December 16, 2007

Last Weekend: Part 2: Pupusas, Dumplings, Jumping, Tea, and Breakfast

A pupusa is a magical entity of foodliness. Mention it to someone who knows of the tasty corn-based delight it brings and you'll get an enthusiastic, wide-eyed—teetering on the edge of maniacal—response more appropriate for the ending of a college football game, like, "YEAAAH, PUPUSSAAAAS, THE OTHER TEAM CAN SUCK IT!"

Thar be pupusas

Kathy and I met up with Janet at Bahia, a Salvadoran restaurant in Williamsburg, to indulge in some PUPUSSAAAAS, thick corn tortilla-stuffed patties cooked to some degree of crispiness on a griddle. (Kathy already wrote about our meal a week ago. You should read it!)

As we waited outside the restaurant for Janet, Kathy said something comical about not wanting to indulge in anything too heavy (such as the "fried yucca with chunks of fried pork" that I had my eye on). Huh? She said...what? Her request was completely reasonable, but at the same time something I couldn't fulfill—experience has shown us that the combination of the Chan and Lee stomachs tends to result in gut-busting meals that most nutritionists would warn against eating, unless their patient were anorexic and needed to gain 20 pounds, stat. We have do this while we're still young and packed with healthy, vivacious organs. It's not like we're underaged binge drinkers or drug addicts, you know? (Somehow I always use that reasoning that I'm not doing anything illegal to make me feel less guilty about eating the way I do.)


I started with a horchata, one of the few drinks I will always go for when spotted on a menu. My reaction to horchata is similar to my reaction to pupusas: freaking out, pointing, flailing, etc. As Kathy said, this was some intensely sesame-flavored stuff, unlike any other horchata we had ever tasted. 'Twas the dawning of a new horchata. I may as well pull this description from her blog as well (originally from Nadia Mokhtar's review):

"It's an eclectic mix of roasted then grinded sesame seeds, cinnamon, cocoa, and a Latin American fruit called 'Morro' which she (mother of the owners) ships from El Salvador to her sons every three months. The powder is then blended with sugar and water and served in a huge glass for $1.75."

I think the morro may have given it that extra "what the heck am I tasting?" flavor. It tasted kind of medicinal in that natural home brewed way, as though someone ground up a bunch of stuff with a mortar and pestle and made it into the sweet, mildly grainy liquid that was sitting in front of me. It was pretty awesome. Make sure you order it.


The three of us shared six pupusas (I democratically cut each one into neat thirds) in addition to the five other items we got (oh yes, you will see). Six different pupusas, of course: pork, cheese & loroco, refried beans & cheese, cheese & zucchini, chicken & cheese, and a combination pork, refried beans & cheese. Pork is good enough to stand on its own, but we decided everything else would be best with the addition of a melted cheese blanket. And the ones with the cheese did taste the best. The texture of the gooey cheese perfectly matches the thick corn pancake. And bread. And chips. And hamburger. And tuna salad. And fries. Etc.

Melted cheese goes well with a lot of things is what I'm trying to say.

pupusa innards

I sadly do not have a classic "pulling of hot, stringy cheese tendrils" photo, but here's a little chunk of pupusa, methinks filled with cheese, pork and beans. The gutbomb trio. Wrap that in a layer of thick corn tortilla and you've got yourself 3/5ths of the food pyramid (or whatever the hell this is) in one bite. You're only missing fruits and vegetables! Heh!...euh.

stuff to go with pupusas
Mm, crunchy

But there are some vegetables! The pupusas came with a simple curtido—a side of crunchy pickled shredded cabbage—and a thin, spicy tomato-based sauce. The tart cabbage and the hot sauce increased the deliciousness of the pupusas by a buttload. And by that I mean "a lot." The corn dough soaked up the sauce and the cabbage also gave crunch to what was mostly soft and a little chewy. Make sure you get this stuff.


Janet ordered chirmol, a mixture of diced tomato, radish, red onions, scallions, cilantro and lime juice. Like the cabbage and the hot sauce, this also went well with the pupusas. It probably goes well with everything. And it has nutrients! If you want those!

empanada de leche empanada de leche
Empanada de leche

My first thought upon seeing the empanada de leche—a fried sweet plantain pattie stuffed with homemade pastry cream with cinnamon—was that it looked like a sugar-dusted turd. That's just how my mind works. Of course, it didn't taste like turd (not that I...know what one tastes like), but like a super-ripe plantain filled with cream. I don't think I can handle plantain at super-ripeness. It had this taste...the taste of plantain, to the 10th power. Right. Apparently I'm not very used to it. Not that I'd want bland plantain either, but this tasted a bit off-key to me. Oops. :(

fried yucca!

