My afternoon nosh, smoked butterfish ($3.74, at $16.99 per pound), came from the refrigerator counter at the back of the market and not from the bargain bins out front. The flesh is unusually fatty and oily, and it would have been wise to squeeze back through the crowds to grab a fork. Instead, I made do, and fixed in my mind the less-appealing definition of "fish fingers."
Gold Label International Food 281 Brighton Beach Ave. (Brighton 2nd-Brighton 3rd Sts.), Brighton Beach, Brooklyn 718-743-3900
"It's good for you," the counterwoman said, surprising no one. Atop a display case bright with pastel-colored, cardamom-dusted, and foil-flecked Indian confections, a deep tray of panjeeri ($6, at $12 per pound) was the drabbest thing in sight. However, unlike many oddball foods that claim to supply men with a certain vigor, this Punjabi dish is regarded as a nutritional supplement for new mothers. Whole-wheat flour, sometimes with semolina, is fried in sugar and ghee; so too are various nuts, on occasion dried fruits, and a variety of seeds and seasonings. Ginger, for one, jumped out at me.
After sampling my stash, two other guys from our lunchtime group — who already had boxes of brightly caparisoned sweets in hand — stepped back in Maharaja for some panjeeri of their own. One fellow later emailed to tell me that he loved it over yogurt in the morning; my panjeeri didn't last even that long.
Previously: The countertop presented several variations on the Indian sweets called ladoo (Lah-doo, lately $7 to $8 per pound), each the size and roughly the shape of a golf ball, but with more heft. Boondi ladoo, made from chickpeas, were golden, nubbly, and a little greasy; I preferred the firmer, finer-grained besan ladoo (shown below), made from gram, or unhulled pulses — a rubric that comprises various beans and peas, as well as lentils and even lupins. Stand and deliver!
Maharaja Sweets 73-10 37th Ave. (73rd-74th Sts.), Jackson Heights, Queens 718-505-2680 www.MaharajaSweet.com
Only a few Colombian shops do business along the lower end of Paterson, New Jersey's Main St., near the border with Clifton, a district better known for doner kebab and baba ghanoush than for pan de bono. Just this one, to my knowledge, pays homage by name to its Turkish and Middle Eastern neighbors. ("Sultana" also suggests that the owner is a woman.)
Pork-friendly Colombian items, of course, are no enticement to passers-by who keep halal, but housemade cremas might be. In Jackson Heights, these ice pops are generally known as helados; in the Tremont section of the Bronx, a Puerto Rican rarity called limber fills the same market niche. To free the crema from its plastic cup, roll it back and forth between your hands as if you're hatching a plot. Once the surface has been slightly warmed, the crema can be loosed and resheathed as necessary. Shown: a guanabana go-cup on a stick ($1).
Panaderia La Sultana 907 Main St. (Elk-Robert Sts.), Paterson, New Jersey 973-742-7078
Two handwritten signs above the baked-goods display, one in English, one in Polish, spell out what a glance will already have told you: "Is it fresh? Yes!" This extra-plump poppy-seed roll ($3.28, at $4 per pound) earned bonus points for a ridgeline of crushed walnut held fast by a sugary glaze.
Star Deli & Bakery 176 Nassau Ave. (Diamond-Humboldt Sts.), Greenpoint, Brooklyn 718-383-6948
I'm charmed by the many ways that bakers signal what's inside their wares. You can't, however, always judge a nut by its shell. The oreshki of Lithuania, Russia, and neighboring countries, for example, take the form of walnuts but are filled with cooked, sweetened condensed milk called sguschonka. (Many writers of Eastern European descent frequently and not unfairly refer to this filling as dulce de leche.)
Similarly shaped hodokwaja, or walnut pastries, are a popular snack on the streets of Korea. (You may also see the spelling hodugwaja, and I suspect that "Cocohodo" is a nonstandard, brandable transliteration of "cake walnut.") Though you might track down plastic-wrapped trays of locally made hodokwaja in Korean markets, they can't compare to little cakes that are still piping hot — like this free sample — especially when there's a chill in the air. Inside the baked-dough "shell" you'll find red bean paste and, yes, a chunk of roasted walnut, too. It's a nice combination.
Cocohodo 158-07 Northern Blvd. (158th-159th Sts.), Murray Hill, Queens (The first New York location of a California-based chain) 917-808-5306 www.CocohodoUSA.com
The golden countenance of the pastel de choclo ($13.50) is a pillow of pureed corn seasoned with basil, baked atop a beef-and-onion filling that also sports black olives, raisins, and generous chunks of chicken breast. Literally it's a "corn pie," but menu captures its spirit in fine telegraphic fashion: This is "the Chilean version of a shepherd's pie," both savory and sweet.
Previously: A housemade bun frames this rendition of the iconic Chilean hot dog, the completo ($3.50). Smothering the thin beef frank are chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut, pureed avocado, and squiggles of mayonnaise. The avocado, unlike guacamole, has only the barest of seasoning; a few spoonfuls of pebre, a salsalike condiment provided at every table, adds just the right jolt. On another occasion, a baked seafood empanada (not shown, $4 at the time, and probably a special), featured clams, shrimp, and, in typical Chilean style, lots of onion.
San Antonio Bakery 36-20 Astoria Blvd. (at 37th St.), Astoria, Queens 718-777-8733 Also at 174 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, New York 516-568-0075 www.Facebook.com/SanAntonioBakery