No, this is not another campy article about British singing-sensations Scary, Baby,
Sporty, Posh, and Ginger but rather a testimony to the tastiness of cinnamon, turmeric,
coriander, cardamom, and curry-- the fragrant foundations of most Indian dishes.
*In need of something to rouse our slumbering taste buds(Korean, Chinese, and Italian
were taking their toll), my Mom and I jumped on the Seven train and within minutes
descended the El steps into the pungent air of Jackson Heights Seventy Fourth Street.
*Forget about NYCs Sixth Street or Lexington Avenue in the Twenties. Seventy Fourth
Street is the real deal for all things Indian and as we walked past the ornate jewelry shops,
sari stores, Eastern newsstands, and Punjabi, Afghani, and Bengali restaurants that dot the
short block, we breathed in the exotic spices that perfumed the storefronts of each of the
*Dehli Palace was our destination. Our favorite of the numerous Indian eateries for
which the neighborhood is so famous, it has never failed to delight us. We greeted our
hostess with the traditional Hindi salutation, Namaste, and were shown to our table in
the elegant, ochre-tinged restaurant. The daily lunch buffet (11:30-4:00, $5.95 per
person) was in full swing and the spacious dining room was filled with a lovely mix of
Pakistani women in colorful shalwar kamis, Indian businessmen with their Western
clients, Birkenstocked, knapsacked tourists who had come to Little India and
serendipitously stumbled into the best restaurant on the block, and savvy native New
Yorkers like ourselves who had grown to appreciate the complex flavors of Indian food
and recognized this as one of the best lunch deals in town.
*We began our feast with popular yogurt drinks known as lassis. I opted for my
favorite flavor, mango, and my Mom enjoyed a salted one. Both were thick, cool, and
slightly tart-- a soothing accompaniment to some of the more savory fare that would
follow. (Note: There is a widespread misconception among Americans that ALL Indian
food is spicy and curry-flavored. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! One visit to Dehli Palace will
confirm this.) The buffet, which changes daily, was teeming with many of our favorite
dishes and my Mom, a longtime vegetarian, was happy to discover that there were more
vegetables than usual.
*The days offerings included warm, fluffy triangles of nan bread, perfect for soaking up
the mild, creamy yellow dal(lentils), sliced mushrooms Masala whose name refers to
the hand-pulverized multi-spice blend which lends the dish its unique flavor, Gobi
Masala, my eternal favorite, which is cauliflower cooked in a complex sauce of herbs
and spices, and Muteer Paneer, homemade cottage cheese (much better than it sounds)
which has been curdled and compressed into firm squares and then sautéed with peas and
onions in a very creamy, rich sauce. Those with carnivorous desires could sample
tender, bright red pieces of clay-oven baked, Chicken Tandoori or boneless chunks of
chicken cooked in a piquant tomato-based sauce known as Chicken Tikka Masala.
Fluffy, redolent basmati rice was perfect to absorb the multitude of sauces that graced our
*Do as the Indians do, and dont pass up the variety of condiments housed in large bowls
at the center of the buffet. The white sauce is known as raita and is yogurt with
chopped cucumber and tomatoes. Place it alongside the more spicy dishes and use it to
temper the hotness. The pickled, almost medicinal- tasting bowl of mango slices,
preserved lemons and other fruits and vegetables is called achar and takes some getting
used to. It is delicious eaten with a bit of the nan bread. Red onion chutney is sweet and a
wonderful accompaniment to the milder dishes. Green-tinged mint and coriander chutney
is also delicious and quite refreshing when eaten between bites of more intensely-flavored
food. The undressed salad is meant to be seasoned simply with a squirt of lemon and
consumed with the main courses. All of the condiments and side dishes help to create the
perfect balance of flavors and can be used to suit your particular tastes.
*Although a lovely fruit custard was offered as part of the buffet we decided to venture
next door to Dehli Palace Sweets for our favorite ending to any Indian meal--
Rasmalai-- cottage cheese patties in a very cold, very sweet condensed milk sauce with
chopped pistachios atop. Sheer perfection. Also scrumptious are Gulab Jamun, golden
fried cheese balls soaked in a honey syrup that remind me of my favorite Italian feast
treat, zeppole. Kulfi, Indian ice cream on sticks in either mango or pistachio, will
delight both children and adults alike and can be purchased from a variety of street carts.
Needless to say, you wont have to look far to find a sweet finale to your meal.
*Before leaving Jackson Heights we stopped in at the new, expanded Patel Brothers and
purchased huge bags of pistachios and cashews that were a fraction of the price of what
they would cost in our nabe. Then off to the small convenience store for a bottle of
Monkey Brand Black Tooth Powder (secret of supermodels recently shared with me by
my Pakistani friends and now passed on to you-- this stuff is incredible and when rubbed
on your teeth makes them very white) and a metal tongue cleaner (thats where all the
bad-breath-stuff lingers, silly. And you cant buy one at CVS.) Last but not least, a bag of
the roasted fennel seeds that are offered, similar to mints in American eateries, upon
leaving Indian restaurants. Perfect for de-spicing your mouth because you never know
who you may be kissing.
*Forget a ticket to Bombay. Theres no need to even leave the borough. Spend a leisurely
afternoon on Seventy Fourth Street, and spice up your life!
37-33 74th Street
Jackson Heights, NY