Piña, mango, tamarindo, limon, fresa, frambuesa, and maracuya — if not by their bright colors alone, many of this raspado vendor's syrups can be readily identified by their Spanish labels. (You may know them as pineapple, mango, tamarind, lemon, strawberry, raspberry, and passion fruit.) As flavors for shaved ice, they're common to many Latin American countries. Most of them, and several more, can probably be had at the well-regarded Dominican grocery El Bohio, a half-mile to the east.
An eighth syrup, in an unlabeled container, was also available on the afternoon of my visit; recognizing it, I quickly guessed the previous home of the raspado man (and not woman; if there is a Mama Celina, she remained behind the scenes). The fruit in question is sometimes called naranjilla, or little orange, which describes its outward appearance, but as lulo, a name that seems to have an Incan root, the fruit is indelibly connected with Colombia. The greenish pulp, sometimes a very murky green, is used in a number of sweet and savory dishes; the flavor is often described as a very tart and acidic combination of lemon and pineapple. For my lulo raspado (small, $2), of course, that tartness was tempered by the sugary syrup. The color was washed out, too; condensed milk will do that.
Mama Celina Kiosk outside 89-45 Elmhurst Ave. (at Case St.), Elmhurst, Queens Afternoons in warmer weather
Easter eggs come in many pretty pastels, too, but crack them open and all you get is egg, egg, and egg. Pop the plastic tops of Mexican gelatinas ($1 each) and you can also enjoy a variety of flavors, often more than one in a single cup. Inevitably these gelatinas are made from commercially packaged mixes combined with water (for the translucent colors) or milk (for the opaque).
Knowing which colors are which flavors can be difficult to determine unless you ask. I didn't; instead I simply traded a dollar for the two-tone cup at left that, once right-side up, layered pale green over pale yellow. The top layer may have been pistachio, the bottom, rompope, a vanilla flavor often described as eggnog. So, after all, no avoiding the egg.
Gelatina vendor Near the southwest corner of Westchester Ave. with Elder Ave., below the stairway to the elevated Elder Ave. 6 station, Soundview, Bronx Hours unknown, but weekday afternoons and early evenings — from when school lets out till when work lets out — are a good bet
(Updated, once again, with prospective IDs and more photos.) Not long after my latest visit to Singapore, I began to search New York's various Chinatowns for creditable renditions of my favorite Singaporean dishes.
Leche cortada, the vendor called it. This was his shorthand for a walkup clientele who knew what's what, and who could see that almost all his wares, whether served in a cup or in cookie-like form, clearly fell into the category of "dulces" — "sweets." He didn't need to trouble with the full name, "dulce de leche cortada" — a "sweet of curdled milk."
The dulce de leche I once bought from a nearby bakery was, in retrospect, a more caramelized version that perhaps also relied more heavily on brown sugar. Raisins are typical; common flavorings include vanilla extract, lime peel (removed before serving), and cinnamon-like sticks of canella (one rested at the bottom of my cup). Invariably the recipes specify that as the milk cooks down, the resulting curds mustn't be broken up too finely; leche cortada should have a fudgy richness, but it ought to have some texture, too.
Dominican sweets table Broadway near the southeast corner with 160th St., Manhattan Hours very irregular
The working day of any itinerant vendor is a tough one. It's especially bleak in Willets Point, the auto-repair district near Citi Field, where the poorly maintained public roadways lack sewerage and become swamped after even moderate rainfall. Conditions are little better in summer.
At least three pushcart vendors — all women, all apparently Mexican — were doing their best to stay high and dry this morning. In the first photo below, at the far right, one hugs the edge of the road. The food and drink was basic stuff: here an empanada, there a hot cup of avena (pequeña, $1), a thin sweetened oatmeal drink with little bits of oats at the bottom. Two other vendors offered slightly more extensive bills of fare from the hatchbacks of their parked cars. At some remove, four workmen clustered around a small fire of scrap wood — purely for their own warmth and not, it seemed, for the sake of a hot lunch.
Shown at bottom: a half-dozen pigeons.
Roaming hot-drinks vendor Willets Point Blvd., Willets Point, Queens