Good Friday eats near New Brunswick, New Jersey

New Jersey is quite far from my favorite state. I think part of the reason I felt strange about New Jersey was how so many of my colleagues have been from New Jersey over the years, and how they only looked at New York City as a place for “work” and pretty much nothing else. They didn’t see the glitz and glam that I saw when I looked at New York with all of its incredible diversity in people, culture, food, theater, and entertainment. They didn’t see it as a land of opportunity, excitement, and fun. Instead, they just saw it as a polluted urban jungle with too many people, too much garbage, and too much pollution. A number of them had said to me that they’d “never” want to live in New York and were completely repulsed by the mere thought of living in the city; one said he’d rather die. Part of me wanted to respond, if you feel that strongly against New York, maybe you shouldn’t work here at all and just get a job in your own state! While not everyone I know who lives in New Jersey thinks this way, enough of my New Jersey-based colleagues over the last 16 years have expressed this sentiment that I just found them to be banal.

So for me, New Jersey has been exciting really only for two main reasons: the delicious Indian and Korean food. Most of the incredible Indian food has been around Edison, New Brunswick, and Princeton, where a lot of people of Indian descent live. For Korean food, the majority has been around Fort Lee and Palisades Park, which also have a large Korean population. Every time we go to these areas, I always marvel not only at the high quality of the food, but also how much cheaper the meals are in general. I can’t believe X dish costs 25-30% less than what this costs in New York City, even in Queens!

Today, we took a day trip and rented a car to go to the New Brunswick area. Chris picked out a “pure veg” Indian restaurant called Indian House of Dosas, and I loved the food so much that I almost licked my fingers and plates clean at the end of the meal. We had two tiffin combo plates of idli, vada, pongal, poori, and masala dosa, which came with peanut chutney, coconut chutney, a rare but interesting ginger-tamarind-jaggery chutney, sambar, and a semolina halwa. And they cost $12-13 for each combo! Along with two Madras style filter coffees and a mango lassi, tax, and a 20% tip, we paid $48. And I was stuffed to the brim at the end of the meal. The food was so fresh, well spiced, and flavorful. I really though the medu vada we had were some of the best I could have had in my life; they were all clearly made to order and extremely fresh. The vada were so hot that they felt like they came straight out of the fryer. If this place were close by to us, I’d likely want food from here at least once a week. I’m still thinking about it long after we have left.

Pre-baby, I would have been happy to occasionally go all out and make dosas and their fermented batter, along with the different chutneys. I did it a number of times, including one interesting variation with a quinoa dosa, which Chris begrudgingly admitted was good. But now, it’s such an event with all the different steps and endless little side dishes. I’d rather just leave it up to the professionals now. Maybe one day I will revisit it, but probably not anytime soon unless something inspires me.

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