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Category: My Lucky Tummy

Northside Food Markets on Syracuse.com

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • January 27, 2015


We were happy to see our Northside markets showcased in an article by Don Cazentre on Syracuse.com. An array of pictures that feature colorful produce, humble business owners, and families shopping are accompanied by an interview with Adam Sudmann of My Lucky Tummy who speaks to the history of these markets and gives his “Top 5 Markets to Try.”

“‘Within a five minutes  drive on the North Side you’ll find Burmese and Bhutanese, West African, Somali, Lao, Middle Eastern-Iraqi,’ said Adam Sudmann, who in two short years has made himself something of an expert on the new wave of North Side food markets. “These markets are so cool, so vibrant.” . . .

Many of the newer refugees, now numbering 8,000 to 10,000 in Syracuse, live in or near the city’s North Side.

While it’s true that many of the markets started up to serve members of a particular ethnic community –  a Burmese market for Burmese refugees, for example –  there is now a great degree of what Sudmann calls ‘cross pollination.’”

To read the entire article, including Adam’s list of markets to try, click here.

“Flavor Tripping Berries” at My Lucky Tummy Winter Popup

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • January 22, 2015

My Lucky Tummy Berries

Apart from My Lucky Tummy’s usual flavor experiences, the upcoming Winter Popup this month will incorporate an added adventure: flavor tripping berries. Never encountered these fruits? They’re native to Ghana and allegedly turn sour and bitter tasting foods sweet. The New York Times explored these berries as part of “flavor tripping parties”:

“Carrie Dashow dropped a large dollop of lemon sorbet into a glass of Guinness, stirred, drank and proclaimed that it tasted like a ‘chocolate shake.’

Nearby, Yuka Yoneda tilted her head back as her boyfriend, Albert Yuen, drizzled Tabasco sauce onto her tongue. She swallowed and considered the flavor: ‘Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!’

They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.”

Read the complete article HERE.

Once you’ve filled your bellies with all of the home cooked meals by My Lucky Tummy chefs, each guest will receive one berry. To test the berry’s abilities, a buffet of sour and bitter foods will be available to try.

Intrigued? So are we! Tickets to My Lucky Tummy are available HERE. To stay up-to-date on the popup’s happenings, join the Facebook invite HERE.

Extreme Grocery Shopping with My Lucky Tummy

Written by admin  • September 30, 2014

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Adam Sudmann, creator of the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food court, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of his posts are organized under the “My Lucky Tummy” Category. You can learn about his effort at myluckytummy.com.

Ribbet collage


Are you bored with your cupboard? Me too. So let’s go to the Northside.

We’ve got our twice yearly popup this Saturday. That means I’m in extreme grocery shopping mode: 100 pounds of yellow pumpkin, 60 stalks of lemongrass, 300 swatches of banana leaf… (And that’s just from one store!)

Luckily, we’ve got some crazy great options in this neighborhood, all within 3-5 minutes of one another. And lucky for me, my crazy kiddo just started daycare so I can shop in peace and maybe even pick out a few things to liven up our cooking at home. My attention is undivided. Nobody’s trying to eat a raw green chili or pluck a sleepy eel out of a cooler. (I told you: my kiddo’s crazy.)

Between today & tomorrow I’ll shop at 11 stores. Here are four that are especially stellar:

Altanoor, 1832 Grant Blvd. Sabah is a stickler for quality. He only stocks the best brands from Iraq & the region, be that red lentils or broad beans or date syrup. Trust him. Oh, and he has my favorite spice selection in town – they pack them up in house – & they bake hollow samoon bread on the weekends.

Juba Somali, 1601 N Salina. Rajab’s shop is an oasis, tucked in among the strip clubs & dollar stores. Confused? He’ll talk you through a dish – or call somebody who knows. Last week I accidentally stumbled over a clerk who was taking a moment in the back, praying on a mat behind the rice aisle. He responded to the interruption in stride, popping up, patting me on the back & offering up his opinion on different varieties of Basmati.

