Indian adventures in Iselin NJ

So I finally managed to break away from the Chinese and Korean places in Edison and got my ass over to Iselin for some Indian action. I know very little about Indian food and have been eager to try some places here and finally got around to it!

We started off at a really dead food court. There were a few different shops but not knowing any better, we went ahead and ordered some things. I went to a chat/pani puri shop of sorts and asked for whatever the girl liked. She wasn’t very friendly and didn’t make any attempt to communicate their choices with me. This happened a few more times throughout the day - I think they’re just really not used to having non-Indian customers and don’t really know how to recommend or describe the food. Anyway, I ended up with a sandwich with some kind of slop and onions on the side. Like an Indian Sloppy Joe, or as my friend dubbed it, a Sloppy Raj. I wasn’t that impressed with this one. For 7 bucks, it was actually really disappointing considering 10 bucks gets you a buffet at some places.

My friend went Indo Chinese and got a Sichuan style fried rice. Pretty good, but it needed something to go with it.

I guess there was a reason this food court was dead. I wanted to like it, but it really wasn’t that great.

The next food court turned out to be much better. It’s on the second floor of a bank building, and the place was jumpin’. There are about 6 stalls there, and we got to try 3 of them.

I went to a Dosa shop and got some kind of special chili Dosa. HOE LEE CRAP it was packing some serious heat. It wasn’t a normal dosa - not the usual rolled round stuff, but this was a folded square with lots of holes, and it came sitting on top of the potato mixture instead of being rolled with it. Also, there were chopped hot peppers everywhere, and WHOLE BLACK PEPPERCORNS. I have never experienced anything like this, and it was really hardcore. Just the kind of kick my ass experience I look for in a good Indian dish.

One of my buddies hit up the chat place and got some kind of chat. This place literally has like 40 chats on their menu and my head was spinning. I wish there was some kind of ordering guide or something. We just picked something and ended up with this. Delicious and pretty much tasted like every other chat I’ve had, just slightly different components.

My other friend got a chicken curry thali and it was pretty standard fare.

There’s so much more to try in this area and I’m going to try to make regular returns to get more familiar with the food. Maybe some of you HOs will join me on the next trip!


OMG. I’m droooooling! Esp over that last pic; that’s some kind of bhel, a dish that I love simply because it’s a wonderful mix of textures and flavors. I see pom seeds–was that a dessert?

Nice, I can’t believe you weren’t happy with the Sichuan style fried rice, it looks bangin!!

Here’s an added adventure while having your Indian food at the Iselin/Edison area.


Hey I just realized I never responded to you. The last two pics are out of order, the one with the pom seeds is the chat. I don’t think it’s necessarily classified as a dessert, it’s got sweet and savory components. I think it’s just considered a snack. I think it was a samosa chat - so it’s a samosa on the bottom, topped with various spiced crunchy bits and sauces. It’s sweet/salty/spicy/tangy all at the same time. Almost like Indian nachos if they were made with Doritos.


Looked great! Tasted decent. I think the issue was that it’s hard for fried rice to stand out without other mains to go with it, it’s almost like a side dish.

That must have been one hell of a meal if you can remember such details almost 2 years later. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night.


It was my first time trying food in Iselin so it was very memorable! Having photos helps to jog the memory also. :slight_smile: Honestly I was slightly disappointed, I was hoping to get to try some more unusual foods but the language barrier was a bit hard to overcome. Some of these dosa and chat places have like 30 things on their menu.


I haven’t been super impressed with the food courts, having visited the Desi Galaxies (2 in Edison, 1 in Somerset) and Flavor Court Junction a few times.

You’re right that there is little hand-holding when it comes to the menu. You pretty much have to know what the names of everything are. Googling each one is a nightmarishly slow task. I’ve had some good experiences chatting with the staff about options or recommendations, but sometimes there’s a language barrier.

Yep, appears to be samosa chaat in the photo. Chaats being a blend of various types of fried dough/chips mixed with chili powder, mint chutney, tamarind chutney, and yogurt.

Right now my favorite place for chaats, and all-around favorite spot for lunch on Oak Tree Road is Pakvaan, a vegetarian Gujarati spot. They make home-made chutneys, whereas a lot of other places use canned, and you can tell the difference.

Pretty much everything I’ve had in Pakvaan, I’ve enjoyed, from their thalis, vada pav, bhel puri, sev puri. Their food, to me, has been several notches better than the other restaurants I’ve been to on Oak Tree Road.


Overall, I’ve been to most of the restaurants in Edison/Oak Tree Road area. I’ve not been super impressed on many occasions. Here a list of the ones I’ve been to with some quick notes. I’ve made threads in the past of ones I’ve liked.

My Indian Adventures in Iselin/Edison:
Pakvaan**: Vegetarian, great chaats, great thalis, vada pavs, etc. overall can’t go wrong on menu
Amma’s Kitchen: Non-veg, South Indian (Temporarily closed I think)
Kwality Sweets: Good ice cream shop
Moghul Express: Non-veg, Solid, consistent, wide variety of options, good/above-average
Dakshin Express: Non-veg, good dosas, good biryani
Eggmania: I like eggmania, it’s not my all-time favorite, but it’s overall above-average.

