Indonesian Food Bazaar in Elmurst this Sun, 7/19
In the parking lot behind the mosque. Directions here:
http://www.masjidalhikmahnewyork.org/ (not the V train, though; that doesn't run on weekends).
Suggestions: get there early, maybe by about 12, so you can sit on the sidewalk in the shade on the west side of the mosque. In the afternoon, the shade goes away.
Be courteous and hand over your money with your right hand.
This thread has some specific food suggestions:
I'll try to take notes and issue a detailed report next week.
Muslim tradition. it's disrespectful to exchange money and -- even more importantly -- pick up the Qur'an -- with the left hand. In theory (if not in reality), the left hand is used to clean yourself, especially in the bathroom/toilet. if there's any opportunity/reason to enter the mosque, btw, shoes should be removed.
I'll go first, although I may show less enthusiasm than last time. we got there relatively early, around 1pm and it wasn't as crazy crowded as last time (about 3 weeks ago); we kept it relatively simple:
1. es cendol from the stand in the middle on the left
2. gado gado again from the back
3. shrimp with petai (stinky bean) from the middle vendor on the right side
4. large container of anchovy crackers from vendor to the left of the escendol vendor
5. peanut-y condensed milk "omelette/crepe" from the same vendor
6. asenin (sp?), a salad from the second vendor on the right side which also had a lot of other steamed stuff
7. steamed green crepe with palm sugar inside from same vendor
the es cendol this time was better for some reason although the vendor was still maddeningly inefficient; but generous ladles of all the goodies and for $2.50, a steal. delicious. but the gado-gado somehow was less pungent than last time, even though the ladies are very accomodating with the seasonings (I asked for extra chilis, extra belacan, extra preserved lime) and all kinds of flavor but for some reason, it wasn't as good as last time. it is probably the best thing at the bazaar for sure tho (discounting all the deep fried goodies which I skipped).
the shrimp dish with stinky bean was served over lontong but at $7, merely so-so. not strong flavor the sambal, and the petai had none of the bitter strong bite I was expecting (had this dish at minangasli recently and it was better there) but still, pretty good.
the asenin (sp?) was not very good, some sorta coleslaw with a curious iron/seaweed taste that didn't mesh very well; no heat, no sour, no real sweet either, just very subdued in flavor even though it was swimming in oil. the little steamed crepe thing was good though, a small green steamed crepe folded over a brown filling.
the anchovy krupuk was amazing of course, and the peanutty steamed thing was also really good; imagine a giant pancake filled with peanutty stuff, and what tasted like arequipe but not as sweet.
overall, I thought it was good but at the same time, I don't think I'll be hitting it up again in 3 weeks (not sure of exact date but that's what they said); gado-gado overload? it's all delicious but . . . . ya maybe too much of a good thing. I will give a separate report on my minang-asli meal though.
It was my first time there. I found the gado-gado to be absolutely excellent -- of course, each one could be slightly different as they are made to order -- and the durian shakes from the same stand to be perfectly balanced. The es cendol was fun, but I realize that I enjoy this more as a concept than a beverage. The vendor just to the left of the entrance to the female side of the mosque made a very refershing drink whose name I forgot--does anyone remember? It was like a cross between lemonade and orange-ade, made with a pre-fab syrup.
But I was very disappointed with the rendang and jackfruit at the vendor (so cute how they all have little names of warung this or that) immediately to the left as you enter. Really nothing interesting on the flavor front.
Got some takeaway fruit rojak from one of the vendors on the right, and it was an amazing topping to some zucchini pancakes made later that evening. It's a great summer condiment. Highly recommended.
What about soups? I was intrigued by that black beef soup--any good? I went with one of the mee sodo's for something for my baby, but she was a no-go on fish balls or chewy beef balls. A martabak (egg fritter) was a good choice...
I think the frittery/crepy/desserty things will be the things to explore if I go back -- I just had one pretty nice martabak fritter for my baby-- but some of the stuff with sticky rice and syrup looks worthwhile. But I do wish there were more complext spiced items there... ah well.
I hope people know, though, this isn't a very big festival, and I wouldn't say it highlights the tastiest of Indonesian food... more like an emphasis on carnival/snack food. Not that that's bad, just limited.
I took notes, mostly legible, last Sunday. My camera crapped out, but an en-iPhoned friend showed up, so I'll try to embed pictures. I've never done that here, so the results are not guaranteed.
They got the very good idea of labellng the booths with names, so that even though they move around, we should be able to identify them by the names. The typical names start with Warung [food stall] Bu or Ibu (lit. "mother," a respsectful term for a lady of a certain age). But I didn't write down most of the names. Two of the best booths seem to be in fixed locations, which is helpful.
Incidentally, a lot of the Indonesians don't eat there; they just buy prepared food. There's not enough seating but if you don't mind sitting on the sidewalk and show up early enough so that there's shade, that's not a problem. One of the organizers told me that they're looking for a larger venue, but who knows what will come of that.
The booths have different foods each time, so giving a detailed description is not necessarily helpful, but here goes, anyway.