Laos Market, 317 Butternut. Fresh herbs don’t have to be so murderously expensive. Kitty & Suki keep a nondescript plastic shelving unit in the fridge in back, on your left. Nondescript, that is, until you pull open the drawers & breathe in. Vietnamese coriander. Purple basil. Lime leaf. Mint varietals I don’t even know the name of. Grab a handful of something aromatic, something you’ve never seen before (but are game to experiment with), then go pay up & gasp (happily, wondrously) at the bill & know why all the Thai & Italian places in town go here on Wednesdays to stock up for the weekend.

Aphone, 826 Butternut. Kaui drives down to Maspeth & Queens most Mondays so try & hit this place – across from the KFC – on Tuesdays. They’ve got a ton of horizontal freezers full of cool stuff – fish that you’ve never even imagined, frogs, silkworms, etc. (I asked Paw if she knew how to fry up the grubs, but she hadn’t a clue; luckily a Cambodian couple shopping there walked me through the process. When in doubt, ask the other shoppers.) Their produce is awesome, their kids are super cute & sometimes they’ll have treats (shaggy seaweed, freshly pickled tea leaves) brought in straight from Burma.

Of course, for purposes of pithiness I’m skipping over the ever-solid Afro-Caribbean (740 N Salina), the well-stocked gem that is Than Lwin (826 N Townsend), a quartet of Bhutanese shops & so much more.

Oh, and because this particular party is vegetarian I’m ignoring Pyramid Halal (1700 Lodi) altogether, which is a small crime. Hani & Tatiana sell excellent meats for a song. They’re also gifted conversationalists.  Sometimes their shop has an almost 50’s-throwback, why don’t you stay & chat a spell, kind of vibe.  Who’d have thunk it? An Egyptian-Russian couple that makes you feel like you’re in Norman Rockwell-esque America.

This pace, this kind of exchange is why neighborhoods matter. And this is why the Northside hood has such greatness – & great sweetness – at its heart.


My Lucky Tummy’s New Website

Written by admin  • August 11, 2014

Adam Sudmann, creator of the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food court, just launched a new website for his effort. New features include a list of future and past menu items to get your mouth watering. Check it out for yourself at myluckytummy.com.

My Lucky Tummy Website

Dinner with Strangers

Written by Adam Sudmann  • May 5, 2014

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Adam Sudmann, creator of the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food court, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of his posts are organized under the “My Lucky Tummy” Category. You can learn about his effort at myluckytummy.com.

My Lucky Tummy Photo - Post 2

I like eating with strangers.  It used to be a hobby, finagling invites to peel prawns in Cameroon or sip chai in Calcutta.  Now it’s a little business.

A year ago we moved to Syracuse.  We were new parents and felt a bit like castaways.  I craved connectedness and escape.  So I called up a family friend who works in refugee resettlement.  I had an idea for a party.  Maybe we could convince families to cook foods from home for a popup food court.

And so over several weeks we trudged up sludgy snowbanks and into strangers’ homes.  Lots of removing of shoes in the cold air.  Lots of sitting on floors, being brought bottled water or pepsi or chai.  And meals.  Meals I will never forget.

Every visit gave me a cool tingle along my shoulders.  What flattery, to have a stranger take you in, worry over you, share a story or two.  One woman told me of getting to America and hiding indoors for 3 weeks straight, too overwhelmed to go out.  She later showed me how to make the surprising, sticky breads of South Sudan.  Others showed me how to roast coffee beans or fold a grape leaf or make coconut milk from scratch.  I heard that in Baghdad you could once buy 400 kinds of date and off the coast of Mogadishu the tenderest, sweetest fish in the sea was a big speckled stingray.

Food is my favorite way to relate to strangers.  Politics is surprisingly good, too, while weather’s not so safe as I thought.  Twice I fell flat trying to bond over Syracuse’s brutal winters.  Once I heard that the snow was a happy reminder that potable water was a given here (as opposed to parched western Kenya).  Another time I  was told – firmly, if politely – that a little chill in the air was an easy thing to acclimate to, especially knowing no Baathist thugs would ever again come to your door in the middle of the night.

