Archive | Bizarre Foods

Tripe Tacos: From one stomach to yours

By CHASEN MARSHALL

It’s hard to turn down an authentic looking and smelling taco. Beef and chicken – just keep ‘em coming! Nearly anything in a tortilla with a few key toppings is probably digestible. What about goat and pork stomach lining? Hmm, second thoughts.

A delicacy in most cultures, tripe is the edible offal from the stomach of various farm animals. In Italy it’s topped with Parmesan and pan-fried. In some Chinese restaurants it’s served in a soup. At Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s fried and topped with a secret seasoning and served on a flour tortilla with diced onions and cilantro.

Tehuitzingo is a small hole-in-the-wall joint festooned with a Mexican flag on the awning out front, and a green, white and red color palate throughout. Inside, a cooler full of Mexican cerveza, and a window at the rear of the store, manned by a small dark-skinned woman wearing an apron bode well for the ambiance, at least.

Tripa and sangre, as they appear on the menu, are pork tripe and goat tripe – to be clear: the lining of the primary digestive organ of a pig and a goat. The visual difference between the two couldn’t be more different. The goat meat was dark and resembled charred ground beef, whereas the pork was lighter in color and looked like half-cooked calamari. Both had a salty taste (though it may have been the seasoning) and were difficult to stomach at first (mainly because of the idea that it was going from one stomach to another). After the initial shock, it tasted like most any well-dressed Mexican taco that can be found at a small stand south of the border.

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The McGriddle – an extreme American breakfast sandwich

The McGriddle – an extreme American breakfast sandwich

A modern breakfast burger for the caveman in all of us: eggs, sausage and a pancake. Meet Mickeydee's McGriddle.

A modern breakfast burger for the caveman in all of us: Eggs, sausage and a pancake. Meet Mickeydee's McGriddle. (Photo: Joel Meares)

By JOEL MEARES

What is it?

The McGriddle, introduced by McDonald’s in 2003, shows that a dish doesn’t need to feature tongue, bat or bug to be Survivor-level weird. A close cousin to the more sophisticated McMuffin, the McGriddle sandwich is bookended by two soft and soggy pancake-like buns and comes in three varieties: Bacon, Egg & Cheese (420 calories); Sausage, Egg & Cheese (560 calories) and plain old Sausage (410 calories). Those dark tablet-looking bruises in the griddlecakes are bursts of maple syrup.

Where do you get it?

Anywhere you see the famous golden arches, before breakfast hours finish.

Where does it come from?

Where else but America? Although, you can now find McGriddles in McDonald’s restaurants in Germany, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Guatemala and Singapore.

How much is it?

The prices vary store to store but a single sandwich will set you back a little over $3. But when Kyle Griffin, 23, went to buy a single McGriddle at his local Harlem Mickey D’s, he discovered it was actually cheaper to buy two. The store was offering two Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles for just $3 – the cheapest way to down 1,120 calories this side of the Hudson. Griffin scarfed two and says he felt sick the rest of the day.

Who eats it?

Griffin and everyone else who likes to mix the sweetness of syrupy hot cakes with the saltiness of squidgy yellow Mickey D’s eggs. One famous eater is Morgan Spurlock, who pointed out in his anti-McDonald’s documentary, “Supersize Me,” that the company launched the McGriddle at the same time it kicked off a healthy eating campaign. At least one of the initiatives was a success. Months after the McGriddle launched, the fast food chain’s sales rose 11 percent in the USA, with the company attributing some of that success to the new breakfast sandwich.

Tastes like: A perfectly good English breakfast dunked in a vat of syrup.

How do you cook it?

You don’t have to – leave that to the pimply teenager out back. All you have to do is peel away the greasy paper wrapping, open your mouth and pray you make it through this alive.

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Care for some brains?

By SONYA REHMAN

“Katakat” (pronounced “Ka-ta-kat”) is a popular offal Pakistani dish served at Kabab King Diner in Jackson Heights, Queens. It’s a tantalizing, spicy mutton dish that is an assortment of kidney, brain and lamb chops, and the meaning behind the name, Katakat, is an interesting one.

As the offal is sliced and diced swiftly, the sounds that the knife makes as it hits the cutting board makes loud and clear “kut, kut, tuk, tuk, kut-a-kut” sounds.

