Left: Desi Deli Punjabi Dhaba, Right: Punjabi Deli and Grocery
Battle of the Dishes: In which we pit the same dish from two different places against each other to see which one will emerge victorious.
Ah, the samosa–beloved gut-bomb, starter Indian food, and perennial cheap eat. There are places where you can get a very fine samosa (Elettaria has a curried rabbit version), but the grab-and-go, pre-fried, humble, starchy dumpling has its charms, too. It’s a meal in the palm of your hand, combining fried crust with hot spices and potatoes, three of the most crowd-pleasing things in the food universe.
What makes a good, down-and-dirty samosa? A crust that’s crunchy and well-seasoned, and that’s not totally weighed down by grease. (If find a cheap place that fries them to order, please notify us tout suite.) The filling should be spicy, heavy on the cumin and chile, and we like plenty of peas mixed in with the potatoes, too.
For this Battle, we confined ourselves to Manhattan, and focused on ultra-cheap, hole-in-the wall spots. Both Desi Deli, in Hell’s Kitchen, and Punjabi Grocery, in the East Village, are Punjabi Sikh spots, open 24 hours and frequented by cab drivers.
Desi Deli Punjabi Dhaba’s (a dhaba is a roadside snack stand in India) samosa ($1.25) sported a pleasantly bubbly crust, as light in texture as a pre-fried specimen is going to get. Pour on the homemade green chile chutney. But while the filling was nicely spiced, it was mostly composed of potatoes, which got boring after a few bites. (On the other hand, Desi Deli does sell something else that’s fantastic, which I’ll post about tomorrow.)
Downtown, and onward to Punjabi Grocery, where we descended the steps to the subterranean room, and promptly got distracted by the packaged snacks, like a kind of spicy corn nuts labeled “Desi Corn.” Whee! Back to the task at hand, we ordered a samosa ($1), and dabbed it with the delicious red hot sauce on offer. This pastry was just fine, although not quite as good as Desi Deli’s, but the potato filling was peppered with plenty of peas, along with copious chile powder and cumin.
Punjabi Grocery’s samosa was declared the winner, and it paraded around the samosa wrestling ring pounding its little pastry chest with glee.
Desi Deli Punjabi Dhaba
724 10th Avenue
Punjabi Grocery and Deli
114 East First Street