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Our contributors have set out to make Real Cheap Eats a true locals’ guide to New York’s cuisines. Layne Mosler of Taxi Gourmet and her band of writers take this idea quite literally to the street by sourcing their recommendations from cab drivers, then writing up the culinary adventures that ensue. We’re pretty excited to hear about a few of the highlights in New York – welcome to Real Cheap Eats, Layne!
RCL Enterprises – Sweet Potato Pie
I could just as easily wax poetic about the oxtails and turkey wings that cab driver Troy Johnson recommended at this soul food take-out spot near JFK airport, but RCL Enterprises’ sweet potato pie is perfection in a tin. The filling is smooth and rich, with just a touch of all-spice. The pale crust looks unimpressive, but is both flaky and buttery. I want this for Thanksgiving dessert for the rest of my life.
Tandoori Food & Bakery – Samsa
I never imagined that a $2 samsa from an Uzbeki kosher tandoori oven in Queens would remind me of the otherworldly empanadas of Argentina – but it did. The filling – chunks of beef and onions laced with cumin – is more subdued than that of most Argentine empanadas, but the dough – buttery and beautifully browned – has the same chewy crispiness that only a clay oven can produce. Tandoori Food & Bakery is one of a handful of kosher Uzbeki restaurants in an area of Rego Park known as ‘Bukharan Broadway,’ all of which are closed on the Sabbath (from sundown on Friday and all day Saturday).
Ganapati Temple Canteen – Masala Dosa
- (Photo by James Boo)
Ganapati Temple Canteen, in the basement of a white-washed Hindu temple in Flushing, is cabbie cum astrologer Vinod Dogra’s favorite place for dosas, the rice flour and black lentil crepes beloved throughout India. The masala dosa is the mildest on the temple’s menu, but it will still push sweat through your pores. Stuffed with potato-onion curry and dipped in coconut chutney and sambar, this is the next best thing to eating on the streets of the subcontinent.
Sagar Sweets & Restaurant – Sweet Dhodi
- (Photo by Caroline Chan)
It’s a long ride on the F-train to Sagar Sweets & Restaurant in Jamaica, but one spoonful of sweet dhodi makes the journey feel like a small sacrifice. The dessert, more commonly known as mishti doi or lal dahi (“red yogurt”), is sweetened yogurt prepared Bengali style and is found in most Calcutta sweet shops. Caramelized sweetened condensed milk (an Asian riff on Latin American dulce de leche) is responsible for its pale mango shade, while a combination of plain yogurt and evaporated milk adds richness and a backbeat of tart. This is must-have dessert on special occasions for Bengalis, and Sagar keeps a hefty stock in the refrigerator behind its Indian-Bangladeshi buffet. A one-pound tub costs $6 and lasts several days– if you can manage to keep a hold on your spoon.
Cherry Hill Gourmet Market – Manti
Manti are dumplings found throughout countries along what was once the Silk Road. Sometimes, as in Armenia, they’re served in a garlic-based broth. Sometimes they’re steamed in butter and sprinkled with caramelized onions, Russian-style, as they are at Cherry Hill Gourmet Market, a Georgian-Russian deli/supermarket/café in Brooklyn’s “Little Odessa.” There are literally hundreds of foods to choose from at this neighborhood market, but don’t leave without trying manti. You may find some gristle in the beef filling, but the dough is mouth-melting, teetering between chewy and delicate. And you will be hard-pressed to find better caramelized onions.
-Layne Mosler, Taxi Gourmet