A celebration of Diwali Nagar is much like many other Diwali melas, but with pholourie. That is, Diwali Nagar is associated with Trinidad and Tobago, one of several Caribbean countries with a large Hindu population of Indian descent. These deep-fried balls of seasoned split-pea dough were squeezed off and cooked on the spot (compare zeppole). Most of the fare, however, had been prepared in advance and was pedestrian, if plentiful and inexpensive.
Also shown: a hawan, "sacrifices made into the fire [that] get transformed as offerings to the respective divine deities," on this occasion the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. This fire ritual preceded the festivities; cultural exhibitions and stage performances reportedly continued well into the evening.
Divya Jyoti Association Diwali Nagar 104-20 133rd St. (Liberty Ave.-105th Ave.), Richmond Hill, Queens www.DiwaliMotorcade.com (The 2013 celebration was held on October 26)
When ripe, doudous mangos ($1.50 each) are golden without, cantaloupe-colored within. The creamy, very moist flesh suggests cantaloupe in sweetness and lack of acidity, too, though this pair also lacked any particular depth or nuance of flavor. In Washington Heights and other neighborhoods with large Dominican populations, these are commonly labeled as gole mangos.
Green Boy Fruit & Vegetable 123-16 Liberty Ave. (at 124th St.), Richmond Hill, Queens
The typeface signals a second cuisine in combination with Caribbean, even if you're not close enough to read the legend "Guyanese Chinese food" in the window. The small insignia of a waiter, bearing a tray draped in a checked cloth, is a nod toward classy service on otherwise modest premises. The flower and the steaming, covered plate are well and good; this being a halal restaurant, we'll trust that the bottle contains nothing more potent than sparkling water.
Carifesta Restaurant 126-15 Liberty Ave. (126th-127th Aves.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-322-2210
Many restaurants wear their national colors, but the facade of this husband-and-wife operation encircles them in an uncommonly tight closeup: He comes from Guyana, she comes from Trinidad. Below, a small star and crescent indicate that the restaurant keeps halal.
The menu offers many light bites such as saheena ($1.50), a fritter usually made from a split-pea batter laced with young taro leaves, and shaped into a ball or patty. S&A's employs spinach, a common substitution, and is served folded in two. Like doubles, it carries a messy but delicious payload of curried chickpeas.
S&A West Indian Restaurant 103-06 Liberty Ave. (103rd-104th Sts.), Ozone Park, Queens 718-925-2224 Open seven days, but only till 6:00
The downstairs bar, grill, and pool room isn't open at the moment, said the taciturn fellow behind the counter as he rang up my Mello Yello ($1.50). I imagine he's the owner, too; on occasion he takes the air at the table beside the front door. Whenever I've passed by, no matter the time of day or day of week, the kitchen has been idle, but the example of another pool room persuades me to keep stopping by.
Williams Grocery & Deli, Bar & Grill, and Pool Room 126-02 Liberty Ave. (126th-127th Sts.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-845-1328
"GT," as I discovered on another excursion, signals "Georgetown," the capital of Guyana. Like many restaurants serving food from that South American country, the chow is split between Chinese and Caribbean; anything with cassareep (Cazh-uh-rip) belongs to the latter.
In what can be a painstaking process, cassareep is prepared from the juice of the cassava root. Boiled until thick and brownish-black, and seasoned with spices, hot pepper, and brown sugar, the ultimate molasses-like product has a bittersweet flavor.
This day, cassareep pork was sold out; most likely, the midafternoon cricket-match crowd had seen to that. A worthy fallback: cassareep chicken ($9.75), accompanied by jeera daal for my rice.
GT Rice Bowl 114-09 Liberty Ave. (114th-115th Sts.), Richmond Hill, Queens 718-323-4000
Though often sold side-by-side with husked, pale green coconuts meant for human consumption, these — sighted the day before the annual Phagwah (Holi) celebration — are fit for the gods. In Hinduism, "pooja" denotes a variety of offerings made to various deities or to distinguished (mortal) guests. The coconut, whose shape suggests the human head, is symbolic of selflessness and devotion, and, when opened, of the breaking of the ego. A tuft of coir, or coconut fiber, is traditionally retained on top; I don't know why.
"Linden" is a common toponym, applied around the world to many localities where linden trees grow. "Hawtree" is rather rare; surely it refers to the hawthorn, a populous genus of trees and shrubs found in the northern hemisphere.
I didn't attempt to follow the road as far south as Howard Beach, where Hawtree Basin accepts the ebb and flow from Jamaica Bay, and I don't know what flora survives there. But I'd like to imagine that in times past, hawthorns stood along the creek, and their small fruits were harvested and preserved as they still are in the South.
Hawtree Creek Road Sign at the corner of Linden Blvd., Ozone Park, Queens
"Come in...we like you," beckons the clown, but by all other indications he packed it in years ago. The current tenant, Cho-Cho Deli Grocery, has all the charm appropriate to a business whose headline offering is "lotto"; the "Thai food" also mentioned on the awning was not to be seen.
Need a cold soda on a hot day? Cho-Cho has you covered. As for Lefferts J&L Deli, can any Eating In Translation reader supply the back story?
Surviving sign for Lefferts J&L Deli Today the site of Cho-Cho Grocery Deli 111-41 Lefferts Blvd. (Linden Blvd.-111th St.), Ozone Park, Queens 718-322-7167
Note to self: When ordering crab roti, try to remember that nobody but you is going to pick that crabmeat. (The first of many lessons that didn't take was my encounter with "crab cooked with beer" at the old Saigon restaurant on Mulberry St.) Anil's rendition ($6.50), I'm glad to say, featured an unusually plump crustacean, so this finger-lickin' mess had a meatier-than-average payoff.
Anil's Roti 125-01 Liberty Ave., Richmond Hill, Queens 718-845-2800