"Twice-fried" isn't only for french fries. To prepare the Puerto Rican cod fritters called bacalaítos, a seasoned flour batter incorporating shredded fish is first ladled into oil over a relatively low flame, till the fritters take their shape and cook through.
In the Yoruba language of Nigeria, "efo riro" can be understood as "vegetable stew." As Chris Crowley has noted on Serious Eats, West African recipes for this dish often call for the leafy greens of plants in the amaranth family; North American renditions commonly substitute spinach. As you can see from the color, however, eating efo riro is not simply a matter of getting your greens.
The truck shares its fenced-in corner lot with a half-dozen chairs for customers to rest their feet, but if there's a full house, no worries: Puerto Rican pastelillos and alcapurrias (about $2-$3 each) are eminently suited to stand-up eating.
"Dragged through the garden," an epithet for the Chicago-style hot dog, takes note of toppings that customarily include onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and sport peppers. This faded sign, seen from across Bruckner Blvd., marks what seems to have been an early attempt to transplant the Chicago dog to New York. In this case, it didn't take root.
Chicago Styles Surviving signage at 918 Hunts Point Ave. (at Bruckner Blvd.), Hunts Point, Bronx
In coming days, no doubt, you'll see much more of the costumery and ribaldry brought forth for this annual feast (to call it merely a dinner does it a grave disservice) conceived by Baron Ambrosia. Though intrigued by Malian muskrat fakoye, Thai porcupine nam tok, and Garifunan possum hudutu, I confess that big game provided the most satisfying cut of the evening: marinated, grilled elk, sliced thin. Dressing it with the accompanying Argentinean chimichurri would only have painted the lily.
One of the few non-meat-centric dishes appeared for dessert: mud pies whose namesake, dark brown component was a chocolate "créme de terra" made with Georgia-dug edible white clay. Conventional coffee service was not an option; in its stead were a pair of digestifs distilled by the Baron, including a bear-paw aquavit. As I write, nearly 24 hours later, I think I can taste it still.
Small Game Dinner of the Bronx Pipe Smoking Society Andrew Freedman Home, 1125 Grand Concourse (McClellan-East 166th Sts.), Bronx (The 2014 feast was held on March 29)
The first time I set foot inside the trailer of La Piraña (the nickname of the proprietor, though he appears as even-tempered as you would hope of anyone whose principal tool, used in the normal course of chopping lechon, is a machete), I was only up for snacks. An exceptional golden crab pastelillo (also shown in biteaway view) was not long out of the deep fryer; I chased it with a darker ground-beef-and-green-plantain alcapurria.
A platter of the roast pork called lechon ($8) is exceptional, too, provided you give the nod to several ladles of gravy on top. Cheek by jowl with rice and pigeon peas are tomato, onion, celery, and mysterious additional tidbits of flavorful protein — perhaps smoked meat, perhaps bacon, one dining buddy conjectured.
Note that the trailer itself is not labeled Lechonera La Piraña. Look for the Puerto Rican-themed mural on one side (Aguadilla is the proprietor's previous home) and the "Pan, Tierra, Libertad" logo on the other. Note, too, that quarters are very close inside. If the weather is brutal, consider waiting to pay a call during the annual, amiable Festival de la Calle 152.
Lechonera La Piraña East 152nd St. near Wales Ave., Longwood, Bronx Saturday and Sunday only
If you've ever portioned out a gooey cheese, you'll understand a traditional ribbon-cutting that is not so much ceremonial as it is practical. Glutinous rice is a principal ingredient used in making both banh tet and banh chung, which also include fillings such as mung beans and marinated pork, alone or in combination. The chief difference between the two seems to be their shape: the cylindrical banh tet is more associated with Vietnam's South, the rectangular banh chung, with the North. After rice is packed around fillings, each banh (loosely, "cake") is wrapped in leaves (banana leaves are common), tied with bamboo fibers, string, or plastic ribbons, and boiled.
Once cooled and unwrapped, the banh tet and banh chung must be sliced for serving. A knife would do the trick, but the blade would need to be constantly wiped clean of glutinous goo. It's handier, once the leaves have been removed, to loop the ribbons around the rice cake and pull them tight; they cut just as cleanly. The individual segments, whether savory or (relatively) sweet, can be eaten as is — but I now understand that day-old banh tet and banh chung are very tasty when pan-fried, provided that you pair them with Vietnamese pickled vegetables.
Also shown: an on-demand calligrapher in traditional garb, employing not only traditional pen, ink, and paper but also a latter-day electronic resource for looking up rarer characters.
Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse (165th-166th Sts., 2nd floor), Bronx www.Facebook.com/events/257401334425607 (The 2014 celebration was held on February 1)
Evidence of increasing consumer demand from further up the the food chain: a new(ish) sign for an additional product line. Nearby, a hand-printed flyer offering similar "máquinas de guayar para hacer pasteles" — machines to grate plantains, or other root vegetables, for these tamale-like items — appeared in the window of an African market. See also
this flyer posted two years earlier by an earlier adopter.
"Pasteles machine" Seen at Steve's World of Store Fixtures 1168 Southern Blvd. (at Home St.), Longwood, Bronx 718-589-2925