Afternoon Snack: Cumin Lamb Kebabs in Flushing
It's late afternoon and dinner is a few hours away. Where do you get a quick bite to carry you through the day? Afternoon Snack looks at quick bites to tide you over without spoiling dinner. Got a snack we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
I may visit Flushing on a mission for dumplings, scallion pancakes, or serious noodles, but kebabs are my golden unicorn. The street carts that sell these slender skewers of grilled meat for about $1 move around frequently and are hard to pin down. The cooks' English is limited or non-existant, so there's plenty of pointing and gesturing before you actually get your snack. These are elusive bites, but they're worth the hunt.
To be clear: I don't mean those dry, burnt Manhattan street meat kebabs. These babies are cooked over a pit of hot coals right before your eyes. The small chunks of meat char beautifully from the direct heat, but remain moist, tender, and intensely meaty. Sure, bad luck may send you a skewer with over-generous chunks of fat, or a bit too much gristle, but consider such setbacks as invitations to gnaw and savor your meat more fully.
Lamb is my kebab meat of choice (chicken, beef, organ meat, and even octopus are also usually available). The first bite, fragrant with cumin and lamb fat, is a pretty elemental carnivorous experience. The better carts—and to be honest I have no great distinguishing visual cues here—coat the lamb with a layer of cumin seeds, which makes a beautiful crust that toasts and crackles over the coals. You'll see locals lining up for five or ten of these at a time (I can think of worse ways to build a meal), but one or two makes for a perfect mid-meal bite.
Corner of 39th Avenue and Prince Street
Corner of Sanford Avenue and Main Street