Cheap Eats

Secret Curry Near Florida International University South Campus

Jai Mazumddar earned a master's degree in finance from the University of Florida in 2002. He spent more than half decade crunching numbers, mostly as a stockbroker for Continental Securities, which the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down, and later as a financial analyst for a real estate company in Boston.

Today he's bouncing off the walls at Spice 'n Curry, and Indian market on 107th Avenue a few blocks from Florida International University's main campus. We had to follow him from the register, where he was ringing up customers for bags of basmati rice and bunches of fenugreek leaves, to the five-seat counter where he sells three kinds of curries; chicken, mutton and vegetarian. There's also chicken and mutton biryani -- a mixed rice and meat dish -- and chaat, various bite-sized Indian snacks made for sharing, similar to Chinese dim sum.

When asked why he left the high-paying flashy world of finance Mazumddar said by the time the worldwide financial system began to collapse in 2007 and 2008 he had enough.

"I wanted to do something, but I couldn't sit in a cubicle anymore." So he opened a small market in far west Miami-Dade County with some of the provisions one might find in his hometown, Bombay. Although the city's name has since been changed to Mumbai in an effort to promote unity in a post-colonial India, Mazumddar says "it will always be Bombay to me."

The small food counter at the back of the shop is no frills, with the menu scrawled onto a white board. We met Amit Sukhwani, an Indian living in Aruba who runs a company that sells real estate and jewelry and says this is the best Indian food he's found in Miami after traveling here for a decade. The majority of the customers are graduate students from the near by college.

The mutton curry was stewed until fork tender with pieces of bone and fat attached. Although the gravy was greasy, basmati rice and hot naan, an Indian flatbread, sopped it all up well.

From among the snacks Mazumddar recommended the Dahi Puri. At $4.50 it was the most expensive snack on the list, which always seems to be the recommendation of any restaurant. Other options included samosas and katchori, a dumpling stuffed with lentils, gram flour and chili pepper, all for around $3.

Despite the costly recommendation it was a small for more than a half dozen semolina dumplings filled with potato, chickpeas, garlic, onion, yogurt topped with coriander leaves. Beyond the burst of pungent spice, the most interest part of each bite is the hot-cold effect coming from the dumpling stuffing combined with cooling yogurt. Who says you can't eat Indian food on a hot day?

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson