Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Of Etrog and Pomelo

Etrogs for sale at a table along Essex Street

The Jewish Holiday Sukkot starts tomorrow and lasts for a week (September 22-29).  Sukkot is, as best as I can tell, a harvest festival that involves cute little outside huts (Sukkahs) and the buying of an Etrog (אֶתְרוֹג‎) and a Lulav (a palm frond) which are then used during the services of Sukkot.

So every year in the days before Sukkot vendors set up tables up and down Essex street.  Essex Street between Grand and Canal is really the last few blocks of what used to be a huge Jewish community that spanned the entire neighborhood and in many ways defined the neighborhood for decades.

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I'm telling you all this.  Etrog is a citrus; most of the ones sold here are grown in Israel.  Besides the wonderful festival market-like feel these Etrog and Lulav sellers create along Essex, the Etrog is a rare and delicate citrus fruit and you can candy it's peel (and then maybe even dip it in dark chocolate) or use it in baking (of course the first thing that came to my mind is Christmas Cake...).  You would candy Etrog the same way you would any other citrus, trying to keep the white pith to a minimum and simmering in a sugar syrup (1 cup water to 1 cup sugar).  I like to let mine simmer for hours and sometimes after it's cooked I'll leave it in the syrup over night before I lay it out to dry.

The other, lesser know citrus I have come across in my wanderings of Manhattan's Lower East Side is Pomelo.  Mostly I find Pomelo's here are disappointing, too juicy and too much like a Grapefruit.  In Thailand they make an amazing salad from Pomelo, which are much drier there, thus segmenting easily and the skin comes off leaving a perfectly formed, skinless wedge.  The peel is very thick so don't let the size scare you the actually fruit part is much smaller.
If you are feeling adventurous and are at the North East Corner of Grand and Forsyth where I found these wonders in a Chinese grocery store, you might want to buy one and make a salad.

Like most Thai food the basic ingredients for your salad should be lime juice, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, fish sauce, and then you might want to add some crunchy fried shallots, peanuts, coconut... maybe even a little chopped Cilantro.  I didn't pick one up but I will this week and see how they fare in my ongoing search for the perfect Pomelo.


sivan@israel said...

i am ola hadasha and for some reason i did not see ethrog in supermarket. where can i buy it?

Neil said...

Neil (the Jewish boyfriend of UrbanFoodGuy) will chime in here:
1. For you, Sivan@israel: my hubbie is not Jewish and lives in New York - so he would not understand your hebrew and would not know where to find etrogim in israel.
2. For UFG: "ola hadasha" means a woman who has recently moved to Israel.

there you both go! :)

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