(Originally posted on the “A New York Thing” Glob. R.I.P.)
There are things you should know about me. One is that I am not rich, and my money is mostly spent on libations and rent, leaving money for food scarce and held tightly. Another is that I live my life according to the “Manga Scale”. A sort of triangle diagram involving taste, cost, and ease of use. The ideal meal, or anything in life really, should find the perfect equilibrium amongst these fluctuating and elusive traits.
The past 6 months of my life have been spent scurrying around New York in a series of very fortunate sublets. One of those happened to be a subterranean abode on the corner of Second Avenue and Third Street in the East Village. This happens to be across the street from a Manga Scale landmark, the Pak Punjab Deli.
The East Village of New York is filled with countless comfortable and delicious locales of taste and fine dining. The Pak Punjab is a conspicuous outcast amongst these neighbors. They are the goth kid wearing a Bauhaus shirt in the corner of a school dance while Veselka and that Belgian french fry place slow dance to Savage Garden. While they aren’t featured on websites such as MenuPages, they are on Yelp, which their Cashier “Talat H.” seems to think is Tinder. Not enough can be said about how much Talat H. thinks Yelp will get him laid. Maybe it has.
The Pak Punjab isn’t a destination, but rather a great place to eat for a very small amount of money when in the neighborhood and in need of sustenance. In this case the impetus was that I would be attending a slide show about “Drag Queens of New York in the 1980’s and Early 90’s” down the street that night. I entered the deli with aNYthing’s own Torey Kish (this is the most you will ever see that name on the internet) and the smell of cury and gasoline (Pak Punjab is mostly frequented by taxi drivers) instantly brought me back to fond memories of a winter spent in the neighborhood. Many an intensely spicy Samosa were consumed on the way home from a night of amusement at Black Market or Le Johnson’s. Delectable “Chicken Rolls” eaten in the shame of the dark while enjoying all that the apartment owner’s cable had to offer.
On this night I opted for a more substantial meal, Curry Chicken. It was an excellent choice, producing the same endorphins as finding a movie that you actually want to watch on netflix. Unlike most chicken curries, this one was devoid of an oppressive amount of sauce. Rather, the curry mostly covered the surface of the chicken, coating it, as if it were buffalo chicken wings. These tender subtle nuggets were laid over an intimidating amount of brown basmati rice. I find Basmati rice to often work in extremes, either overly watery or horrifically dry. Pak’s rice, surprisingly, is perfect. The proper amount of oils and flavors lingering on the complex and refined palate that you, reader, and I both possess. Torey chose to have the lamb on top of this same rice, which looked good, though given the lamb is served as bone-on chunks, it is a meal I can only recommend to advanced derelicts. For 6.50 each, our hunger for food and fiscal responsibility was satiated.
There are other hackney sub-continental favorites with similar prices and portions, such as the strangely placed “Lahore” on Crosby street (there’s nothing like eating a samosa and feeling really horrible/great about yourself while models walk by you on the way to castings). But Pak Punjab far surpasses Lahore in the name of flavor while serving Dinkins-era portions. The only negative to the Pak is that it smells very heavily of those same spices that make it so delicious. This means that sitting down and eating at their most generous counter station, consisting of two chairs, might mean walking around the rest of your night with this scent on you and no kisses, let alone sex. Luckily, there are plentiful stoops to be had on third street to plop down and plunder your curry. Just make sure not to sit on that chair outside the hell’s angels clubhouse that they are ADAMANT is only for their members.
I hope you all get to enjoy Pak Punjab one day. May you “find yourself” through this gastronomique journey of thrift and mouth feels the same way white people “find themselves” in the vast expanses of India (Yes, I am aware that Pak Punjab is Pakistani food: Americans, don’t go to Pakistan to find yourself).
Taste 3.75/5 Mangas
Cost ⅘ Mangas
Ease of Use: ⅗ Mangas
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