October 28, 2011
In Flushing, Queens, there are a lot of hole-in-the-wall stands. The city’s full of them – there’s one tucked away in almost every corner and alleyway, every street and shopping mall basement. You could walk by a gem of a place and not even know it. Therefore, I’m pointing this one out to you:
On Main St. and 40th, right next the bustling corner grocery, there is a stand (pictured above). Go there. It serves Peking duck sandwiches…FOR A DOLLAR.
That’s right, instead of buying a whole duck, you can buy a single fluffy bun with a slice of duck skin, a bit of meat, cucumber, scallions and a squirt of hoisin sauce for $1. Stick you head in the window and order one. (Maybe even buy two.)
There’s no seating so you’ll have to eat it standing on the sidewalk, most probably in between the trashcan and the lamp post. But that’s really a non-issue – I end up polishing off my bun in 2-3 bites anyway.
Note: There are people online who make a fuss about it not actually being a real Peking duck (that has been specially cooked to separate the skin from the body) and that it’s just a normal Cantonese-style roast duck sandwiched/finished the same way. In response to them, I say this: At $1, I don’t really care. I just know it’s affordable and tasty.
40-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355
October 10, 2011
Totto Ramen has a special place in my heart. Why? When I moved here a year ago, it was my first meal as an official New Yorker. At the time, I was crashing in a friend’s apartment in Morningside Heights (way up there by Columbia University) but made the trek down to Totto because I felt like I had to do something special my first night in the city. Who could have guessed that I would later find my own apartment a couple blocks away?
Totto Ramen has now become one of my go-to neighborhood haunts. It’s not very big so there’s almost always a line outside, especially around dinnertime. Be prepared to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how busy they are.
If you don’t know already, Totto = chicken. Therefore, their broth is chicken based rather than pork based like a lot of other places in the city. However, don’t think the lack of pork means a lack of flavor – this soup has depth. Boiling a pot full of chicken carcasses for almost the entire day (9AM to 6:30PM, according to their hand-drawn sketch behind the counter) can do that for you.
What I love most about Totto’s broth is its clean flavor. While I love a heavy pork tonkotsu broth (“liquid meat”, as I like to call it) just as much as the next person, sometimes you end up with a greasiness on your lips. Totto’s, since it’s made of chicken, gives you the satisfaction and comfort from a bowl of ramen without the heaviness afterwards.
I personally like the spicy ramen more so than the normal chicken paitan ramen – the spicy pepper paste just adds an extra kick to the bowl. If you’re not a big fan of spicy (I personally don’t think it’s too bad), you can always ask them for the paste on the side as well.
Lastly, their sides – posted on the front window or against the walls – are kickass but can be highly seasonal. My favorite, a bowl of seared uni over rice, hasn’t been seen in a couple months. (If you see it though, let me know!)
366 W. 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
October 4, 2011
Today marks a big day in the life of The Food Ledger. “Why?”, you may ask. Well, three big things happened today:
- I rolled out a new site design today! I’ve had the old layout since the beginning (well, almost the beginning…but I don’t think many of you knew this site during its “black” phase) so it’s about time for an update.
- This is my 100th post on the site! Yes, I probably could have (should have?) gotten here soon but hey, a milestone is a milestone and I’m celebrating this one.
- Today is The Food Ledger’s second anniversary! When I purchased “foodforfel.com” on October 4, 2009, who would have thought it’d still be around today?
Actually, the fact that this site has made it to the two year mark is a pretty big deal in and of itself. When I started this thing, I honestly didn’t think it’d last more than a month or two. Yet, here we are. Granted, I haven’t been the most prolific blogger during this time but, as you can see, the blog’s still truckin’ and the posts are still coming. (Slowly! But I promise, more are coming…)
So happy October 4th everyone! Let’s see if I can make it another year!
September 1, 2011
Doughs and I have a rough relationship. Batters (whether it be for muffins or pancakes or other baked goods), I can do – I mix, I bake, I eat, it’s good times all around. But dough? I have a tough time with dough. Something about the flour and kneading…It’s still very hit or miss with me, although I am slowly getting better.
