Early Thursday I hurried into work, mind on the ten things to be done by noon, and stopped short at the bulletin board between the elevator and the men’s room. “My Lucky Tummy” proclaimed a poster hanging there, letters scrawled across the fat belly of a spring robin. “1,000s of refugees & immigrants call Syracuse home. Many come from places where fast, easy food doesn’t rule. Food takes time. Food takes tradition & care. WE WANT THAT FOOD.”
I frowned at my lemon loaf and grande Americano. I, too, wanted that food.
Advance tickets for this international cuisine cost $20. It would be held at the Alibrandi Center, with service at 5, 6, and 7 p.m. The menu was a secret until the doors opened to the first wave of diners. All we knew from the website is that we would eat from Burma, Cuba, Somalia, Thailand, and Iraq; each dish would contain no more than 5 ingredients, and most of those would come from local, family owned markets (a fact that grew exponentially significant as we consumed dishes made from, among other things, camel meat).
The lady at the door shared protocol: grab a plate and join the throng. My Lucky Tummy is not a sit-down affair. Mingling is the point, particularly with the cooks. The Chef from Burma watched closely my reaction as I shoveled into a pile of noodles, and broke into a wide grin when I approximated ‘Hmmm! Delicious!’ straight through my mouthful. And so it was at each subsequent table, food-as-common-denominator, a tie that binds.
- Thin Baw Thi Athoke from Burma, made from green papaya, prawn, peanut, and chili
- Quimbombo from Cuba, made from okra, beef, plantain, tomato, and cumin
- Sambusa from Solalia, made from camel, potato, and piri piri
- Kao Pad Gai Gra Pow from Thailand, made from holy basil fried rice, chicken, and egg
- Kunefe from Iraq, made from broken noodles, pistachio, and sweet cheese
The cash bar featured something new: Griffin Hill Farm Brewery beer, a Saison brew out of Onondaga made not from water but from maple sap. Cheeky. The Husband, himself a home brewer, declared it delicious and as such made Griffin Hill Farm the [unsuspecting] target of a future OGR post.
And what of these family-run food markets that cater to our local refugee and New American communities, supplying the ingredients that make My Lucky Tummy’s international cuisine possible? These are the inconspicuous heroes, proving there is still much to discover on the Northside of Syracuse.
A new collection of international dishes will be presented in October 2014 when My Lucky Tummy pops up again at a TBD place and time. In keeping with the tradition of surprises, the only tidbits to be gleaned about the event from the website are that the menu will include a herby fish dish from Indonesia, will otherwise showcase vegetarian cuisine, and will feature produce from Salt City Harvest Farm. See you there.