Sweet & Semi-Scary at Johnny Air Mart – NYC
[NOTE: Semi-scary photo after the jump. Proceed with caution.]
Last weekend it was crazy hot, ninety-eight mother-f*cking degrees hot. So hot that when the power went out in my apartment and the building manager questioned why I had two air conditioners, I went berserk. It wasn’t a meltdown, it was a complete blaze-up. I don’t even know how I managed. I was weak from barely eating for three days (I was sick, not dieting god-forbid), but somehow all of a sudden I was ready to open a can of whoop-ass. Thinking back, I realize I need to take a minute or two before reacting sometimes. The poor guy was just trying to figure out what happened, but the only thing running through my head at that moment was, ‘This is America, I can have two air conditioners if I want!”
In any case, it won’t be as hot as heck this weekend, but a cool icy Halo-Halo ($4.50) from Johnny Air Mart will still hit the spot. The halo-halo at Johnny Air Mart is a milky concoction — more like a very icy frappé than shaved ice — full of soft beans (garbanzo and red mung beans), young coconut strips, caramelized diced plantains, chewy sugar palm fruit (kaong), and jelly-like nata de coco. It’s a gamut of textures. However, for me, the best part was the smooth square of flan swimming on top. I love Taiwanese and Korean shaved ice, but given the choice, why not have shaved ice with flan?! It just seems silly without it. Flan, where have you been my entire shaved icy life?
For those more adventurous, Johnny Air Mart also sells balut ($1.50), fertilized duck eggs. The eggs are sold uncooked, so you’ll have to cook it before eating it. At home, I boiled the balut for twenty minutes (as instructed at the store), and then gently cracked open the egg. I heard the liquid inside shouldn’t be wasted, so I drank that first. It was a bit like soup, a rich poultry soup without the oil. So far it wasn’t scary. Nothing too odd.. and then I saw the baby duck head and foot. The foot looked like a little clenched fist. Oh my. It was beginning to get scary, but I persevered and ate the tiny chick head first with a little salt. The body plus clenched foot I ate shortly after. It tasted pretty good. As you can expect, it tasted like egg and duck, but with a slight funky liver taste. I was expecting some crunch from the bones or beak, but everything was soft, except a hard white cartilage-like segment which I threw out. I hear it’s good for you because it’s all calcium, but it was quite tasteless, and I decided I get enough calcium from my daily multi-vitamin, thank you very much.
Would I eat it again? If served to me, why not? And if I ever find myself in the Philippines, I would definitely want to try it from a street vendor, but for now, I’m not in a mad rush to have any more. With halo-halo, that’s another story.
Johnny Air Mart
214 Avenue A (b/n 13th & 14th St; map)
NY, NY 10009