Walking through the Times Square area to get to the Desi Food Truck did not put me in the best of moods; Times Square is second only to Canal Street as the most frustrating place to walk if you want to get somewhere. After throngs of tourists, one large man in an Elmo costume, and three women doing hokey jazz steps in bright red tights, 50th Street and the bright yellow Desi truck were a breath of fresh air.
In response to the cold, I opted for the coziest options available, starting with the Haleem ($4/$6). Haleem is a meat stew with a lentil and wheat base. Piping hot and pleasantly fragrant, this iteration featured a slow build of spiciness that cleared the sinuses. Spot-on for a cold day.
The Chicken Tikka Masala ($4/$6) was less successful. Though the sauce was flavorful and rich with ghee (clarified butter, one of my favorite parts of Indian cuisine), the chicken itself was overcooked—dry to the point of being chalky.
Happily, the chicken that made its way into the Chicken Anda Kati Roll ($5.50) was far better: succulent chunks of light and dark meat alongside egg, a sweet and spicy chili sauce, a coriander and mint sauce, and tender marinated red onions. The combination looks like a bit too much on paper, but it's enormously successful when thrown together in the pliant, flaky flatbread.
The Paneer Masala Kati Roll ($5.50) also made use of the delicate flatbread, both sauces, and the onions, but this time with slightly less success. The roll was still quite good, but I could hardly taste the grilled paneer underneath all the rest. The chili sauce took over in the end, giving this kati roll much less delicious complexity than the Chicken Anda.
Of the four dishes I sampled at Desi, I would trek through Times Square again for two—the Haleem and Chicken Anda Kati Roll. Rich and steaming hot, the Desi Truck's offerings make for some delicious winter eats.
The Desi Food Truck
Here, at 50th Street between 6th and 7th (map). Location varies; call 212-961-6193 to check the location Open 11:30 to 2:30 for lunch