Spaghetti Dinner Block Party Thursday, August 27, 5:00-8:00 On the walkway along Sinatra Dr. between 1st and 2nd Sts., Hoboken, New Jersey www.HobokenNJ.org/spaghetti-dinner-block-party Tickets: adults, $20; seniors, $12; children ages 12 and under, $10; advance purchase required
Nasi pecel is a Javanese dish, a bed of rice (nasi) overlaid with a vegetable salad (pecel, pronounced Pet-Chel), swamped in a peanut-based sauce, and customarily garnished with the peanut crackers called peyek. "Entree salad" is a fair assessment. On the morning of a multi-festival day, rather than go the limit, I followed the lead of the gal ahead of me: Just the pecel, please. Skipping the rice saved a buck, and saved room for more chow later.
Journey to Indonesia Street festival in front of the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia, 5 East 68th St. (Fifth-Madison Aves.), Manhattan www.Facebook.com/events/1582938768636859 (This celebration of the 70th anniversary of Indonesia's independence was held on August 22, 2015)
Journey to Indonesia Saturday, August 22, noon-5:00 Street festival in front of the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia, 5 East 68th St. (Fifth-Madison Aves.), Manhattan www.Facebook.com/events/1582938768636859 Free admission
Crabapples are native to the temperate regions of North America, but they've won favor among certain immigrants from tropical Southeast and South Asia, too. In season, the crisp, tart, juicy fruits are widely available at Cambodian markets in Lowell, Massachusetts, generally accompanied by a bindle of seasoned salt.
At this boardwalk festival on Staten Island's South Beach, a Sri Lankan stall sold bags of rosy fruits that proved to contain tiny, inconsequential seeds. One could flick away the stubble of the flower end and bite the fruit entire, withholding only the stem. Seasoning was not included, but an Indonesian blend awaited the apples that made the trip back home.
Festival food was also available from a Filipino restaurant and market and a Chinese stall, but the broadest and most interesting selection, crabapples included, was assembled as a fundraiser by the ladies' guild of the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara. Also shown: string hoppers with coconut sambol and fish curry; an achcharu, which depending on the diner's gusto is a condiment or a salad, in this case comprising green mango, pineapple, and olives; the festival, except for a correspondingly small tented performance area; South Beach.
The cuisine of Suriname, a tiny melting pot of a country on the north coast of South America, has been featured in at least five Queens restaurants. All have come and gone. My favorites were Warung Kario, where conversations were conducted in English, Dutch, and Javanese, and its successor Caribbean Suriname Restaurant, where the lingua franca was a creole language called Sranan Tongo.
The creole name of this event, Sranan Dei — Suriname Day — brought to mind a specialty of the latter restaurant, a creole chicken casserole called pom. Its namesake ingredient, pomtajer, pomtayer, or simply tayer, is a New World tropical plant that yields a starchy tuber; you may know it as yautia or malanga. This annual outdoor get-together was a chance to compare three different renditions of pom. Though I appreciated the crispy edges on the corner slice in the platter above, also shown in closeup below, the consensus favorite of our crew was the pom whose color was most suggestive of sour orange.
For a few more photos, including a plate of spicy liver and gizzard coupled with salt fish, the duo of trie and telo (fried anchovy and fried cassava), and bakabana, fried ripe plantain spread with a tangy, granular peanut sauce, see the Eating In Translation page on Facebook.
H/T David Druce
Sranan Dei (Suriname Day) Roy Wilkins Park, Merrick Blvd. at Foch Blvd., St. Albans, Queens www.Facebook.com/SrananDei (The 2015 celebration was held on August 9)
Even in Manhattan, a neighborhood street festival that celebrates local merchants can serve up uncommon fare, provided you're in the right neighborhood. Cases in point: hilib ari, the terrific Somali-style roasted goat from Safari; Haitian black rice with legumes from Harlem Karibe; fried tilapia and plantains from La Savane. The cooks at that restaurant, who hail from various countries (the owner himself is from the Ivory Coast), excel at preparing the thick sauces that are staples on West African lunchtime menus. The two shown at bottom, I'll bet, would have been delicious if I'd been willing to commit to the calories, and perhaps to a nap.
