Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sripraphai: Almost on Roosevelt Ave.

I met up with Judy, Mark, Stella and Rachel (JHFG'ers all) for lunch at Sripraphai before our epic cake-off at Red Ribbon (which you can read about here). I'm not sure who was smart enough to suggest that we grab a quick bite before the cake at Sri, since it is right across the street from the bakery, but it was a great idea. As we perused the very thick menu, we quickly decided on two appetizers and four entrees for the five of us, trying to save room for the six different kinds of cake that we would eventually be eating, but probably still ordering too much. How could you not, though, with so many options? I am a boring Sripraphai-goer, because I always order the same thing (like the Thai buffalo wing! Sour and salty and spicy so good) so it was nice to go with other people and branch out a little. Here's what we got:

Chicken curry puff served w. cucumber salad $5.50
Curry puffs are one of the appetizer items that I always order, because they are always delicious. The crust is usually very flaky, and the potato/chicken filling, flavored perfectly with curry powder and lots of turmeric is always piping hot. A lightly pickled cucumber and onion salad is perfect to add to the puff, it adds crunch and brightness. The puffs were good, the filling was chunky and nicely-flavored, but the crust was not flaky and soft, it was crisp and hard. Good, but not the same. If I had never tasted them before, I would have liked these well enough.

On to the main courses.
C-16 Sauté crispy pork with chili, garlic & basil leaves $9.50
Crispy crispy crispy pork. Some bits were so crisp, they couldn't be stabbed with a fork. The fatty pieces were great, soft with a crisp edge. Some bits were tough, some bits were perfect, I had to move the plate away from me because I couldn't stop eating it. Not spicy enough, but the garlic/basil/chili combo is a great one.

N-5 Drunken noodles: sauté rice noodles w. choice of meat, chili & basil leaves $8.50
Our choice of meat was pork. I like wide, flat noodles. Anything with chili and basil is good, as noted above, but again, for something with chili, and we really did specify spicy, not all that hot. Tasty, yes, flavorful too. A simple and good noodle dish.

I'm not sure what number this one was on the menu, maybe one of you can help, but this was fried fish topped with green papaya salad. I tasted the fish (and those of you who know me know that while I don't eat fish or seafood, I always taste it just to see if anything has changed and I might wake up one day and love it). The fish was mild and flaky, the outside crisp, the salad fresh, light, and crunchy. I didn't hate it.

Panang Curry with duck $9.00
Yum. Complex and rich, panang curry is normally made with coconut cream, so it is even thicker and richer than a green, red, or yellow curry made with coconut milk. The only problem with this dish was that because of the meat we chose, delicious duck, every spoonful that I put on my plate was made up of mostly duck skin and no meat. While crispy duck skin is one of my favorite things, soft duck skin in sauce, not so much. The meat was in there somewhere, I just had bad luck finding it.

A fun lunch, not really meant to be an exploration of the menu, just some people getting together and sharing good food before going cake crazy. Everyone who goes to Sripraphai has an opinion, and I wasn't planning on making it part of my route, since so much has been said that I'm not sure what I can really add to the discussion. All I will say is that I have always had good meals at this restaurant. Spice levels have been inconsistent, service as well, but the quality and flavor of the food is there.

SriPraPhai Thai Restaurant
64-13 39th Avenue

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pupusa Time

Dinner with Stella the other night at Izalco, a Salvadoran restaurant. One of the many benefits of meeting the nice people, such as Stella, of the Jackson Heights Food Group is that if I put up a post on Facebook on a Thursday afternoon to see if anyone feels like dinner in Queens that night, someone is bound to answer, since they live here too. It's great. So that's how dinner happened. Forgive me, people of El Salvador, for using Mexican cuisine as my frame of reference, but with the same names, the comparisons are inevitable.

I ordered horchata to drink, which is very different in flavor from Mexican horchata, in case you were wondering. Mexican horchata is made from rice milk and Mexican cinnamon. Horchata at Izalco, as the waiter told us, is made from rice, milk, peanuts, and a special seed from El Salvador. This special seed, I am assuming, is the morro seed, or calabash. I liked the drink, it was nutty, sweet, and light.

We ordered three types of pupusas: chicharron, queso, and mixtos (beans and chicharron)
Pupusas are corn cakes made from corn masa, much like a Mexican gordita, stuffed with various fillings. They are usually served with a mild tomato sauce and curtido, a vinegar-y cabbage salad.
The three pupusas.

The bean pupusa, topped with the cabbage. Of the three pupusas, the bean filling was mild, the chicharron was not really seasoned, but the cheese had the strongest flavor and most contrast of textures. Earthy corn, griddled crisp outside, soft insde, then melty, salty cheese.

I love cabbage.