Spiced with coriander, red chili powder, salt and green chilies, and fried in oil with onions, ginger and garlic, Katakat resembles a plate of fine mince once prepared and ready to eat.

Served with soft naan bread and fresh salad, Katakat remains a favorite Eastern delicacy among locals and foreigners alike.

Address:

Kabab King Diner
7301 37th Road.
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

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Quail prosciutto for cooking in Chinatown

Quail prosciutto for cooking in Chinatown

By CAROLINE SHIN

IMG_5074

A whole cured quail hangs from a ledge at the Bayard Street Meat Market.

The Bayard Street Meat Market has been selling whole dry-cured quail, a prosciutto of sorts, for as long as Michael Huang can remember.

Now the manager of his parents’ store, Huang, 21, came to the U.S. from China when he was 9 years old. He sells about 50 of these quails weekly for $7 apiece to Chinese immigrants, his main consumer market. Why is the quail cured? “So it doesn’t go bad quickly and you don’t waste it.” He said his supplier does the dry curing.

Huang said Chinese people value the quail for “health” and “medical” reasons. Chinese cooks at the restaurant or at home serve the quail in soup, but they don’t actually eat the bird because its protein has already simmered into the broth. They also fry or steam it in soy sauce.

But, Huang says, “I don’t eat quail. I’m almost ABC.” As an almost “American-born-Chinese” person, he does not know how to cook it nor does he eat it nowadays.

While Arthur Schwartz, cookbook writer and former food critic of the Daily News, says that food is one of the mainstays of an immigrant culture, one can also wonder which dishes get lost between generations.

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Pasta with… Flying Fish Roe or Sea Urchin

Pasta with… Flying Fish Roe or Sea Urchin

By CAROLINE SHIN

Basta Pasta bustles at the open kitchen and dining room.

Basta Pasta bustles at the open kitchen and dining room.

Toshi Suzuki opened up a replica of his Tokyo-based Italian restaurant, Basta Pasta, about 20 years ago on 17th Street and 5th Avenue. His international response to Japan’s recession at the time, Basta Pasta is now a bustling eatery, busy with chefs at the open kitchen and guests at the dining space cum gallery.

Tall, down-to-business with a pencil mustache, Suzuki, 51, sells two curious dishes: spaghetti with tobiko or flying fish roe and linguine with fresh sea urchin. “The fish roe pasta is the only Japanese-Italian dish we have,” Suzuki said. “Everything else is Italian.” That includes the sea urchin pasta, which is considered a delicacy in Italy.

Italian cuisine is very popular in Japan. Katsuya Nishimori, 50, an artist-turned-florist, came to the U.S. after college 27 years ago, and dines at Basta Pasta regularly. He said, “There are many Italian restaurants in Japan. We love Italian food.”

Spaghetti con uova di pesce or flying fish roe is a signature Japanese-Italian dish at Basta Pasta.

Spaghetti con uova di pesce or flying fish roe is a signature Japanese-Italian dish at Basta Pasta.

The tobiko spaghetti blends both cultures in a delicious colorful dish. Clumps of tiny bright orange bubbles of tobiko sit atop a swirl of spaghetti with tomato sauce, shiso or perilla and shredded basil. The taste is subtly fishy and the texture, complicated. The tobiko lends a soft crunchiness to the smooth pasta, and, by the end, it mixes in with the soupy finish at the bottom of the plate. He sells about 200 units of the $15 dish per month. (His most popular dish, spaghetti churned in a parmesan cheese wheel and topped with parma prosciutto at the table sells 600 units at $16 every month.)

In comparison, Suzuki sells about 400 dishes of the sea urchin pasta monthly at $19. “People know it and love it,” he said. “It’s very popular in Italy and Japan.”

Linguine ai ricci di mare or linguini with sea urchin is an Italian delicacy.

Linguine ai ricci di mare or linguini with sea urchin is an Italian delicacy.

Kyriaki Vlachopoulou, 38, who works at the Greek Consulate, sat at the bar—just two seats from Nishimori—on a recent evening. “I’m the biggest fan of the sea urchin pasta,” she said. “I only get the uni pasta.” The bartender, aware of Vlachopoulou’s three-year commitment to the dish, laughed in agreement. Several thin salmon-colored slabs of sea urchin rest atop linguine sautéed with tomato sauce and Serrano peppers. The light brininess of the sea urchin melds with the savory pasta with each forkful. “It goes down smoothly,” said a contented Vlachopoulou after finishing a plate of the notable dish. “It’s full-flavored. But it’s not very fishy.”

