underground gourmet

Soft Eggs, Bright Chiles, Extra-Crisp Pastry

Mughlai paratha, a specialty from Bangladesh, arrives in Bed-Stuy.

What $10 well spent looks like. Photo: Hugo Yu
What $10 well spent looks like. Photo: Hugo Yu

Nawabi Bhoj, in Bed-Stuy, is only a few months old, but Nisad Mohammed, who opened the Bengali restaurant with his two older brothers, has known this stretch of Fulton Street for his entire life: “My dad’s grocery,” which he opened after immigrating from Bangladesh in the ’80s, “used to be this fish store right here, then we moved a few stores down over there by the Shake Shack,” he says. One block over is the location of a different, bigger supermarket they owned until recently. “My father has been in that neighborhood for so long that everybody kind of knows who we are.”

Along with his brothers, Mohammed already runs two Indian restaurants in the area — Green Chilli on Nostrand Avenue and Bombay Grill on Bedford Avenue — but they had been waiting on the right circumstances to open something more personal. “A lot of the Indian restaurants are actually owned by Bengali people,” he says. “Early on, Bengali food wasn’t that popular,” and Indian food was a better business move. But with most of the Bengali restaurateurs focusing on Indian food, that left nobody to make authentic Bengali food for the community: dishes such as khala buna, beef curry coated in spices and fried until dry, served with khola jali pitha, a soft rice crepe; or piaju, lentil fritters that are as common as falafel.

The three brothers worked with chef Masuma Ali to develop the menu, which includes celebratory duck curry, and a case of sweets such as doughnut-adjacent balushahi and cheese dumplings served in cardamom-spiced milk. The most distinctive items are the snacks, like an aloo puri piaju sandwich closely resembling Caribbean doubles, beef-liver samosas, and the spicy egg-filled Mughlai paratha, which is one of the most satisfying things I have found to eat in the entire city. It costs $10.

Unlike the pan-cooked paratha that’s on Nawabi Bhoj’s breakfast menu, the Mughlai paratha is a more involved process, making it one egg dish you can’t order until lunch. It starts with a ball of the basic flour-and-oil paratha dough, rolled about 15 inches wide, over which a cook spreads a single egg beaten with onion, cilantro, and finely minced Thai green chile, evenly dispersing the aromatics and leaving a two-inch border so the sides can be folded into a rectangle and pinched shut with wet fingers.

The packet of pastry heads to the fryer, a wide shallow pan set over a high-powered burner, filled with fresh oil. For the next ten minutes, they baste the surface with hot oil until the bottom has browned and sets enough to flip, after which the basting continues for another few minutes before the paratha is lifted, drained, chopped into a dozen bites with a mezzaluna, and finished with a shake of chaat masala.

The egg stays soft within the blistered exterior, which conversely remains crisp, even after being exposed to its own billowing steam. While the paratha crust bulks up the minimal amount of protein within, the egg filling makes a big impact thanks to that green chile, whose fierce heat pops in each bite. The Mughlai paratha is optimized for sharing, but you could have one by itself for lunch or dinner, comfortably seated in a cushioned armchair in the windowed dining room. While you’re there, look up to see the dramatic woven ceiling and matching fans that evoke the back-home feeling.

Because they prepare the Mughlai paratha in batches ahead of time and fry them to order, and because it’s one of their most popular dishes so far, it sells out early every day. “No one else really has this,” says Mohammed. “This is like our weekend food. You wake up on Saturday or Sunday, and Mom would be making them.” At Nawabi Bhoj, they’re available every day of the week.

Flaky. Photo: Hugo Yu

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