Am I hot or not? A golden haze, the work of mustard oil and turmeric, seems to linger over this vegetable plate ($8), disguising the varying spiciness of five dishes. Chile peppers figure prominently in Bangladeshi cuisine, but if you didn't have a look at the steam-table display — and see whole peppers laid atop the tray of chopped spinach — you might never guess that it's the spiciest of the lot. Also shown, in counterclockwise order: potato and long beans, cabbage, cauliflower with peas (the spicy runner-up), and a potato bhaji (the mildest), which from a more advantageous view resembles ill-knit hash browns.
Also noted, in a common appeal to a broad clientele: The business card for this halal establishment mentions not just "grill, tandoori, kabab, curry" but also "deli."
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
Behind every Mike's Deli sandwich is a cold pasta salad. Today's, tinged green with pesto, sported an odd lot of at least three different pasta shapes. I'd always thought of it as perfunctory (and haven't shown it here), but on reflection I have a theory about its presence on the plate. A buttress of pasta helps shore up a behemoth like this "Yankee Stadium Big Boy" (roll, $11.50) — which sports mortadella, ham, salami, and capicolo; heavy slices of mozzarella; lettuce, sweet peppers (or, if you prefer, hot peppers) and balsamic vinegar — and prevents the sandwich from toppling over in untimely fashion. Eventually, though, it fell to my appetite; so did the pasta salad.
Mike's Deli 2344 Arthur Ave. (East 186th St.-Crescent Ave., inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market), Belmont, Bronx 718-295-5033 www.ArthurAvenue.com
...no icy." To forestall customers who might maintain that their slush in a cup is neither solid nor liquid, a third state of matter has been identified, and banned, at this casual-wear storefront. The management apparently still hasn't caught wind of edible balloons.
There's little to be said about this sweet and sour chicken (lunch special, $5.75) that isn't implicit in the orange glow of the sauce, and in the viscosity of the leavings. With vegetable fried rice and (who was I kidding?) a Diet Coke.
See also the "Eat-It-All" ice cream cone that used to hang over the restaurant.
Foo Hing Chinese Kitchen 522 East 138th St. (St. Ann's-Brook Aves.), Mott Haven, Bronx (one of several locations) 718-993-8680
No utensils were requested, offered, or, for that matter, anywhere in sight at this Ghanaian restaurant. In addition to my chow, the tray passed over the counter held a metal basin of warm water; for washing up, pump soap and plentiful napkins were waiting at every table. I used fingerfuls of banku, a cooked dough of fermented corn (and in this case cassava, too, I believe) to help scoop up a spinach stew whose strongest seasoning, appearances to the contrary, was onion, and that was laden with hefty chunks of beef ($10). After a lunch like this there's no need for dinner.
My stew itself was less interesting than the behavior of several other customers. When I rose to return my empty tray — I, the only diner who couldn't possibly pass as Ghanaian — the counter crew were busy with a sudden rush of orders. A fellow sitting at one table and reading a newspaper arose, took my tray (perhaps he said, "Here"), quickly caught the eye of someone in the kitchen and handed over the tray, then returned to his seat and resumed reading. Not eating, just reading. I took him for a regular, acting as a bridge between newcomers and an overburdened staff without giving it a thought.
I also noticed two other diners, with meals much like mine, who had just sat down at adjoining tables, but positioned, apparently by chance, so that they were facing each other. Quickly they struck up a conversation that I couldn't fathom, apart from the good humor of their expressions. Need it be added that neither was fingering a mobile phone?
Gaskiya African Restaurant 57 East Tremont Ave. (Walton-Morris Aves.), Morris Heights, Bronx 347-597-7708