I love fried yucca. It has that light, kind of flaky, mealy texture underneath a crisp carbonized shell. Carbonized. Is that what happens? I don't really do science.

I found the fried yucca a little bland, but with a few squeezings of fresh lime and flicks of the salt shaker, it was all good. Better under-seasoned than over-seasoned anyway. I remember one time when my friend put too much salt on her fries. HELLO, SODIUM POISONING!

chicken tamale

Kathy insisted we get both tamales—chicken and corn—after I revealed the shocking fact that that I never had a tamale. Or maybe I did once. Basically, my tamale eating experience was embarrassingly nonexistent and something had to be done about it.

Unfortunately, the chicken tamale was boring, as Kathy pointed out. I thought maybe all tamales were supposed to be smooth and nearly jello-esque. Nope. No character there. The chicken filling was tender and moist but the rest was off.

corn tamale
Corn tamale saves the day!

The fresh corn tamale with a side of homemade sour cream saved us from tamale-induced sadness. It was like eating...corn. Just like eating fresh, super-sweet corn. But in the form of a condensed, semi-grainy log dotted with smashed corn bits. There's probably other stuff in it, but as far as I could tell the tamale was made by ravishing a field's worth of corn and reforming the collected kernels into a little log, just for us.

nom nom!
Janet nom noms!

The three of fully covered a little table by the front window. Until the boys came.

and then the guys arrived (an hour late, haha)
And then we were six.

John, Tristan and Lihan rolled in an hour or so after us due to various transportation mishaps. Luckily we had a giant table right behind us. With the help of our waitress we easily moved all our dishes over.

"We'll have what they had," said Tristan to our waitress. She responded with a brief look of surprise. Or horror. Or both.

"...Everything?" she confirmed.

I'm not sure they actually got everything we had ordered, but they definitely got the main stuff: pupusas, tamales, and fried yucca. Sadly the pickled cabbage and hot sauce had been forgotten, but they were so hungry that they ate the pupusas without even noticing the missing condiments. They also ate some of our leftovers. Damn, putting the girls to shame.

Wait, I have one!

Ooh, I did have a stringy cheese shot! Courtesy of Tristan's blurred hands.


Despite that Kathy, Janet, nor I were hungry enough to polish off all of our main dishes (mostly Janet, who, with her fluttering eyelids, looked like she was going to slump over into a pupusa coma), Kathy craved a sliced of flan. AND KATHY GETS WHAT KATHY WANTS! The flan was quite good, just sweet enough and not too heavy or light, although Kathy pointed out that it could've been smoother. You can see the little air pockets as darkened spots.

Final damage for three stuffed girls

Our final bill came out to about $10 for each of us, for more food than we could comfortable consume. I love cheap eats. So much. If I lived near Bahia I'd make it a regular dining spot and subsequently turn into the human equivalent of a whale.

Alas, I live in NJ. Poop.

After roaming around Brooklyn for a while, John, Tristan, Lihan and I parted with Janet and Kathy to go museuming. ...Except we started too late and by the time we got to the Upper East Side most museums would be closing within the next hour. So we did the next best culturally enlightening activity.


Jumping photos in Central Park. The sunlight wasn't optimal whatsoever, but you do what you can. I used flash in the above photo, which scared John's scarf, causing it to attack his face.


And there's me with an odd hair floop. This photo fails to capture the aftermath when my face winced in response to my not-so-well-padded boots failing to absorb the shock of hitting the ground. Note to self: it's much less painful to jump off the ground than off a higher structure onto the ground.

TKettle counter

We headed down to Saint Marks to wander around (took a look through Other Music and a pee-break at Starbucks) and at my request stopped at TKettle for a dumpling snack. (None of us were up for a full dinner after our late lunch. We have our limits.)

avocado milkshake
avocado milkshake

Kathy stopped by since she was already in the area doing some Christmas shopping. She wasn't hungry enough for dumplings but couldn't resist an avocado milkshake. ...Except the liquidy, somewhat icy and chunky substance in her cup wasn't a very satisfying avocado milkshake. :( I've only had an avocado milkshake once before from Shopsins, a deliciously thick, creamy, sweet and fat-tastic light-green river of frozen daaairry. Yeah, that was awesome.

