Last week I was on the hunt for the most interesting international hot dogs that I could find in Queens. This week the search continues. In a different experience than the whole hot dog post, here hot dogs are used as toppings, fillings, and garnishes. The combinations of ingredients in the following dishes are at times unexpected and even a little odd, but never boring.
The original Mama's Empanadas shop on Northern Boulevard has an extensive menu of both corn and wheat dough empanadas with traditional as well as creative fillings. On the creative side, along with chicken parmigian (their spelling), mac and cheese, and kielbasa with sauerkraut, are two hot dog based fillings: hot dog-n-cheese, and chili-dog. Of course I had to order both. The two empanadas came out extremely hot, incredibly crisp, and not greasy at all. The chili-dog was filled with a ground beef mixture that had large chunks of soft onion and jalapeno, with some thin hot dog slices here and there. A very juicy mixture, it tasted great with the flaky crust and a hit of their spicy, vinegary red sauce. But the hot dog flavor was overpowered by the chili. In the hot dog-n-cheese empanada, however, the hot dog was the star. A nice combination of crunch from the crust, soft hot dog, and then the salty, melty, yellow cheese. I felt like a kid eating an after-school snack.
Price: $1.50 each
85-05 Northern Boulevard, Jackson Heights (map) (718) 505-9937
Pio Pio To Go
Pio Pio To Go is right across the street from Mama's Empanadas, and it's where I found salchipapas. Salchipapas are a great fast food/snack dish popular in Peru and other South American countries. Salchi is short for salchicha (sausage) and papa is potato; put them together, and you get one of the best-named snack foods anywhere. Hot dogs are pan-fried, sliced, and mixed with fried potatoes.
At Pio Pio, the hot dogs are sliced on the bias and placed on top of the fries. The long slices of hot dog are very soft in the middle, and crisp and chewy on the outside. The hot dogs had a great beefy, garlicky flavor. Much like last week's knish dog, these were the best and highest quality hot dogs of this week. In a dish like salchipapas, hot dog quality is key, since it is the most important ingredient. The french fries below became quite soggy, a consequence of being covered by a thick layer of hot dogs. Aside from that, the salchipapas, served with ketchup, are a great use of hot dogs, and pure fun to eat.
Price: $4.00 plus tax
84-13 Northern Boulevard, Jackson Heights, NY (map) (718) 426-1010
La Papa Astoria
La Papa Astoria has the most interesting use of hot dogs that I have come across so far in my hot dog wanderings. La Papa specializes in "Kumpir, a baked potato with fillings, a popular fast food item in Turkey", as they say on their website. A huge baked potato is split, the potato is scooped out, mixed with butter and kasseri cheese, stuffed back into the potato skin, and then topped.
I ordered the La Papa Classic: "(The traditional Turkish way) Beef franks, Russian Salad, Pickles, Green Olives, & Corn." Again, so much fun to eat. All of the listed ingredients, plus a heavy sprinkling of grated cheese to top it off. A completely unique taste experience. Every spoonful was different. The warm, smooth mashed potato mixed with the sweet and crunchy corn kernels, the salty chopped pickles and olives, the meaty, garlic flavor of the hot dogs, while the grated cheese slowly melted into the potato.
The only unenjoyable part for me was the Russian salad. I didn't really need to top my baked potato with a mayonnaise-heavy potato salad, but that's just personal preference. The hot dog plays a supporting role along with the rest of the ingredients, but its flavor is a nice addition to the whole experience. I ate the potato, I still don't understand it, but I love that it exists.
25-13 30th Ave, Astoria (map) (718) 777-7879
Renee's Kitchenette & Grill
The two pictures above are both the same dish, Filipino-style spaghetti, as prepared by two different restaurants, Renee's Kitchenette, and Jollibee. Renee's is homestyle prepared food, and Jollibee is a fast food chain, so I wanted try both.
Filipino spaghetti is quite different from American spaghetti, for a few reasons. Firstly, the tomato sauce is sweetened with sugar. Secondly, it is topped with yellow cheese, and thirdly, and most importantly for our purposes, has sliced hot dogs as an ingredient.
Renee's version was first. The spaghetti was sparsely topped with a very sweet sauce with ground meat, a few soft hot dog slices, and a sprinkling of cheese. Once mixed together, the hot dog was almost completely lost. The meat and sweetness took over. When I did get a bite with hot dog, it was a nice addition, but the hot dog itself was a very mild pork hot dog without much flavor.
Jollibee's spaghetti, on the other hand, had a whole lot of sauce, also very sweet but slightly more complex—I'm sure fast food scientists did all kinds of testing for that—with black pepper, ground meat, tiny chunks of chewy, salty ham, and hot dog, and a large amount of orange cheese melted across the top. This spaghetti, once mixed, had much more flavor, because it had more sauce, but also because it had the addition of ham, and more chopped hot dog throughout. Even though there was less ground meat, it tasted meatier. The hot dogs in both of these spaghetti plates were in the background, more of a garnish than anything else, but there nonetheless.
Renee's Kitchenette & Grill Price: $5.49 69-14 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, NY 11377 (map) (718) 476-9002
Jollibee Price: Individual serving $6.40 (includes soda) 62-29 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside (map)
So what have we learned over these past two weeks? That there are many, many ways to eat hot dogs. That these dishes, created out of necessity or hot dog surpluses, combined with the local or favorite ingredients of the specific country, are really something special. That hot dogs are fun and almost inevitably make people happy. What other kinds of hot dog dishes are out there?