Eating the food cart street in a New York afternoon

Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:58am EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - This round-the-world trip can be completed in an afternoon, costs less than $100 and comes with hot sauce.

From Tibetan momos (dumplings) to Uruguayan alfajors (cookies), the food consumed on New York's Eat The Street tours offers a taste of immigrant life in the world's most ethnically diverse neighborhood - the borough of Queens, where more than 160 languages are spoken.

"You could find a nibble of anything here," said Andrew Silverstein, who guides the food cart-noshing tours in conjunction with Feet in Two Worlds, a non-profit organization focused on immigrants in America.

A quick subway ride from the glitz of Manhattan, the bustling thoroughfare of Roosevelt Avenue in the Jackson Heights section of Queens provides a gritty mix of Indian groceries, South American travel agencies and immigration lawyers' offices under a lacelike canopy of elevated train tracks.

Sidewalks are dotted with coppery stains left by South Asian men who chew betel nut and are crammed with a virtual United Nations of food carts run by immigrants cooking up a taste of home.

First stop on a recent tour was the momo cart run by Kunchock "Rodney" Rebgee, 32, who emigrated from Tibet four years ago.

"This is what is eaten by the nomadic people because they have animals," said Rebgee of the meat dumplings that were a staple of his childhood.

Silverstein put the role of the food cart into perspective. "One of the first steps for an immigrant community to take hold is to be able to get their native food," he said to his four followers as they chewed their momos.   Continued...