In Queens lately, there have been tons of Halal street meat vendors popping up all over the place and I’ve been dying to try some out. Usually, I pick food vendors simply based on the tasty aromas wafting from their food carts. However, my mom wanted me to try one specific cart because it looked “cleaner than the rest.” Okie-dokie.
I’m not too squeamish when it comes to food and cleanliness. I’ll eat NYC “dirty water dogs” without a second thought. But even in the poshest of restaurants who knows what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen. If you’ve ever watched Top Chef then you know that most of the cheftestants work in pretty classy establishments, yet they’re constantly sweating into and sticking their fingers into the food all the time. I would say that that bugs me a little bit…maybe 5% of me is grossed out by the idea that when I order food I’m getting someone else’s saliva and sweat too…but the rest of me just accepts it as par for the course.
The cart my mom wanted me to try was located on a corner off of Main St. in Flushing. They offered the usual fare found at most street meat carts: Chicken & Rice, Lamb & Rice. However, they also had falafels. I really wanted to try their falafels ($4) but chose their Chicken & Rice ($5) instead because it seemed like the better value since it came with a salad as well.
Verdict: In my opinion, Midtown’s Little Morocco (my #1 street meat pick. I love their kofta & rice) is still leaps and bounds ahead in the street meat race. I found the Flushing cart’s seasoning extremely overpowering; it was so heavy on cumin and coriander. The salad came with the usual “white sauce”; in this case, a watered down mayo dressing.
A few bright spots: their hot sauce is very spicy! I’m no wimp when it comes to spicy foods, and my tongue was pleasantly burning after a few bites. Also, a hard boiled egg is included with the meal so overall you’re getting a very filling meal for your money.
To wash down my meal, I stopped at a Chinese supermarket that was selling coconut juice for 99 cents. There’s a big bin in front of the store with shrink wrapped coconuts and when you buy one the seller will chop off the top of the coconut for you.
(Sorry for the less than appetizing photo of the coconut. I took the photo after peeling away the shrink wrapping, so the coconut oxidized and turned a little brown. Before I removed the wrapping it was a pristine white.)
I’d never had coconut as fresh or young before and I’m not sure I care for it. The juice/water inside is much saltier than I expected. I was looking forward to cracking open the coconut and eating the flesh when I was through drinking it, and the flesh wasn’t what I had expected either. It had a soft, almost gel-like texture, and it didn’t have the same coconut flavor that dried coconuts have that I love. The flesh was so tender I could pop a straw right through it to get to the juice inside.
My sister buys bottled coconut water to bring with her to the gym and she liked the fresh coconut juice much more than I did.
As for what I’ve been making in the kitchen, just the other day I decided to make a matzo spanakopita, otherwise known as a matzo spinach pie. I had gotten a box of onion flavored matzo when the supermarket was running their Yom Kippur sale, and I had some frozen spinach sitting in the fridge along with some feta cheese and ricotta.
There are tons of recipes for matzo spinach pie/spanakopita on the internet but the one I used came from epicurious.com.
I didn’t have any cottage cheese so I substituted ricotta for it. Besides that I followed the recipe exactly.
The recipe calls for soaking the matzo so they’re pliable like lasagna noodles, and the filling was really easy to whip up.
I wanted to see if the matzo version of spanakopita would be as good as the traditional recipe that uses phyllo pastry. I love phyllo but it’s a pain in the ass to worth with.
Verdict: The phyllo version is still the best. Soft matzo cannot beat the buttery, crispy, light flakiness of phyllo. My sister actually said the matzo was like soggy saltines. Now there’s a review for ya 😛
I’m also displeased aesthetically with how the spinach pie turned out. The recipe said to pour whatever cottage cheese mixture I had left (from soaking the matzo) over the pie before placing it in the oven. I had quite a lot left and after pulling the pie out of the oven I noticed that it had sort of solidified…kind of like how milk will develop a skin when you boil it. It just didn’t look as pretty as I hoped it would.
It tasted all right but if I had to do it all over again I would add some butter for flavor. Better yet, I’d used phyllo dough instead.