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."