Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My Red Hook Adventure at the Ball Fields
Red Hook Ball Fields - Clinton Street & Bay Street, Brooklyn NY 11231
F Train to Smith Street/9th Street
When Peter told me that he was itching to check out Red Hook, Brooklyn, I was so in. A trip to Brooklyn is always a good time for the eyes and the palate--and when my friend Kenton told me that Red Hook offers some of the best Latin indigenous food, I was sold.
The best place, Kenton told me to eat some of this Latin deliciousness is at the Red Hook Ball Fields, literally an open field or a park where people hang out, play soccer and relax with the family. And oh what an adventure it was!
Upon arriving at the park, we were immediately welcomed by about 15 mobile trucks (of all shapes and sizes) that boasted different types of interesting street food from Latin America. The neat thing is that countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, that often aren't represented in mainstream Manhattan restaurants were present, thus getting their much-deserved culinary props.
Peter and I did a walk-through of all the trucks to help us narrow down what to actually buy. One of the trucks that immediately captured our attention was the Salvadoran El Olomega truck that specializes in pupusas (corn-based biscuits stuffed with various fillings such as cheese, pork, chicken, etc).
And the other truck that made us stop, admire and eat was a small Guatemalan truck with impressive-looking tamales and rellenitos - sweet plantains stuffed with black beans, topped with sugar.
Pupusas - These were the stuffed corn-based biscuits that I alluded to above and they were AWESOME--by far our favorite out of everything we ate. The dough was slightly sweet and a little mealy, which was a good thing because it served as the binder for the creamy filling of cheese and chicken, which lay nestled inside. I loved taking a bite out of both pupusas, mixing the chicken and the cheese in one bite--the cheese was a creamy queso blanco, I presume, and it was salty and wonderful.
Another aspect, which I loved about the pupusa platter was the side of crunchy red slaw. It was a great accompaniment because it gave the dish freshness and tang from the vinegar-based sauce (no mayo added).
Homemade plantain chips - It was hard to turn these down because who doesn't love a good plantain chip? While they were pretty good, I wouldn't call them exceptional because they got a bit soggy. Not sure if it was from the humidity, but something about the texture was off. The smaller pieces were better than the larger ones, as they stayed crispy. Like the pupusas, the chips were also paired with the red cabbage slaw. Being an Eastern European, I never have qualms with an abundance of cabbage--bring it on!
Tamales - We got a pork tamale from the Guatemalan truck and it looked impressive and large. The corn husk was conveniently removed so we only had to deal with the rich inside. I loved the corn dough, which was soft and slightly messy to eat, as well as the tender, shredded pork inside. It was on the spicy side (as it should be)--and the portion was definitely large enough for 2 people to share.
Rellenitos - Although they're considered to be a dessert or snack, they were the first thing we tried, proving to be another favorite. The sweet plantains were stuffed with creamy black beans and sprinkled with granulated sugar. I'm a big fan of mixing sweet and savory and this was the perfect example--it was also hearty enough to tide us over while waiting in line for pupusas.
Service and Cost:
The people who run these trucks are all native Spanish speakers and while it's sometimes hard for a gringa like myself to communicate with them, they're patient and friendly to everyone.
Know that when you come here, some trucks will have serious lines (El Olomega for example) and some will provide immediate service. Even though we had to wait a while at El Olomega, it was worth it and the ordering process was expedited efficiently.
In terms of cost, you can't get more affordable. Just take a gander at these prices:
2 Pupusas - $5
Plaintain Chips - $2
Rellenitos - $3.50
Tamal - $3
Drink - $1.50
Grand total for a looot of food and full bellies: $15