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By Alice Gosti
New York food is all about the delis, the food trucks, street eat carts on the corner and some of the most amazing restaurants in the world - a wildly eclectic bunch! Thanks to its rich history of immigration, New York’s food scene is wonderfully diverse, and dishes from every corner of the world have found a new home here. So I’ve separated my 10 must try foods in New York into three categories, from the NY classics to modern twists - enjoy!
Bagel and Lox
No New York food guide would be complete without a bagel. This treat is a dense, ring shaped bread which came from the Polish Jewish tradition and was imported to North America, specifically New York, with Polish Jews’ migration. It’s a hand sized, yeasted wheat dough that its first boiled for a short while in water and then baked. The result is a dense and chewy inside with a sometimes-crunchy outside. Bagels can have different toppings - salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, dried garlic or what is known as the everything bagel (all the toppings) - the choice is yours. The classic version of this delicious New York food is a bagel of your choice, with cream cheese and lox (a fillet of brined salmon), often garnished with tomato, onions, cucumbers or capers. The most famous bagel and lox you will find here is at Russ & Daughters, where you can also get some delicious dried fruit bagels (try the pear or the peach). Another place to try is Absolute Bagels.
You may think that a cheese burger is anything but a unique food in New York but forget any experience you may have had with burgers or cheeseburgers from McDonalds or the multitudes of chains that use mass produced meat and cheese. Sink your teeth into an original cheese burger and you will soon see why we call it one of the best foods on New York. I would try J.G. Melon or Shake Shack. Also, if you are ever in a place that offers sweet potato fries, go for it!
Lobster is an absolute must-try food in New York! There are many variations that we eat here, but the most iconic lobster comes from the Atlantic Ocean. New Yorkers and Bostonians were some of the first to eat these lobsters, and interestingly enough they were also the first ones to build boats to fish them. New York's cuisine features some the most delicious lobster and an incredible variety of different ways of cooking it, with recipes going back generations. For the absolute best, there’s a very special place called Delmonico that serves 1876 Lobster Newburg that’s famous worldwide.
In New York, food is a massive part of our culture. We have even been known to inspire trends. Take original American cream cheese for example. They say it was invented in New York. This means that there is no better place to try cheesecake! Cheesecake is a cake made from cream cheese, eggs,and egg yolks, with a base crust made of crushed cookies, angel cake or graham crackers, but different regions and chefs make their own variations. In New York, cheesecake is made with heavy cream or sour cream. The typical New York style cheesecake is rich and has a smooth, creamy and dense consistency that’s flavoured with vanilla. Go to Juniors, which serves up some of the best food in New York, and have a real old school diner experience and some of the best cheesecake in town!
Ramen is generally not associated with New York, but that doesn’t mean we don't know how to serve up this dish! A quick crash course - ramen is a Japanese dish consisting of wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso and topped with delicious bites such as sliced pork (chāsū), dried seaweed (nori), menma, and green onions. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen. As I said, this is not strictly a unique food to New York but you can still find some of the best dishes at E.A.K Ramen, where they serve Iekei ramen, which is a style of ramen that is a marriage between Tonkotsu style from the West (Kyushu) and Shoyu style from the East (Tokyo). Their broth is thick and a mixture of chicken and pork, with a topping of spinach instead of green onions, chāsū, a large piece of nori, aji-tama egg (seasoned egg), and the noodles are thick, al dente and straight. It’s the perfect place to escape on a cold winter’s day and the perfect food if you’re feeling under the weather. They also have vegan and vegetarian options.
Another dish not considered to be a unique food in New York but if you are in the city then this is still an absolute must-try food in New York. Tacos predate the arrival of Spanish colonists in Mexico, and there is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people of Mexico ate fish tacos. A taco is a dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. Tacos can be made with a variety of fillings, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, cheese and vegetables; garnished with salsa, avocado, cilantro, guacamole, fresh onions, tomatoes or lettuce and eaten with your hands! Los Tacos No. 1 is my choice if you want classic tacos, but for an exciting twist head to Taco Mahal. Exactly what it sounds like, they make Indian inspired tacos and they use naan or roti as a choice for your taco shell, cooked in a traditional clay oven.
Pork buns are one of the first foods I experienced when I moved to the US, and they are amazing! Possibly one of the best foods in New York, this treat is a steamed or baked bread dough that’s usually filled with barbecued pork. Amazing. The bun is very soft and light, a little on the sweet side, but the contrast with the salty shredded meat makes this is well balanced dish. If you are looking for this must-try food in New York then head to Momofuku for some of the best pork buns around.
Omurice and Japanese hot cakes for breakfast
Omurice is a Japanese food consisting of fried rice wrapped in an omelet and topped with a sort of ketchup. In New York, this food is a popular dish. It’s commonly cooked at home and often found at western style diners in Japan. Japanese hot cakes are sweeter and fluffier than American pancakes. If you are looking for a more unique food in New York then indulge in this delicious Japanese and American breakfast combo you can go to Hi-Collar, a Western inspired Japanese cafe bar. It has a day-time and a night-time menu. During the day the place is famous for coffee and breakfast, but you can also go at night and have some warm sake and some small plates, izakaya style.
Ice Cream is a classic part of New York cuisine but old school soft serve ice-cream has been reinvented with kitschy named, wacky creations. Imagine unusual soft-serve flavours dipped in chocolate on a homemade cone, or maybe you want to go all out and get a huge sundae topped with anything you can think of. Big Gay Ice-Cream is the place to go (all out) if you want to sample this must-try food in New York.
Despite popular belief, New York food is not all saturated fat, refined carbs and loaded with sugar. We have some delicious healthy treats too! The Matcha Latte is one example of a saintlier New York food (or should I say drink?) Matcha is the powder created from green tea leaves. It’s a beautiful bright green and you can make all sorts of delicious things with it. You can drink it by adding hot water, you can make pastries and cakes, you can make mochi - the possibilities are endless. My favourite though is the Matcha Latte, a latte, where the coffee has been replaced by matcha powder; it makes a series of delicious hot and cold drinks.
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