It is the annual pilgrimage to the Big Apple. "New York, just like I pictured it, skyscrapers and everything!" I have been eating a restricted diet in Budapest this year, justifying it by telling myself that if I refuse the bowl of rice or the roll of bread today I can make it up later by eating something fantastic when I am in New York... It has worked so far - I lost quite a bit of weight - so I am allowing myself a measured bit of leeway while I am in New York. Leeway as in Chinese food, Indian food, and yes, an occasional Shake Shack burger. I have been traipsing about the city for weeks, but the sad story is that the New York I knew growing up is shrinking into oblivion. Manhattan is almost lost amid a flood of new construction and condo-madness. Harlem is no longer a majority Black city - it is yupping out, filling with hipsters and losing the century old sense of soul that is baked into its stoops and sidewalks. Times Square is Disneyland, The East Village junkies and punks have all become acai berry juice moguls, and Yorkville hasn't seen a Hungarian sausage in over a decade.
|Dim Sum beneath the Manhattan Bridge on East Broadway|
Bob Godfried, a born Bronxonian and one of the stalwart holdouts of the old Jewish Bronx, took me up to the Norwood section off of Mosholu Parkway for the Bangladeshi Festival along Bainbridge Avenue. Never have I seen so many Bangladeshis doing what Bangladeshis do best - teem in overpopulated masses. From one end of Bainbridge ave to the other sari clad women sold spicy chickpea concoctions and samosa while others listened to the painfully loud live singers.
Not bad for a neighborhood once known for its Irish bars and the last secular Yiddish school in New York. I've been in New York for several weeks - much of it spent in New Jersey, and several of those weeks were without access to a laptop so I was not updating the blog. Jersey is the Bronx of the future. Since Bob G had taken me to the depths of sub-continental Bronx life, I responded by taking him to the deep South Indian enclave of Newark Avenue in Jersey city.
For about four blocks, Newark Avenue is wall to wall Dosa joints, Indian sweet shops, bakers, and Mandirs - small storefront temples dedicated to Hindu worship, whatever that may be, we non-Hindus will probably never know, but it is comforting to know that if there are Hindu temples around, a good rice pancake is probably not far. Since a lot of the recent immigrants from India are from stricter vegetarian Hindu and Jain communities, you can get excellent veggie food unlike what most of us know from meat heavy North Indian restaurants. Straight to Sapthagiri, the all vegetarian Restaurant I lucked upon last year.
Twelve dollars gets you a huge south Indian thali selection of vegetarian curries, tamarind broths, pickles, chapatis, lentil, and rice. I wrote about Sapthagiri last year, and if you really love Indian food it is worth the trip out of Manhattan on the Path train to Jersey City - it is only about five minutes from the PATH station. But man cannot live on vegetarian offerings along, especially if you like to eat meat as much as I do.
|A-Wah's House Special Clay Pot Rice: roast Pork, Chinese bacon, sausage, and minced pork patty.|
I have seen recipes for Clay Pot Rice, I have seen the little clay pots for sale in Chinese shops, and I have lived around Cantonese people for much of my life, but I had never tried the stuff. Boy was I dumb! Its far more than its individual meaty-ricey parts. It was the best Chinese food experience that I have had since discovering the Golden Mall in Flushing a few years ago. The window betrays nothing: ducks hanging, strips of pork dripping, the same as dozens of Chinese BBQ meat joints around lower Manhattan that serve cheap take out lunch to the local Chinese workforce.
|The A Wah, one of NYC best restaurants, for clay pot rice dishes, at least.|
|No more eel, but crunchy, crispy burned rice!|