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Pariwaar Delights: Authentic Indian Food in Jersey City

by Yiwei Gu
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If you can only get one dish at Pariwaar Delights, it has to be the biryani. For Mohammed Al Ghulam {“Mag”}, native to the South Indian city of Hyderabad and now the owner of Pariwaar Delights located at 827 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, the dish takes special significance. “Oh, we love it so much. You give us biryani at any time, and we are going to eat it,” Mag said fondly of the most beloved dish of his home city. For Mag and his wife Hina Afreen, also his business partner, serving good biryani is not only a hail to the glorious and much-missed food tradition of their hometown but also a dream in the making. Read on to learn more about this Jersey City gem — Pariwaar Delight.

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{Photo credit: @pariwaardelightsnj}

The Journey to Pariwaar

The couple came to the United States six years ago. Mag, who has a degree in project management, worked in IT. Hina, now head chef at Pariwaar Delights, worked at a local restaurant. Confident of her own cooking, which she learned from her mother growing up in India, she dreamed of running her own kitchen. Then in 2019, the couple took the leap of faith. 

Having scouted the local food scene, Mag and Hina decided to position their brand as a casual restaurant “with fine dining ambiance and very affordable prices” {thus the name Pariwaar Delights, pariwaar meaning family}. They spent six {very stressful} months renovating a spacious storefront on the busy thoroughfare of Newark Avenue near Journal Square. Hina designed the menu and trained a small kitchen team, who executed the more than a hundred dishes the restaurant offers {not counting different levels of spiciness that can be requested for most dishes}.

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The Food

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Mag takes great pride in his biryani {“The best in Jersey City,” he says!}, for good reason. The dish, made of rice layered with meat and/or vegetables, uses eighteen different spices, some shipped by the family directly from India. A cook is dedicated full time to the biryani station, attending to three huge biryani pots, each big enough to cook for tens if not a hundred people. It is cooked in the traditional Hyderabadi dum style. The ingredients are layered in a clay pot and steamed together with the lid sealed, so the fragrance of the spices and the flavors of the meat get fully infused into the rice. 

When served, the biryani is festively heaped on a big plate, cheerfully garnished with herbs and a hard-boiled egg, as the tradition dictates. Each spoonful is an astounding saturation of flavors, the fragrance and subtle heat of the spices, the umami of the meat, and the sweet, buttery aroma of the rice.  

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Crowd-pleasing dishes familiar to American eaters, such as samosa and chicken tikka masala, are readily available here. And they are popular. {Mag gleefully told of a customer who, after enjoying her own order of chicken tikka masala, packed two more servings to be taken back home}.

But the expansive menu offers far more than that. In fact, it reads like a glossary of Indian cuisine, featuring everything from street snacks {such as pakora, a spiced fritter}, home-style curries {a lot of spicy, coconut-y South Indian options}, to Indian fusion {Have you tried Indo-Chinese cuisine, a tradition that originated from Calcutta}, covering regional specialties all the way from Punjab to Tamil Nadu. 

First-Time Recs

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For first-timers who want to sample some of the most unique regional specialties, Mag suggests starting from Gobi 65, a tempura-style cauliflower coated in a heady spice mix. Sometimes described as Chennai’s take on buffalo wings, it is crispy on the outside, mellow and moist inside {chicken and paneer cheese options also available}. 

A favorite northern dish is angara {choice of chicken or lamb}, rubbed in a fragrant marinade of almond paste and yogurt, and slowly roasted in a special clay oven until the charcoal’s smokiness gets well integrated with the potently flavored meat. 

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For a southern delicacy, there’s chicken chettinad, a vibrant curry dish, rich but not at all heavy, heated by not overwhelmingly spicy. Comfort food like dosa {thin crepe dipped in chutney}, uttapam {like a flatbread, but made of rice/lentil batter and topped with a generous load of spices and herbs, and idli {puffy steamed rice cakes dipped in chutney or gravy} are available at all time, be it late breakfast, a quick bite, or late-night snack.

The COVID-19 Impact

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“We were almost always full,” Mag said of the first year of Pariwaar Delights. The restaurant is extremely popular among the local South Asian diaspora, who would also bring along friends and family visiting the New York City area. Then the pandemic hit. Like many other local restaurateurs, Mag and Hina made every effort to keep their business afloat. 

They streamlined the operations and stayed extremely vigilant to local policies. It was an exhausting experience. “But we didn’t give up,” Mag said. The opening of on-site dining has given Pariwaar Delights breathing space and new hopes, and the couple has given all they could to keep it alive. After all, it is their dream.


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