As you go in, past the grilled corn, first on the right is the Warung Tuson (sp ?), which featured sate (on-a-stick) sapi (beef), kambing (probably lamb - in Indonesia, it's goat), and ayam (chicken); something called "sausage [from the city of] Solo," and arem-arem (tempeh, bean sprouts, sticky rice, with coconut water and sweet soy sauce).
Next booth - I didn't write down the name - featured a "New Menu" with Bakso Malang (chewy meatballs in soup), pecel (veggies in peanut sauce), Rawon (black-colored soup w/beef), siomay (shiumay), and a number of dishes already packaged to go: kacang ikan teri (dried anchovies + peanuts}, sambal (hot sauce), rempeyak (crackers of peanut + coconut milk), and various kinds of krupuk (cripsy crackers)
Then (proceeding towards the back), a tub + refrigerated case with drinks, then a door to the mosque, then one of the fixed booths mentioned above, labeled Warung Bu Saemah. I didn't get anything here this time - had to try some new booths - but the previous two times, this has been one of the best booths. They always have some things packaged to go, including some kind of asinan (sweet-sour veggies), and some kind of rujak (fruit salad). This time the rujak was "rujak coklat" (c is proounced roughly like English ch), which I was too scared to try.
Next booth (no name; sorry) they had pepes (wrapped-in-banana leaf) kingfish (a lot of places had that this time), various kinds of rempeyek (not just the peanut kind), and bakso (meatball soup).
Next booth back had only sate Padang, which is very, very dried beef with a loppy tumeric sauce instead of the usual peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce. It tasted better than it looked. I was disappointed because in Indonesia they make it with offal.
Next booth back was visually dominated by the grilled fish. This is where Jeff got his shrimp and petai, maybe as part of a "nasi campur" (mixed rice) plate. This was labeled udang (shrimp) blado (chili sauce); they also offered ayam and ikan (chicken and shrimp) blado. I got their pepes ikan (fish with coconut in banana leaf). The pepes itself was reasonably tasty; the accompanying veggies maybe not quite so much. Their es buah (fruit ice) was pleasant; nothing special. They also had a selection of, um, Chinatown-quality dvd's.
Last booth on the right, at the back, had only food to go: cucur (fried rice-flour cake), lemper (rice cooked w/coconut milk, with a savory chicken filling, wrapped in banana leaf), pastel (what you think), empek-empek (fish cake, usually served with sweetened vinegar), ikan pepes (fish in banana leaf), and some things I can't figure out from my notes.
ACROSS THE BACK there were two booths. The one on the right (about 2/3 of the space) is another "fixed position" booth. This is run by the mosque itself, so is called the Warung Al-Hikmah. They have smoothies on the right and gado-gado on the left. They also have some shelfs of packaged goods in the back, and to-go foods in the front, including home-made tempeh, botak (shrimp, veggies, coconut steamed in anana leaves), aram-aram (see booth 1 above), otak-otak (fish steamed in banana leaves), tempeh bacam ("marinated" in sweet/sour sauce).
The booth in the back on the left had: mie ayam pangsit (chicken noodle soup w/dumplings), and gudheg (young jackfruit in a sweet-ish sauce). Also some decent-looking batiks.
COMING DOWN THE LEFT SIDE FROM BACK TO FRONT:
Warung Bu Sri who had the best sate (beef and chicken) I've had there. (Claimer: she's a friend)
Next booth had empek-empek, abon (shredded beef - keeps forever; just sprinkle it on rice), otak-otak, sambal.
Next booth had sate ayam, ayam goreng (fried chicken; it's first boiled, then fried. I don't like it, but most people do. I didn't try it here.) Es cendol (see Jeff's post), es buah (fruits). There's always a huge line here for the ices.
Next booth was empty (a first)
Next both had tahu (tofu) siomay (i.e., in soup), bubur ayam ati ampela (congee w/chicken liver and gizzards; wish I'd tried that), and many, many things to go: martabak manis (pancake w/sweet filling), molen pisang (banana baked in a sweet crust), etc.
Next was Warung Angi, which had the brilliant Buntil (coconut and small fish in cassava leaves, all in spiced coconut milk. You can eat the leaves), es cendol, dendeng (very dried meat) blado (this was to go only, I think), sate padang.
Next was Warung Bu Deh which had lots of stuff to go, mostly snacks. I don't know what kue bawang (onion/garlic cakes) are; should have gotten some. They had tape (two syllables), which is a mildly alcholic sweet made from fermented rice. (Don't know what the religious implicatons are of that, either.) In addition to the to-go stuff, there was a rather extensive selection of hot dishes to make up a "nasi rames" or "nasi campur" (mixed plate with rice). The ones I can read my writing on were: telur blado (hard-boiled eggs in chili sauce), gule nangka (young-jackfruit curry), rendang (beef cooked for a very long time in spiced coconut milk), sayuran (veggies in coconut milk),
something with tempe (kering, maybe? - cooked until dry w/red peppers and peanuts), ayam bubu rujak (chicken with a sweet-salty sauce that's usually used on fruit salad - this is a very popular dish with westerners).
