Flavors from the Ecuadorean Andes and a Pleasant Wave to Mexico, at Leticias

For a number of miles alongside Roosevelt Avenue between Citi Subject and Woodside, Queens, it’s onerous to stroll greater than a block or two with out working right into a taco. Across the 103rd Road cease on the No. 7 practice, although, the taco density goes off the charts. In a small rectangular park beside the elevated tracks, dozens of distributors promote freshly folded quesadillas, Oaxacan tlayudas, hunks of roasted pork, cups of heat atole, and tacos with a terrific multitude of fillings.

The park, formally Nationwide Plaza though everyone calls it Corona Plaza, workouts a magnetic impact, and never simply on individuals who eat there. A number of steps away, an Ecuadorean restaurant named Leticias has a taco part on its menu. Tacos will not be usually an Ecuadorean factor, however the fillings inside this restaurant’s tacos are very a lot Ecuadorean issues.

Leticias makes tacos with hornado — mushy, fat-basted lumps of marinated and roasted pork shoulder pulled aside whereas it’s nonetheless steaming. The meat is topped with pickled onions and a crunchy handful of tostados, the corn nuts which can be a devoted companion to hornado.

Different tacos are full of guatita, a stew of chopped tripe and potatoes simmered to softness in peanut sauce; its taste, soothing with an organ-meat tang, someway jogged my memory of dwelling though I didn’t by any means develop up in a tripe-eating home.

There are additionally tacos with tender, soy-darkened lomo saltado, the Chinese language-influenced Peruvian beef stir-fry whose recognition has spilled over into Ecuador; just a few of the French fries the dish is often served with make their approach contained in the tortillas. And there are fries within the tacos made with sliced Ecuadorean churrasco, a skinny steak fried with onions, peppers and tomatoes that unite to kind one thing like a sauce.

Galo Fernando Cando, the proprietor and chef of Leticias, buys corn tortillas — small ones, two to a taco — from Tortilleria Nixtamal, on the opposite facet of Corona Plaza.

He sees his Ecuadorean tacos as a pleasant whats up to the big Mexican group that lives in Corona alongside immigrants from Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and different Spanish-speaking nations. Collectively they make Corona essentially the most closely Latin American neighborhood in Queens, in line with a 2013 report from the city. And no a part of town has extra residents who had been born in Ecuador, as you would possibly guess from all of the hornado distributors on the sidewalks and within the storefronts of Roosevelt Avenue.

Mr. Cando named the restaurant for his mom, Rosa Leticia. Like his father, she is from the city of Déleg, within the Ecuadorean Sierra, and she or he cooks within the pork-loving fashion of the highlands. The couple moved to Queens earlier than Mr. Cando was born. When he was able to open his restaurant, in 2016, he introduced lots of her recipes to the tollbooth-size field of a kitchen that’s constructed towards one wall of the eating room, about midway to the again, dealing with the bar.

A graphic designer earlier than he was a chef, Mr. Cando put collectively the menu, a spiral-bound e-book generously illustrated with coloration images. It really works effectively, no less than on me; after I ordered the salchipapas, I used to be strongly influenced by its image, which reveals French fries sharing a plate with fried lengths of scorching canine. The flat ends of the new canines have been scored alongside the underside to present them quick appendages, which makes them appear to be the ghosts that Pac-Man chases, or like four-legged octopuses.

The painted murals inside are his work, too. The girl depicted by the door is his grandmother. The gentleman within the again is no one specifically; he was chosen for his Ecuadorean straw hat, formed just like the one Mr. Cando’s grandfather wore. Extra straw hats dangle on the wall, with a number of carved picket platters which have the pinnacle of a pig and a physique just like the again of a flatbread truck.

Suspended by wires from the ceiling is an imitation-neon signal whose pink script reads, “All you want is encebollado.” Encebollado is a fish soup that’s broadly and avidly consumed all through Ecuador, the place an extended custom holds that your want for it grows extra acute whenever you’re hung over. You additionally want encebollado in case you are a Queens restaurateur hoping to draw Ecuadorean expats. Mr. Cando’s model is full-bodied from its long-boiled fish bone broth. Within the heart of the soup, underneath the pickled onions it’s named for, is a thick lump of contemporary albacore that breaks into huge, curved flakes. Yuca, simmered to the purpose of disintegration, thickens the soup. Leticias sells numerous encebollado.

On busy days it appears to promote numerous the whole lot. Like many eating places within the Covid period, Leticias can get backed up when orders for takeout clients and seated diners collide. One evening a bowl of seco de pollo arrived after a really very long time; the broth was heat however the hen in it was chilly.

To assist cross the time there are contemporary juices, batidos produced from fruits together with tomate de arbòl, and, as of some weeks in the past, cocktails. These vary from fairly simple affairs just like the mojito or the canelazo, an Andean scorching toddy, all the way in which to three-ring circuses just like the Hank, a ginger-and-Jameson combine that arrives with a toasted marshmallow and is meant to be set on hearth on the desk. This doesn’t at all times work. It’ll nonetheless style good.

However there may be extra to eat: bite-size lengths of fried pork rib, crunchy and juicy; tall and fluffy potato desserts known as llapingachos; and ceviche de chicharrón — fried pork skins marinated in lime. For any person who has eaten solely ceviche produced from seafood, the primary encounter with ceviche de chicharrón might be like falling into an alternate timeline. Leticias sprinkles some dry, crisp pork pores and skin and a confetti of crimson peppers excessive so there’s something to crunch on, after which surrounds the entire thing with a low curved wall of ripe avocado. It’s the most lovely dish on the menu.

Neither this nor the a lot much less fascinating shrimp ceviche is notably spicy. Few issues at Leticias are, with the essential exception of the ají, a housemade scorching sauce. There are in all probability as many recipes for ají as there are Ecuadorean cooks; Mr. Cando makes a vibrant inexperienced ají from, amongst different issues, cilantro and serrano peppers. It may be utilized to simply about the whole lot, however significantly good outcomes are achieved with the hornado and churrasco.

The chaulafan at Leticias substitutes bits of steak for the same old pork, however it’s a must to be listening to discover the change on this riot of fried rice that incorporates shrimp, hen, beef, peppers, scallions, presumably some peas, actually fried egg, conceivably a carrot or two. Served by itself with fried plantains and avocado, it’s formidable.

Following the logic that led him to the lomo saltado tacos, Mr. Cando additionally rolls chaulafan and avocado inside a flour tortilla with guacamole and an enormous slug of bitter cream to make a burrito. It’s a singular merchandise, a type of edible monument to Corona, and for those who end one it might be a very long time earlier than you’ll be able to stand.

What the Stars Imply Due to the pandemic, eating places will not be being given star rankings. Flavors from the Ecuadorean Andes and a Pleasant Wave to Mexico, at Leticias

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