Sunday, January 13, 2008

International Food Warehouse and Liquidators, Lodi, New Jersey.

Well, I am now back in Budapest, but in order to transport my cargo of chipotle peppers, salted codfish, wakame seaweed, and industrial amounts of El Yucateco Kutbil-Ik Mayan Hot Sauce back to my flat in Zuglo, I needed an extra duffle bag. No problem, when you need something cheap in Jersey, you head to Lodi. On Route 17 is the International Liquidators and Food Warehouse, a megashop like no other. Basically, when some retail giant someplace on the planet goes belly up, the orphaned merchandise winds up here. It's worth a visit if you are ever cruising Route 17 - just across the road is the charmingly sleazy Satin Dolls topless bar, which was rented out to the producers of the Sopranos TV series for several years as the site of the Bada Bing Club.The International food section is constantly changing - you will always find something odd or special here, like an entire aisle of Macedonian pepper sauces and pickles. As far as Hungarian products were concerned, there were only these few, sad jars of garlic paste. Due to the unstable nature of the middle east, there always seems to be knock-down sales on halal products. How about a can of cow?But the real reson to go bargain hunting in Lodi is the Indian Chef buffet located inside the market itself. Since the Warehouse seems to be owned and operated by folks from India and their relatives, the lunch options are limited to some of the finest, cheap Indian food available in the New York Area. The dining area may be a bit improvised, but the food is not.The curry station offers versions of chicken, lamb, and vegetable curries alongside old standards such as cauliflower and potato aloo gobi. The chicken and rice biryani here was one of the most pricey items, at $7.95, but the server kept packing our take out order into a container as if trying to see just how much biryani he could fit into one aluminium take-out plate. It actually served three of us, for dinner.But the best surprise is the dosa man. Somehow they have scoured the subcontinent to find the most serious and dedicated maker of fermented rice and lentil pancakes and bring him to an industrial sector of Lodi, New Jersey. some of North America's crispiest and most authentic south indian meals are served about 100 meters away from the Bada Bing Club.I ordered the classic masala dosa, filled with curried potato. These dosas are slow food. An order takes about twenty minutes to fix up, and the wait is worth it. They also serve other rice based specialties from Karnataka cuisne of southern India, such as idlis, smaller thick rice panckes.Finished dosa, hot and crispy, served with two types of mild chutney sauce and a spicy bowl of sambar for dipping. I have never been able to finish off one of these, and at $5.95, it's a bargain indeed. Tamil cuisine has traditionally been overwhelmingly vegetarian, but honestly, it may be the only vegetarian cuisine that I can imagine eating for any length of time.

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