From the outset, I decided our party would be celebratory and whimsical.  We wouldn’t fixate on the horrors many of our chefs had endured.  Nobody wants to be a refugee forever.  And a lot of people don’t want to talk about the dark parts at all (though sometimes these stories come out in a flood, when I least expect it).

I like that My Lucky Tummy is whimsical.  I like that our mascot is a fat bellied bird.  But I know, too, that our chefs – who bring us such pleasure – have withstood wicked things.  And knowing that gives whimsy some weight.

My Lucky Tummy Photo - May Post

Acquired Tastes

Written by Adam Sudmann  • April 2, 2014

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Adam Sudmann, creator of the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food court, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of his posts are organized under the “My Lucky Tummy” Category. You can learn about his effort at myluckytummy.com.


My Lucky Tummy Collage

I want to write about taste.  But taste is tricky to pin down.  I can tell you something was delicious and spicy and umami-y, redolent of crabmeat and lime leaf and peppercorns.  Can you taste it now?  Nope.  Me neither.

So let’s attack it slantwise.  Let’s talk about acquired taste.  (Acquiring tastes is what My Lucky Tummy is all about.)

Acquired taste.  That phrase gets tossed out all the time as some backhanded compliment.  But I want to think of it as a compliment that points both ways, flattering both the would-be acquirer (open, curious, hopeful) and the taste (new, surprising, maybe a bit demanding, too).

There’s no place in town that can touch the Northside for tastes just waiting to be acquired.  Within a 3 minute radius (if you drive like me, leaden on the pedal) you’ve got 4 Somali markets, 1 Ghanaian, 2 Burmese, 1 Middle Eastern, 1 Laotian, 4 Vietnamese, 3 Bhutanese, 2 Mediterranean and 1 Halal butcher (owned by an engaging Egyptian-Russian couple I could talk to all day long).  Am I overlooking someone?  I bet I am.

What’s all this mean?  Well, there’s a lot to acquire.  It’s dizzying.  Where to begin?

3 good entry points for the hungry naif (aka, me): snacks, accents, peppy digestifs.

Snacks.  Last week at Aphone (826 Butternut) I saw homemade Burmese samosas at the register for a buck.  I bought one, left, ate it and marched back in to buy five more.  Now that it’s getting warmer, Ky Duyen (488 N Salina) will start having bánh xèo again (the woman that makes the turmeric-tinged crepes griddles them outside.  You may’ve noticed it’s been just a tiny bit cold lately.)  And Altanoor (1832 Grant) bakes fresh Iraqi samoon bread on the weekends.

Accents.  Little things to liven up your own cooking.  There’s a gazillion.  My favorites are Laos Market (317 Butternut) for fresh, Southeast Asian herbs, Afro-Caribbean (740 N Salina) for smoked prawns and Juba Somali (1601 N Salina) for whole cardamom and warming berbere spice for cheap.

Peppy digestifs.  Paan!  Little green leaf folded into a triangle.  Inside you’ll find zippy areca nuts, coconut, rosewater jelly, tiny anise pastels and lots of other tummy settling tidbits I’d be hard pressed to name.  Two for a buck at Dahal’s (1003 Park).  (Just don’t do it too often.  A daily paan habit will turn your pearly whites ruby red.)  Double back to Afro-Caribbean for a bitter kola nut to chew on and WAKE YOU WAY UP.  Now that’s an acquired taste!


Video: Monu Chhetri

Written by admin  • March 10, 2014

Adam Sudmann recently shared an inspiring video about one of the My Lucky Tummy chefs, a young woman named Monu Chhetri:

“I’m a deaf refugee and I was born in Bhutan, but raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. Now me and my family live here in Syracuse, NY… I really love teaching the deaf refugees, so much so that I go and find them. I go to their houses and pull them out and take them under my wing.”

The video was produced and edited by Ross Taylor, www.rosstaylor.com.

