A food truck with West In­dian fla­vor

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY TOM HANCHETT

Love In­dian food? You’re likely aware of the re­gional cuisines of north In­dia (cur­ries, naan bread) and south In­dia (len­til dishes and dosa crepes). But did you know that west­ern In­dia has fla­vors of its own?

The new Marathi Tadka food truck be­gan bring­ing spe­cial­ties from the west In­dian state of Ma­ha­rash­tra to up­town Char­lotte this spring. Aparna Pad­hye and her hus­band San­deep Pad­hye — her a com­puter tech, him a chem­i­cal en­gi­neer — grew up near Mum­bai. The big bank­ing city sends many in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists to Char­lotte.

“When we came to Char­lotte, we found north In­dian and south In­dian restau­rants, but not west In­dia,” she re­calls. “There are hun­dreds of dis­tinc­tive tra­di­tional and healthy recipes. We of­fer just a sam­ple.”

Ev­ery lunchtime, the Pad­hyes post a dif­fer­ent ar­ray of menu items, each on a sheet of pa­per fresh from a color com­puter printer, taped to the side of the truck. Most are vege­tar­ian, with a chicken dish added from time to time.

Pav bhaji shows up al­most ev­ery day. It’s a curry-like veg­etable stew fea­tur­ing tomato, peas and chunks of potato. In­dian spices pro­vide a pleas­ing zing. “We use masala spices im­ported di­rectly from In­dia,” Aparna Pad­hye says.

Bhel is an­other vege­tar­ian fa­vorite. It’s a snack mix made of puffed rice and other crispy bits, with a driz­zle of tamarind sauce to add a faint sweet­ness — all packed into a pa­per cone for easy eat­ing.

The Marathi Tadka truck has be­come an in­stant hit among In­dian of­fice work­ers in cen­ter city Char­lotte. A line 20 peo­ple deep waited hap­pily the first time I stum­bled upon it. Be­cause Mum­bai is such an im­por­tant cul­tural cen­ter, ex­plains San­deep Pad­hye: “Peo­ple all over In­dia know this food.”

Find com­mu­nity his­to­rian Tom Hanchett’s writ­ings at His­to­rySouth.org. Reach him at Tom@His­to­rySouth.org.

TOM HANCHETT

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