Customer loyalty such as that of Vlachopoulou and Nishimori has helped Suzuki focus on his New York Basta Pasta. He commuted back and forth between the sister restaurants until seven years ago when he closed the Tokyo location. “The market here still is better,” he said.

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Snack on grasshoppers

Snack on grasshoppers

By BESSIE KING

Although they are annoying to gardeners, grasshoppers are actually liked by some people. Liked enough to eat and savor.

This critter, like other bugs, is considered a snack in countries like Mexico, the Middle East and Thailand. So much so that food businesses offer them as average bar food.  And in New York, the place where oddities collide, finding grasshoppers to eat is not difficult either. Although you always have the possibility to raise you own, bodegas and ingredient stores in Chinatown sell already killed and cleaned grasshoppers. Saving you the hassle of growing, manually decapitating without crushing, and boiling the bug to cook.

Once you get your grasshoppers, which will look red rather than brown because they have been boiled, you can marinade them in limejuice and spices or your favorite seasoning. In a warm frying pan with little or no oil, since the grasshoppers will have some liquid from the marinade, they can be fried. Let the fried grasshoppers cool and when ready start munching. To avoid the hassle of finding and cooking this bug altogether you could also head to Toloache, a modern Mexican restaurant owned by chef Julian Medina.

A native of Mexico City, Medina grew up eating grasshoppers, or “chapulines” in Spanish, as snacks. When he opened his business he added something familiar to the menu. “It’s really taken off at the restaurant and people come in and order it a lot,” said Jennifer Neugeboren, press representative for Toloache. You can also find businesses that sell chocolate covered grasshoppers, for those with a sweet tooth, or ethnic restaurants that ground, jelly, roast, and dip grasshoppers in honey.

Regardless of how they are cooked grasshoppers are a very good source of protein. In some places, like rural Africa, they are an integral part of a meal to add fats, minerals and vitamins to people’s diets. So, don’t rule this dish out of your diet just yet.

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It’s not the chocolate chip cookie your grandma made

By WINNIE ANDREWS

Cookies at Rubyzaar (Photo: Winnie Andrews)Chocolate chip cookies are about as traditional as you can get, but throw in some unexpected ingredients and the result is an unexpected twist on the classic.

Two Brooklyn based sisters are doing just that: Molly and Sarah Rubin decided to update the chocolate chip cookie with ingredients like Earl Grey tea and pretzels, and are intriguing customers with their concoctions.

The sisters’ idea was to incorporate their favorite flavors from around the world in the traditional cookie.  Their Golden Triangle cookie has coconut, mango, toasted rice and dark chocolate and was inspired by the sister’s love for sticky rice with mangoes from Thailand.  Another cookie option, called “Ambrosia,” has Mediterranean ingredients such as fig, pear, sage, roast walnut and creamed honey.

Last December the Rubin sisters started selling cookies at the Union Square Holiday market. The treats are back again this year at their retail stand, called Rubyzaar, which can be found online and at various retail festivals throughout the year.

Shannon Stanczak, a personal trainer, is a regular at the Holiday stand and a fan of the updated cookie. Stanczak said the cookies are chewy and buttery. The first bite tastes like the original, but then the other flavors kick in and it’s a whole new cookie, she said. One of her favorites is inspired by tastes of Colonial India and is flavored by tea and has earl grey, smoked almonds and dark chocolate. “It invigorates and wakes up your mouth,” she said.

The new combinations of taste-bud teasers tempt those who come looking for the basic cookie. Julie Rosenberg, one of the many holiday shoppers, was swayed by the allure of the NY Pretzel cookie with large chunks of chewy pretzel. “I had wanted the regular chocolate chip,” she said handing her eight-year-old daughter the updated pretzel version, “but I thought, OK, let’s push ourselves and try something different.”

