IN THE DINELIGHT | Not Tikka Masala
New to New York City, I was on the hunt for authentic Indian food.
You see, I grew up in Hawaii, where there aren’t any great Indian restaurants. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find good Indian spices. Everything has to be imported and there’s little “exotic” grocery turnover, so nothing that we want to cook with. One of my earliest memories was being on a family trip to California and basically buying out Patel Brothers, packing it in a cardboard box (wrapped in an ungodly amount of masking tape) and checking that to HNL. Thank goodness we did that, though - my mom is the best cook I know.
When I moved away for college, I was shocked to know that chicken tikka masala with a samosa starter was the normal Indian meal. What?! At my house, samosas were reserved for the best occasions (try to make a samosa from scratch and you’ll have a newfound appreciation). Every Sunday, my mom would make rice and dahl - a simple lentil soup - and to this day, that is my favorite meal on earth.
Anyway, when I relocated to NYC, I was determined to find home-cooked food. First stop - Curry Hill. I went restaurant hopping over a few months (#noregrets), consumed more palak paneer and peshwari naan than any human ever should, but still couldn’t find anything that felt like home.
I called my dad - he’s the smartest guy I know. I told him how homesick I was and how after 28 years, I still couldn’t figure out how to make the simplest of dishes. He told me to go to the temple in Queens and that there is an amazing eatery in a basement. I thought this was a trick to get me to go to temple, but I also always listen to me dad, so...
I told you my dad was the smartest guy I know, right? One sip of their dahl and I was transported back to Sunday nights with my family. It is a trek to get out there, but it’s so worth it. It actually feels like Little India (Curry Hill’s a bunch of posers).
If you make it out there to the Ganesh Temple Canteen, I highly recommend the paper dosa. If you want to get wild, go for the Chili Masala - but you basically have to have a 15 spice tolerance on a scale of 1-10. The temple is really cool to see, too. There’s nothing really like that in NYC . Actually, not if you make it out there - go plan a trip out there today.