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By Billy Lyons
While seasonal foodie rapture over ramps and fiddlehead ferns is starting up, there's another vegetable that's also having a moment--and is even harder to find. Huazontle, a sturdy edible weed from Mexico that you won't find in farmers markets, remains even more elusive. The leafy green branches hold out clumps of tiny buds, much like the tight beads of broccoli florets. Though huazontle has been popping up in Mexican markets all over the city recently, the plant is somewhat cumbersome to prepare and tricky to eat, so it is still rare to find it served in restaurants.
I spotted huazontle at Alimentos Saludables, a truly under-the-radar tamaleria in Sunset Park. Their tamales are so outstanding it's almost absurd to even consider ordering anything else; but during the weeks leading up to Easter, huazontle is available and worth a deviation. Clusters of the branches are blanched, dipped into an egg-white thickened batter, and fried, like a chile relleno with a baton of cheese encased inside. The oblong fritter is smothered in a light tomato-chile sauce and served with rice and beans ($11).
Each branch must be excavated from its batter and eaten by nibbling the buds off the branch with your teeth -- think steamed-artichoke-leaf-style-scraping -- then discarding the bare branches afterwards. Another method is to pluck each green floret from the stem and hoard them on the plate until there's enough for a forkful, a tedious yet delicious process.
Voice critic Tejal Rao recently discovered huazontle fritters as well, in a corner of the menu of Cocina Economica Mexico, a small Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side that she reviewed earlier this week.
Alimentos Saludables, 5919 4th Ave., Brooklyn, 718-492-1660
5919 4th Ave., Brooklyn, NY