In southern China and throughout the Cantonese-speaking diaspora, the Chinese New Year is often welcomed with yu sheng. Literally a "raw fish" salad, its name is a homophone for "abundance of wealth and long life." Each of its many ingredients, and even the ritual communal tossing of the salad, connotes prosperity and health.
Our party, which featured only a few middling speakers of Mandarin but none of Cantonese, couldn't pin down the identity of the fish itself. It may well have been Cirrhinus molitorella, which has the unfortunate vernacular name of mud carp. In Hong Kong it is also known as dace, which appears on Shun Deck's regular menu; we observed an attractive stuffed specimen elsewhere in the dining room. Unstuffed, and apart from all the trimmings of the plated salad shown here, the flavor was actually quite clean.
Also on our table: fried and baked fish pieces, a fish-skin salad, and fish congee, all of which may have incorporated leftover bits from our yu sheng fish (language barriers made confirmation problematic); a "phoenix lover's wrap" that included, I believe, both shrimp and clam; home-style fish cakes; and two styles of milk pudding. For photos, see the EIT page on Facebook.
"Qada" is the name at this Georgian bakery; the seeming cognate "gata" is typical in Georgia's neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan. Back home, by reputation, it varies from region to region, even village to village, but the qada (and gata) of South Brooklyn tend toward one common style: a laminated pastry, burnished on top, enfolding more richness than sweetness.
This sparingly sweet, buttery qada ($2) is surely wonderful with tea, provided that one can wait till teatime. Best to buy several.
(This venue is closed.) Steamed dishes await you, say those large golden Chinese characters. Two dozen varieties of rice in lotus leaf include a house special that boasts Chinese sausage and bacon, shrimp, frog, a minced-pork patty, bok choy, and a ration of fragrant rice moist with juices set free during cooking. The small order shown here ($8.50) is more than ample for a solo diner. For larger parties, the Guangdong-born chef also prepares elaborate seafood spreads that cook at the table — steam, eat, repeat.
San Yang 2478 86th St. (Bay 38th St.-25th Ave.), Gravesend, Brooklyn 718-449-9938
As my dining buddies headed down one short aisle of this halal market, I made my usual beeline for the point-of-purchase display. Among the locally made baked goods were these three pastries (about $5 per container), whose labels wore an Algerian name. "Blossom water," probably orange blossom water, was common to crunchy, sticky griwash; coconut-covered, cakelike richbonds (the "bond," a thin seam of apricot jam); and weighty, grainy, date-paste-filled semolina makroot. The third of these was the consensus favorite of our small scouting party.
Regarding a pair of hanging lanternlike objects inside the market, clearly handmade of paper and hand-lettered in Arabic, a fellow customer observed that they were gifts of children from a nearby school. Community connections such as this speak well of any shop.
Al Sahaba 1955 Bath Ave. (Bay 23rd St.-20th Ave.), Bath Beach, Brooklyn 347-492-5680