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No Passport Required: An EQ Travel Sketchbook Entry

By / Photography By Nancy Pappas | April 30, 2018
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Leti Bakery Chorizo Comita Corona Queens New York
A Chorizo Comita from Leti Bakery in Corona.

This summer I went on a Queens food tour with a company called Culinary Backstreets. My tour guide, Esneider Arevalo, was a former chef who emigrated from Colombia to Queens in the late 1980s. 

Our first stop? La Espiga, a traditional Mexican tortillaria. On the weekends, they make barbacoa (slow-cooked meats) with fiery sauces. We ate tacos al pastor with fresh, hot tortillas.

Next was Leti bakery, which Esneider called “a love story of fusion cooking.” All the baked goods are Colombian and all the savory food is Mexican. We ate a choriza cemita (a sandwich with Mexican sausage), Oaxacan string cheese, pickled chipotle peppers and papalo (a Mexican herb resembling watercress, but with a distinctive flavor closer to cilantro).

Papalo, a Mexican herb resembling watercress, used at Leti Bakery in Corona, Queens.
Tacos al Pastor from La Espiga in Corona Queens New York.
Pickled chipotle peppers at Leti Bakery in Corona, Queens New York
A loaded hot dog from Prontito in Jackson Heights, Queens New York.
Photo 1: Papalo, a Mexican herb resembling watercress.
Photo 2: Tacos al Pastor from La Espiga in Corona.
Photo 3: Pickled chipotle peppers at Leti Bakery in Corona.
Photo 4: A loaded hot dog from Prontito in Jackson Heights.

Then there was Prontito, a colorful Colombian fast-food restaurant in Jackson Heights specializing in hot dogs loaded with pineapple sauce, coleslaw, bacon, potato chips, avocado and Colombian pink sauce (combined ketchup and mayonnaise), topped with a quail egg.

We made our way from Jackson Heights to Elmhurst, passing through a concrete park where a group of men had gathered to play Chinese poker.

At US Asian Supermarket, I held an enormous, spiky durian fruit and wondered at live eels and squishy geoducks. Who was the brave soul who first determined to eat such a strange-looking creature?

Durian fruit at the US Asian Supermarket in Elmhurst, Queens New York.
Live eels and geoduck at the US Asian Supermarket in Elmhurst, Queens New York.
Fermented fish and spicy papaya salad at Sugar Club in Elmhurst, Queens New York.
Kulu in Elmhurst serves Durian Royale a milky pudding with durian and shredded grapefruit.
Photo 1: Durian fruit at the US Asian Supermarket in Elmhurst.
Photo 2: Live eels and geoduck at the US Asian Supermarket in Elmhurst.
Photo 3: Fermented fish and spicy papaya salad at Sugar Club in Elmhurst.
Photo 4: Kulu in Elmhurst serves Durian Royale, a milky pudding with durian and shredded grapefruit.

At Sugar Club, the Thai grocery store on Broadway, we ate salty fermented fish and spicy papaya salad with crab, washed down with an electric purple blue-pea flower drink.

We finished the day at Kulu, an Asian café specializing in durian desserts. We ate the Durian Royale: a milk-based pudding mixed with durian and shredded grapefruit. It smelled a little like rotten eggs, but tasted mild and sweet. 

I’d traveled around the world without leaving Queens.

Culinary Backstreets | @culinarybackstreets
La Espiga
Mama’s Leti’s Café
Prontito 
US Asian Supermarket
Sugar Club
Kulu Desserts | @kuludesserts

Article from Edible Queens at http://ediblequeens.ediblecommunities.com/eat/no-passport-required-eq-travel-sketchbook-entry-0
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