A Guide to the Best Indian Street Food in Midtown: Translating the Menu at Taj Delhi Chat
It may not actually be on the street, but don’t be fooled- Taj Delhi Chat, in the newsttand that’s been converted into a Midtown Lunch’ers paradise, is the best Indian street food in Midtown. I’ll admit, before Indus Express (on 48th btw. 5+6th) and Taj Delhi Chat opened, I didn’t really even know what chat (or chaat) was. I was quickly schooled by more knowledgeable Midtown Lunch’ers, who graciously donated their food porn to the cause.
For those who are still in the dark, chaat is actually just a generic term for a savory Indian snack, usually sold on the street, and consisting of cumin, amchur (mango powder), red chilies often mixed with some fried snack in combination with any of the following – potatoes, onions, tomatoes, yogurt, tamarind chutney, cilantro, cilantro chutney, and mint chutney. The “fried snacks” that get mixed in can be samosas or pakoras (both well known here in the states) or more commonly, papri (flat, round cracker looking things), bhel (puffed rice crispy looking things) or sev (the little crunchy noodle looking things.)
There is some tasty looking chaat at Indus Express, but reviews have been mixed. For the best in Midtown (and possibly all of New York City), you’ll want to hit up Taj Delhi Chat. When I went, I brought along my friend Chandrika to translate the menu for me (and conversely all of you). What we got, plus a full translated menu, after the jump…
As I watched this former newsstand on 6th Ave btw. 37+38th morph into a full fledged Flushing style food court, I thought there was nothing that could drag me away from the original Gujarati food served there. It’s easily the best Indian food in Midtown (despite being vegetarian only), and although I like the Latin food in the back, the Khodiar Lunch services offerings were just too damn good to order anything else. That is, until I tried Taj Delhi Chat. Now, everytime I go- a choice will have to be made. This particular visit, however, was a chat trip. We ordered three different plates:
#1. Rupa’s Special Bhelpuri ($5). It’s number one on the menu, and has the owner’s name in it. How could we not right? The plate is mostly bhel (those little rice crispy things) mixed with onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro and spices all topped with a special spiced water. Don’t be confused by the few pieces of papri (those cracker looking things) lining the outside.
#5. Papri Chat ($5). Those round crackers (papri) are the main ingredient in this one, and much of the same is mixed in with them (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chickpeas, and potato.) But the thing that makes this taste most different from the #1 is the yogurt and tamarind sauce, which gave it a creamy and sweet/tangy flavor. This was my favorite one of the day. Spicy but refreshing, and the perfect lunch on a super hot day.
#4. Samosa Chat ($5). We rounded off the lunch with a samosa chat. Most people know what samosas are (those large crispy turnovers filled with potato), and samosa chat is two of those topped with the same thing mixed into the papri chat (tomatos, chickpeas, cilantro, yogurt and tamarind.) No potatoes, because they’re in the samosas.
With 31 items on the Taj Delhi Chat menu, it can be kind of intimidating (even for the most adventurous Midtown Lunchers.) So my friend Chandrika graciously agreed to translate the menu for us. Keep in mind, we only tried the dishes above, so the translations may not be entirely accurate. As with any ethnic cuisine, there are variations from region to region, so don’t get on her case if #22 doesn’t turn out to be exactly what is described below. She’s doing a huge service for us, and deserves only praise. With that being said, if you have tried any of these dishes at Taj Delhi Chat, and know exactly what is in them, please feel free to comment below…
Without further ado, I’m proud to present:
THE MIDTOWN LUNCH GUIDE TO NAVIGATING THE TAJ DELHI CHAT MENU
1. Rupa’s Special Bhelpuri – Puffed rice (bhel) with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and spice. (Seen above.)
2. Aloo Chole Chat – Aloo is potato, Chole is garbanzo beans. Chat means it is probably mixed with the same things seen in the #5 above. Tomatoes, onions, yogurt and tamarind.
3. Vegetable Cutlets – We saw somebody else eating these vegetable filled patties. One of them was made with beets (and beet juice) giving it a reddish purple inside. Looked amazing! Not sure what they serve it over
4. Samosa chat – Crispy fried dough turnover filled with potatoes and peas. (Seen above)
5. Papri chat – Papri is the crispy fried dough in small flat round pieces (looks like crackers.) Comes mixed with potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro, chickpeas, yogurt, tamarind and a number of spices. (Seen Above)
6. Pani puri – Puri are these puffed up fried pastry looking things, that get stuffed with numberous ingredients and served in a special spiced water. It’s so popular it has it’s own article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panipuri
7. Sev Puri – Sev are these little crunchy gram flour based deep fried small noodle looking things. I’m guessing this is the same spices as #1, but made with sev instead of bhel.
8. Dahi puri – Dahi means yogurt, so this is probably the same puri as above, filled with potatoes and other spices and covered in yogurt.
9. Garlic pani puri – Don’t know? Maybe the water they use on the pani puri is garlicky?
10. Mithi Pani puri – Pani puri made with sweet water (mithi)
11. Dahi Batata Puri – Batata is a kind of potato, and batata vada is a potato based doughnut type thing containing potatoes, lentils and spices all deep fried together. This puri gets topped with yogurt (dahi).
12. Dry fruit batata vada – Self explanatory? (see #11)
13. Green spicy batata vada – Self explanatory? (see #11)
14. Jera Batata Vada – Jera is cumin, (for the rest see #11)
Pakoda are vegetables covered in gram flour batter and then deep fried, known more commonly in the states as “pakora”
15. Trirangi paneer pakoda – Trirangi means three colors, and paneer is a soft cheese.
16. Cashew Paneer Pakoda – Cashews and cheese
17. Bread Sandwich Pakoda – Self Explanatory? (I think this might be pakoras served in between slices of white bread.)
18. Panch rangi pakoda – Five color pakoda (no idea what’s in it)
19. Bombay Bhaji Pau – Pau means bread, and bhaji refers to a vegetable/potato curry dish. It usually comes garnished with onions
20. Chatpati Fooska – No idea (although they probably meat chapati, the flat bread that gets served with the Gujarati food at the Khodiar stand right/)
21. Ragda Patties – Fried potato patties served with a yellow pea soup? Don’t know if you just get the patties or the soup with patties?
22. Sev Ragda – See #21. Maybe this is the soup with sev instead of the fried patty?
23. Patra – Vegetarian dish made from the leaf of the taro plant
24. Sev Khaman Chat – Khaman is a yellow square salty steamed cake made from chickpea flour, popular in Gujarati cuisine. Sev and chat you should know from above.
25. Baigan Bharta (puri) – Mashed eggplant puri
26. Methi pakoda – Pakoras made form fenugreek
27. Methi vada – Vada is a doughnut shaped fritter made from lentils and deep fried. These are flavored with fenugreek (see #26)
29. Dahi vada – Vada soaked in yogurt
30. Aloo tiki chat – Chat made with potato patties
31. Samosa – You should know by now
Since Taj Delhi Chat opened up, they have added Israeli Falafel and Indian food with meat to the growing list of options being offered out of this former newsstand. But looking at the list above, I think it’s going to be awhile before I get to try anything any of those new places.
Taj Delhi Chat, 1013 6th Ave. (btw. 37+38th), 212-840-4810