I also love Salvadoran tamales de elote (corn tamales) because they are what I imagine all tamales should taste like: soft, sweet, and of fresh corn. Like the best corn bread you could imagine. Plus it doesn't hurt that they serve them with sour cream.

This strange looking picture was the Salvadoran Enchilada. Nothing like a Mexican enchilada. A crisp fried tortilla (tostada in Mezican, as my favorite dishwasher Juan used to say) topped with a mix of meat and potatoes, finally chopped, which reminded us both of empanada filling, and then that was topped with more cabbage. The crunch of the tortilla with the soft potato and tender meat, and the crisp, sharp cabbage was an unexpected and absolutely delicious combination. The hit of the night. A good, cheap dinner. There is a much larger menu with entrees and platters that go for $13 and up, which we did not try. It was too much fun to order small plates. Still lots to do in Woodside, I have to catch up on my eating. This week I'm in Jersey catering, so it's slow going, but I'll be back, and ready to eat, on Monday.

6405 Roosevelt Ave

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


UFC. Korean fried chicken. I was in a fried chicken state of mind after Jollibee, so this weekend I also skipped a few blocks and went straight to Jackson Heights for some more. Unidentified Flying Chickens wins the award for best packaging (so far) on Roosevelt Ave. I still covet Jollibee's red plastic buckets, but just look at the take out bag. Its design is pure cuteness.
And the box, with holes, which keep the crispiness.

But now for the chicken and one side which I sampled this Saturday.
I could only try two flavors of the four they offer (soy garlic, hot, BBQ mustard, and sweet & spicy) as I was alone and not about to get 20 pieces of chicken for myself. Even I wouldn't go that far. So, soy garlic and hot. Soy garlic was good, but I think I liked hot just a little bit more.
Hot drumette!
Soy garlic drumstick!
The chicken was doused in sauce and yet still remained crispy. A beautiful combination of flavor and crunchiness. How do they do it? I somehow managed to save a few pieces (of 10 pieces for $10) for Jose, who was working late, but I could have eaten those wings (and drumsticks) all night, like popcorn.

Ever since our trip to Hawaii, I have rediscovered my love for macaroni salad, so out of the side options of coleslaw, macaroni, daikon, or rice, I went for macaroni. The first bite took me back to childhood. I'm not sure when or why I ate supermarket deli macaroni salad, but at some point in my life I did, and it had that sweet-tangy flavor that I haven't tasted in years. I could not finish the whole thing, a few bites was more than enough nostalgia for one night.

Fried chicken is good. There is no doubt about that. Add fun flavors to crispy skin and juicy meat, and it gets even better. UFC did a good job with all three things. It's close to the train, and walkable from my house, which is both very good and very bad. For me, anyway.

71-22 Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Heights

El Sitio

I'm trying to catch up on my eating and blogging, since for various reasons, last week was pretty post-less. To remedy that, over the weekend I did lots of Roosevelt Ave eating, starting with lunch at El Sitio, where I got a Cuban Sandwich to go. The lunch menu looked amazing, but it's only offered M-F, so I was out of luck. I sat down at the old-fashioned counter and watched as the waitress pressed my delicious-looking sandwich, brushing it with butter and turning it at intervals.

Secret pictures snapped on phone.

As I waited for my sandwich and stared at the desserts in the fridge behind the counter, I asked the waitress which one was the best. She said the tocinillo del cielo with no hesitation. It was like flan, and I like flan, so I ordered one as well. Once I got the sandwich home and unwrapped it from its butcher paper, it looked like this:
It would have been crisper, what with all that basting, had it not walked home with me. I try to walk to and from as much as possible, even with an unlimited metrocard, since I am eating things like fried chicken and butter-basted sandwiches, sometimes on the same day. It was still good though. The bread was pressed flat and thin, the cheese was still melty, one side of the sandwich was smeared with mustard, and the other with garlic, the ham was thick-sliced and salty, the pork was juicy and crisp, it was an all around well-made sandwich. My only complaint was that there was only one thin slice of pickle. I am pickle-obsessed, and would have liked a little more, for flavor and crunch. Otherwise, very nice. On to dessert.
The tocinillo was creamy and smooth, not too eggy, and lots of caramel. I felt like there was maybe a hint of cinnamon flavor, but I could have imagined it. That happens sometimes.

El Sitio
68-28 Roosevelt Ave

La Fama Empanadas

I'm not sure If I've gone into detail about empanadas on this blog yet. I like them. I like them a whole lot. I like anything with a pastry crust, pretty much. There are so many variations from so many countries, and I haven't met one I haven't liked. Samosas. Burekas. Pasties. Patties. Turnovers. The list goes on and on. Empanadas are sold all along the route, at the many, many Colombian bakeries on Roosevelt Ave. The thing that makes Colombian empanadas great is the yellow, crispy crust. What makes it yellow and crispy is corn flour. There are lots of not so great empanadas, but I ventured in to La Fama Bakery the other day, just to see what they had to offer, and walked away with one empanada in a brown paper bag. It cost a dollar. It looked like this.