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Licking the bones clean – literally

IMG_2558By MEGAN GIBSON

Bone marrow. Those two words, at least for me, always carried the unfortunate connotation of cancer clinics or biology labs, definitely not appetizing, gourmet meals. Yet, in front of me on my plate lay large chunks of bone. Inside of each bone cylinder I could see the grayish-brown, gelatinous marrow, which I was meant to scrape out with a small fork and spread onto toast. And then eat. I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I should back up and say that I am not a vegetarian, nor am I a picky eater. Yet, this was one of the few times in my life that I couldn’t seem to overcome what it was that I was actually about to eat. Bone marrow! The inside of a cow’s bone! It was especially hard to forget that, as the bone was right there looking exactly like, well, like a bone.

Although not that common in American diets, other cultures have been eating bone marrow for years. In Vietnam, the Philippines, Hungary, Italy and France, to name a few, marrow has long been a routine meal, either alone or as an ingredient in soup. The protein-rich food is high in fat (reportedly as high as 300 calories per ounce) and cholesterol. And while it’s not exactly ubiquitous yet, several restaurants in New York City serve it, including Blue Ribbon Brasserie, Prune and Landmarc.

When served still in the bone, it is usually cooked quite simply — just roasted with a bit of salt — and then served with toasted bread.

As I put on a brave face, picked up the bone and went about the visceral process of scraping out the insides onto my plate, I tried to mentally prepare for tasting it. However, after the first bite, I still didn’t know if I liked the taste. I was too distracted by the texture, slippery and gooey, somewhat similar to a raw oyster. So I took another bite. Very rich like butter, slightly salty and vaguely meaty. All in all the taste was quite good and I cleaned my plate. Yet, I still couldn’t help cringing every time I picked up a piece of bone and scraped out the insides.

Next time I try marrow, I’d prefer it to be deboned for me. Although I may have the palate of a carnivore, I’ve found I definitely don’t have the stomach of a butcher.

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Weird Food: Elk chops

Elk Chops at Henry's End in Brooklyn Heights

Elk Chops at Henry's End in Brooklyn Heights.

By JON CROWELL

Henry’s End in Brooklyn features a “Wild Game Menu” and, among other offerings, serves elk chops with rice and broccoli.  The meat is delicious, although difficult to distinguish from lamb chops, pork chops, or, probably, zebra chops.

The restaurant itself is the epitome of unpretentious affluence.  The tables are a plain black.  The napkins are cloth.  The wallpaper in the bathroom is a heavy, tasteful fabric. The pepper grinders are wooden and weathered – just like at grandma’s house.   There are about 40 patrons, several of them wearing cardigans and heavily-rimmed glasses, and the level of murmur is just loud enough to feel lively without intruding.  There are no televisions.  At the table next to you a middle-aged white fellow mentions to his companions that he can recommend several fine restaurants in Aspen.

Prior to arriving on your plate, the elk chops belonged to an elk who was raised on a farm in New Zealand, where he was fed a diet of grain.  It is against the law to serve wild game in a New York City restaurant, although evidently it is not against the law to advertise that you do.

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Tongue tacos in Manhattan

By DANIEL WOOLFOLK

Walk down a street in any given Mexican city and you will find many taco stands, the good ones before the bad ones.  The aroma of spicy meat and vegetables will guide your feet to the perfect stand.  Most have meat or pork tacos, but every once in a while you might run into one that serves lengua, Spanish for tongue.

While Manhattan doesn’t have the stands on every corner, you can find tongue in Harlem at the brick and mortar hotel, Cinco De Mayo  Restaurant at 1028 Amsterdam Ave. has them.  No such aroma on the sidewalk, but you’ll know to go in by it’s big Red, Green and white canopy on the west side of the street.

They charge $2.95 a taco, which isn’t too bad.  In Northern Mexico they go for about a dollar each.  The tongue isn’t made directly from the meat.  It’s boiled, peeled then sautéed, normally with tomatoes and onions.  Then it’s topped off with cilantro in true Mexican fashion.  And to make it even more authentic, you have to squeeze a little lime on it, preferably from your cold Corona.

It’s most common to eat them with corn tortillas.  You might need two, because the tongue tends to be somewhat watery.   A normal person will probably be satisfied with about six tacos.  The beauty in that is to vary them.  If you’re not feeling bold, have a couple steak tacos, maybe some head-meat tacos.  Once you have tongue, you can graduate to tacos made from head muscles.  And that’s the gateway drug for entering the adventurously delicious world of brain and tripe tacos.

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