04/02/18 10:32pm

A Crunchy Taste of South India via Chinatown

Maddur vada, savory crisps of wheat and rice studded with spices and herbs.

One challenge of leading food tours of downtown Flushing is how best to showcase America’s Greatest Chinatown to Chinese guests. I still remember the day I met the Vanderschoors. Imagine my surprise when I rendezvoused not with a Dutch family, but a Chinese one. “Don’t worry, we’re from San Francisco,” they said. “We don’t know anything about Flushing, you’re the expert.” This brings me to the subject of today’s post: last Saturday’s trio of Indian clients—a lovely married couple who hail from Northern India and a young student from Chennai—and the crunchiest, savoriest Indian snack in downtown Flushing, maddur vada.
Nitin, his wife Avanti, and Kritiika were wowed by Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, and enjoyed the crispy popcorn chicken from Taipei Hong. Since we’d savored creamy dou hua from Soybean Chen, I thought we’d sample chou doufu, or stinky tofu. Avanti and her husband didn’t dig it, but Kritika surprised me when she went in for seconds and thirds of the pungent blocks of fried fermented tofu.
Soon it was time for the trek south to India. I always point out the Patel Brothers supermarket on the southern end of Main Street as the border of India and China. “I’m not sure what I can tell you guys about an Indian supermarket,” I said noting that non-Indian guests are always fascinated by the dozens of brands of basmati rice.
Ten minutes later we found ourself on Bowne Street in front of the majestic Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam, or the Ganesh Temple. Nitin, said that since he had eaten meat, he would prefer to not to enter the temple itself, but was fine with having a snack at the Temple Canteen.
Downstairs in the canteen I joined what was a surprisingly short line for a Saturday and was prepared to place my standard order, a paper dosa and a premade tamarind rice to snack on while waiting for the ghee griddled crepe. Then I saw the golden disks known as maddur vada. Named for the town of Maddur in the Southwestern state of Karnakata, the crunchy treats flecked with chilies, curry leaves and nuts are an occasional weekend special at the Canteen. So I grabbed a package of them as well.
Everybody enjoyed the tamarind rice, but seemed particularly wowed by the maddur vada, especially Avanti who bought five packages to take home. She also treated us all to  a rich, buttery pineapple halwa.Afterwards we went to Dumpling Galaxy to wind down with seabass dumplings in hotpot and pan fried shrimp dumplings whose lacy, crunchy wings called to mind the paper dosa.
As for the maddur vada, who knoww whether they will be on special the next time I visit the Canteen, but one thing’s for sure, there’s always something new to discover in downtown Flushing. Why not come discover it for yourself with me as your guide?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *