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This 'top chef' tells us the how to make the most of the corner store

Chef and restaurateur Dale Talde showed us how

Chef and restaurateur Dale Talde showed us how to navigate the corner stores. (Deidre Schoo) Credit: Chef and restaurateur Dale Talde showed us how to navigate the corner stores. (Deidre Schoo)

One great thing about Manhattan living is that there are plenty of small corner-store groceries, which are convenient options for New Yorkers in a pinch for time.

The problem: It's not always easy to navigate these stores and find the best ingredients if you're in a rush to assemble a meal.

That's where Dale Talde comes in. The former chef de cuisine at Buddakan, "Top Chef" Season 4 contestant and co-owner of the soon-to-open Asian-American restaurant Talde in Park Slope recently ran a lower Manhattan pop-up restaurant dedicated to bodega food with an upscale twist.

Many Korean-owned markets sell this spicy cabbage staple. Talde recommends buying the "house" specialty: If you're in a Korean market, get the kimchi. If you're in a Mexican bodega, go for the tamales.

Dale's cooking tip: For a spin on a Korean casserole, combine ramen noodles with kimchi and bacon and top with an egg. Or slice the kimchi up and use it as a spicy sandwich topper.

Convenience is the name of the game at corner markets, and there are shorcuts to be found everywhere.

Dale's cooking tip: Buy the already cut-up pineapple and stir-fry it with cooked rice, some fish sauce and a little soy sauce for simple pineapple fried rice.

This lends dishes a coconut flavor without the creaminess or high fat content of coconut milk.

Dale's cooking tip: Heat coconut water with fish sauce until it caramelizes a bit, then use the sauce to braise beef.

These salty basics are Talde's personal favorites. "As much as you try to replicate that taste, you'll never make a from-scratch saltine that's exactly the same as the original," Talde says. "It's just a really good product."

Dale's cooking tip: At Talde's bodega-themed pop-up, he served saltines toped with raw tuna (tossed with lemon juice and onion) and lardo. "For me, it was about the juxtaposition of beautiful, sushi-grade tuna and this iconic, lowbrow snack," he said.

Most stores will have some type available, and since Talde is a chef and not a baker, he goes for desserts that require little or no baking.

Dale's cooking tip: Cut doughnuts into large pieces and soak them in a custard (made of egg yolk, cream and sugar), then bake them in an oven to make an over-the-top doughnut bread pudding.

"Unless you're using fresh corn during the summer, there's no point in going fresh. Canned corn is sweeter and it doesn't make a mess."

Dale's cooking tips: Talde's corn pancakes use 1 can of corn, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon clarified butter and a pinch of sugar, salt and black pepper. Combine all the ingredients (except butter) and blend well. Let the mixture rest for an hour. In a small cast-iron pan, heat clarified butter. Add batter. Cook on high for two to three minutes and pop in a 375-degree oven for five to eight minutes.


More of Dale's bodega buys
From treats to condiments, these are a few other items that caught Dale's eye while we walked through the corner market:

Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon Buns Ice Cream: Talde's lactose-intolerant, but he said ice cream flavors like this are worth the risk. "I like to top it with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal - that's my jam."

PopCorners' Kettle flavor chips: These popcorn chips "are the perfect mix of salty and a little sweet. That's my favorite flavor combination."

Frank's Red Hot Sauce: "This is the king of hot sauce. I prefer it to Sriracha."

Sixpoint Craft Ales' Bengali Tiger: "Sixpoint is a local brewery that makes some awesome beers." 

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