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Fasika: revisiting a YUM favorite

By Alex Galimberti

Ever since the very first YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City, attendees have been able to enjoy the unique flavors of the Ethiopian food served by Fasika. During the years that Fasika has been in East Somerville people have grown to love the unique food and dining style that Ethiopian immigrants like restaurant proprietor Mr. Befekadu Befar have brought to share with our community. And the busy people of Somerville and surrounding communities have not only learned to share meals with our hands but we also embraced Fasika and the contribution of Mr. Befar to our city.

On a recent visit to Fasika I was able to ask Mr. Befar about one of my favorite components of any Ethiopian meal; the delicious injera bread that is used to scoop up food with and adds a nice tangy taste to each bite. He explained that the injera prepared at Fasika follows traditional fermentation methods: the batter is made with a mixture of mostly teff flour that is naturally fermented in a way similar to sourdough bread. The batter at Fasika is made with the addition of barley and wheat flours for optimal textures. Each batch of injera ferments for 2-3 days based on the current temperature and humidity levels. A batch of injera made with 100% teff flour is suitable for guests with gluten allergies and can be prepared by special request, with advance notice.

In addition to explaining to me the method of preparation for Fasika’s famous injera, Mr. Befar also shared that the East Somerville restaurant which is located at 145 Broadway has recently undergone renovations to the kitchen and restrooms so that they can better accommodate the growing volume of sales. Also, customers who would like to try Ethiopian food for breakfast or lunch can do so at the restaurant’s second location Fasika Café, located at 51 Roxbury St. in Boston. I recently tried their breakfast and highly recommend it. See photos below.

We hope that you will attend the tenth annual installment of YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City on April 11 and try some of the food served by Fasika and the eight other restaurants participating this year.

Breakfast at Fasika Cafe in Roxbury

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The Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery

If you live in Somerville or anywhere near and you haven’t been to The Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery in Union Square, you are missing out on a real gem.  The Neighborhood was started in 1983 by Mario Borges and his father and is now run by his sister, Sheila.  Photos of the family dominate the walls in the cozy restaurant.  Breakfast fare is popular on the menu and the Borges family’s Portuguese roots come through in items such as the Linguiça, a Portuguese smoked pork sausage and Portuguese sweet bread.

In order to avoid the hundreds of people who flock to The Neighborhood on the weekends, a friend and I visited the restaurant at lunchtime on a Thursday.  We were greeted by an extremely friendly waitress who gave us a choice of seats in the cozy, sunny dining room.  We both opted to order from the breakfast menu that is served all day.  I chose the Three Eggs with Linguica, fried banana and homefries and my friend chose the special pancakes with bananas and pecans.  All breakfast items come with Portuguese sweet bread toast, orange juice, coffee and choice of a fruit cup or Cream of Wheat.  How many restaurants would give you all of that at no extra charge?  Everything was absolutely delicious and we both walked out totally satisfied and ready to face the rest of the day.

If you are not in the mood for breakfast food, The Neighborhood also offers sandwiches, soup and other entrées including grilled and fried fish and seafood, steak tips, cod cakes and chicken.

The Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakery is open daily from 7am – 4pm and is located at 25 Bow Street, Somerville, MA.  www.theneighborhoodrestaurant.com

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. Purchase your tickets today!

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Istanbul’lu

We walked into Istanbul’lu just in time to get a table on a busy Friday night. My husband, Isaiah, and I were seated in the corner looking out over Holland Street. The room was cozy and filled with tables of people clearly savoring the food and the atmosphere.

Just after we were seated, we were brought a basket of warm, fresh Turkish bread with red pepper sauce, which was a nice accompaniment to a glass of Georgian wine (me) and Efes Turkish beer (him).

We started with the Coban Salad, a refreshing mix of tomato, peppers, cucumber, scallion, peynir (a hard Turkish cheese), tossed with olive oil and lemon juice. The salad was crunchy and fresh, and a great starting point for our meal. We decided to split a number of small plates, with our favorites being Mucver, a flavorful zucchini fritter with fresh yogurt sauce, and Ispanak Borani, a creamy spinach dish with tomatoes and tangy yogurt. It felt only right to cap this incredible meal off with a cup of sweet Turkish coffee.

Istanbul’lu was a perfect spot for our Friday night pre-movie date, and I have a feeling I’ll be bringing friends back to this spot again so I can sample more of the menu! With the restaurant full and humming, we did not get much of a chance to chat with Istanbul’lu’s owner, Huseyin Agkun. We look forward to catching up with him the next time we stop in, perhaps for a Turkish breakfast.

Sample Istanbul’lu’s Turkish specialties at YUM, coming up this Thursday, April 26th at the Arts at the Armory! Click here to buy tickets.

Istanbul’lu is located at 237 Holland Street in Somerville, MA. Click here to find out more about the restaurant or place an order online.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year.