Go Africa Harlem Street Festival West 116th St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves., Manhattan www.GoAfricaHarlem.org (The 2015 festival was held on July 18)
"Ah, Bangka," sighed several customers who caught sight of this kwetiau kuah ikan tenggiri, the distinctive flat noodles in particular. My bowl was prepared by a new vendor at this long-running bazaar: Makanan Bangka, named for the proprietor's previous home, an island east of Sumatra. Those wistful customers may also have been reminiscing about Bangka's idyllic beaches, but my thoughts were single-minded: Ah, fish-sauce noodles in the morning. Also shown from this vendor's table: a snack mix of tempeh, peanuts, and tiny fish, and chile-decorated risoles, or croquettes. I didn't ask about the filling, but more fish would be a good bet.
If there's one qualm I have about this bazaar, it's the heat. Not the spicy heat of peppers in a made-to-order gado-gado (three chiles is plenty), and not the fire licking at skewers of satay soon to be dressed with homemade peanut sauce. A sweltering heat rises from the mosque's small parking lot, where the bazaar is held periodically during the warmer months, and tented canopies offer only just so much shade. A wise plan of action is to arrive in the relative cool of the morning, say, around 11:00; as at many similar events, a timely arrival also enables you to enjoy the widest and freshest selection of food. See much more, from many years of the bazaar, in my slideshow.
Indonesian bazaar at Masjid al-Hikmah 48-01 31st Ave. (at 48th St.), Astoria, Queens Periodically, on a weekend, during the warmer months
This long-running annual festival "celebrates the African influences of Loiza, Puerto Rico, in New York City." The percussion-driven rhythms of bomba and plena may reach your ears from several blocks away, but to appreciate the roots of pasteles, you'll want to get right up close.
Traditional Puerto Rican pasteles consist of dough, usually prepared by grating several different root vegetables, that is stuffed with a well-seasoned meat stew, wrapped in a banana leaf, and boiled. Variations, developed over many generations, are innumerable. "After a long period of experimentation and improvisation," Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra wrote in Eating Puerto Rico, the pastel "ultimately became a dish whose ingredients genuinely mirrored and combined the gastronomic traditions of the island's major population groups, incorporating Arawakan chili peppers, tannier, and achiote; Iberian garbanzos, raisins, olives, and pork; and plantains and bananas from the Canary Islands and parts of Africa. If one focuses, however, on what truly makes pastel unique — the mashing of the dough to give it a certain texture and its being wrapped in leaves and cooked by boiling, three features that were constant — then the African element seems especially prominent."
My two pasteles, the first heavier with pork, the second more abundant in olives and red peppers, also display a more recent Puerto Rican gastronomic tradition, one that I adopted only after several fellow diners took the lead. Each pastel wears two condiments, one a hot sauce, the other a thicker, sweeter, tangy sauce applied from a nationally branded squeeze bottle: tomato ketchup.
Marked by a strikingly green chile, this item straddles the boundary between condiment (if served in sparing portions) and side dish (if heaped a little higher). It's shrimpy, peppery, and at the finish fruity, though whatever fruit might traditionally be called for in Southeast Asia has been supplanted by one more familiar from the Northeast U.S.: cranberries.
This annual Chinatown event, it's true, lacks the culinary depth and breadth of the ThinGyan Association Festival. Even so, typically you'll be able to enjoy mohinga, the Burmese rice-noodle fish soup, and several drier noodle dishes; the chilled coconut-milk concoction called shwe yin aye; and an assortment of homemade savories and sweets, such as the banana cake shown below in the rightmost stack of to-go containers. Burmese banana cake is invariably tinted a purplish red; I couldn't tell you why.
Myanmar Chinese Association of New York Summer Water Festival Sara D. Roosevelt Park between Broome and Delancey Sts., Manhattan www.MCAofNY.org (The 2015 festival was held on July 18)