never was able to see the competition and learn from them; So I decided to photograph every vendor at the Saturday Smorgasburg event.

You can see the full set ON FLICKR … but below I want to point out a few awesome marketing set-ups and other comments. Commence!

Some vendors are sad, some are out of touch, some are a bit commercial, some are rustic, and just have the magick:

Big block of ice in front, chalkboard with cute graphics. Huge popsicle stick as the logo. Great design. I kinda just want to talk to these people – look how friendly it is


Mighty Quinn and their tremendous line. The set-up isn’t much, you can barely see the brisket from within the Smorg. However, their reputation precedes themselves and the price is not terrible either ($5 little, $9 big portion).

Huge turkey leg. It’s not anything artisan but it’s a spectacle. I saw people walking around with them and I was like “Who’s selling that???”

Wow, check out how big Milk Truck is! It’s like a complete city in 2 stalls. It’s like one of those movies like Waterworld or Mad Max or Demolition Man where it’s a fully running underground city within the city. I couldn’t even get close to the thing with the snaking lines for order and pickup. Good menu though, all very comforting stuff like mac&cheese or milk shakes. I could definitely go for a milk shake.

 

The guy from S’more Bakery was torching the s’more’s right on the table beside the cashier. The product is literally campy, but it’s a great spectacle – Very attractive process.

 

These guys sell the farm eggs right up front, and ALSO sell sandwiches. You know these sandwiches gotta be good b/c of the farm eggs and the farmer looking dude behind them (or at least you’d definitely think so).

But the best set-up is from Porchetta

It’s so simple. All they have is a table (tables pay less than half what full booths pay, but also have no electricity), and it’s 2 people (vendors pay for every staff member present). One takes the cash, one cuts the porchetta. The fresh porchetta sits on top of a box on a cutting board, nearly at chest height to the customers – not even a pane of glass separating us. The sweat off the thing you can nearly feel in your fingers. The process is incredibly quick, as they just cut the thing, put it in a bun, and wrap it. And they make a good tick of money, $7 for a one handful sandwich. Quick, simple, tasty, and very visible. They are the perfect vendor.

And that’s my opinion.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | April 22, 2013

Halalathon 2012: Jackson Heights

You can find the winner of the 2012 Halalathon - The TD Bank Cart – at 73rd St, just south of 37th St. It doesn’t actually have this name, but we are just calling it this because it is located in front of the TD Bank.

They just had it levels above the rest. I never realized the depth of Halal food until our crew did the observations. I never respected it as a “cuisine“. Here, at our trials, we tried every Halal food place within a 1-mile radius of the 74th Street station and this TD Bank cart took the top honors.

At the presentation, I called some press for the presentation. It is, after all, a big deal…

I was so happy to get some print publications there to make it a real ‘Event‘. It was great to have these guys who wouldn’t normally think what they do is special, get some attention for what they do.

And now I have respect for the cuisine. Now, I take all of my non-local walking tours here – and they ALL love it. It’s amazing. Here, I always took Halal food for granted, but it’s apparently quite an interesting cuisine in itself – albeit narrow.

Here is the article on the event:
DNAinfo: Halalathon Champion Bests Vendy Winner for Best Halal in Jackson Heights

And here is Rachel Antonio’s impression of the event:
Spam is Better Fried: Part 1 Review

The secret ingredient we found out to be Shan Zafrani Garam Masala

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With the brick and mortardom of Gyro King (74-06 37th Rd), it became imperative to do a Halal cart round-up of the area. I previously shunned it, thought the food was a lesser level of eating… an easy pickup for a foodie. We did the analysis of every Halal combo plate vendor within a mile of the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue station. Here is what we found:

Halal Food, north side of TD Bank, 37th ave/74th St

The Original American Chicken (78-07 37th Ave) was decidedly the worst. I don’t even like to say that because I’ve been more relentless about them more than I like, and I’d love to have a redeeming cause, but it was clear — the worst. HOWEVER, they had some great chicken decorations!

American Chicken, worst

Gyro King had the most interesting side salad by far, with a nearly uncountable number of pickled vegetables, giving a very interesting overall mouth feel to the dish. The other ingredients were good, though didn’t have an extra level that the top tier Halal carts possessed.