It was the best of smells, it was the worst of smells….

Written by Adam Sudmann  • March 4, 2014

Editor’s Note:  We’ve asked Adam Sudmann, creator of the My Lucky Tummy pop-up food court, to write guest articles for us on a monthly basis. All of his posts are organized under the “My Lucky Tummy” Category. You can learn about his effort at myluckytummy.com.

My Lucky Tummy_Collage of dinners

A year ago we moved from Brooklyn up to Syracuse.  One week after the big move, clothes still in boxes, we held the first My Lucky Tummy party.  Guests got a beautiful, surprising meal cooked by home chefs mostly from the Northside – which is to say, from Bhutan, Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Iraq & Poland.  It was a hit.  (Though we still have a lot of unpacked boxes.)

Since that initial pop up, My Lucky Tummy has grown: We now count 17 countries on our talent roster.  And our last party, in early February, got over 400 attendees.  Home cooking from all over the world has its fans!

In mulling over a blog series for Northside UP, 3 big themes came to mind: in ascending order, smells, tastes & stories.  I’m gonna start here with the lesser (though still powerful) of the 3, smell.

And let’s nix smell and instead say aromatics.  What we’re talking about here is more rarefied, more satisfying than mere smells.

I adore aromatics.  Maybe it’s being a new dad.  I often take my daughter on shopping excursions on the Northside.  Her first instinct is to yank stuff off shelves or grab a fish swimming around the styrofoam coolers.  But here’s a good redirect – & a fun activity for little noses: on a sunny day, take your toddler to Aphone (826 Butternut), Laos Market (317 Butternut) & Afro-Caribbean (740 N Salina).  Have her take a whiff of things in the reach-in fridges: smoked chicken, kaffir lime leaf & a slender-leaved, pretty herb that I can’t figure out the English name of, but smells like the happy marriage of tarragon and super strong mint.

The 3 Bhutanese-Nepali shops in the neighborhood also have killer aromatics – but you’d never know it.  It’s all dried spices, sealed up tight (good for freshness, bad for the olfactory adventurer).  Ah, but get invited into a Bhutanese home & you’ve got it made.  Follow your nose to the spice caddy (though that might be redundant, as any regular cook will have permanently flavored the air with mustard seed, black salt, toasted sesame, cumin & multiple varieties of chili.)

And then there was Saw Soe’s place last night.  I went over to talk thokes.  (Thoke is a Burmese salad, often minced or chiffonaded, its ingredients always combined at the last possible moment.)  He’s gonna make one for the next party, in April.

But that was just talk.  The action last night revolved around the very best and very worst whiffs I’ve had since starting this whole experiment.  Eel, glorious eel.  Fresh, not frozen.  There was a flurry of activity in the kitchen between him and his niece, Lulu, so I lost track of the ingredients in play.  I was trying to discuss thokes when it hit me: the steam pluming off the saucepan was the best smell in the world.  I peeked in at an orangey-red eel-chili-ginger-etc gravy & discovered heaven.

And then he took it all away.  ‘Do you like to smell something very bad?’ he asks.  What do I say?  No?  I can’t say no.  So he reaches into the freezer for a frozen olive green brick.  Ngapi (pronounced nah-PEE).  Fermented fish paste.  Oh my.

He sloughs off a corner, gives it a quick nuke and hands me a tiny bowl of ngapi and a big bowl of rice.  Aromatic? Please. Stink?  Not even close.  It hurts.  Even Lulu acknowledges it smells worse than durian.  Worse than a giant, stinking fruit that’s regularly banned in hotels & flights in a half dozen countries?  Yup, worse.  But a teaspoon drizzled over rice is addictive.  It’s like the salting & slow ferment unlocked some new, undiscovered flavor hitherto hidden deep beneath the ocean.

Ngapi: terrible first date food.  But if you’re in a committed relationship – & your partner’s got a sophisticated, hard-to-impress palate – skip the chocolate next Valentine’s & surprise em with a little box of this green, complex, killer condiment….

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