Monday, May 09, 2011
Hot Sauce Paradise
This is a shelf at the Hong Kong Supermarket in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown. In that aisle are chili-based pastes, sauces, condiments and other cooking ingredients from a dozen countries. I make it point whenever I visit that market to buy a couple different ones, even though English-language specifics are quite lacking from most of the labels. I guess that makes me brave or foolish. I've found a couple I really like, especially the one in the upper right which is a very fresh-tasting sauce with a bunch of different languages on the label but one that is actually made in the U.S. The shelves rarely look the same way in two consecutive visits and I've found a couple favorites that vanished the next time I looked for them. One was a particularly tasty blend of toasted ground chili in oil that added a perfect smoky flavor to stir-fry.
Everybody's New York City is a little different. Some people love the Broadway shows and the fabulousness. Me, I like the fact that in one neighborhood you can have your choice of lunch at a Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Turkish, Mexican, Ecuadorean, Salvadorean, Dominican, or Colombian foods, and then find a grocery store to match. And how the two Polish delis came to be in the middle of all that is anybody's guess.
There's often street food to match. Mexican esquites was new to me in this neighborhood: corn kernels in broth seasoned with epazote, then served with a sprinkle of chili powder, Mexican cotija cheese (sorta like ground parmesan), a squirt of fresh lime juice and a dollop of mayonnaise. Then there's the truck with the Salvadorean pupusas, and the Ecuadorean cart with some very scary-looking cooked meat parts I have most definitely not been brave enough to try. In the morning by every subway station are women with grocery carts full of piping-hot fresh tamales and hot chocolate.
In my New York, there's not a Starbucks for miles.