I find it unendingly ironic that, even though we live in the most diverse borough of New York City where 44% of our neighbors are foreign-born, our choice of good ethnic food for takeout is severely limited. We love Forest Hills, we really do. We love our apartment and our view, our neighborhood grocery stores, and the quiet streets. We love the crusty pizza at Nick's and the pierogies at Just Like Mother's. If we're up for a little journey, we can hop in the car and be the only white people in a stuffed-to-the-gills Korean restaurant or a Chinese dim sum hall or an Indian buffet in just a few minutes.
But this isn't really enough.
What I mean is, we're New Yorkers. We expect good ethnic food to be brought to us, still hot, in under half an hour. It seems like it should be one of the small benefits of living in New York. Yes, we'll put up with noise and filth and cramped quarters and expense in return for old black-and-white movies at Film Forum, the incomparable experience of walking from the West Village to the Lower East Side on a warm spring morning, and authentic immigrant cuisine at a moment's notice.
But since we left the aforementioned filth and noise and cramped quarters for the comparative expanse of Queens, does that mean we also forfeited our right to good takeout? Because, surprise or no surprise, Forest Hills has been downright disappointing in that area. We've ordered mediocre Thai from the same little place so often that Ben finally told me this weekend that he is officially putting it on the No-Order list, along with the sub-par, yet expensive, Indian down the road, and the creepy Chinese that definitely resembles no other Chinese food I've ever come into contact with. And that's it. That's all we've got. So we're in a bit of a pickle, I'd say.
One that requires taking matters into our own hands. When I read about Irene Wong's Burmese noodles (can we talk for a minute about how much I am liking this new New York Times column, One Pot?) last week, though, I realized, suddenly gripped by a burning urge to make them, that I could just stop whining and simply make my own takeout.
And truthfully, in the time it would have taken to make the phone call and then wait for food to be delivered, the dish came together one, two, three. It was delicious: earthy and slick at the same time. At first I thought it odd that the highly seasoned, turmeric-stained chicken (well, er, tofu, actually - I took one liberty there) mixture didn't get incorporated into the noodles, which were relatively bland upon first tasting them. But then, as we ate, the tastes all started to mix together pleasantly in our bowls and it turned out to be just the right amount of flavors and spice.
Paired with an ice-cold beer or two you might even start to think that life without takeout is livable, indeed.
We're planning a trip to Israel quite soon and I'm wondering, dear readers, if you have any tips for interesting markets or bakeries or other food-related visits? If so, please leave them in the comments. Thank you!
6 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces fresh Asian noodles or dried egg noodles
5 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs or extra-firm tofu, cut into slices 1 1/2 inches long by 1 inch wide by 1/2-inch thick
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons (about 2 cloves) minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fish sauce
8 ounces baby bok choy, cut lengthwise into pieces 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide
1/4 cup peeled, finely slivered carrot
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 to 4 lemon wedges, for serving
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon oil and a sprinkle of salt. Boil noodles until barely tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse thoroughly under cold water and drain again. Set aside.
2. Season chicken pieces with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside. Place a medium skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. Add onion, garlic and ginger, and sauté until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add chicken, curry powder, paprika, fish sauce and 2 tablespoons water. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm.
3. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Add bok choy and sauté until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add carrots and noodles and sauté until well heated, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
4. To serve, divide noodle mixture between two warm plates. Top each portion with half the chicken mixture. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges.