- Matthew Schniper
- Calcutta native and chef Koushik Mondal serves stellar flatbreads.
You should have seen Koushik Mondal’s face at May 5’s Food Truck Cook-Off, outside the Broadmoor World Arena. Though he’s been operating the Springs’ only Indian food truck, K2 Cuisine, for the last year, he apparently hadn’t been exposed to so many enthusiasts all at once, to the point where he appeared emotionally overwhelmed by the positive feedback on samples he was handing out. People were pumped on his food and he was pumped on that — he wore a big smile and a look of wonder tamed by humility.
Later in the day, the judges selected by the hosting Small Business Development Center — myself plus James Africano of The Warehouse and Tyler Peoples of Springs Rescue Mission — awarded Mondal second place out of 32 entrants for one of his chicken wrap variants. He was overjoyed, perhaps feeling validation for years of hard work that brought him to this moment, when the general public and fellow chefs and industry folks confirmed what he already knew: His food kicks ass.
Mondal hails from Calcutta, which I can personally attest has a boisterous street-food scene; so a food truck concept here’s more than fitting for distributing the vibrant panoply of spice that comprises Indian cuisine. “In Calcutta we are foodies!” he tells me when we first meet at The Market at Spring Creek food truck rally, just days prior to the Cook-Off. He attended culinary school in India, and says he can cook just about anything.
If for no other reason, I believe him because he has a damn dough mixer on his truck, and makes three kinds of fabulous breads on the spot — naan (leavened), paratha (flatbread) and luchi (airy deep-fried flatbread) — essentially the same flours and recipes just treated and processed differently. His menu’s a pretty simple rotating five-item ($9-10 each) list, including everyone’s favorite butter chicken over basmati rice with naan on the day I find him. There’s also a chicken roll that sounds pretty much like what I danced with at the Cook-Off. But I nab three items that could qualify as Indian street tacos in that the fillings are all folded into the breads and served in trios.
- Matthew Schniper
- K2’s flatbread items sing with Indian spices, and finish with fresh garnishes.
I try the flatbread with the Tikka Paratha, which presents grilled chicken breast that Mondal marinates for a day or two in yogurt with lemon juice and so many spices, like turmeric, cumin, paprika, garam and chaat masala, cardamom, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and ... well, you get the point. The meat’s delicious and juicy even before a lime squeeze, while cilantro, lettuce and onion complete fresh garnishings and a fry-dip-like mayo-ketchup blend adds some creamy tang.
Both my Kosha Mangsho and Saag Aloo highlight the luchi, all puffed up and thankfully not oil-logged, a doughy treat with both the vegetarian creamed spinach-potato blend in the latter and chicken-potato blend in the former. Both get the same garnish of onions, cilantro and crisp cucumber bits. And each again bursts with layered spice blends too numerous to detail but clearly perfumed by ginger and garlic, though a mustard oil sear seems to distinguish the Kosha a bit and the saag obviously lacks an animal-protein backbone.
Sure, I miss not chasing it all with a lassi or starting with papadum and finishing with sweet kheer — arguable essentials to sit-down Indian meals — but otherwise K2 has made quite a gift to town by taking awesome Indian food to the streets.