This past Saturday, I met up with a friend at Hester Street Fair to grab an early afternoon bite and catch up on life happenings. It was a rough day for public transportation. No trains here, detours there, but after a few train changes, we both made it there. Hooray! The weather was scorching hot and I could already see the sweat stains appearing on my shirt. (Perhaps, I should have worn a different color that day. Puts down head.) The food vendors differ from week to week, so there were a couple of familiar names but also a couple of new ones too. Daisy Dukes BBQ was serving their savory pulled pork sandwich. I found myself amused by The Poffertjes Man while they assembled their mini dutch pancakes. Brooklyn Oyster Party had raw, fresh oysters. At the end, we decided to line up at Brooklyn Taco Co for one of their delicious tacos and a Mexican street corn.
Their brisket taco is always amazing, with their slowly braised briskets in those awesome clay pots. The meat is so full of flavor. The street corn was wonderful as well. The corn was naturally sweet, prepared with a brush of mayo and some hot sauce. Normally it’s also covered with cheese, but I opted for no cheese.
To tackle the heat, I picked up an avocado paleta, Mexican ice pop, from La Newyorkina. The avocado flavor was delightful and creamy, lightly sweet, and so refreshing. I had to eat it quickly though. It started melting under the scorching sun in no time. My friend, on the other hand, looked for something a little less messy. We walked over to The Shaved Ice Shop. She was tempted to pick up the shaved ice extravaganza, but went with a more conservative red bean ice drink. Afterwards, we walked around looking at business cards made out of cereal boxes and specialty foods.
There are so many cupcakes/pastry shops everywhere, and there’s always new bakers popping up in the city. So when I came across Filled with Sweets, I was curious to find out what their specialty was. Filled With Sweets features baked goods with Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients. In a friendly conversation with Terry, the baker/owner, she told me that the idea was to introduce more Asian flavors into the world of pastries, cupcakes and such. Although she currently only sells cupcakes and cookies, the concept was to create desserts filled with goodness while incorporating some of her Asian heritage into the works.
She had two of her cupcake flavors for sale, one of which was the black sesame cupcake. It’s a fluffy cupcake topped with a light black sesame frosting and secretly filled with a black sesame paste center. She also offered samples of her filled cookies to try. There was the matcha shortbread cookie which had red bean paste sandwiched between the two green tea shortbread cookies, and the maple black sugar coffee cream cookie which featured a coffee cream filling. The cookies were really good – soft and light, not overly sweet either. I thought it was really neat! It’ll be interesting to see what other combinations she comes with up and what other flavors she’ll use. She can be found on her Etsy shop. Check it out.
On our way out, the words “fish sauce” caught my eyes. Having grown up eating lots of Vietnamese food, fish sauce was like a childhood friend. Nuoc cham, a dipping sauce made with fish sauce, was there to accompany many meals and many dishes. It’s used as tasty dipping sauce for cha gio (spring rolls) or banh cuon (rice noodle rolls). Enjoy it over com suon (grilled pork chop over rice), pour it over banh xeo (Vietnamese pan-fried crepe), or as a dressing for bun thit nuong (rice vermicelli salad with grilled pork). Mm… talking about it just reminds me of those weekend family dinners with lots of delicious homemade Vietnamese food. (Sorry about the trailing off.)
There’s a lot ways to prepare nuoc cham, but the basic ingredients are usually fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, water, along with some minced or chopped garlic and chilis. All that creates a neat combination of salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. There’s many variations of nuoc cham, and everyone has their own way of preparing it that fits their taste buds best.
The Saucey Sauce Co introduces their line of ready-to-use nuoc cham with their Ultimate Spicy Garlic, Fresh Lemon, Sweet Ginger, and Ultimate Spicy Garlic Extreme, which is just like their Spicy Garlic but with more spicy and a chick with red hair on the bottle, instead of blue. I sampled their sauces and liked the Spicy Garlic ones the best. We had a fun conversation with peeps over at the Saucey Sauce. Their sauces are made with fresh local ingredients and are great as a light salad dressing or dipping sauce. They also recommend using it as a marinade.
They’re always looking to develop new flavors and are open to suggestions and ideas. That reminds me, you know what’s good with nuoc cham too? Other than the chopped chilis, crushed mint leaves also go really well with fish sauce, specifically the Vietnamese mint leaves, rau ram. (Even though it’s called Vietnamese mint, it’s actually not a mint, because other’s also call it Vietnamese cilantro. That’s probably because it tastes like a mix of mint, cilantro, and a touch of citrus.) It’s not the most innovative idea since Vietnamese mint leaves appear frequently in many dishes that uses nuoc cham, but still a nice pairing. Mint fish sauce, perhaps?
I ended up picking up a bottle of the Ultimate Spicy Garlic. It went well with the bowl of bun chay (vegetarian rice vermicelli salad with tofu) that I assembled the other day. Let’s see how long it lasts. However, fish sauce is very high in sodium, so I’ll have to use it in moderation.
More Hester Street Fair related posts: here