Indian food: those two little words make my mouth water like nothing else can. Naans, samosas, potato curry, basmati rice: what other cuisine is so savory, so flavorful, and best of all, so CHEAP?
That’s why it’s really no surprise that I love Tiffin Wallah. Not only do they have insanely affordable Indian fare, but their lunch buffet special is unparalled: for $7.95 per person, you get all the flatbread, curry, seitan stew and whatever delicious goods they have that you can fit into your belly. You really can’t beat that price in NYC!
Here’s a bit of a vocabulary lesson: in Arabic, “Tiffin Wallah” apparently means “box person,” or so Wikipedia says –
A dabbawala ; also spelled as dabbawalla or dabbawallah; literally meaning (“box person”), is a person in India, most commonly found in the city of Mumbai, who is employed in a unique service industry whose primary business is collecting freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from the residences of the office workers (mostly in the suburbs), delivering it to their respective workplaces and returning the empty boxes back to the customer’s residence by using various modes of transport. “Tiffin” is an old-fashioned English word for a light lunch or afternoon snack, and sometimes, by extension, for the box it is carried in. For this reason, the dabbawalas are sometimes called Tiffin Wallahs.
This buffet isn’t your run-of-the-mill Chinese grease-load rip-off: the flatbread is super fresh and fragrant, the rice is fluffy and filling, and all the dishes are freshly cooked and refilled as the buffet gets emptied out.
Since the buffet changes daily, be sure to ask what is vegan and what’s not: some of the dishes do have yoghurt or ghee in them, but there are usually at least 2-3 vegan dishes in the lineup. It would be helpful if they did put placards in front of the dishes, though…
Here is one of the three plates that quickly disappeared shortly before taking the picture:
Clockwise from the top are: potato crisp, flatbread, turmeric basmati rice, potato curry, spicy seitan curry, chickpea chutney, and white basmati.
I have to say, I loved all the vegan offerings they had, especially the seitan curry, which had fibrous, softly chewy chunks of seitan in this amazing spicy black pepper/onion sauce that was just salty enough. The potato curry and the chickpea chutney were delicious as well. The chickpea chutney had a great creamy consistency and was cooked thoroughly, but not overdone. It all tasted awesome when wrapped inside a flatbread, or just stuffed via mouth with the basmati.
I also found this yummy, never-before-seen bite-size morsel: a crispy vegan chicken ball, with grape leaves and soft vegan chicken inside a glorious deep-fried dough shell. I think I must have eaten 20 of these suckers.
There’s also an awesome sauce bar on the side to accessorize your dishes with whatever chutneys and creams as you please, as well as salad and potato crisps in a basket. I love the coconut cream sauce and the spicy red sauce with mini black peppercorns.
I’ve also had some of their regular dishes, like the Rava Masala and Paper Masala, which were also delicious but not quite as filling as the buffet. I’d say you should still try them out, even if you can’t make the buffet times.