Neehee’s Indian Vegetarian Street Food (Canton, MI)

You know, every time we go visit Carol’s family in Canton, MI, I always find that the western part of the metro areas has someplace interesting to try that I didn’t notice before. One time, it was the halal butcher shop called Mr. Goat (which I didn’t review, since it was just a butcher shop, and now it’s moved). Another time, I discovered that the little Japanese noodle shop, Matsu Chan, was actually really good. Another time, it was Bode’s Corned Beef House”. This time, it was a place in a strip mall on Ford Road called “Neehee’s Indian Vegetarian Street Food”. Well, we had been through enough, um, Midwestern cuisine that we were craving something a little spicy, and decided to give it a try.

The first thing I noticed on entering Neehee’s is that the place was popular. In fact, very popular, with people spilling out the door, and barely having anyplace to stand while in line. More importantly, most of the people there actually appeared to be Indian, so I took that as a distinct sign. I also couldn’t help but notice the massively large dosas (Indian crepes) coming out of the kitchen on large platters. So we decided to wade in and give it a try.

After looking at the menu a minute, I realized exactly what sort of place Neehee’s was. While the sign outside said “Indian Vegetarian Street Food”, which was quite accurate, we had a name for this sort of place when I lived in Minneapolis: a “Chaat Joint” (“Chaat” is basically the Indian term for “savoury snack foods”). Indeed, the menu was filled with all sorts of puris (little unleavened breads), choles (spicy chickpea dishes), bhatoora (those little inflated deep-fried bread snacks) and bhelpuris (special spicy tamarind puffed rices dishes). Along with just about anything deep-fried and Indian, like pakodas and those little spicy lentil donuts.. And a good selection of soups, thali platters, and lassi beverages. In short, a whole lot of Indian street food.

After looking over the menu, Carol and I decided to split three items on the menu: the Special Bhelpuri (bhel puri mixed with peanuts, chana chor,chana dal and chutneys), which was a very nice little appetizer dish, with good crunchy texture on the bhel puri, and a fiery hot sauce. Next up was the Masala Puri, which was crisp crushed puris topped with hot green peas ragda, chutneys, and onions. While pretty decent overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with this. The puris in this weren’t terribly crunchy, and by the time all the ingredients mixed together, this mostly closely resembled an Indian version of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza more than anything else. Not bad, but not worth getting again.

The Masala Dosa, however, is where Neehee’s shined. A perfectly crisped crepe made from rice and lentil flour, this was nicely crisp, pleasantly flavored, stuffed with some spicy potatoes, and served up with several nice chutneys and some sambar on the side. Plenty of food to share for two, nicely flavored, and spicy without being overkill. I’d get this again in a moment.

Wrapping things up with a pair of lassis (one mango, and one rose), it was quite a pleasant little dinner. However, Neehee’s could improve their game a bit. The dosa was spot on, but the puris could be improved upon. More importantly, they could probably use a bit more organization. When we came it, the place was packed, but after watching for a bit, I realized it was because most people were waiting on food. That, and the kitchen seemed to be seriously backed up when it came to dosas; while our lassis and puris came out almost instantly, our dosas took almost 15 minutes to emerge from the kitchen. Meanwhile, we’re sitting around an empty table in a busy restaurant while other people are still waiting for tables. I think maybe another Dosa station is called for? In any case, the wait was a bit long for “street food”.

Still, I’ll be back next time I’m in Canton.

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