Yesterday marked the 68th Republic Day in India. Three years after the Indian Independence in 1947, on this day, the Indian Constitution came into effect. I thought this would be a good time to talk about my favorite Indian food, at one of my favorite Indian joints in New York City.
Located on 28th and Lexington, Pongal is a Kosher Vegetarian restaurant serving delicious South Indian food. They even have a small plastic cow at the entrance. The restaurant is very cozy, with exposed brick walls, and a collection of remarkable photos – if I recall correctly, one of them is of an elephant and there is powdered blue color thrown into the air. One of my favorite dishes is Dosa, a savory crepe made out of fermented batter, mainly consisting of rice and black grains. Dosa is accompanied with coconut chutney, a lentil soup, and a tomato chutney. Coconut makes up a big portion of the South Indian diet.
The staff at Pongal are friendly, polite, and quick (pro tip: if you go there enough times, they might start recognizing you, take extra care of you, and sometimes even offer you free desserts). Another one of my menu favorites is Idli, again a staple in that region of India. Idli is a savory cake made out of fermented black lentils and rice. This dish is offered with the same set of condiments as Dosa.
To top up such a delicious meal, you HAVE to try their filter coffee, made by mixing frothed and boiled milk with the decoction obtained by brewing finely ground coffee powder in a traditional Indian filter. All this is done by hand, and the result is an intense mix of sugar and dark coffee.
On days when I’m feeling adventurous, I tend to order their Thali, a platter with assortments of South Indian delicacies. One that always stands out to me is the stew. Made with coconut broth, spices, and boiled veggies, this dish is mild and flavorful in all the right ways. Top this with puris, unleavened deep fried bread, and you are going to be full for a while.
Going to Pongal is one of the reasons why New York City feels like my home away from home. It has been a special place since the time my friends and I discovered it (and clearly, I go back a lot).