RETURNING TO CITI FIELD
Take a Trip to Lebanon via
Sunnyside & Souk Al Shater
BY JOE DISTEFANO
As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m
so very fortunate to live in the most
diverse and delicious destination in
all of New York City. Really I’m not
royalty though, I’m an ambassador,
and a hungry one at that. Today,
we take a trip to Lebanon via the
International Express—aka the
7 train— to savor the offerings at the
family run Souk El Shater.
When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine,
many Queens residents immediately think of
Astoria’s Little Egypt and they are right to do
so, but did you know there’s a portal to Beirut
in Sunnyside just steps away from the 7 train?
It’s a family run market/grocery called Souk al
“Souk means like a bazaar and ‘el shater'
means clever in Arabic, so it literally translates
to bazaar of the clever,” says Hussein Osman,
as he shaves some beef shawarma off a
rotating spit that sits inside the front window.
“Shater was my grandfather’s nickname.”
That beef shawarma seasoned with herbs
and spices imported from Lebanon is excellent
in a tightly wrapped sandwich as is the
chicken. Can’t decide? Get a combo platter of
both drizzled with tahini sauce. It comes with
a salad sprinkled with dried sumac and batons
of crunchy electric purple pickled turnips.
That white blob in the center isn’t more sauce,
it's toum, a lemony Lebanese garlic paste that
along with a jalapeño and parsley hot sauce
will enliven your taste buds as you enjoy your
feast at the narrow counter that lines one wall.
Since Souk El Shater is also part butcher
shop, the beef and chicken kebabs are
excellent as is sujuk, a spicy Lebanese beef
Souk al Shater—a culinary portal to Lebanon—lies steps away from the 7 train.
sausage. If you are lucky enough to be there
when they are making rotisserie chicken, be
sure to grab one. It’s one of the most unique
birds in Queens, and at $13 with two sides, it’s
a steal. Hussein who runs the shop with his
brother Mohammed and their father, Ahmad,
is especially proud of the crunchy falafel, made
from a blend of fava beans and chickpeas.
The family matriarch, Salwa, is in charge
of desserts, which include five varieties of
baklava. Got a really sweet tooth? Go for the
nutless version, made with apricot jam and
coconut. Even better is shabiya, a triangle of
crunchy phyllo dough filled with rose-scented
ashta cheese. And then there’s maamoul mad,
a date filled semolina cake, that for all the
world tastes like a Fig Newtown that spent a
semester abroad in Beirut.
Should you wish to try your hand at
Lebanese fare at home the shop has all manner
of ingredients, including one pound bags of
Lebanese za’atar perfumed with thyme and
sumac, as well as tahini and cans of Americana
brand fava beans and labne cheese. On the way
out ask for some Sharawi chewing gum made
from mastic, a resin from the Pistacia lentiscus
tree, that’s been used as a breath freshener
long before Wm. Wrigley Jr. was born. It’s a
clever way to clean your palate after a trip to
Lebanon via Queens.
The beef and chicken shwarma platter
sings with the flavors of Lebanon, including
nutty tahini and garlicky toum.
The shop’s homemade desserts, include several varieties of baklava.
43-03 Queens Blvd., Sunnyside, nr. 43rd
Schneps Media October 24, 2019 27