Monday, June 30, 2008

Transported to Taiwan via a sweet treat; lunch at Chennai Garden

Last month while my dad was in Taiwan (you can see how terribly behind I am these days) my brother and I took my mom to the annual Passport to Taiwan event in Union Square for a taste of the motherland ourselves. Bafflingly, this year the food stalls were arranged at the edge of the park where only a narrow sidewalk separates the park from the street, meaning that the stands' long lines spilled out into the middle of the road. The road wasn't closed, though, and there were no cones or barriers set up; the whole time we were there, the area was a continuous, honk-filled battle of man vs. car.
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When my mom spotted the above stand, she stopped in her tracks. "These are good!" she exclaimed. So what the mommy wants, the mommy gets: I muscled my way into the crowds and bought two for the three of us to share.
So what is it, exactly? A thin, soft crepe, filled with the shavings from an enormous block of Taiwanese peanut brittle and a scoop of coconut sorbet. It was fun to watch them assembling the treat, and even more fun to eat it. The hand-held packet was a nice combination of crunchy, cold, nutty, creamy, and chewy, and though it got too sweet for me in the end, I'm glad I tried it.
My parents live in a neighborhood where there is a fairly decent Indian population. My dad isn't a fan of their heavily spiced fare, though, meaning other than when my brother and I bring some into the house, opportunities for my mom to try Indian food are rare. So after our brittle-filled crepes, we made our way over to Curry Hill where we dipped in and out of several restaurants before settling on Chennai Garden, sister to Tiffin Wallah, for lunch. Above is an order of the behl puri, "a sweet and tangy mix of puffed rice, crispy noodles, onion, and cilantro," a flavor-packed opener that whet all of our appetites.
Paneer rava masala dosai, a huge cream-of-wheat crepe filled with cheese and spiced potato. I haven't had dosai many times before, but I thought this one was really good, especially when paired with the coconut chutney. The crispy edges of the dosai were my favorite part.
Pea paratha, a flaky bread stuffed with a mash of green peas.
Bhindi masala, an okra curry with tomato and onions, and another dish I can't remember the name of. Since Chennai Garden is a kosher vegetarian place, none of the items we ordered had any meat. But it wasn't a light meal, either; the cream of wheat prepared with ghee, mustard seeds, cashews, chiles, chopped tomatoes, and onion was probably one of the heaviest things I've ever tasted. One bite flooded my mouth with clarified butter, and my second bite confirmed that the first was all I had needed. The flavor was good, but none of us had more than a few spoonfuls.

When I went to visit my mom a day or two later, I ate a piece from some pancakes that were sitting on the table, and realized that she had thinned out the leftover cream of wheat with wheat flour, eggs, and water and then griddled up the batter into a pile of savory pancakes. They were terrific...just one more reason to celebrate the ingenuity of me mum.

1 comment:

  1. it was uppadam, the heavy cream of wheat dish, not to be confused with utthapam, which actually has similar flavors, but totally different prep.