Food Stuffs is a new column examining the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything even remotely related to food because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.
Hidden in the quiet Asian Grocery stores of Bensonhurst are many treasures. Some are appetizing, some are intimidating and some are just funky. In the Wah Fung New York Mall at 2286 86th Street, among the dried coconut, 30 types of ginseng, withered mushrooms and cranky staff members are jars of colorful preserved plums. Could there be a better way to start a pickle column than with a rainbow of shapes, sizes, textures, flavors and types?
The preserved plum pickles have a bizarre taste that reminded this reviewer of a chemical mixture of cotton candy and frozen orange juice. The aftertaste recalls lollipops children are given in doctor’s offices after an injection: sweet and also, somehow, sad.
I was conservative and chose only the plums that were $3.80 a pound, and almost a week later I still have most of them. If you want to try these odd and intense plums – you can certainly do it on a budget.
I also sampled the preserved mandarin, which I enjoyed. It had the bitterness of citrus skin and the taste of lemon-scented pledge.
One darker preserved plumb was more expensive at $9.40 a pound. It looked more like a dried piece of steak than dried fruit. That plum was the most palatable, having the texture and aftertaste of licorice. Imagine a fine anise-flavored liquor injected into a Jujy Fruit.
If the neon plum parade is not reason enough to visit 86th Street, you should know that the staff in the mall were extra friendly. They refused to allow any photos of the plumbs, even after I purchased them. I also had to ask six times how to prepare the dried coconut – the one word answer – soup! But the Bean’s talented photographer was able to sneak a couple of shots, as if we were in the middle of a communist cell meeting or a Central American civil war circa 1980.
The staff also checked my plum bag to make sure I hadn’t taken the expensive plums. I will note the helpful assistance of the plum police after I struggled with the tight lid of a preserve jar and one strong staff member was able to pry it open without injuring me, the plums or himself.
I will say this, if you love pickles, if you love preserves, you should go and sample all of these strange fruits. It will help you grow some hair on your chest and give you some serious Bensonhurst street cred.
Until the next barrel.
Wah Fung New York Mall, 2286 86th Street.
Is there a restaurant or specific dish you think we should check out? Let us know!