Jackson Heights is one of my absolute favorite neighborhoods in Queens… or well, all of New York City, really. To me, it represents exactly how multicultural and delicious New York City is; one block, you’re surrounded by sari and 24-carat gold shops selling South Indian goods, fragrant of rose water and cardamom; the next block, you are fully inundated by Mexican, Colombian, Venezuelan, and Peruvian restaurants and bakeries. Two blocks down, there’s a string of Filipino restaurants. Then, there’s a Korean grocery store. And as if it couldn’t get even more diverse, you stumble upon an Argentinian steakhouse that is across the street from several Thai restaurants representing four different regions of Thailand. It’s a cultural explorer’s paradise.
I went out to Jackson Heights after work today to pick up a bunch of groceries in preparation for cooking this weekend, plus some Indian sweets at my favorite Indian dessert shop. What is always comical to me is the little smiles that are exchanged by the Indian workers at Patel Brothers, the major Indian grocery store there, as they watch me walk through the aisles of the store. They see me, an East Asian person, picking through Indian vegetables, different bags of legumes, various whole and ground spices, and I can imagine what they are thinking: what is this Chinese girl going to do with all this stuff? Does she even know what she is looking at? Is she learnt enough to prepare these the right way? I hope she doesn’t mess it all up and waste the ingredients!
Don’t worry, peeps. I know what I’m doing. In fact, I could probably school you all in it since I’m willing to bet that in your generation, you wouldn’t even know what to do with these spices if they were handed to you, as you likely think cooking is a woman’s job, and hence you rely on your wives to cook. It’s all good. I got you.