Paradise Biryani Pointe: Non-veg, pretty good biryani, not the best
Lal Hutt: Non-veg, Pakistani, a bit over-priced, food is pretty good.
Talk of the Town: Vegetarian, pretty good chaat, best item I’ve had was paneer meeth tikki
Chowpatty Restaurant / Sweets: Vegetarian, pretty good dosa, pretty good pav bhaji, mithai hit or miss
Chopstick I : Indo-chinese, very expensive, just pretty good
Zaika BBQ: Non-veg, Pakistani, pretty good
New Shan-e-Punjab: Non-veg, Just good, not great
Sher-E-Punjab: Non-veg, pretty good Punjabi food
Papa Pancho: pretty good Indian pizza joint

NJ Halal Boys: Halal Cart spot, didn’t love the meat quality/seasoning much. Rice was good.
Flavor Junction Food Court: mixed bag, generally pretty average
Mithaas: Below-average food, pretty good but expensive mithai
Desi Galaxy I: Chaats are bad, overall not impressed with bombay spice options, punjabi, dosa, or indo-chinese options,
Desi Galaxy II: Don’t love the Punjabi stand, Hyderabad goat biryani is alright, but the gravy/raita is poor.
Saravhana Bhavan: Vegetarian, South-Indian dosa/idli chain, I didn’t like it at all. Madras coffee was good, but $4.
Bombay Paratha: Vegetarian, Just average chaats/parathas
Quality Sweets: Terrible inedible chaat
Purohit Sandwich: Pretty average/bad chaat and sandwiches
Dosa Express: average dosas
Karaikudi/Baahubali Restaurant: bad buffet
Tabaq: Non-veg, below average Pakistani buffet
Sri Dosa Place: Vegetarian, below average vegetarian buffet/dosas

Ones I haven’t tried:
Shalimar, Rasoi, Mirchi, Moghul, Two Dimple Spots, Swagath Gourmet, Honest, Shezan, Sukhadia’s, Urban Spice, Jhupdi, Kandahar


Moghul Express is a consistent favorite as well as the Rasoi II Restaurant buffet on Oak Tree.

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You’re officially torturing me.

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What a great list. I’m gonna save it, along side the lists Edison places @joonjoon posted on that other website that shall remain nameless.

We happened to walk into Dakshin Express when the place we really wanted to go to (Swagath Gourmet) was closed and thought it was really good. We’ve been going to Swagath Gourmet on and off for years. I’m pretty sure we leaned about it on a Food Network show at least 20 years ago.

I’m looking forward to trying your recommendations.


You are a rock star. I wish I could live in your mouth so I can try some of everything you’re eating.

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Tried Pakvaan today. I loved the bhel puri; Mark thought his thali just okay, but really liked the mango lassi. Working our way through goodparmesan’s list, we’ll probably try Dakshin Express or Eggmania next.


Holy crap I can’t believe how well the pictures from my old Galaxy S6 holds up today. My S6 died and I finally upgraded to a 21.

Hit up Tabaq on Oak Tree road. It’s a Pakistani place. The menu prices seem super reasonable, but then their food doesn’t come with rice. And they charge for water. The guy at the door is super surly, it made eating there feel like detention. Our server was super nice though.

We wanted to try some things that are unique to Pakistani places, but most of the things we asked for were unavailable so we basically ended up getting regular Indian fare. Food was pretty good, but I don’t think I’ll be returning until their buffet comes back. One thing of note is the chicken achari, while delicious was like 70% bone.

Also I asked the surly guy at the door if they had restarted their buffet and his response was to point at the table and say “go sit.” LMAO. Our server was nice enough to explain that their buffet is not back yet though. :smiley:


Also, shout out to Punjabi Express at the Desi Galaxy food court. I actually really love this place. The shitty ambiance is just my style, and you can’t beat the value there outside a buffet. For 10 bucks you get a meat, rice, naan and salad. They cook the naan fresh to order and their chicken keema is one of my favorite things I’ve had anywhere.



I was just reading about the history of the pav bhaji (pictured above) the other day. It’s from an article entitled “What Mumbaikars owe to the American Civil War: Pav Bhaji” in a Delhi-based Indian e-paper, Mint.

It talked about Gujarati cotton traders in Mumbai back in the mid-19th-century, and how they stepped into a supply vacuum when the Union naval blockade of the Confederate ports disrupted trade with the Manchester cotton mills.

Mumbai’s cotton industry stepped into the fray, and its textile workers, working long into the nights, required sustenance. That was when the street stalls in that district invented the pav bhaji, a spicy mélange of mashed potatoes, beans and vegetables in a tomato-inflected curry gravy, served alongside soft buttered buns (an adaptation of the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries’ Pão de Deus).

One can find pav bhaji practically everywhere in India these days. Although the north-west Indian metropolis, Mumbai, supposedly has the best ones, my first encounter with pav bhaji was in Bangalore (practically India’s Deep South) back in 2004. Like you, I didn’t know what to make of it then - but I only had to pay less than US 50 cents for my pav bhaji.

So now we have come full circle - a 150-year-old Mumbai street food which owed its existence to the American Civil War had actually made it all the way back to America.


As a historian of the American Civil War, I appreciate this post. Thank you for the info!