Gyro King, 74-06 37th Rd

The pick of the majority of us, and 2nd place to the few who thought Sammy’s reigned king, was the TD Bank cart. It just had the right balance, and an extra layer of flavoring that hasn’t been fathomed in the other carts.

TD Bank Cart, west side of 74th street/37th Ave

Sammy’s was one of two carts to refuse to put sauce on the side. We’re not sure if this confused the experiment, because it definitely had a different feel than the rest. It was, as expected, really good.

Sammy’s, northeast corner of Broadway/73rd St

America’s #1 Halal Food (73rd / Broadway)

82nd St/37th Ave SW

Sammy’s and the Other Sammy’s (Broadway/73rd St SW)

PBS Cart (outside Elmhurst Hospital on Broadway) – Quite good

83rd/Roosevelt NE – pretty good

82nd St/Baxter SW Moroccan cart

and here’s the winner – TD Bank Cart. Proof:

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | April 16, 2013

Nepalese Ambassador with Sahadev Poudel at Malingo

Our group of 13 listened to whatever Sahadev had to say. It was so interesting to hear his story about coming to America, getting a job through a connected person in a supermarket and working every night, 8pm to 8am for six months straight. Our meal was great, but none of this ambassador stuff is really about the food. It’s about the connection of cultures and people. Queens, NY is the greatest ground for all of this.

This was our 2nd Nepalese ambassador, and we will do as many as possible in the future – this is just too interesting and important an immigration into NYC to ignore. I was so happy to be in my position at the end of the night. Much more to come – we have a lot more to do.

Here’s Ambassador loyal Fanny Farkas with her rundown of our most recent Ambassador Program at Malingo with our Nepalese ambassador Sahadev Poutel:

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Tuesday February 5th 11 of us met with Sahadev Poudel to sample his native food at Malingo, a recently opened Nepalese-Japanese restaurant. We were seated in a tatami room which made for an intimate evening where we got to meet old friends and make new ones.

Sahadev started by explaining that there are at least 70 tribes in Nepal with their own food customs. He comes from a Hindi family who are strict vegetarians; Sahadev has relaxed his dietary restrictions to include chicken and fish, still no beef though. We were most fortunate to have such a knowledgeable Ambassador and our menu was very copious.

The beverages of choice were Sake, Mango lassi, Salt tea with Milk and Butter a very traditional way of serving tea, that in this case was delicious. Sake was served instead of Raksi which is a stronger alcoholic drink frequently distilled at home from different grains.

We started with Vegetable Pakora a deep fried fritter, Chicken Lollipops made from the wing again deep-fried, Chicken Chili, and Aloo Sandero – a delicious cold spicy potato dish. The truly different dish was Bhatmas Chiura. This was full of surprises, soybeans cooked al dente, next to them flattened rice mixed with, what we all thought were scallions, green chili peppers very spicy but quite delicious.

Chicken Lollipop

Bhatmas Chiura

Vegetable Pakora

On to the main courses, I think we all felt as we were guests at Sahadev’s house the way he described the customs of cooking and eating. We had Chicken Thali and learnt that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for seconds in case you finish one of the small plates. A thali is a meal made up of a selection of various dishes served on a metal tray. There are several variations on the theme, in this case there was dhal, a yellow lentil soup, mustard greens, yogurt, rice pudding and chicken. We also tried Dherda or Dhido which resembles poy but is made of corn flour and buckwheat flour poured into boiling water until a thick porridge is formed. This is considered food for the poor, the wealthy eat rice. We were also served the national dish of Nepal, Gundruk thali, which is made of fermented and dried vegetable leaves.

Thalis

Dhido Thali

What is a Nepalese meal without Momos? – this country’s version of dumplings. Ours were filled with chicken and accompanied by several tasty sauces ranging from mild coriander to spicy hot chili.

And What is dinner without dessert? – impoverished to say the least. We ended our lovely evening with a delicious rice pudding and Gulab Jamun fried cheese balls in a perfumed sugar syrup.

Sahadev was not only a gracious host, he is very knowledgeable about food and explained how each course was made and talked in length about Nepalese food customs.

A great evening was had by all.

- Fanny Farkas

Malingo 43-16 Queens Boulevard

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