The pix are (1) the tables; (2) pepes ikan w/ accompanying rice + vegges (and pink things); (3) buntil (sate padang in back on the left); (4) some selections for nasi campur
A few more pix:
(1) Bu Sri with her sate in the background (her smile is typical; everybody's very friendly)
(2) making gado-gado (ground fresh for each order). The camera was shaken in order to simulate an authentic earthquake.
(3) grilling fish
(4) various cake-like things for sale
geckofeet, that was an awesome rundown, really helpful; I definitely had the shrimp with the chinatown DVDs nearby, we had the martabak manis from the booth on the left next to the empty one. (can you recommend any of those other goodies in that last picture you uploaded? I was curious about the pink striped one). i did not enjoy the asinan (as I explained) but thanks for the positive ID on that booth. didn't get any sate but I will def try from your friend next time (far left corner, next to the batik vendor lady which replaced the vendor from the previous one that had all pre-packaged goods and wasn't moving product at all!
interestingly, when I ate at minangasli a week later, they carried many of the same to-go stuff, like various krupuk, the yuca slathered and dried with sambal, and a few other items that I saw at the bazaar; when I asked the proprietress if they made it fresh in the restaurant (thinking that maybe they had a booth at the bazaar) she said that they buy it from somewhere, which could mean that some of those warungs either have plenty of side business or, some of those warungs are just selling pre-packaged goods, which would really suck.
by the way, hope I didn't come off too negative on my post, my other review from the first link (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5517...) was better I think, probably because I tried more things too. your rundown makes me want to go again even though I thought I wouldn't want to! armed with all the info, it's perfect. i just might bite the bullet and get that fried thing that has an egg in the middle, and topped with more crispy noodles! last stall on the right side; was this the cucur perhaps?
Hi, Jeff; thanks for the advisory that the shrimp-and-stinkbean thing wasn't as good as it looked. The local Malaysian restaurants have something similar, hiding under a name like "sambal petai," and it's a favorite of ours. But thanks to your report, we don't have to sulk.
I have no idea what the fried thing with the egg was; I didn't see it; it definitely wasn't cucur. You said is was 'topped with more crispy noodles!" implying that there were crispy noodles underneath, so the whole thing might have been fried noodles (bahmi or bakmi goreng). Those often have a rather leathery fried egg on top, a habit that the Indonesians picked up from the Dutch. Preps with the egg are often distinguished with the word 'istimewa' ("special") which corresponds to your exclamation point.
As for recommending the various sweet pastries, well, I don't find them infinitely alluring. An acquaintance once remarked, "Asians just don't understand deserts." We can all think of exceptions to that, but it's not a bad rule of thumb. One exception that I meant to try but forgot - not at that heavily laden desert table, but at one of the booths on the right side towards the back (the last one, just before the door to the mosque), was 'serabi' which is a pancake of sweetened fermented coconut-milk-based batter. The ones I'm familiar with are hemispherical, crispy at the edges and thicker in the middle, and they have optional toppings of jackfruit or chocolate sprinkles (another Dutch legacy). The ones at that booth were flat and green, presumably from pandanus (plus a violent food color). They're best eaten warm.
I actually know several of the cooks - we play in a Javanese orchestra (gamelan) group @ the Indonesian consulate. The ladies bring food to rehearsals; some of us Westerners also bring food. That's where I learned some things.
Oh, as for making things fresh/buying prepackaged - some of the things *are* made elsewhere and packaged, most obviously in the case of the sweet-laden table (none of the people there were cooks), but "elsewhere" means somebody's home or, at worst, a local restaurant. There's no factory churning this stuff out. (Exception: stuff packaged in Indonesia and shipped here, but that will still be in packages, at the back of the mosque's booth.) The ladies who cook are very proud of their cooking (and subtly competitive). It's pretty easy to tell which booths house real cooks and which don't (only a few) - the latter sell only stuff to go. I think there were three of these, but even these are just selling stuff from their neighbors.
very reassuring, your valuable words of knowledge! but definitely I saw large triangular fried things which had whole eggs in the middle (and a runny yolk); they were freshly fried and served UNDER crispy noodles; plus some sauce. I meant that as if ibeingt a poached egg wrapped in some sort of fried carb shroud wasn't crazy enough, there were fried noodles on top to boot! I was just too scared of it.
again, thanks for the tips! will keep it in hand for next time!
The fried thing with an egg in the middle...
is a variation on empek-empek, according to one of the ladies at the bazaar, who writes that this term "refers to generic fish cake, boiled, then deep fried, and served with (strong -tasting for the uninitiated) sauce made of vinegar, palm sugar, garlic, chili, and sometimes ground dried shrimp. It is a popular snack in Sumatra, but now popular in other provinces too. The exact name of that empek-empek in your photo is 'kapal selam', which literally means submarine. The raw egg is added before the fish dough is folded and boiled."
re: hoi lai
you can take the E/F train to the Van Wyck/Briarwood station, from there it's about a 10-15 minute walk. Get off at the north side of the station and walk towards 84th drive, make a left and just keep walking up that street, it will wind and curve but stick with it and you're there! very simple and so worth it.
and, older thread for inspiration.