Culture North America
Foreign Cuisine Finder: New York City
February 16, 2017
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Foreign Cuisine Finder | Duende by Madam ZoZo

You would be hard pressed finding a cuisine that isn’t available in New York City. One of the most diverse and interesting aspects of the melting pot city is the array of international influences. In the Foreign Cuisine Finder series I share all the delicious discoveries I make on my global adventures, and while in NYC I came across these two foods that were entirely new to me.

Knish

Though one half of my paternal great grandparents were Jewish, they passed away before I was born and I never had much exposure to the culture or cuisine (their descendents were less observant of their faith). The New York City metropolitan area is home to the largest population of  Jewish people outside of Israel, which makes it the perfect place to be introduced to traditional dishes such as the knish. The squares of dough are traditionally stuffed with onion and mashed potatoes or other savoury fillings, and fried until golden. Of course, time has seen them evolve new flavours savoury and sweet, and there is a loose code of baking round knishes and frying the square ones. Knishes were brought to New York by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and were sold from pushcarts in the early 20th century. Now there are knisheries like the historic Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery, where I sampled my first ever knish on a walking tour of the Lower East Side. I was sold on the first bite – such a warming, carb-loaded, comfort food on a cold and drizzly day.

Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery
Sir James outside Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery
Knish | Foreign Cuisine Finder NYC | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Knishes at Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery
Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery
Yonah Shimmel's Knish Bakery

Halva

Halva is a crumbly, sesame-paste (tahini) based fudge that makes the perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t have an overly sweet tooth. It is difficult to pinpoint the geographic origin of halva, however the first known halva recipe to be documented in writing dates back to the 13th century Kitab al-Tabikh (Book of Dishes), and further recipes appeared in Moorish Spain during the same century. As the sweet dish spread its wings and migrated across the Mediterranean and Central Asia, it was localised with regional ingredients including rosewater, pistachios, almonds, dates and coconut. Today in New York you will find a plethora of flavours available including chocolate. I love to eat it crumbled over creamy soft-serve ice cream from Seed + Mill at Chelsea Market. Eat it fresh and don’t buy the pre-packaged stuff, it is often bitter.

Seed + Mill, Chelsea Market | Foreign Cuisine Finder NYC | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Seed + Mill, Chelsea Market
Halva | Foreign Cuisine Finder NYC | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Halva heaven is at Seed + Mill in Chelsea Market, NYC
Pistachio halva sprinkled over goats milk ice cream at Seed + Mill | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Pistachio halva sprinkled over goats milk ice cream at Seed + Mill

If you have a favourite food discovery from your travels, please share it with us in the comments.

Bon appetit,

Madam ZoZo

Foreign Cuisine Finder NYC | Duende by Madam ZoZo

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I'm Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I'm passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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