I was too late for the breakfast special: To my chagrin, the combo of alu dum (spiced potatoes), bhalep (flatbread), an omelette (three eggs, fillings unknown), and a choice of beverage had been discontinued. On most days, serve-yourself butter tea is still available from morning on, but the kitchen doesn't get cooking till lunchtime, when the modest dining room fills with a largely Tibetan clientele.
One crowd favorite, suggested by City Spoonful, is a plateful of fried savory pies called sha bhakleb or shabhaley (five for $7). In the absence of readily available yak meat, here they're filled with beef. Like many dishes at the cafe, sha bhakleb are prepared to order; figure on about a 20-minute wait, plus another couple of minutes to allow the hot, slightly greasy wrappers to cool to a tolerable temperature. From that point everything goes down rather quickly.
Friends Corner Cafe 74-17 Roosevelt Ave. (74th-75th Sts.), Jackson Heights, Queens 718-779-6777
They're slim: Each of these three, variously filled with beans, potatoes, or pork (shown), could have been slipped into a letter-sized envelope. They're not made to order: Except for spoonfuls of green hot sauce, applied by me, all of the preparation was completed long before I arrived. They're also cheap ($1 each), unique in New York (to the best of my knowledge), and delicious.
Tacos de canasta, also known as tacos al vapor and tacos sudados, are steamed ("al vapor") and traditionally held in a basket ("canasta"), where their collective warmth gives them a sweaty ("sudado") texture. Ideally, keeping close company with several hundred of their fellows also helps them develop an enticing juices-soaked-into-the-tortillas texture, as evidenced here.
At Viva La Comida!, where these tacos were pointed out by festival organizer Jeff Orlick, the basket simply sat on a checked-cloth tabletop. If you visit the vendor on his regular street corner, Jeff noted, look for the basket on the back of a bicycle.
Tacos de canasta vendor Junction Blvd. at Roosevelt Ave., Corona, Queens Early evenings
Pudhag, more often spelled puta, describes a dish of buckwheat noodles enlivened with egg, scallion, and chili. These, and a companion rice dish whose name I didn't catch ($5 for a small split order), were served cool, which suited the small sweltering festival site very well. The quartet of gals who prepared them were exploring the prospects of a new food business, but not Nepalese — Bhutanese.
Nepalese-American Festival 37th Rd. plaza, between Broadway and 74th St., Jackson Heights, Queens (The 2013 festival was held on June 9)
For this one-off event my SLR stayed at home, so only this take-home gift made my photo album. Many cellphones were brought into play, however; with a little searching you should be able to take a look at tacos stuffed with BBQ bulgogi, jerk pork belly paired with Israeli salad, and mojo chicken buttressed by that favorite Syracuse starch, salt potatoes.
At evening's end, Richter — the original pitmaster at Hill Country and at Fatty 'Cue, who will soon be decamping for Los Angeles and a new "fusion barbecue" enterprise — presented me with a token of the most curious fusion of the event. This menu item employed a Tamarack Tunis ewe and a version of the Central Asian rice dish called plov, and may mark the first time that a Vermont-raised heritage sheep has ever taken on the flavors of a spice mix from Kyrgyzstan.
According to the spice packet's label, printed primarily in Russian, the first four ingredients are barberries, cumin, saffron, and Bulgarian pepper; numbers seven and eight are tomato and dill. Number five reads "Zhambyl," a place name from across the border in neighboring Kazakhstan. I don't know its culinary meaning, however. And about number six of these ingredients, from Robbie with plov, I haven't a clue.
A Night of Barbecue with Robbie Richter and Josh Ozersky Alchemy, Texas 71-04 35th Ave. (Leverich-72nd Sts.), Jackson Heights, Queens April 29, 2013
At this Christmastime affair a small snacks table, free to all comers, dispensed hot milk tea as well as deep-fried tidbits wetted down with a tamarind-tinted sauce. Also available was a crunchy chat, or chaat, a word that denotes a wide variety of savory Indian street food. It's unclear how the ingredients were sourced, but this chat had a very Americanized bent. Just the tea, thanks.
Bethlehem Punjabi Church celebration Part of the Social Uplift through Knowledge and Hope Initiatives (SUKHI) holiday festival 37th Rd. plaza between 74th St. and Broadway, Jackson Heights, Queens (The 2012 celebration, perhaps a one-off, was held on December 15)