Masala Kraft Café: Beans without Borders
Tidings from the wilds of suburban North Carolina, which boasts gunshops, big TVs, and an honest-to-God highway named after a televangelist. (I like to think of the Billy Graham Parkway as the Road to Salvation—but, as you probably guessed, it has tolls). This south-of-the-Mason/Dixon dump also holds some great barbecue, plus a decent little Vietnamese joint, and currently, sloshing with pho and summer rolls (slung in a squeaky leather La-Z-Boy in front of a billboard-sized TV), we can only observe that Vietnamese is the one thing that Westchester lacks. Though now, with Masala Kraft Café, at least Westchester has Bombay-meets-World street food.
Folks, you gotta get in there, because, first of all, it’s cheap. The menu is all vegetarian, though filling with protein-rich pulses and legumes. (And I don’t know about you, but I find super-cheap meat dishes unsettling—scratch a 75-cent meat pie and you get road kill.) Instead of superfluous animal flesh, you’ll find brightly spiced lentils and chickpeas spun into tasty, herb-laden soups, salads, and crisp, buttery dosas. Dosas, in case you don’t know, are delicious, foot-wide South Asian crêpes (at MKC, made with rice flour) crisped on a flattop in ghee and often rolled around stuffing. At Masala Kraft, we loved the traditional version stuffed with tender, turmeric-stained potatoes and masala spices, though we’re planning to branch out to other options on our next visit.
MKC’s globetrotting assortment also offers yummy sandwiches on naan-like “Malaysian-Indian” bread (we like soft, juicy slices of paneer spiked with onions and chutney), as well as some culturally outré versions of falafel—because chickpeas are chickpeas, I suppose. Though I’ve never indulged in MKC’s falafel (because I was already salivating with the scent of curry spices as I approached the counter), Masala Kraft Café’s come with hummus and tahini on whole wheat or white pitas. Sounds strange, but I can attest that a culturally off-message papdi chaat is delicious; it’s made with deep-fried flour tortilla triangles tossed with scallions, chickpeas, yogurt, and chutney. Think of it as non-disgusting nachos that you don’t need to be drunk to eat (a good thing, too, because this clean, brightly lit spot is just as booze-free as it is meatless.) After the successful papdi chat, we confess an unhealthy interest in MKC’s tacos, which may go too far out of its Sub-Continental comfort zone: it’s a straight-up, bean-filled flour tortilla served with lettuce, salsa, and cheese.
Did I mention that South Asian crack, puri? These deep-fried puffs of gram flour show up in several of MKC’S dishes, which I find redeeming—because, after all, who says that vegetarian food has to be punitive? We liked a sev puri, in which the greasy-in-a-good-way orbs come dotted with a selection of bright, herb-scattered chutneys. Veggie samosas are, sadly, not quite as drop-to-the-knees delicious as Westchester Grocery’s suspiciously cheap version ($1), but they have the same yummy, crunchy, deliciously greasy appeal of savory spiced pies in crisp, fatty dough.
Not everything is wonderful at Masala Kraft Café. While a perfectly serviceable baklava clearly was sourced elsewhere, the responsibility for an unpleasant marble gulab jamun rests firmly with MKC. These cherry-stained, squashy, mealy orbs arrived in a bowl of sticky, sugary sauce that had the deeply artificial tang of cough syrup. So big whoop: skip desserts, or opt for the sweet, milky pleasures of lassi, chai, or thandai—the last is a spiced, almond-and-milk-based blender drink perfumed with cardamom. Now if I can only get MKC to whip me up some chaas.
Masala Kraft Café is bright, clean, and friendly and centrally located right near the Hartsdale train station. Though tables are few, MKC’s kitchen is practiced at take-out: phone in, or place your order online, and drop in on your way to the station. It’s a great alternative to the rigid, bargain confines of pizza or gyros, and refreshing in its sprightly use of fresh herbs and heady spices. We only wish they’d franchise nearby, so we can crunch into daily bowls of that weirdly addictive papdi chaat.
But enough about me. How about you? Drop me a line with any thoughts or responses—I’d love to hear what you think.