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Masala

Masala is a special place. Lined with a row of windows that looks out onto Teele Square, natural outdoor light meets the warmth of the restaurant itself. Inside, with a beautiful dining area and a glass window looking into the kitchen, Masala gives every customer a sense of both openness and connection. That, in fact, is what makes the whole experience so unique.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with a plate of complimentary papadum, a thin and fragrant cracker with three sauces, including a spicy chutney. For dinner itself, we sampled a variety of food, including samosas, garlic and peschwari naan, a lamb rogan josh, and a creamy rice pudding for dessert. Everything was delicious; I was only sorry I didn’t have room for more of the extensive selection.

After dinner, we were warmly welcomed by Dammar, Masala’s owner. He talked about how Masala serves both the local Nepalese community – nearly half of customers on weekends are Nepalese – and helps engage people who are less familiar with the cuisine.

 “Before,” Dammar told us, “I sold only 10% of my menu – now I sell 40%.”

It is a dynamic process for him, a two-way street where his guests learn about his food and culture – they start to know the names of different dishes, and ask for new recommendations – while Dammar also loves to ask the guests’ opinion on what they have eaten.

Dammar’s own story shows how comfortable he is working between cultures. Before arriving in Boston, he travelled to over 80 countries as a chef on Carnival cruises. He described working with crews of 150 people from 140 countries, making food 24 hours a day for thousands of people. Trained in French cuisine, Dammar’s wanted to share a passion for his own cuisine, the taste and textures of Nepalese cooking.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2f20.jpg

This passion has caught on, as we could tell by the number of different kinds of people sharing the restaurant with us, whether a regulars who knew all the wait staff, or a group of friends out for a weeknight meal. This restaurant is clearly well-respected and well-loved, as a unique place to connected to the people and the process behind the delicious food that you are served.

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Masala is located at 1127 Broadway, Somerville. Find more information on Masala here: http://www.somervillemasala.com/

Sample Masala’s dishes at YUM, coming up this Thursday, April 26th at the Arts at the Armory! Click here to buy tickets.


YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year.

Photo credits: Helen Fowowe.

 

 

 

 

Royal Bengal: Homestyle Indian Cuisine, Fresh Ingredients

By Delia Hagan

To its loyal Cambridge and Somerville customers, Royal Bengal is known as a reliable takeout spot for homestyle Indian favorites. Tucked away on Medford Street in Somerville, where it’s been for the past three years, Royal Bengal has begun to expand and offer more seating to accommodate its diverse patrons, from local families to young professionals. It also offers a growing catering menu perfect for family parties and gatherings.IMG_3711 (1)

My friend Mei-Mei and I met there last week to catch up and try the cuisine, taking shelter there during a heavy rainstorm. After a refreshing Mango Lassi, we sampled the Chicken Tikka Masala (a dish of roasted chicken tikka in spicy sauce) and Aloo Gobi (a vegetarian dish made with potatoes, cauliflower and spices), two of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. The food was vibrant and comforting, served in generous helpings with a tasty blend of spices and cilantro. And what meal is complete without garlic naan? Theirs was delicious. As we ate our meal, we noticed the quiet, family-friendly atmosphere of the restaurant and its casual, peaceful feel. (The service was also very fast, which might be why many Somerville residents choose Royal Bengal for takeout as well).

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I was able to talk with the restaurant’s owner Bosudeb Majumder, who told me more about Royal Bengal. He said his goal is to please his local customers and have them come back time after time. He emphasized the restaurant’s use of fresh ingredients to create homestyle Bengali recipes and Indian favorites, as well as their openness to taking requests for specialty items their customers love. The restaurant has gone through a number of changes over the past few years – including moving from Cambridge to Somerville three years ago, and expanding to create more space last summer. Bosudeb is the new owner of Royal Bengal, and noted that he took over the restaurant from his relatives who taught him all of the restaurant’s most treasured recipes so he could continue the restaurant’s legacy with excellence. He hopes to continue expanding the restaurant’s offerings, especially as a caterer for family parties and gatherings. In addition to the Aloo Gobi and Chicken Tikka Masala that we tried, he noted that the restaurant’s other vegetable dishes and it’s goat and chicken curries are other customer favorites.

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Sample Royal Bengal’s dishes at YUM, coming up this Thursday, April 26th at the Arts at the Armory! Click here to buy tickets.

Royal Bengal is located 364 Medford Street in Somerville, MA. Click here to find out more about the restaurant or place an order online.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year.

 

Tu y Yo

by Alex Galimberti

If you attended the YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City festival in either one of the last two years you will remember the delicious authentic Mexican food served by Tu y Yo. This year we are happy to welcome their participation at YUM for the third time. The spirit of YUM and of The Welcome Project is reflected by the hospitality at Tu y Yo, even the name of the restaurant which translates to “You and I” is a reference to the power of connections between people.

On a recent visit I was welcomed by Chef and co-owner Adolfo Alvarado. He shared with us his story as an immigrant who came from Guatemala twenty-four years ago. Adolfo has worked as a cook in some of the best Mexican restaurants in greater Boston and has been working at Tu y Yo for nine years; three years ago he became a co-owner of the restaurant and at this time he also decided to move to Somerville. Adolfo is also a student at The Welcome Project’s ESOL program. He has been taking intermediate classes for two years. With his improved English skills Adolfo now feels like he can better communicate with City Hall and with the Somerville community.

Chef Adolfo is proud that at Tu y Yo he can train his staff to learn responsibility at all roles in the kitchen and thus provide advancement opportunities.  The cooking philosophy employed since Tu y Yo opened in the year 2000 is based on elevating a homemade cooking style. This makes Tu y Yo stand out as a place where you can eat classic authentic dishes that are imbedded in the history of Mexico. The menu gives you not only a description to each dish but also highlights the origin of the recipe that they use. Most of their recipes are representative of home style cooking from the Southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz, with some unique influences from the North.

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The staff at Tu y Yo: Nathaly, Yefry, Chef Adolfo, Everardo, Henry

Trying out unique ingredients can be a highlight of a visit to Tu y Yo. On my first visit many years ago I was delighted to try tacos de chapulines (grasshopper), they were a delicious dish and a memorable experience that my partner and I talk about to this day. Other unique Mexican ingredients that you can try at Tu y Yo are cuitlacoche (corn mushroom) and nopales (cactus).

After a great conversation with Chef Adolfo and after meeting his staff, my partner and I enjoyed a delicious meal with some of the highlights in the restaurant’s menu. For appetizers we had Crepa de Cuilacoche en Salsa Poblana and the assorted mini tamales. Our main course consisted of two of the more traditional dishes in the menu; the Mole Colorado Tlaxcateca was a superb execution of a traditional red mole sauce with Mexican chocolate, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and Mexican peppers (chef Adolfo says it takes six hours to prepare the sauce); the Chile Relleno en Nogada is a dish that celebrates Mexican’s Independence, a poblano peper stuffed with ground beef mixed with fruit, covered in a walnut and cinnamon sauce topped with pomegranate seeds and cilantro. We finished our meal with a slice each of Avocado Cheesecake and Imposible, a Mexican flan baked with a layer of chocolate cake topped with caramel tequila sauce. The best way to end your meal at Tu y Yo is to sip on a warm cup of Café de Olla, coffee boiled with chocolate, clove, cinnamon, orange and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar).

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Tu y Yo  is located at 858 Broadway on Powder House Square.  When you come to the YUM festival on Thursday April 26, make sure to say hi to Adolfo.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here

YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.

Yoshi’s

 

It would be hard to find a restaurant that demonstrates Somerville’s diversity better than Yoshi’s. The restaurant, a five minute walk from Davis Square,  used to be primarily Korean, but for six years has been under the management of a Chinese couple who specialize in sushi. I visited Yoshi’s with a friend on a weeknight, and had a chance to sit down with Qing, one of the current managers.

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Yoshi’s was warm and welcoming place, just like its owners. I heard a little of Qing’s experience as an immigrant to Somerville from southern China. After coming to the US over a decade ago, she quickly became rooted in Massachusetts when she first moved to Ipswich.  Qing and her family have found Somerville as a fun and welcoming place, and love try different cuisines around the city, her own favorite being Vietnamese food. She and her husband took over Yoshi’s from a Korean owner, and since then have revamped the menu to create a fusion of Asian cuisine that makes it a unique place that is invaluable to local residents.

Qing loves to welcome the international community brought in by students at Tufts University in particular. At the same time, they have also tailored the menu so that it is accessible to customers less familiar with Asian cuisine. True to this end, all kinds of people wandered in and out of the restaurant for take-out or a sit-down meal.

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My friend and I tasted only a few dishes from the extensive menu, but tried to get a sample of the different kind of cuisines offered. We started with fried tofu skin, friend tofu skin (thin, fried tofu stuffed with sweet rice), a tuna roll, as well as both scallion pancakes and the traditional dosul bibimbap – foods that I loved to eat growing up in a Korean home.

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Everything we sampled was fresh and delicious, but even with this much food, there were so many things left to try, especially with an incredibly extensive sushi menu. The lovely atmosphere, eclectic offerings, and warm hospitality make Yoshi’s a place that has something for everyone.

Yoshi’s makes itself accessible to customers by offering online ordering and a delivery service. It offers plenty of promotions for its customers, such as a free sushi roll for orders over $30.  Yoshi’s is located at 132 College Street, Somerville. Find a menu and more information at http://yoshis.net/.

Qing, her family, and Yoshi’s are an integral part of the community of Somerville, and the Welcome Project is honored to host them as one of ten immigrant-owned restaurants which will be featured at the event YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City, coming up on April 26.

To see all the restaurants that will be featured at this year’s YUM event, click here.

YUM: A Taste Immigrant City is an evening of culinary tastes from immigrant-run Somerville restaurants and local world entertainment, which benefits the work of The Welcome Project, Somerville’s largest immigrant and advocacy organization. The Welcome Project serves over 200 families each year. The event will be held April 6 at the Arts at the Armory. To purchase event sponsorships or tickets click here.

 All photo credits to Helen Fowowe.