Social Saturday – 2019 Queens International Night Market

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Almost two months ago we were privileged to attend the preview of this year’s Queens International Night Market behind the New York Hall of Science inside Flushing Corona Park in Queens. With a small fee $5 which went to charity, we get the opportunity to taste dishes from returning and new food vendors. Founder John Wang, started the International Night Market back in 2015 in the effort to create a cultural event to celebrate the diversity of immigrants and small businesses. The Night Market was designed to sell dishes at a cap of $6 and in the beginning of this project, I’ve learned that half of the proceeds were going to be donated.

On April 27, there were 54 food vendors that participated in the event. The vendors came from various countries such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Colombia, Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Mexico, Moldova, Malaysia, Ukraine and Indonesia. In addition, to the diverse food options, there were unique food creations such as the Moffle Bar and Twister Cake.

This was my fourth time I visited the Night Market and this time my goal was to taste the food at Burmese Bites. This vendor always had a long line because you get your money’s worth. Portion sizes were shareable. So finally we were able to order a dish from Burmese Bites. Burmese Bites were selling three dishes and we ordered the Keema Palata for $6. The dish tasted authentic and really good plus it fed two people, the portion size appeared deceivingly small but it was extremely filling.

During our visit to the Night Market, we sampled food from 7 out of the 54 food vendors. We just want to disclose that healthy food choices during this visit did not cross our minds as we were embracing the diversity that was celebrated through cultural and even fusion dishes. Below are the dishes that we tried that stood out from the event. The total cost of the dishes below we spent was: $40 for two people, which was not bad for 7 different dishes.

There were five other dishes we tried including the Pho Ga (chicken pho soup) from Em Vietnamese for only $5. The soup was really good especially that it was cold that night. The soup was also hot, fresh and filling.

We were already full at this point so we walked to various vendors and we spotted another vendor that we wanted to try: Jibarito Shack which is a Latin food vendor that served sandwiches using fried plaintains instead of bread. As a result we decided to split a low carb sandwich. We ordered the El Dominicano made with roast pork, pickled onions, queso frito and Dominican salami for only $5. The sandwich was definitely low carb but the first two dishes we had previously were better.

We also checked another new vendor called KINIKorean Dakgangjeong & Ganjang Chicken. We ordered the Ganjang (not spicy) fried chicken $5. The chicken was messy but tasty however it wasn’t as crispy as Bon Chon.

The next place we tried again was Joon a Persian rice cup spot that can be filled up with various flavors. We got the Pomegranate Walnut Chicken and Tumeric Beef and Eggplant at $6 each. Personally I like overcooked rice which is a little dried but other people didn’t like it. In addition, the proportion or balance of meat with sauce to rice was uneven meaning that there was more rice leftover after eating the meat(s). The leftover rice had no flavor and once it got cold, the taste was not the same once served hot.

For dessert we went to Wembie for some awesome Farmer cheese donuts ($4). The donuts definitely hit the spot.

We ended the night with Ecuadorean dark chocolate from Element Truffles. These chocolates were raw, organic and dairy free. We ordered a small dark chocolate bar with sea salt and tumeric for $3.

The Queens International Night Market runs every Saturday night starting at 5pm until midnight starting now until August 17 and September 28 thru October 26. It’s free and prices for each food item is capped at $6.

Throwback Thursday – Saigon Casa

Vietnamese crepe

Pho

Six weeks ago we decided to check out Saigon Casa, Vietnamese restaurant in Port Jefferson Station in Long Island.

The menu has limited options in comparison to what I’m used to seeing in other Vietnamese restaurants in Queens.

One of the dishes that we had to order was the pho. There were many types of pho, but we ordered the Pho Tai Nam Gau, which a beef soup containing rare steak, brisket and flank steak with noodles on the side.

The soup tasted good and we loved the fact that we can add the noodles at our discretion to our small bowls. I am still in search and experimenting recipes that replicated the best one I’ve had to date at the Pho Bang in Elmhurst.

Another dish I had was the Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe called Bang Xeo. This crepe was sold as a special item at this restaurant. The dish was huge and it is made of rice flour and tumeric stuffed with shrimp and pork. The dish was delicious and I want to make this dish.

