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A Curry Foodie Tour of New York City!

When I was asked to put together a day-long tour focusing on famous curries in NYC I thought it was a joke. Insomuch as New York City has the world’s best foods, as well as the most diverse population, per capita, in the world (Queens, you the best!) I would be hard-pressed to think of a more obscure tour request than “best curries.” But, as it stands, NYC had a sizeable Indian population, a small but robust Thai community, and an equally small Malaysian community. Which meant that with a little research, there were more than enough cafes and restaurants to celebrate the wide, wild, wonderful world of curries! 

My clients were a corporate group who studied flavors and fragrances in order to create new versions for consumers and companies. We had a minicoach and we had a plan – to enjoy breakfast at a modern Malaysian coffeeshop, lunch #1 at a Thai steam table, shopping visit #1 at an Indian megamarket, lunch #2 at a Northern Indian buffet, lunch #3 (are you keeping track? Our waistlines weren’t!) at a vegetarian Southern Indian spot, shopping #2 at a world-renowned spice market, spice-specific cocktails (you know, to break up the monotony of lunch, lunch, shopping, lunch) and then dinner at a modern Aussie-Indian joint. 

Curry sambal and coconut rice at Kopitam.
There’s only so much a Brooklynite of Eastern-European Jewish descent can say about curry, but there is a veritable universe of flavors, aromas, colors, textures, spices, heat levels and sweet and sour profiles to enjoy. From our first stop – Kopitiam in Chinatown, for curried eggs blasted with black pepper, pulled coffee and nasi lemak (coconut rice with egg, cucumber, and curried spicy sambal sauce) my clients knew they were in for a unique NY tour experience. 

Taste amazing ethnic eats in Queens NYC on our Foodie tour
Onto the minicoach and off to Queens. Recently named The #1 Tourist Hotspot in America by Lonely Planet, Queens is a veritable universe of multi-culturalism. Each neighborhood is an extraordinary collection of ethnic markets, shops, restaurants, houses of worship and more. Our Thai curry spot, Khao Kang in Elmhurst, was a traditional steam table where $8 gets a mound of white rice and 3 proteins, vegetables, and/or sauces. Red curry, massaman, green, yellow, jungle, you name it and Khao Kang has it, spiced accordingly to the native Thai palate. These weren’t watered down dishes for American taste buds!

In order to digest a bit, we walked over to Jackson Heights for a quick supermarket stop at Patel Brothers and left with a shopping cart full of curry spices. Our next stop was back in Manhattan at Bukhara Grill, a traditional Northern Indian Curry House for a buffet lunch. Yes, you heard that correctly. One of our planned 6 meals was an all-you-could-eat smorgasbord of chickens korma and tikka, saag paneer, samosas, and everything else you would expect at a popular Indian curry house near the UN.

After Bukhara, we rolled downtown to visit Kaluystans in Curry Hill (an Indian micro-hood within Murray Hill,) an extraordinary marketplace that stocks an eye-bogglingly large collection of dried fruits, nuts, sweets, spices, sauces, mixes and more. We got a quick talk about where they import their spices and walked out with a basket full of curries. 

That’s a basket of curry spices!
But wait, there’s still two more restaurants and a cocktail bar to get to! Lunch #3 was at Saravana Bhavan, a franchise South Indian vegetarian spot that gave us dosas with an assortment of curried vegetables to dip and spread. 

Private cocktail tour at Mace in the East Village
Then it was over to Mace, a spice-specific cocktail bar in the East Village where each drink is painstakingly conceived around a single spice, many of which you would never expect to find in a boozy drink. Some of the cocktails had garam masala, some had curry leaf, some had matcha green tea powder, all were delicious, none were what you would expect of a “spice-driven menu.”

This Manchurian cauliflower was mind-blowing.
One last feast – a prix-fixe modern Indian restaurant, imported from Melbourne, featuring bright, exciting Indian tastes set amongst a hip crowd and a artsy decor. Remarkably, everyone on the tour group was still hungry, and so we found a way to stuff our faces one last time with curries and assorted Indian flavors. Washed it down with craft beer and fine wine and called it a night. 

Who doesn’t enjoy tandoori chicken in the East Village!?
Let it be known that when we say we specialize in custom tours of New York City, we mean it! Next tour pitch – the best gym to burn off curry calories!