This past Sunday, the Heritage of India Festival came to Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, New York, and being huge fans of both the central Asian influenced Northern Indian cuisine and its more vegetable-laden Southern counterpart, Karen and I could not resist the temptation to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon partaking in some spicy Asian goodness.
Approximately a half hour drive from northern New Jersey, the festival was held in the shadow of the Kensico Dam in Valhalla, New York at the northernmost tip of the Bronx River Parkway.
Today, the park that fills Kensico Dam Plaza is picturesque, spacious and perfectly manicured. There are places to walk, bike or just relax beneath the shade of one of many beautiful trees seemingly grown for the supreme purpose of summer relaxation. Of a more somber nature, there is also an 80' stainless-steel monument called, "The Rising", commemorating area residents who perished in the terror attacks of September 11th. The base of the memorial is called the "Circle of Remembrance" and bears the names of each of the 111 victims and inscriptions written by their families. To read the inscriptions and then stand within the memorial is truly a moving experience.
As I drifted through the crowd, I was immediately taken with a young man of Indian descent who was at a open-air griddle (tava) making what is called, Dosa. Dosa is a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils and is a staple dish in Southern India, as well as other countries such as Sri Lanka and Nepal. It was obvious the gentleman took great pride in his work and the manner in which he nimbly created these circular masterpieces upon his tava was spectacular.
I stood before him and watched him create several of his delicious crepes, and noticing my camera slung over my shoulder, he smiled widely knowing he had an admiring audience. As he finished his seventh or eighth crepe, I stood before him and held up two fingers and said, "I'll take two."
With nary an unnecessary movement, he ladled some ghee (clarified butter) on his tava and started the entire process again. When finished, he folded each one into what looked to be a compartment-less egg carton and carefully spooned coconut chutney on one end and a very zippy - okay, spicy - masala on the other. He smiled, handed them to me. Gleefully, I peeled off twelve bucks and raced to our table.
Not yet through with the southern Indian experience, we headed back for two additional item we wanted to try - Medhu Vadai and Idli.
Medhu Vadai, for lack of a better description, is basically a fried lentil doughnut. It is a popular snack or breakfast dish that is usually served with coconut chutney. Originating mainly from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it is often traditionally prepared during festivals and weddings.
What I found most surprising in regards to this dish, was its unexpected savoriness. The vadai's firm, light texture was far less dry than I anticipated it would be and the coconut chutney it was served beside, was pretty much the perfect accompaniment.
Idli is another traditional breakfast item popular throughout India, as well as Sri Lanka. It is a savory cake that is usually two to three inches in diameter that is made by steaming a batter made from fermented black lentils and rice. I found the idli somewhat bland in the sense that it drew most of its flavor from the Sambar (lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind) it was served beside.
As we sat and enjoyed our ethnic goodies, the temperature was steadily creeping toward the 90º mark and the sun had taken its place almost directly overheard. Although the low humidity made it a pleasant enough afternoon despite the heat, it was time to cool down with a couple of libations before moving on to indulge ourselves in the cuisine of Northern India,
It wasn't the first time we'd partaken in Taj Mahal Lager, and with each tasting we seem to like it more and more. It's slightly more malty in comparison to the Kingfisher, but it's light body made it the perfect elixir to cool down on this steamy afternoon.
After our "beer" break, there was a particular item that kept drawing my attention - something labeled Gobi 45. By all outward appearances, it looked to be a fiery, spicy version of fried cauliflower, and being a fan of spicy and cauliflower, it was something I just had to try. In doing so, I found it was a tad salty and not quite fiery enough for my tastes.
If you would like to try any of their delectable samosas, just head over to 74 Main Street in Dobbs Ferry, NY and tell them Foodidude sent you!