10 pork dumples
Pork dumplings
pork innards
Dumpling innards

My order of 10 boiled pork dumplings came with two sauces: something that was either Sriracha or Sriracha-esque (I don't eat Sriracha enough to know) and what I assume was soy sauce mixed with vinegar. Although the dumplings didn't blow me away, I thought they were very good. I liked the not-super-thin skins, which were well stuffed with juicy morsels of minced pork. I could probably pack away 20 of these dumplings for a meal.

vegetable dumplings
Vegetable dumplings
veggie dumpling innards
Dumpling innards

I tried one of Tristan's vegetable dumplings. Also above average—I forgot what vegetables were actually in it, but the ones I call "non-sucky"—although not as good as pork. Because pork tastes like pork and those vegetables do not. I didn't say my reasoning was fair.

I'd love to recommend a good vegetable dumpling, but my favorite place to get them, Lin's Dumpling House, closed a few years ago. They had these bulbous dumplings whose vegetable-stuffed bellies pulsated, deliciousness? I went there a few times just for those dumplings. Those were the days.

Tristan's mouth is huge
8) :D

I just wanted to post that photo because I thought it was funny.


The night ended at Teany where Tristan, Lihan and I shared two pots of tea. Of course, I was the only one who added a shitton of sugar to each tiny cup I filled. I lost count of how may cups I drank since they all tasted so good, i.e., like sugar.

And isn't that what goodness is? Sugar? Yes.

Two mornings later...

Antique Cafe

I met Tristan at Antique Cafe for a quick breakfast on Monday morning so we could say goodbye before he and Lihan were to drive back to Charlottesville that afternoon. This was when my flu-like symptoms (which continued to this day) started to kick in, just not to the point where I was hacking up phlegm and walking around with a disoriented head that felt like it was full of helium.


It's a nice cafe. Cozy and antique-feeling (unique furniture, random art on the walls, a shelf of dusty books) as the name promises. It was also kind of deserted at 9:30 AM, if you want some quiet.

Mm, breakfast

For $5 we each got a generous plate of an omelet (filled with Swiss cheese and mushrooms in my case) accompanied by potatoes mixed with onion & pepper, and two slices of whole wheat toast. It was huge to me at least, not being used to eating breakfast. Tristan finished my leftovers. Good boy!

There aren't many notable eating places around where I work (across from FIT), but I see myself going back to Antique Cafe...especially since it's a less than 10 seconds walk from my building.


690 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

26 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10003

90 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002

Antique Cafe
234 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Posted by roboppy at 12:30 AM

Tags: Antique Cafe, Bahia, Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinese, dumplings, East Village, Janet, John, Kathy, Lihan, Lower East Side, Salvadoran, Teany, TKettle, Tristan, Williamsburg


Was this just posted? Am I first?

Not good. I can't handle the pressure. I'm not clever enough!

Actually, no, I'm just distracted by you having a friend named "Tristan." The only Tristans I know are an obnoxious underclassman who was in my Italian class and my super-awesome professor/advisor. I think I'm just fascinated by the name (and I guess hearing it on three real people in one year?).

Umm something relevant ... Oh! I'm really glad that you're feeling better! The food looks great abd your commentary was entertaining as always, but mostly just glad you're back! =)

Posted by: Kathryn at December 16, 2007 1:10 AM [#]

Everything's looking as delicious as always :)
But avocado milkshake? That can't be any good!

Posted by: G at December 16, 2007 8:42 AM [#]

Awww...I still feel bad that you're flu isn't getting that much better. [pats on shoulder for comfort] Hopefully, you'll recover soon!

Those dumplings looks so cute! Somehow their petite size makes it so adorable. Whenever my parents make them at home, they look so...un-cute? It just looks so professional without much character. But that's just my weird thoughts.

Posted by: Tina at December 16, 2007 10:54 AM [#]

"Our final bill came out to about $10 for each of us, for more food than we could comfortable consume."

I hope you didn't actually tip $2.36 on a $27.64 tab! By about $10 do you mean $11 or $12?

Posted by: rr at December 16, 2007 2:05 PM [#]


I don't know any other Tristans. That would throw me off...for THERE IS ONLY ONE. The one up there. I'll pretend your's don't exist. Heh.

Man I'm still woozy. BACK TO WORK TOMORROW!

G: NOO IT IS GOOD! You should try it! Maybe. The avocado gives it a thicker texture. Sooo good.

