St. Brigid's, a Roman Catholic church on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border, was named in 1887 for a patron saint of Ireland, and in the early years of the 20th century it came to serve a largely German-American congregation. Today many congregants and neighbors are Ecuadorian, judging by the abundance and pedigree of the street food nearby on a recent Sunday.
This plate of mote pillo ($5) has its roots in Cuenca, a city in Ecuador's southern highlands also famous for fanesca. At the simplest mote pillo consists of eggs and hominy scrambled in the presence of onion, garlic, cilantro, and (for color) achiote. A few members of our scouting party suggested that meat would improve it, and indeed in Cuenca a related dish, mote sucio, also includes kernels of hominy (mote) that have been sauteed with pork, or in pork gravy, so they become "sucio" ("dirty").
The question then arises: What is "pillo"? The only translations I've been able to find suggest "rascally" or "roguish," which is a stretch for a dish that is not even very piquant (at least in this instance). If you can supply a better etymology for the pillo in mote pillo, please do.
On the side: quaker (Quack-air, not shown, $3), a beverage that smoothly blends oatmeal, name-brand or not, with a little orange juice. In Ecuador, quaker traditionally includes naranjilla, also known as lulo; the O.J. is a U.S. substitution. This quaker was also flavored with apple and cinnamon (nicely noted, missmasala!), giving the impression, in the best possible flashback-to-childhood sense, of packaged instant oatmeal, now in drinkable form.
El Bochinche Street cart on St. Nicholas Ave. between Linden St. and Gates Ave., Ridgewood, Queens Friday through Sunday, early afternoon till early evening, year-round
It's what we put on a taco, except we put it on a bun, said Rosie of her "Chiwawa dog" ($3). Generous chopped raw onion is the best part. Since the balance of the mixed-bag menu — which includes eggy breakfast sandwiches, burgers and gyros, tacos and quesadillas — is spelled impeccably, let's figure that the spelling of "Chihuahua" is a bit of fun by the Romania-born proprietress.
Cinco de Mayo special: a strawberry margarita doughnut ($2.50) with an unmistakable splash of flavor more often encountered during happy hour. In retrospect, a lime margarita would have been the more timely order, given the citrus fruit's current scarcity. Perhaps I'll be able to order a second round sometime over the summer.
Previously: From an afternoon when I photographed (and consumed) a Sicilian seafood bruschetta, an Uruguayan-Basque sausage sandwich, and a spicy Togolese stew, the photo that won the most favor from my friends was of a doughnut (below). Point taken: There's something to be said for the exotic, and there's something to be said for caramel (salted caramel) and pecans.
Unlike Mexican alfeñiques, brittle sculpted confections that typically show their faces for the Day of the Dead, Ecuadorian alfeñiques resemble sticks of soft turrón or stiff taffy, made with sugarcane. They're anything but brittle: To separate my purchase ($1.50) into portions for sharing with a friend, he and I needed to grab on from opposite ends, with both hands, before we could pull it in two. Biting off a piece might have been easier (if messier); buying two alfeñiques, easier still.
The market's proprietor also withdrew several other enticing items from beneath the front counter: bars of white chocolate Nestle Galak; concha negra (not shown), his home country's famous black cockles, waiting to be shucked and served on the half-shell with a few drops of lemon juice; and a massive egg, one of several in stock. Obviously it's from a bird, mate, but who can say what bloody flavour it is? Not me; I've never tried huevo de avestrus.
Some versions of this Puerto Rican snack contain meat, but at Doña Raquel's cart the sorullos ($1.50 each) are simply cornmeal dough wrapped around mild cheese, and deep-fried. Imagine a mozzarepa in the form of a fat cigar.
True, "alcapurrias dos veces frito" doesn't have the ring of "twice-fried fries." But you get the idea: First they're deep-fried at a relatively low temperature to cook them through, then on higher heat to create that crisp shell. (French fries, whose preparation is often the subject of exhaustive analysis, may be a slightly different story, since they're all-potato and much thinner.)
As at the yearly Festival Cultural de la Calle 152, the two operations are performed simultaneously, side by side, to satisfy a continual demand for the ground-beef-filled frituras. The bright color of this alcapurria (ahl-cah-Poor-ree-ah, $1.50 each) comes from an unusually generous ration of annatto.
Also shown: a sandwich de pernil ($6); the cut edges of the loaf seemed to have been wiped with garlic. Ensalada de pulpo, pinchos de pollo, bacalaitos, pastellitos, pasteles en hoja, and morcilla were also on offer; a rotisserie was not in action this day.
Las Alcapurrias Outdoor stall in the used-car and auto-repair lot at the corner of Cooper and Wyckoff Aves., Ridgewood, Queens Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00-8:00 (Via a tip from an EIT reader and devoted bicycle rider; thanks, Mark!)