The floral come-on of a Xinjiang fragrant pear (Sheen-jeong, $1.49 per pound) is more pronounced, according to greengrocer wisdom, in specimens with a blush. This oblong fruit of northwestern China is crisp like an Asian pear, even when ripe, yet as juicy as any Anjou.
New A&N Food Market 41-79 Main St. (Sanford-Maple Aves.), Flushing, Queens 718-359-1300
Gari, granular fermented cassava, is a component of many West African meals. Lightly fried, perhaps in palm oil, it decorates Ghanaian waakye; cooked in boiling water, it is transformed into a wad of Nigerian eba. Gari keeps well at ambient temperatures, an important factor when refrigeration may not be reliably available. It's likely that all the gari used in New York kitchens is imported from Africa.
So, too, are these cakes (170.25 g., $3), which list as ingredients just gari, sugar, and peanuts. To call them confections would be stretching the definition — the sugar is at best in equilibrium with the sourness of the gari, and the initial rush of peanut flavor tails off after a couple of crumbly bites — yet they are oddly compelling.
Also shown: the market beside its Jamaican neighbor, 14 Parish Caribbean Kitchen.
KB's African Market 96 Anderson St. (Pangborn Pl.-Linden St.), Hackensack, New Jersey 201-880-6773
"Sujux" — spelled many ways, but usually with a final "k" — denotes both a meat and a sweet. At a similar market that sources its wares from far and wide and is strongest on items from the Caucasus, a fellow customer once explained that the word refers to the oblong shape. (A language barrier thwarted fuller explanation.) The savory sujux is a dried sausage often made of spiced ground beef. Confections like these (1 lb., $14.99, courtesy of EthnoJunkie) typically consist of nuts strung on a stout thread, dipped in thickened fruit juice and dried, again and again, till the desired thickness is achieved.
Walnuts, as shown here, are common, but the thread that held them must have been uncommonly thin: I couldn't find a trace of it, by sight or by touch. Grape is an easy sujux flavor to find; this was my first taste of sour cherry.
Nizam International Groceries 608 Anderson Ave. (Washington-Lincoln Aves.), Cliffside Park, New Jersey 201-313-9540
Behind every Mike's Deli sandwich is a cold pasta salad. Today's, tinged green with pesto, sported an odd lot of at least three different pasta shapes. I'd always thought of it as perfunctory (and haven't shown it here), but on reflection I have a theory about its presence on the plate. A buttress of pasta helps shore up a behemoth like this "Yankee Stadium Big Boy" (roll, $11.50) — which sports mortadella, ham, salami, and capicolo; heavy slices of mozzarella; lettuce, sweet peppers (or, if you prefer, hot peppers) and balsamic vinegar — and prevents the sandwich from toppling over in untimely fashion. Eventually, though, it fell to my appetite; so did the pasta salad.
Mike's Deli 2344 Arthur Ave. (East 186th St.-Crescent Ave., inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market), Belmont, Bronx 718-295-5033 www.ArthurAvenue.com
When I first spotted the curious label "public grocery," my mind ran to the sort of public market where shoppers once purchased fresh foodstuffs from multiple pushcart vendors. Nowadays, in New York, the indoor Essex Street Market and the outdoor Greenmarkets continue to fill the bill. The term "public market" itself, which until recent years was on the verge of becoming quaint, has been rehabilitated as a hallmark of civic virtue, in contrast to the (perceived) narrow self-interest of private parties.
The corner establishment shown here is, of course, a privately owned, for-profit enterprise (and all power to them; margins are low). I've stopped by, during the summer, for a cold can of soda, but on a more recent, winter, visit I couldn't bring myself to venture a cup of hotplate coffee. The current signage was installed at some indeterminate time after Mom & Sons got out of the restaurant business, decades ago, perhaps by the owners of Peace World Newsstand — a name long since effaced from the awning.
Current management isn't chatty. If there's a story behind "public grocery," perhaps the way to tease it out is to spend a few minutes by the counter while warming my hands on a cup of that coffee. I can take small sips.
Not a Chinese restaurant, despite the availability of egg rolls, mandarin chicken, party trays of fried rice, and, to stretch a point, yakamein. On the customer side of the security glass is a grocery store; on the far side is a Vietnamese-run kitchen partial to deep-frying, chicken wings a specialty. Fried shrimp and oysters (on a bun, $5) were runty and engulfed by heavy batter, but you get more than one sandwich can hold.
Do note that, even in daylight, the immediate neighborhood is a marginal one, as suggested by the ramshackle structure next door. That first photo was taken from beneath the elevated I-10 roadway.
Manchu Food Store 1413 North Claiborne Ave. (Esplanade Ave.-Kerlerec St.), New Orleans 504-947-5507