If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
30. GALBI at BAPCHA
I’ve been giving Food Cart Tours now with Urban Oyster for a little over six months. And the tour has expanded since we started to include more trucks and carts. I’m still meeting new vendors every day and tasting new food. But the first contact I was able to personally make for the company was with John and Jeanie Lee at Bapcha, formerly known as the Bulgogi and Kimchi Cart.
Bapcha means “food cart” in Korean and the couple sells delicious, freshly prepared Korean food. Everything from mandu (fried dumplings) to kimchi (fermented cabbage) to galbi (beef short ribs). And when I first tried the galbi, I knew that this cart had to be part of our tour.
The short ribs are marinated in a special Korean soy sauce (that includes the secret ingredient: pear juice). It’s grilled to well past medium rare, but it maintains a tender chewiness that is reminiscent of brisket. The taste is smoky and sweet. The fat is almost non-existent but the flavor is all there. With a squirt of hot sauce and a side of sweet korean noodles, this is a perfect lunch alternative to a burger. Or a steak sandwich. Price: $8
|South Side of West 49th Street (between Avenue of the Americas and 7th Avenue)
29. PEANUT PORRIDGE at JAMIACAN DUTCHY
SADLY, JAMAICAN DUTCHY IS NOW CLOSED.
Breakfast is served way too early for me. At Jamaican Dutchy, they start serving it at 7am and keep it going until about 11. And as of late, I’ve reverted back to my teenage days and sleep until about then. Partly it’s because I’m up all night writing blog entries.
So I’m never in midtown early enough to taste Jamaican Dutchy’s authentic breakfast foods like salt fish, callaloo, and different types of porridges. The porridges rotate depending on the day (sometimes banana porridge, sometimes hominy porridge, etc.) On Fridays, they make peanut porridge.
And one of the perks of giving these Food Cart tours is that I’ve become friends with many of the vendors and Ricky at Jamaican Dutchy has been kind enough to save me some porridge on numerous occasions. I’ve only gotten to taste the peanut porridge, but it’s pretty outrageous.
Porridge is similar to oatmeal, but less grainy and more creamy. It has pieces of peanuts and comes close to a rich peanut butter flavor with a touch of sweetness. I can’t imagine eating this for breakfast every day (because of the richness), but I imagine that’s why they alternate porridge flavors. It’s served hot in a paper cup and on a cold day on the streets of NYC, it’s just what the doctor ordered. No matter what time of day it is. Price: $4
|West 51st Street (at 7th Avenue)
Follow on Twitter: @jamaicandutchy
28. SPEKULOOS SPREAD at WAFELS & DINGES
Most of you know in addition to searching for the best food in NY, leading food cart tours, and waiting tables, I’ve also been tackling Time Out New York’s Top 100 Dishes of the year. And truth be told, their annual list is what inspired me to compile this long and rambling list of dishes.
And so many of the items I have on this countdown come from last year’s Time Out list (partly because that list made up about 1/3 of my meals last year). The new list was released in October, right when I was putting together my own Top 100. And the one item that coincidentally appeared on both their list and my list (completely coincidentally) was the Spekuloos Spread at Wafels & Dinges.
And what’s even funnier is that we both picked the sauce that they put on their fantastic Belgian-style waffles. The waffles themselves (which come in two forms – Brussels and Liege) are great, but the spread that is listed as a possible dinges (topping) is just amazing.
Spekuloos is a Dutch or Belgian holiday cookie very similar to a gingerbread. Wafels & Dinges makes it into a spreadable condiment, much like nutella or peanut butter. In fact many people on the tour think this is peanut butter at first. Or maybe a melted-down Teddy Graham. It has sweet, spicy notes of gingerbread and graham crackers. And with some whipped cream and bananas is a perfect addition to any waffle. Or buy a jar for yourself and eat it out of the jar. Like Pooh and his honey. Price: Free with purchase of a waffle, $7.95 for jar
|WAFELS & DINGES|
Follow on Twitter: @waffletruck
27. CHILLED BERRY SOUP at BISTRO TRUCK
SADLY, BISTRO TRUCK IS NOW CLOSED.
It’s the dream of every street food junkie to have all the carts and trucks in one location. And in many ways, the Vendy Awards brings that dream to reality each year. They’re hosted by the Street Vendors Project and with the price of admission, you get to sample the food of all the nominees.
This year I was fortunate enough to attend with Urban Oyster and can tell you I can’t wait until next year. I had some amazing food that day, but one dish in particular really blew my mind and surpassed all expectations. It was an unassuming little sample of the Chilled Berry Soup from the Bistro Truck.
Bistro Truck is usually parked in the Flatiron District and I’ve had some of their Mediterranean food in the past. But I had never tried their soup. The chilled berry soup (which is currently not available in the cold weather) was such a refreshing treat at the Vendy Awards. It was a thick, yet smooth blend of berries and spices. It’s slightly sweet, but savory enough to be a great appetizer. And a swirl of yogurt or two held the whole thing together. There was so much food at the event and I had to resist taking another cup to ensure I had room to sample everything. But you can be sure I will be returning to the truck come next summer when I pray the soup will be available once again.
|Fifth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Street)
Follow on Twitter: @bistrotruck
Photo Courtesy of: foodie-call.com
26. TILAPIA WITH GREEN CHILI SAUCE at KWIK MEAL
I would have never thought to order fish from a cart. I think of Halal Carts and the things that come to mind are chicken, lamb, falafel, and rice. With a few sauces thrown in for good measure.
Well, Muhammed Rahman of Kwik Meal (and formerly a sous chef at the Russian Tea Room) likes to keep the culinary surprises coming. We visit Kwik Meal on the tour and sample his fantastic falafel. But I figured I should be as well-versed in his menu as possible. So I came early one day to try his fish.
It’s grilled to order (they even ask you for a temperature on the salmon) and it tastes unlike any fish I’ve ever had. It’s been marinated in a mix of Bengali spices and is topped with Muhammed’s special green chili sauce. Basmati rice (with lots of Indian spices), fresh mixed vegetables (from mushrooms to snap peas), and a white sauce (yogurt based) add to the perfect composition of the dish. I can’t remember when I’ve ever had tilapia this flavorful and tender. It inspired me to buy some myself and try to cook it. But I just don’t have the same magic as Muhammed, so I’ll stick to his preparations from now on. Price: $8.50
|West 45th Street (at Sixth Avenue)