Lets Bring an International Night Market to Queens, NYC

 

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In my travels, I always try to find the epitome of local comfort food. Most of the time that quest leads me to night markets. I’ve eaten so many awesome meals in night markets in the US, Europe, and Asia. Some dishes I can name, and others I wouldn’t be able to pronounce for all of the money in the world. That is one of the nice things about these markets, they challenge your tastebuds and open your mind (and palate) to new things. That’s why I am so excited to get involved with John Wang and his Kickstarter project to bring a night market filled with food and culture to Queens.

Check out the video below:

I sat down with John and asked him a few questions about QueensNightMarket.com, but before you read this interview, go and help fund this project. Even a small $15 pledge will help, and it will get you vouchers for free food. Of course, you could be a fat boy like me and buy an “all you can eat VIP wrist band”.

Anyway, here’s my interview with John.

What made you decide to do this?

A: I used to be a corporate lawyer, which led to a lot of international travel. Visiting local markets is my favorite way to learn about other cultures when traveling.

Museums, sightseeing, those are all great — but it’s really the immersion in the local food, art, and commerce that I love most. So, when I left my attorney job, I decided I wanted to try to create a lasting cultural fixture in NYC… to get NYC its own Night Market. That’s how the Queens International Night Market project started — almost exactly a year ago now.

Do you have a favorite Night Market from your travels?

A: Not really. I was first introduced to the Night Markets in Taiwan, but Night Markets all over the place. And each of them is unique in its own way, which is another reason why the concept of Night Markets in general is so great.

Why Queens? 

A: Queens it the most diverse area in the world. Nowhere else can you see so much diversity just from minute-to-minute, corner-to-corner. I consider the unprecedented cultural and ethnic diversity as one of NYC’s greatest assets, and we can really use that diversity to create a uniquely New York Night Market. One where you can bring your parents, your kids, your date, or your friends. It’ll be tremendously fun and electric, but also cultural and enriching.

What can the public do to help?

A: The first answer is a little self-promotional, but checking out our Kickstarter page and sharing, sharing, sharing. We are trying to raise quite a bit of money, but it’s really the only way we are going to be able to subsidize vendor fees so that we can really showcase a diverse array of culturally authentic street foods, art, and merchandise. We plan to charge vendors a fraction of what they would pay to participate at other markets and fairs in NYC. The outpouring of support from all around the community and NYC has been humbling. It really makes me believe that NYC and Queens is totally ready for its own Night Market.

What are the biggest obstacles you face from here?

A: I already mentioned the fundraising, and that’s a given. We will need some time to get through the bureaucratic permitting processes and will really need to keep curating the vendors that best fit our mission. We don’t want to be a replica of the street fairs and fleas and markets you already see. We want to be cultural and authentic, really featuring as much as we can of the diversity that makes NYC and Queens so great. So, a lot of the remaining task is to get the word our to potential backers as well as potential vendors.

What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?

A: I want our vendors to share their stories with all our visitors, relating what they’re selling to their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I want people to try things they’ve never tried before… I’d love the Asian communities in Flushing to come out and try Latin American street foods for the first time. I’d love Latin Americans to come out to try Southeast Asian and African street foods for the first time. That kind of thing. I want to broaden horizons. We can do something uniquely international, yet uniquely local.

 

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Water, Pressure, and Fire… or Getting Started With Sous Vide and Blowtorches

Butter poached sous-vide lobster tail with some roasted beet chips that i made for Valentine's Day

Butter poached sous-vide lobster tail with some roasted beet chips that i made for Valentine’s Day

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to document my food experiments. I’ve always been a curious person. One day while eating some soppressata, something that I’ve done hundreds of times growing up in an Italian-American household, I began to wonder why it tasted so different than a cooked sausage. I became obsessed with charcuterie and, seven years later, I have dried salumi hanging in my basement and an industrial strength sausage stuffer in my kitchen arsenal. Once, I wondered why barbecue was so delicious… two smokers and five pig roasts later, I consider myself proficient in the art of smoke.

Around 10 years ago, I had my first experience with sous-vide cooking  at Wylie Dufresne‘s WD-50 on the Lower East Side. Sous-vide is a method of cooking where you vacuum seal food in a bag, then cook it for a period of time in a water bath that is kept at a constant temperature. The result is food that is perfectly cooked every time.  After that meal, I did a bit of research and found out that a proper sous-vide cooking set-up would run me thousands of dollars. Since I didn’t feel like dropping that much cash, my education on the subject from that point on was purely theoretical. Over the years, home immersion circulators (the device that keeps the water bath at a proper temperature) have come on to the market. When Anova launched a $200 circulator that got amazing reviews, I thought that it was about time for me start messing around with this crazy method of cooking.

The first thing I cooked with my new toy was eggs. People are crazy about getting the perfect egg. There is a ton of information on how one degree in temperature can make or break and egg (no pun intended). In fact,  #YolkPorn is a popular Instagram tag where people document their soft boiled eggs. The Anova did not disappoint. I made a breakfast of eggs, and avocado over toasted crusty bread. The yolk was like custard. From that moment on I became slightly obsessed with seeing what other foods that I’ve been cooking for years, could benefit from the sous-vide method.

 

 

Since then, my Anova has seen a ton of use.  I’ve cooked water bath vegetables. I made caramelized onions that cooked for 18 hours. I made ribs that fell apart in your mouth. I made the most tender, rare, strip-roast steak that I have ever eaten (fork tender… no knife needed). I made a salmon fillet that was perfectly cooked from the thickest piece to the thinnest end. I made rare butter-poached lobster. I made ginger syrup for our home bar with sugar, water, ginger, and a bit of Everclear. I even cooked a whole, butterflied chicken. I did this all by submerging food in a plastic bag in to a water bath. One of the big issues with this method of cooking meat or vegetables is that, while the inside is cooked to perfection, the outside doesn’t get that nice char or coloring that you get from frying or grilling. Honestly, it looks pretty gross. You need to add a sear to the outside of your meats to get that awesome color, flavor and texture. Up until a few days ago, I would do this in a hot skillet or a quick trip to the grill. Then I got a Searzall for my birthday (thanks, mom and dad). The Searzall is an attachment that hooks up to a common blowtorch and turns it in to a professional grade searing machine. It gets hotter than your broiler, and is extremely convenient for searing foods that come out of the water bath. Last night I used it to finish off a whole roasted porgy, crisping the skin to perfection. (Side-note: Fish skin that is descaled, brushed with butter, then seared is like seafood bacon. Yum)

 

Crispy porgy skin is like the bacon of the sea. #notafoodie cc: @bookeranddaxlab #Searzall A video posted by Tom Miale (@tmiale) on

 

I really haven’t been this excited about cooking in a long time. I’m constantly sizing up food items at the grocery store and thinking “How will this taste if I cook it under pressure in a water bath then hit it with a blowtorch?”. Today for lunch I had a bit of French Onion Soup (from sous-vide overnight onions) with some perfectly bubbly brown “Searzalled” gruyere on top. So, assuming my house doesn’t burn down from frequent use of a blowtorch, look for some more sous-vide recipes coming to this space soon. I HIGHLY recommend this set up for home cooks out there that want to try something new. Feel free to ask me any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Getting started with sous vide cooking is pretty easy. Here are a few links to the products I use. (Note: I bought my propane from a local sporting goods store… it’s like $3-$4 per canister. Also, I very rarely use my vacuum sealer; I use Ziplock bags most of the time):

 

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