The crust had that great. crisp, slightly chewy texture, and the filling looked appetizing. Large chunks of soft potato, bits of shredded beef, seasoned aggressively enough to stand up to the dough. The sauce was spicy with a strong onion flavor, adding a freshness and bite to the heavy meat and potato interior. Be sure to ask for sauce because they don't always give it to you automatically. A good empanada, a nice snack.

La Fama Bakery
67-10 Roosevelt Ave.

Mexican Spaghetti!

The day after I wrote my Chickenjoy!!! post, and promised to write about Mexican spaghetti the next time I had some, I went to visit my sisters-in-law, and guess what we had for dinner? Spaghetti! It was meant to be.
In the Gonzalez family, spaghetti is made very differently than American-style red sauce and parm. Not to give away any secrets, but a half an onion is added to the pasta as it boils. Tomatoes, onions, and garlic are pureed, then added to a pot with butter. The cooked pasta is then added to the sauce and cooked even further until the pasta becomes red and the sauce is mostly absorbed.At the table each person adds as much sour cream and queso fresco as they so desire. I always get excited when it's spaghetti time at home. So good.
The spaghetti topped with cream and cheese.

All mixed together. Yum. I am always looking for how other cultures take spaghetti and make it their own. If anyone has family recipes, please share!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Jollibee is my absolute new favorite place. If Jollibee were a person, and not an imaginary Filipino cartoon bee, I know that we would be best friends. So fun. Why is fast food from other countries so much better than ours? David and I waited on the long, slow line, glad for the extra time to decide what to order. Fried chicken with fries, mashed potatoes, or corn (fries, of course). Or do we get our fried chicken with spaghetti and hot dogs or palabok (it was a tough decision but in the end spaghetti won). Jollibee spaghetti- the spaghettiest! It definitely was spaghetti. On a side note, I am fascinated by different countries' takes on spaghetti. Mexican Spaghetti is a one of my favorite dinners, not something you'd find at a restaurant (and not a light dinner, as it's topped with lots of sour cream and cheese), but maybe I'll make it and take pictures one day soon, just for fun. Anyway, back to Chickenjoy!, Jollibee's fried chicken. We wanted to try more of the menu, no hamburgers this time, but we also ordered the Shanghai rolls, an ube (purple yam) shake with tapioca, and then I went back for the mango-peach pie.

A not good phone picture of the Shanghai rolls. I went without camera, sadly. They tasted exactly like McDonald's chicken nuggets. And by that I mean everything good about McDonald's chicken nuggets. Crunchy, greasy, with a hint of chicken flavor. Maybe from frying them in the chicken-y oil? Maybe that's what they're supposed to taste like? I don't know, I don't care, they were terribly good.
Yum, icy ube! The tapioca was unnecessary and completely pushed me over the fullness edge, but it was tasty.

Terrible picture of spaghetti and chicken. It looks pretty plastic-like. The sauce was sweet, the meat was chewy, I enjoyed every bite of it.
A slightly better picture.

Crispylicious! Juicylicious! Jollibee loves inventing words and using exclamation points! It was crispy. It was juicy. It was great.
Also the spicy version (no good picture, sorry) came with a little red flag stabbed into the chicken that said "spicy". The top of the crispy juicy chicken was sprinkled with a spice powder that really is hot. Really, really good. So crispy!

Mango peach pie. Fried pie. Hot, fruity, filling. Everyone had them on their tables. I wanted one. I went back to get one a few days later, since the line was too long to get back on the first time. I carried it with me on my 20 minute walk home, and it was still hot when I finally ate it. I can only imagine the tongue burning pleasures of a freshly fried pie. The crust was crisp and bubbly. The filling was very sweet, more peachy than mango, but with a floral aftertaste.

What more can I say about Jollibee? I want to have a large family just so that I can take home big red buckets of fried chicken, and upgrade it with rice and pies. My only fear would be that my chickenjoy would be lessened were I to take it to go, for to lose any of that crispiliciousness would be a crime.

62-29 Roosevelt Ave.

Monday, April 5, 2010

On the 7

Passover is almost over! I must admit that I had to do some non-kosher tasting this week. But I did bring my box of matzah with me every day to work, along with my trusty container of Temp-Tee whipped cream cheese. Which my brother David decided to snack on today while traveling on the 7 train. Such a good Jew. Lots of looks as he spread the oh-so spreadable cream cheese onto a half piece of matzah, with the other half.

Dip, spread, and enjoy.
Once a year, every year, Temp-tee is the best thing around, under or on the train.