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The Monitor

The Student News Site of Marymount Manhattan College

The Monitor

The Student News Site of Marymount Manhattan College

The Monitor

Dosa: An Underrated Delicacy of NYC Street Food

Dosa%3A+An+Underrated+Delicacy+of+NYC+Street+Food
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As you enter Washington Square Park near NYU’s main campus in downtown Manhattan from the south entrance, it will be almost impossible not to notice the long crowded line by a small food cart called NY Dosas. Thirukumar is a South Indian food vendor from Sri Lanka, who turned to the food cart business after doing all kinds of jobs in New York. The streets of Washington Square Park and the international students from NYU can tell you more about his special Pondicherry dosa than anyone else. It has been 22 years since Thirukumar has served the New Yorkers with dosa, the vegan delicacy of South India.

 

“Ok, did you say spicy pondicherry or not?” asked Thirukumar to his customers standing in the line. 

 

Indian food isn’t alien to the streets of NYC as it is home to over 700 restaurants specializing in Indian cuisine, with over 20 joints committed towards South Indian cuisine. However, the New Yorkers might not be well-acquainted with economical South Indian places as they are hard to come by even among the luxurious diversity that NYC promises. An average South Indian meal from a restaurant in NY would come to around $15-$20 bucks which might not be a matter of concern for some but for the not-so-well-off international students who have crossed continents and taken student loans to study in New York, it’s indeed a big deal. “We control pricing as everything on the menu is under $11,” says Thirukumar, which is also one of the keys to his success in the food cart business. 

 

The streets of New York have been home to food vendors since the early 1860s which then became a market for the immigrants to sell delicacies from their hometown. For the NYC food vendors, their food carts are more than just a means of making a living, it’s a way to stay connected to their roots and share their culture with New Yorkers.

 

Thirukumar begins his day as early as 3 in the morning, preparing the masala (potato filling), dosa batter, and last but not least the chutneys which are the lifeline of the special pondicherry dosa. Then he travels all the way from his home in Long Island to Washington Square Park and sets up the food cart of NY Dosas that will be open to New Yorkers from 11 AM – 3 PM. 

 

An Indian professor from NYU, Neelu, was whining over the finished chutney that she couldn’t get enough to enjoy with her oothappam (onion dosa) and Thirukumar was more than happy to offer her the barrel that contained the chutney to scrape out every last bit. Neelu’s Husband, Tom (39) said, “I come here regularly, the dosa here is always delicious, consistent, healthy, satisfying, and reminds us of home food from Hyderabad.” Customers eagerly come behind the food cart to chat and wish Thirukumar as they would with a family member. Because to them, this food vendor and his dosas offer a sense of home despite being miles apart from their own. 

 

However, the road to Thirukumar’s success hasn’t been without challenges. He says “I waited three and half years to get the license to open a food cart which was one of the big challenges I faced while starting this business”. The hardships and recent changes in laws have made it even more challenging for NYC street food vendors to obtain license permits and open their businesses. During the pandemic, Thirukumar had to take a break from work and got to spend more time with his family, growing veggies in the backyard of his home. “I’ve changed my lifestyle to accommodate my business and family time which is also healthy for me like my vegan dosas.” Thirukumar’s business has grown rapidly with his fan club on social media where he posts regularly and updates about the timings when the food cart will be open.

 

https://www.instagram.com/nydosas/?hl=en

 

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About the Contributor
Neelima KS, Staff Writer
Neelima is an aspiring journalist who is currently pursuing her undergraduate at Marymount Manhattan College. She is double majoring in Digital Journalism and Politics and Human rights and a minor in law and ethics. She is a staff writer for the Monitor who is passionate about covering news stories related to Climate Change, Politics and local issues.

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