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Indonesian food bazaar

Fermented black rice? Don't look for it at the supermarket.

"The food is authentic; the vendors mostly sell the food at their home or [by] special order only," wrote the Eating In Translation fan who sent me news of this bazaar, outside Astoria's Al-Hikmah mosque. I've certainly never seen tape (Tah-peh; $3) anywhere else in the city. This Indonesian specialty, which surfaces in different guises elsewhere in Southeast Asia, had a sweet-sour flavor and what might have been an alcoholic twang, and it exuded a dark reddish liquid that threatened to stain anything it touched. Reportedly, tape figures as an ingredient in a variety of more complex dishes; you can also eat it straight up, as I did.

Tempeh, or fermented soybeans, also made an appearance, after I bit into a combro (Chom-bro; $1). These grated-cassava croquettes are fried up at streetside stands throughout Indonesia; as you've guessed from that small red flake of chili, combros can be on the spicy side. Also shown below: a vegetable fritter ($1.50) that nearly obscures a chicken-stuffed fried rice roll called an arem-arem ($1); a satay plate ($5) of beef and chicken kebabs topped with soy sauce and fried onions, and accompanied by homemade peanut sauce and squares of sticky rice; a nasi ramas plate ($5) of stewed beef and chicken over rice, paired with the curried vegetable dish called lontong sayur (and a complimentary cube of chocolate brown beef rendang); and es cendol (Chen-dul; $2.50), iced coconut milk laden with green-colored rice noodles and tiny cubes of jelly, and often laced with palm sugar.

Indonesian food bazaar
Outside the Al-Hikmah Mosque, 48-01 31st Ave., Astoria, Queens
Periodically during the summer


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You can buy "tape ketan putih" fermented white sticky rice, similar to the black sticky rice you posted above, at chinese grocery stores, Topline, Hongkong supermarket among others. It is sold in clear glass jars in refrigerated sections, probably made in China. The texture is much lighter or spongier and it has a lot more liquid. I don't like it as much, but ....a handy substitute.
You can make your own at home. Steam the sticky rice, cool it off, sprinkle some yeast (ragi) also available in Topline supermarket, put it in a tightly covered non-corrosive/non-aluminum container at room-temp in a dark place for 3 days. Check after 3 days. The longer it is kept, the more alcohol it produces. Once it reaches the desired consistency, refrigerate it for longer shelf life.

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