Philadelphia - and South Philly in particular - is a nearly as dry as the Sahara when it comes to finding great Indian food. That’s one reason we were excited to run into Samosa Deb at Ninth and Catherine this past weekend. Chef-owner Debbie Dasani has had the Southeast Asian food truck on the streets since the summer, but so far she’s only been found on the Temple campus.
We tried several of Dasani’s dishes and promptly became jealous of the students up at Templetown, but there’s good news: this fall, she plans to start holding regular hours at the Ninth Street corner - probably weekends to start. It’s right across the street from the convenience shop owned by her husband; the couple both recently left corporate jobs to do something more fulfilling.
If stuffing samosas with spiced potatoes is what Dasani finds fulfilling, we’re all for it, and others agree - she has a very hard time keeping the namesake fried pockets in stock since they sell out so quickly. Instead of turning away in disappointment and logging on to see if you still have time to get Tiffin delivery, try her other dishes, which are just as good as the samosas. (Bonus: a lot of the food is vegetarian and/or gluten-free.)
The chicken tikka masala is one of the best we’ve tried in this city (though there aren’t that many to compare it to, just know this: it’s tasty). The housemade sauce was rich and deep, with a slow-building heat that also pervaded other dishes. “I tone down the spice for Western eaters,” Debbie tells us, noting that she also has West Indian ancestry and loves to use Scotch bonnets in addition to Indian chili peppers, when she can get away with it.
Samosa Deb also offers chaat platters. Chaat is a catch-all term for Indian snacks that gets its name from a signature mix of herbed and spiced crispy flakes of potato and chickpeas. Dasani set us up with that mix - which she makes herself - over a bed of rice and piles of saag paneer (spinach and fresh cheese) and curried chickpeas. On top she suggests a sprinkle of dried cranberries. Though it’s not traditional - “I didn’t grown up in India, so I get creative with my food. I don’t have any baggage!” she says - the sweet and chewy berries do work very well.
Though she has a Twitter account, Dasani hasn’t started tweeting yet, because “I always sell out anyway!” When you do find the truck, expect samosas to run $5 for two, and combo platters to run $7-$10. Also look for Samosa Deb to start showing up soon at the usual food truck spots like Love Park and 33rd and Arch.