Tina: COUGH COUGH yeah, I should be better by the end of next week. I think I'll have residual coughing for a while. :(

Your parents make dumplings? Aw...homemade dumplings are awesome even if they're uncute! As long as they're tasty!

rr: Um...calm down, when I said $10 I meant that before tip. We each put down $11 or $12. I'll clarify that in the future if I have to, but I don't think any decent person would leave such little tip.

Posted by: roboppy at December 16, 2007 2:17 PM [#]

OOO pupusas!
next time we should have a Wash Heights PUPUSAS party -- we have a bunch of place nearby selling them!
and of course the SLAW nyaaam, hmm also chicharon, porky fried goodness, and gome grilled chickens with sauce -- oh so good!

Posted by: olia at December 16, 2007 2:25 PM [#]

Avocado shakes ROCK!! And also Robyn. ROCKS!!

I really want to visit the latest (last?) incarnation of Shopsins even more now that you say they have avocado shakes.

I think my dream Shopsin's meal would be: Mac'n' cheese pancakes with a side of chili and an avocado milkshake. HEAVEN!!!

Get better from your sickness!!

Posted by: Brenda at December 16, 2007 2:31 PM [#]

those dumplings look good...I've been reading your blog for a while and you seem like someone i'd love to go on a food adventure with. I think my stomach capacity would be a good match for yours. :)

Posted by: Amanda at December 16, 2007 2:37 PM [#]

Those empanada con leche look freaking amazing.

Posted by: Angeline at December 16, 2007 3:36 PM [#]

I second everything Olia just commented on! :)


you bettah get better soon - we're missing the Boppy in Boppy & Chan! teehee ;)

Posted by: Kathy at December 16, 2007 5:23 PM [#]

Your caption for the Tristan/Kathy shot is hilarious.

Dumplings look great; Like Chinese Popcorn chicken - Only it's not floor sweepings, gathered and fried.

Posted by: Graeme at December 16, 2007 6:09 PM [#]

Glad you're feeling somewhat better! Gosh, I now feel like dumplings...

Posted by: Su-Lin at December 16, 2007 6:52 PM [#]


Brenda: I didn't see the beverage menu at the new Shopsins, but I would hope they still have the avocado shake. ...Damn I want one.

And that pancake sounds good.

Amanda: We could have a DUMPLING EATING CONTEST! That would be awesome.

Angeline: If you really like plantain...yes!

Kathy: I still think "Boppy and Chan" needs to be the name of a music artist...duo something or other.



Hehe. I haven't had that in ages. You've given me a weird craving.

Su-Lin: I always feel like dumplings. Every moment is like...trying to not eat dumplings.

I am messed up.

Posted by: roboppy at December 16, 2007 10:18 PM [#]

I can't believe how cheap the Bahia restaurant was! We need one of those in Sydney. I have never tried a pupasa before, in fact i don't think there is any place to buy them in sydney. They look so good though!

Posted by: Susan at December 16, 2007 10:41 PM [#]

I was always wondering about Antique Cafe when I took some classes at FIT. I was like: "Oh hey, it's my favorite Oshare Kei band, but in food form!" FIT really does suck for food... Not like fashion students eat or anything.

Get well soon! Maybe flu-like symptoms will enhance your appetite after they're through? :D

Posted by: Allen Wong at December 16, 2007 11:18 PM [#]

mmmm pupusas.

I thought of you yesterday when I was making dinner. I attempted to make gravy and it was so disasterous I had to throw it out. I let everyone know it was "full of fail". Thank you for my newest and greatest saying to date.

Posted by: Coco at December 17, 2007 4:13 PM [#]

I would like to second Angelina's sentiments on the empanada con leche - they do look freaking amazing.

Sweetened condensed milk is the nectar of the gods.

Posted by: Dougiva Chocress at December 18, 2007 1:23 PM [#]

We are decent people! who tip!

Why do I look slightly disgusted while I nom nom? Like that face could go either way. Mmm!! Bleuh!!

Posted by: janet at December 18, 2007 3:04 PM [#]

Susan: I'm sure Sydney has lots of other great things to eat. :D ...But pupusas are pretty awesome. Look around, maybe you can find em!

Allen: Good lord, I found a video by Antique Cafe and that was SCARY SCARY SCARY. Kinda. -__-

Oh yeah, those skinny fashion students. I didn't think they ate.

