It's been a while since I've had a food adventure with my cohorts from last summer, Frank and Aimee. Or at least, it's been a while since we've remembered to take pictures before we scarfed down whatever food we got. We helped a mutual friend move on Sunday, working up a tremendous appetite in the process. I knew just the place to take them to satisfy the type of hunger that even a Snickers wouldn't adequately satisfy.
Off to Haldi Chowk in Parlin, NJ we went, where I've satisfied similar hungers over the last 6 months or so. My bandmate Johny (one "n", he's special) took me there one night, and I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety and high quality of foods available at this Indian food court. They have Indian-style Chinese (my favorite), a Tandoori stand, a kebab stand, Southern Indian, and a couple other varieties I haven't sampled yet. Frank and Aimee, with their limited exposure to Indian food, were honestly scared half to death when we walked in. It was an excited, happy fright, though, I'm sure! I told them I was getting the "Chinese", and suggested they have a look and ask questions politely of the people behind the stands. It's set up much like a food court at a mall, so it can of course be overwhelming at first glance. Especially when you don't know what most of the words you're reading mean. I still get intimidated for a good 5 seconds every time I walk in.
I ordered my Chili-garlic chicken noodles, and as Frank and Aimee ordered Butter chicken and a curry dish, I made my way over to the stand with the Seekh kebabs (apparently a kebab of Pakistani origin) and ordered 2, with a side of naan. Frank ordered samosas, as well. The 3 of us ordered enough food for, oh, maybe 6 people.
The Samosas were done first, and they were perhaps my favorite samosas I've ever eaten. They are spiced a bit differently from some I've had at other Indian places. These have a lighter, flakier crust and more seeds(honestly not sure what kind) in the spice mixture. The standard mint and tamarind chutneys on the side were fantastic. Then the kababs came out, and we ate them with some of the naan. The chutney that came with them was green, but different...seemed heavy on the cilantro flavor, which suits my taste nicely! We enjoyed those very much. My noodles were spicy and absolutely steeped in garlic. Frank, an Italian garlic lover, was shocked by the amount of garlic (!!). His and Aimee's dishes were very well-received, and they both exclaimed that they surpassed the quality of the same dishes they got at the much more expensive Indian restaurant they've eaten at in their area by the shore. I wasn't shocked by that revelation.
The fact we all agreed on, in between animalistic mauling of the food on the plates in front of us, was that price certainly doesn't dictate quality when it comes to ethnic foods in NJ. Our food at Haldi Chowk was served on styrofoam plates atop cafeteria trays. It was cheap...maybe cheaper than mall food courts! The place wasn't a tourist trap, trying to cater to the tastes of a hoity-toity clientele and impress people looking for something "exotic." It's common Indian foods being served to a mostly Indian clientele....and me.......and maybe you!