It’s one of those moments again. I have a half a bag of baby spinach, a few beets and some freshly grated coconut. Can I convert it into a healthy side dish or a modern salad?
Taking my inspiration from the traditional south indian “thoran” a dish with veggies and coconut, I created this quickly in my kitchen.
Two or three fresh beets, washed, peeled and cut into small pieces
A half a bag of spinach or any smaller greens, washed
Four tbsps freshly grated coconut or two tbsps coconut milk
A tsp of mustard seeds
A tbsp of oil
One or two dried red chilly pods broken
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and dried chilly pods. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the beets, salt and turmeric powder. Cover and cook till the beets are cooked, yet crunchy (about 10-15 minutes).
Add the spinach, fresh coconut or coconut milk and toss a few times.
In a city whose street life is fashioned by at least two food carts a block that serve the same snacks and fall into overwhelming mundaneness, saying that one of the most authentic meals I’ve had in the New York was from one of these carts seems absurd.
The Biryani Cart, which has been nominated for Vendy Awards and took home the People’s Choice Awards two years in a row, is situated in front of Europa Café at 46th Street and 6th avenue in Manhattan. Its exterior is beyond deceptive, and other than the small newspaper and magazine clippings with elite critiques fastened to its metal walls, it looks like any other food cart in the city.
The menu consist of both vegetarian/non-veg traditional and distinct regional spices and flavors of the Indian subcontinent. You can look at the offerings here:
The Kati Rolls simply dissolve in your mouth with a genuineness that I’ve never tasted anywhere but home kitchens. Hot mint habanero sauce, mango pickle, and a wide selection of curries are among the additions to choose from to make your “dining” experience even more memorable.
As someone who has never been a fan of rice, the Vegetable Biryani blew my taste buds away. I don’t think I’ve ever loved rice that much, and growing up in an Indian family that cooks traditional meals on a near daily basis, that is a huge statement to make!
The only aftermath of the Biryani Cart experience is that the “fast food” greasiness of the meal yields a necessary lounge period while the food settles in your system. But hey, for a great meal, that’s a small price to pay.
So if you find yourself in Manhattan and want to grab a quick but delicious meal, check out the Biryani Cart.
It’s cheap (four to six bucks can snag you two rolls and a filled, content stomach), it’s convenient, and it’s too good. Could you ask more of street food?
For many years, I have heard from local friends who hail from the Gujarat region of India that the best place to sample authentic, Gujarati, vegetarian food in the tri-state area is at Vatan in New York City.
So, a few weeks ago, we decided to give the place a try. As soon as we entered Vatan, the decor and ambiance stood out. Welcoming us into the restaurant was a huge idol of Lord Ganesha. The entire place was set up like an authentic village from Gujarat, with trees, thatched roof huts, and low seating. And just like at a home, you are asked to remove your shoes prior to sitting down for a meal.
A few facts you should know before going to Vatan.
– The food is vegetarian. No meat is served.
– The meal is a set meal. Which means that other than drinks, you don’t have to order anything.
– It is an all you can eat meal, but not a buffet. You get unlimited refills of whatever you like.
– You can ask your meal to be mild, medium or hot.
– If you have dietary restrictions, you simply let them know and they bring your trays pre-populated with food you can eat.
– The meal is not cheap. It is $32.00 per person and drinks are extra.
– The place is only open for dinner, which is a good thing, since you can eat little all day and then indulge in this repast.
Now to the actual meal itself. First, we were brought a tray with an assortment of appetizers. This included green chilly bhajis (green chillies deep fried in batter), batata vada (a spicy potato ball, dipped in batter and deep fried), dhokla (steamed chick pea flour cakes), ragda patties (potato balls with a spicy sauce), dahi batata puri (a yogurt, lentil street food), a chick pea salad, and more. (There is so much, that it is easy to lose track of what was served!)
You can have seconds and thirds of appetizers, but you need to save some space for the entres. The entre tray comes with puris (fried bread) with an assortment of vegetables, plain rice, a rice lentil combo, papad and kadhi. The food is simply yummy and while it is difficult to polish off such a big meal, we seemed to have done justice to the food presented. There was an added bonus for me. Siddhi (with her gluten challenges) and Sathya (with her picky eating habits) both loved the meal and devoured most of what was put in front of them (they brought Siddhi bajra roti, a gluten-free bread).
Yes, there is dessert at the end of this meal: mango ice cream. And if you are so inclined, they offer masala chai and coffee, a perfect finale to a lovely evening.
If you are in the New York city area and craving for an Indian meal that is off the beaten track, Vatan is a lovely discovery.