Ganesh Temple Canteen

A mass of white-washed concrete, Ganesh Temple lies deep in residential Queens, with sculptures of the elephant-headed namesake god pointing the way to the entrance. Veer right instead, and down a flight of stairs to the cafeteria, where you’ll find the same folding tables and metal chairs that fill church basements across america. Temple volunteers staff the food counter and are more than happy to guide you through the extremely affordable South Indian menu. The masala dosa – a rice flour and black lentil crepe stuffed with potato-onion curry – is the mildest on offer. If you’re after atomic flavor, try the pondicherry masala dosa, with potatoes, mustard seeds, cilantro, and sliced green chilies. Every dosa comes with bowls of searing coconut chutney and sambar, a fiery, tamarind-based vegetable stew that’s a mainstay in Tamil cuisine from South India to Sri Lanka. Onion-chili uttappam, also made with rice flour and lentils but with the ingredients cooked into the batter, is a greasy passport to pleasure that brings together fried onions, rosemary, green chilies, and cilantro. If the heat from your meal isn’t enough to cleanse your soul, pop into the temple bookstore and pick up lotus or jasmine flowers from India, then leave them for Ganesh, who’s known as a dispeller of problems and obstacles. — Layne Mosler

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New York Lexikon