Annnd I'm back to eating somewhat normally now! Eeuh...NOO, WEIGHT GAIN GO AWAY.

Coco: FAIL! Oh god, I love saying "fail." For everything. I'm glad I cough rub off. I think.

DOUGIVA!: The gods have it all. If condensed milk is their nectar. They have rivers of it in god-land, don't they...

Janet: You were just tired. Aw. (pat pat)

Posted by: roboppy at December 18, 2007 10:41 PM [#]

Good tamales are usually hard to find, especially in New York. Let's not get me started now. Haha. However, I do remember having some great ones about a month or two ago in the house that my stepfather brought back home. But that was the last time too. Years ago, it would be from, I believe, Queens. He would pick them up every weekend and bring a whole batch of tamales back to the house to eat.

Usually the tamales are soft and very flavorful (the stuffing) makes the surround maiz flour tastier. The tamales shouldn't be too moist (as in mushy) or too dry (as in sandy). Just right.

Posted by: eatyourheartout at December 19, 2007 10:41 AM [#]

those pupusas almost look like chocolate chip cookies if you squint your eyes.

or maybe everything looks like cookies to me?

Posted by: susannah at December 19, 2007 10:43 AM [#]

Hi Robyn!!

You know... I keep passing places here that have PUPUSAS emblazoned on the sign, but have never stopped to try them or even to figure out what they are! Hmm... now that you show what they are, I think I will go try them soon!

Posted by: Reese at December 19, 2007 8:26 PM [#]

Diana: Why are all the most delicious ethnic foods in Queens? DAMMIT WHY DON'T I JUST MOVE THERE?! And gorge myself to death.

I want those tamales. Methinks it's time to go back to Queens!

Susannah: (squint) I do see the resemblance.

And now I want cookies.

Reese: Oh my god, you have multiple pupusaries? GO FORTH AND EAT!

Posted by: roboppy at December 20, 2007 1:41 AM [#]

A dumpling eating contest would be fun! but I think we might scare people with how many dumplings we can eat.
you usually seem to eat my kinds of food...gelato, bakery goodness, dumplings...all A+ choices. my goal this vacation is to go to mitsuwa...i wanted to go there and shop, but your posts have made me want to eat there as well.

Posted by: Amanda at December 21, 2007 10:43 AM [#]

Amanda: YES MITSUWA IS AWESOME! You must eat there! Not just shop! Except I don't think there's any awesome dumpling there in particular. I just go for the katsu.

Posted by: roboppy at December 23, 2007 4:45 AM [#]

He leido comida espaƱola... Spanish Food? mmmm please can you said me, what kind of Spanish food?


Posted by: Eduardo Rubio at January 4, 2008 5:09 PM [#]

He leido comida espaƱola... Spanish Food? mmmm please can you said me, what kind of Spanish food?


Posted by: Eduardo Rubio at January 4, 2008 5:10 PM [#]

Hey pupusas are the best =).............chicken and chesse pupusas are my a waiter at bahia and we know how many people loooooooo00ve pupusas and we all glad that could make people lifes happy =D!!!! well we hopping more people come to the restaurant and enjoy our food not only pupusas but other dishes too.....!!!!

Posted by: Waiter at bahia!! at November 12, 2009 11:15 PM [#]

Waiter: Man, you reminded me that I haven't been to Bahia in ages and would love to go back! Ahhh I love pupusas.

Posted by: roboppy at November 14, 2009 12:05 AM [#]

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previous entries

» 06/20/15: Bye, Taipei, and Thanks for the Despair Juice

» 11/17/14: Visiting Seoul from November 23 to 30

» 11/10/14: Thank You, Cafe Kuroshio, For Pulling Me Out of "I Don't Know How to Chinese" Dumpsville

» 08/27/14: How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party (From Someone Who Has Been Surprised Too Many Times)

» 07/10/14: Everything I Ate During Istanbul Eats' Six-Hour Food Tour

» 06/07/14: Good-Bye, Serious Eats and NYC; Hello, Unemployment and Taipei!

» 05/19/14: Curry-Ya's Baked Curry Is a Most Beautiful Egg-Topped, Cheese-Crusted Thing

» 04/28/14: A Random Conversation About Hot Loose Apples

» 03/19/14: Taipei 2011, Day 5: Mussels, Fried Oysters, and Extreme Soft Serve in Danshui

» 03/09/14: Taipei 2011, Day 4: Keelung River Bikeway, TAS, Beef "Pie," and Din Tai Fung

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