Astoria, Guest Bloggers, United Nations of Astoria
Dec 17, 2013

United Nations of Astoria – Melting Pot Cuisine

A rare taste of Jamaican home cooking at Melting Pot Cuisine in Astoria, Queens.

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In a borough renowned for its multi-culturalism (represent, Queens!), Astoria is home to a particularly diverse mix of cultures. Astorians from the Balkans, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, and even our southerly neighboring borough (that’s you, Brooklyn) rub shoulders every day in the ‘hood. And you know what that means: excellent eating.

You have to look hard to find Caribbean food in Astoria (and that’s what this series is all about—we do the hunting; you do the eating). But it is here.

Fried dumpling

A nice shot of Melting Pot’s fried dumpling. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini

Melting Pot Cuisine, the neighborhood’s only source of Jamaican cooking, is perched on the neighborhood’s southwestern corner, abutting the Roosevelt Island Bridge at the intersection of 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard. They deliver everywhere in the neighborhood, but it’s worth trekking down there to enjoy a meal in their sunny dining room.

The menu features several Jamaican mainstays, like stewed oxtail, curry goat, jerk chicken, roti (filled with curry chicken or goat), patties (stuffed with vegetables, jerk chicken, or spicy beef) and cocoa bread, red peas soup (Tuesdays and Thursdays only), cow foot soup (Wednesdays only).

Signature breakfast dishes from the island—ackee and saltfish, callaloo, and codfish fritters—are also available for as long as they last each day (insider tip: the fritters go fast). On Fridays, a rotating selection of special dishes (e.g., sweet and sour chicken and vegetarian rasta pasta) are featured.

Curry chicken roti

Chicken Roti. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini

The curry chicken roti is good bet on a cold day. It’s a huge griddled flatbread, filled with chicken on the bone and hunks of potato stewed in fragrant spiced gravy. It’s wonderfully free of oil (unlike many restaurant curries) and redolent with the vivid flavors of coriander, cumin, fenugreek, turmeric, and ginger. The best part: the chicken and potato are fall-apart tender. This Caribbean comfort food could soothe any soul.

A vegetarian plate of callaloo, fried and boiled dumplings

Callaloo, boiled, and fried dumplings. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini

Vegetarians have fewer options at Melting Pot, but the callaloo platter is an excellent meatless option. It comes with a varying array of sides, usually boiled plantain and yam, yeasty fried dumpling, and a pair of boiled dough dumplings.

The carbs and starches are mild and dense—an ideal complement to the incredibly flavorful, savory greens. It’s tricky to dissect the complex flavors at play in this callaloo flavor bomb, though caramelized onion and bits of stewed green bell pepper and tomato are in the mix.

Fried, sweet plantains

Fried, sweet plantains. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini

Add a side of the sweet, earthy fried plantains and a glass of the mildly sweet, gingery house-made sorrel drink (or a bottle of Ting, a fizzy grapefruit soda from Trinidad and Tobago), and you have one of the most satisfying cold weather meals in the neighborhood.

Cold sorrel drink

Delightful sorrel drink. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini

(Additional reporting by Meg Cotner)

Melting Pot Cuisine, 3601 Vernon Boulevard, Astoria, NY, 11106, (718) 606-2670

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