When you order Pongal at Sri Ganesh’s, you get an entire vegetarian ensemble.
I was making my periodic pilgrimage to Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House — on the Indian strip along Newark Avenue in Jersey City — when I ordered my usual luncheon dish: the doctored cream of wheat called uppma. “We’re out of it,” the guy told me, after casting an appraising gaze into the kitchen. “How about some pongal, instead?”
I was somewhat downcast until the pongal arrived. It was a magnificent, sculpted heap of rice cooked to disintegration mixed with yellow dal, and laced with black mustard seeds and kari (aka “curry”) leaves. It was delicious, but unlike the uppma I’m used to, it comes with several compulsory side dishes, including, starting on the upper left side of the pongal mountain and proceeding counterclockwise: a pair of hot-chili fritters, a mixed-vegetable pickle, a tiny tub of homemade yogurt, and an eggplant curry.
This satisfying combo is almost too much for one person to eat, and will set you back only $7 — and that’s with no tax, and no tip, either, since Sri Ganesh’s utilizes a serve-yourself system that features selecting your table first; ordering your dish at a counter in the rear; identifying yourself by table number; then picking the food up when your number is called. Got it?
Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House
809 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, New Jersey
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2011