I would like to return to this restaurant to try their other dishes.

Social Saturday – Andaz Kitchen and Bar – Wall Street

Happy Saturday and I’m counting down the days until I’m able to eat food with refined/processed sugar again. As I stated in my last post, I gave up sugar except for the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables for 40 days for Lent. It’s been really challenging and hard especially this last 10 days with the gatherings for St. Patrick’s Day.

Ten days ago I’ve have had the privilege to see a preview of the food and drink at the revived Andaz Kitchen and Bar at the Andaz Wall Street Hotel in Wall Street. Previously named Dina Rata, which I learned was an Indian name meaning moon. It was deceiving that a place with that name was serving Italian food. Anyways, I preferred the new name.

When I arrived, I was greeted with champagne which I did not drink due to the sugar content. However, I settled for the Chianti which has low sugar, thanks to one of the general managers who suggested the wine as he also gave up sugar. The wine went well with my selection of crudites containing fruits, and vegetables with no hummus, dressing and/or dip to avoid the possibility to ingesting sugar.

I was impressed by the food display and presentation. I loved the color of the vegetables indicating that it is fresh. I also liked the cheese and cold cuts selection.

Next, the passed food samples from the menu, which included a variety of dishes inspired from different cultures including Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Italy and Vietnam.

Below are images of the food created by Executive Chef Pietro Consorti from the event:

Crudites

Cheese and charcuterie display

Tasting plate of cheese and cold cuts

Tasting plate of fresh and colorful vegetables

Bread, butter and anchovies

Jerk Pork Sliders

Toasted prosciutto and baguette

Puntarelle e stracciatella

Panzarella red snapper and green olives

Beef Peccadillo plantains

Fruit berry tart

Rum babba

Flan de leche

Liquid Lab mixology interactive cocktail session setup

It was obvious that I did not eat everything due to the 40 day sugar sacrifice. As a result I did not try anything containing bread and dessert. However, my favorite even from just looking at the menu was the Beef Peccadillo plantains.

Thank you to the management team at Andaz and Andaz Kitchen and Bar including Executive Chef Pietro Consorti for making me feel welcomed. I can’t wait to return and sample the remaining dishes.

Big shout out to the Liquid Lab team for a great demo on making the cocktails, which I could not participate. I do look forward to seeing them in the future.

Stay tuned for more.

Flashback Friday – Pho BangĀ 

Happy Friday! One of my family’s favorite spots to eat on a lazy night of cooking is Pho Bang, a Vietnamese restaurant in Elmhurst, NY. This restaurant also has several locations, one in Flushing and the other in Chinatown. The restaurant accepts cash only but it is a great family spot especially for quick and cheap family dinners. The dishes are not only cheap, but it has been recognized as one of the top restaurants in Elmhurst by Zagat.

My father would end up with the bill and from my recollection of the costs the total including tax was less than $30 for three people.  Even better the portions are family style! 

The awesome thing about this restaurant is their prep and presentation of their beef and abundance of vegetables. There are variety of pho to choose from, but we usually go with the Tai Chin Nam Gan Sach without the rice noodles, which is a beef soup with fresh eye round, navel, tendon and omosa. The dish comes with noodles, but we love the flavor of the beef broth plus it is carb free. The beef just cooks in the hot broth as it is served to maintain its tenderness. The vegetables of bean sprouts and mint with lemon enhanced the flavor of this refreshing hot soup. 

Another dish that we love to order is a specialty called Nam Nuong which grilled pork hash balls that come with picked carrots, shallot and radishes along with steamed rice wrappers and green leaf lettuce. This dish is refreshing and versatile where you can use the rice wrapper and place the ingredients in it. You can even go paleo and do without the rice wrapper and use the lettuce to make a wrap. 

Pho and Nam Nuong

Other dishes to try include their spring rolls which are made out of rice wrapper. Can’t go wrong with the summer roll, bun (rice vermecelli) dishes and grilled pork chops. 

Last month a fire broke into the restaurant. The restaurant is currently closed but it is undergoing renovations. Can’t wait to return to this restaurant once it opens again. In the meantime, check out the other Pho Bang restaurants in Flushing and Chinatown.