N eehee’s offers more than just Indian vegetarian street food, but an interactive eating experience that you won’t find at most metro Detroit lunch spots, as well. Displayed across gigantic monitors strung up over the ordering counter, colorful, traditional dishes like Chatpati Chaat, Pakoda, and Dahi Puri caught our attention — though, admittedly, I could not name, let alone pronounce, even one ingredient in the plates. Thankfully, I was not alone. Hour Detroit associate editor, Lakshmi Varanasi, was there to guide to me. Lakshmi, who covers dining subjects for the magazine, is also Indian-American, therefore inherently familiar with the dishes we were preparing to eat. I entrusted her with ordering our meals.
“You poke the center,” Lakshmi says, using her index finger to crush the center of a hollow shell called Pani Puri, then spooning potato chunks, black chickpea mix, and tamarind chutney into the baked, quarter-sized fried puff. Once the shell melted on the tip of my tongue, it released notes of tang, sweetness, and spiciness. At some point, I finished off my half of the 8-piece basket and continued to eat Lakshmi’s.
The next course was a dosa, a thin, crispy crepe made from fermented rice and lentil flour. A popular dish across the Indian subcontinent, dosas substantiate a large part of the South Indian diet. We ripped the crepe by hand and dunked pieces into small bowls of sambhar and coconut chutney, eventually cleaning the tray of any crumbs. Forks, spoons, and knives are not essential to devour the, what seems like, hundreds of options at the Troy location.
The last, and the most memorable course, was the Paneer Chili. Gobs of cottage cheese, covered in Manchurian sauce, were accompanied with finely chopped Thai green chile peppers, sweet bell peppers, and onions. While my throat began to tighten and face turn red, Lakshmi asked, “Are you okay?”
“This is my favorite dish,” I replied, half-choking in my response. As beads of sweat began to collect on the top of my buzzed head, I continued to spoon the rest of my serving into my mouth.
Some of the best meals leave you breathless.