One day in the near/far future, I would like be a dough master, making pasta and bread from scratch. For now however, I’m setting my sights on a lower goal: pizza dough. I’ve been messing around with a couple recipes – Some are clear misses; dense, floury discs whose recipes will never make it onto this blog. However, some are pretty good (if I may say so myself).
This is one of the recipes I actually like and is quite easy to make, even for a beginner like me. I’ll admit, sometimes I find the texture to be just a smidge too bready for a pizza crust but that’s probably my fault – I don’t roll my crusts very thin as I don’t want to overwork the dough. (Next time, I’ll give it a good pounding and see how much it can take.)
Wheat Pizza Crust
From: Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust at Allrecipes.com
* 1 teaspoon white sugar
* 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables.
Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.
August 3, 2011
Finding Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Los Angeles was a life changing moment for me. As soon as I took that first bite, I knew I could never go back to the fish tacos of my past. No more Rubio’s, no Baja Fresh…Honestly – and this is no exaggeration – ever since I had that first bite, every single fish taco I’ve eaten has been made by Ricky himself.
His fish tacos were delicious; life was good…that is, until I decided to move to New York.
Up until this past Sunday, I had not had a fish taco since moving to New York. Not a single fish taco in nine months. I needed to find good fish tacos, stat.
My requirements for fish tacos are straightfoward: The taco must be Baja style. It must use white fish that is battered and freshly fried – if the fish is breaded or grilled, it’s an automatic no-go. I want nothing more than the basic toppings – shredded cabbage, a bit of crema, some fresh salsa and a lime. I refuse to pay $5 for a single fish taco (as I recently saw at Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food market). Lastly, and most importantly, I expect this taco to taste good.
Finding a fish taco that meets all those above requirements is difficult in New York. People have recommended many a restaurant to me. “Their fish tacos are great, you should go there!” I get really excited, then go online and look at its website/read the reviews and – BAM! – disappointment. Sometimes the fish is grilled, sometimes it’s fried but looks like a soggy fish stick, sometimes it just looks downright unappetizing…These fish tacos will not do. I don’t even bother going. That is not going to be the taco that is going to appease my Ricky’s craving.
Then a friend recommended Rockaway Taco.
Rockaway Taco was different. Pictures from Rockaway Taco depicted bountiful tacos, filled with crispy fish and cabbage. They showed promise.
Off the A/S, by Rockaway Beach on 96th Street is the tiny shack of a Mexican restaurant known as Rockaway Taco. The signage for DiCosmo’s Italian Ice and Veggie Island may overshadow that for the stand at the end; however, you can’t miss the line. Go any later than 1pm and you’ll definitely see one winding around the corner.
The tacos are reasonably priced – $3 apiece or you can make one “deluxe” by adding guacamole for a dollar more. Knowing that, if this actually turned out to be THE ONE I would want as many fish tacos as my belly could hold, I ordered three tacos (one with guac, two without).
And, the verdict? These tacos are good. Damn good. Dare I say it? These tacos are LA standards good.
If I really wanted to be picky, I’d tell you the batter is not as light and the fish is not as moist and flakey as Ricky’s. But honestly, I’d just be nitpicking at that point. Rockaway Taco serves a solid taco. It is exactly as I pictured it: The batter on fish is crispy. The fish itself is tender. The amount of cabbage and crema is just right to compliment the fish. If you decide to add homemade salsa to your taco, you can choose between their light and tangy tomatillo or smoky chipotle. Both are good options.
Guacamole may not be a standard topping on fish tacos but I’m not going to complain – especially since their guac is rich and thick, the way a guacamole made from lots of ripe avocados should be. It’s missing just a hint of citrus, but that’s what the wedge of lime is for.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a side to your tacos, grab a bag of cucumbers, jicama and mango, marinated in chile and lime. The water-dense cucumbers and jicama are refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.
I have to say, I can only find one real problem with Rockaway Taco – it’s only open during the summer. Where am I going to get my fish taco fix during those cold New York winters…?