Punjabi Deli and Grocery has been on my list of places to try for a while now. I see it from E. Houston all the time but hadn't gotten a chance to go in until today. It is a tiny, unassuming storefront with a green awning so I was not surprised to find that the interior is less than impressive. It's no more than the size of a hallway, and it's open 24 hours a day. You can get anything from a cheap lunch or midnight snack to a large selection of Indian DVDs from behind the counter. I had read that Punjabi boasts some of the best veggie curries in Manhattan, and that its rockbottom prices can't be beat. All it consists of is a glass case with about 7 numbered curries and other treats, and 4 microwaves lined up on top of the case.
Sam and I went at lunchtime and each ordered a small bowl with two veggies and rice and a roti, which is a type of flat bread that can be used to soak all of the sauce up. I'm not sure the name of everything we got, but I had Saag which is curried spinach and a brown chickpea thing, and Sam got something with mixed veggies and paneer. I also got a samosa to try. My entire meal of two veggies and rice, a roti and a samosa came out to $5.00. Sam got raita (yogurt) instead of a samosa and paid $4.50. It's that cheap.
We ate outside on the stoop of the building next door. I thought the food was delicious. My saag and chickpeas were just spicy enough without being overpowering, and the roti was a nice compliment. The samosa wasn't crispy but was packed with potatoes and peas and had a nice bite as well. Since we ate outside the food didn't stay hot for long but it didn't even matter really.
We were both surprised by the paneer in Sam's dish. I have only had paneer once and it was from a Trader Joes saag paneer package; we both found the real thing really chewy. Paneer is a lacto-vegetarian cheese homemade by many in India that provides protein to vegetarian diets. I think an authentic paneer takes getting used to. Her raita did not have cucumber; it was only plain yogurt but it was cooling with the hot curries. There were a few different condiments inside including some kind of garlic sauce and tiny little hot peppers that I did not go near.
Shout out to "Shawty" and her girl who traveled all the way from Queens to come to Punjabi. Sam and I won coolness points by telling them we traveled from the Bronx. For real, she asked our names and then said hers was Shawty. Overall, Punjabi was diverse experience and I would definitely go back again.
Punjabi Grocery & Deli: 141 E. 1st St. between Ave. A and 1st Ave. Don't bother calling, they probably don't have a phone.