This small weekday market may have all of two stands, I discovered on arrival, but the vendors have enough fresh produce between them to just about satisfy those locals that have it on their doorstep. It’s all seasonal, as you’d expect, coming from Angel Family Farm in Orange County and Migliorelli Farm in Dutchess County.
Exploring the market took a whopping five minutes of our morning, and as timing had it, it was almost lunch time. A bit of exploration around this Queens neighbourhood shows how diverse its residents are; a melting pot of cultures from North Africa, Maltese, Bosnian, Brazilian and Bangladeshi. You know what that means. A great variety of small businesses and places to eat.
My own heritage subconsciously drew me to food from the Balkans, and to this place, Ukus. Tables are limited so it was probably good that we arrived before the lunch crowd descended; next to the glass cabinet displaying traditional sweets and in view of a television broadcasting something-or-other.
A fridge sits in the dining room where you help yourself to any of the chilled bevvies, and the menu reads as your typical Balkan variety. A handful of soups and salads, stews and stuffed cabbage, grilled meats and of course burek. For those that aren’t familiar, burek is a pie of sorts; layers of hand-stretched pastry with a meat, cheese or vegetable “filling”. See my first attempt at making it here.
At Ukus you have pretty much all of the filling options, but it was meat that made first choice at our table. One thing for sure is they don’t skimp when it comes down to portion control. The quarter of meat burek (6) we got was pretty good but needed a good dose of ajvar to boost the flavours a bit. Beautifully flakey pastry.
It may have been on the warm side outside, but the Begova čorba (6) couldn’t be ignored. This is a traditional Bosnian soup loaded with chicken, okra, carrots, rice and parsley. Ever had Jewish penicillin soup and thought it was the best soup you’ve eaten? Well this čorba trumps that. It even trumps the chicken čorba my mother makes. The soup is ladled over a good dollop of sour cream; something you discover when you dip your spoon into the shallow depths, stirring up ribbons of creaminess into the homemade chicken broth. A bit of ajvar added to the bliss. Sensational.
The cakes in the cabinet beside us was tempting us with its contents, one of which stood above the rest. The Keks torta (3). This reminded me of my mothers version of this dessert, except here at Ukus it had vanilla custard and hazelnuts layered with arrowroot-style biscuits rather than the espresso cream I remember from my childhood. Still, it was a good way to round up a really good lunch.