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Jax Heights Meanderings: Punjabi fare at Raja Sweets & Hole-in-Wall Paan

CitySpoonful | Mar 14, 201207:53 AM

While making our way through Jax Heights after a great Nepali meal at Woodside Cafe on a recent evening, we decided to check out Raja Sweets (37th Ave.), a pure veg place for Punjabi chaat, sweets and cooked dishes (steam table!). We've always scorned it in favor of the much snazzier selection of sweets at Maharaja (across the street). But we were surprised to find some interesting offerings in the steam table. They had a great looking kadu (pumpkin) dish and surprisingly good looking Punjabi-style kardhi (a stew made of chickpea flour and yogurt simmered slowly with onions & spices). They were also frying up fresh mirchi pakoras (using those long & skinny Korean spicy green peppers), and they looked very enticing.

We couldn't resist taking home some kardhi, and it was lovely!! :) Very flavorful and low on oil. This is actually a very tricky dish to make -- very time consuming -- and it's comes out poorly if you try to cut corners. So most restaurants do a pretty horrific job with it -- it usually has an orange-y, oily sheen and very little flavor. I'm not sure what spices they used at Raja, but the flavors were unusually piquant -- not what I usually cook with (cumin seeds, ginger, onion, turmeric, chilis). I loved it, and so did my husband (who is a huge kardhi fan and is very picky about it).

We also took home some sooji (semolina/cream of what) halwa. Ugh. Weird chemical flavor and mega oil overload -- avoid!

But we'll be back w/less full stomachs to try the pumpkin dish and sample some of Raja's chaat.

As we were leaving Raja, we happened to glance around the corner (onto 73rd St.), where several people were lined up at a little window with a sign that said "PAAN." Normally we hit the paan guy near the former Eagle Theater (pretty eh), so we were curious to try a new paan vendor -- evidently one with quite a following.

We weren't disappointed. It was probably the best paan I've found in NYC (note: I'm no expert here) It was very fresh, with a fragrant flavor. Maybe this paanwala (aka, paan-maker) uses imported ingredients from India?

We snagged the paanwala's business card -- apparently the operation is called Shetty Paan Centre. Check them out between 10am and 10pm any day of the week. Paan is a great way to cleanse the palate after any meal.

Maharaja Sweets and Snacks
7310 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11372

Raja Sweets & Fast Food
72-31 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11372

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