Edison, NJ 08820
March 12, 2013
Jhupdi, an Oak Tree Road standby for thirteen years, serves the vegetarian cuisine of Gujarat, a Western Indian state and the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
From the comfortable wooden booths, gaze upon a tranquil rural village scene hand-painted along one wall. There is space for larger groups to feast while seated on the floor among plush pillows and woven floor coverings. For an appetizer, try the delicate khoman dhoklas, steamed chickpea flour cakes that taste like cornbread. The sweetness of the cakes contrasts nicely with the accompanying spicy chutneys. The samosa chaat, a plate of fried samosapieces covered with yogurt, chopped onions, green and sweet chutney – blends sweet and spicy, soft and crunchy in a single, delectable spoonful.
Order a thali platter as a main course to sample many different Gujarati vegetable preparations, dips and breads. A thali here can be an adventure for the uninitiated and those with no working knowledge of the Gujarati language, like my wife and me. The Jhupdi Special Thali we ordered arrived at the table on a steel platter with ten different items in small metal containers, surrounding two millet flour flatbreads (bajri rotla) for dipping. The waiter also placed a glass of buttermilk (chhas) on the table, which apparently comes with the platter. None of the vegetable mixtures was immediately identifiable for us, so we started tasting and guessing. The tastes included: a sweet grain flavored with cardamom, a yellow spicy mashed potato, a split lentil mixture (urad daal), a roasted eggplant salad (baigan bharatha), a squash-like vegetable mix, a yellow grain with green chilies, a chickpea flour soup (kadhi), yogurt dip (raita), an obviously spicy red pepper we were afraid to touch, a crumbly sugary sweet, and a piece of what looked like a dark brown date. After we sampled everything else, I encouraged my wife to try the date. She popped a small piece in her mouth and immediately chugged the buttermilk. Turns out, it wasn’t fruit, it was a chili-garlic paste somewhere near the top of the Scoville scale. Oops.