THE BITE: I’ve said it before, one of the greatest things about living in our neighborhood is the vast variety of foodstuffs available. With just about every continent represented, one can find himself eating his way around the world. But, to really experience it you need to be adventurous. And by adventurous, I don’t just mean be willing to try new foods, but you need to be willing to try new ways of eating.
Writing the bite, I need to be careful about how I report the foods I choose. What’s new and exciting to me may be old hat to you. I just hope I choose well and select items that reflect our neighborhood’s increasing diversity.
1001 Nights, 35 Neptune Avenue, bills itself as a ” Middle Eastern” restaurant, but offers food styles from across Asia. Diving deeper into their website, 1001 Nights drops all claims to be “Middle Eastern” and proclaims itself ”one of the most sought after Uzbek restaurants in NYC.” I don’t really care which area wins, I simply enjoyed the food.
Parmuda samsa ($3.95), is one of the Uzbeki foods. Offered in the “traditional dishes” section of the menu, parmuda samsas are described as “a dish in honor of the twins, revered in the Orient – the conjoint pair of mini-patties with meat.” Intriguing, no? Who are these twins and why they revered? Hell, if they can cook, I’ll revere them too.
For the uninitiated, a samsa in its most basic definition is a term that can apply to any stuffed roll or bun. The names of the samsas change with the addition of various meats, fruits or vegetables and the shaping of the dough. The most common versions available in our neighborhood are stuffed with either minced lamb or pumpkin. (Yes, pumpkin is a fruit. Believe it or not.)
The parmuda samsa is stuffed with minced lamb, onions and animal fat or suet, much like most sausage mixtures. This mixture is wrapped in a layer of a sweet dough, which is shaped into a basic round form.
As a gesture to the twins, the individual samsas are first joined together in pairs, then into a combination of four. They are then given a quick egg wash and a quick sprinkling of sesame seeds. The egg wash gives the finish product a lovely golden color, while the dark sesame seeds provide sharp visual contrast.
Many people claim that cooking and/or eating is like making love. Was some ancient cook referencing the twin’s two sets of boobs when he created this dish? The answer is lost to time, but I’m betting he was. I know that the image of breasts did flash across my mind as the dish was placed before us. Lovely, sun touched, golden breasts.
Pulling one samsa away from its sister, I bit in and tasted a slightly sweet dough, mild lamb, sweet onions and just a bit of coriander. The images of boobs left my head as my senses focused on the tantalizing combination of flavors. Topping the samsa with the assertive tomato-based sauce provided by 1001 nights changed the experience greatly. Gone was the gentle lover’s touch, replaced by a more passionate and rushed encounter, as the spices entered the game urging a more demanding experience.
Man, I need to go back.
A quick word about the restaurant itself. It’s beautiful and would make a great place for a lover’s encounter. It’s large, but has lots of semi-private spaces making this a fantastic date night destination. Service was also good, with a rare smile crossing the face of our waiter.
1001 Nights, 35 Neptune Ave, (718) 646-1001.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.