Red or Green?
Deming Truck Terminal serves good, home-style Indian food.
by Peggy Platonos
A truck terminal in southwestern New Mexico would seem to be a most unlikely place to find curries and Mango Lassi, but that's exactly what the Singh family has added to the more traditional American and Mexican menu at the Deming Truck Terminal.
Well, actually, the Indian food is offered on a separate menu and you have to ask for that menu. The list of dishes is not very long, but the spices and flavor of the dishes that are offered are authentically Indian.
"The [Indian] food we have here is not fancy. It is totally simple," explains Baljinder Singh, who is part of the management team that includes his father, brother, uncle, cousin, wife and grandmother.
Compared to the other restaurant the family owns and operates — Neelam Exotic Indian Cuisine in Berkeley Heights, NJ — the Indian Food Menu at the Deming Truck Terminal is extremely basic, he says. "In our other restaurant, we have 380 items on the menu. That's a totally different story. We have one kind of chicken here. There, we have over 50."
The other restaurant also has a full range of spicy heat available. Here, one size fits all, and that degree of heat falls somewhere between korma mild and vindaloo ferociously hot. For those to whom even this medium-range heat is too much, the saving grace is the very good, refreshingly cool Raita — a yogurt-based sauce with shredded cucumber and a subtle hint of spices that can be mixed in with any of the curries to tame them a bit without spoiling their flavor.
There are only two meat dishes on the Indian Food Menu at the Deming Truck Terminal: Chicken Curry and a Goat Meat Curry that is listed as Mutton. (The goat meat supply is erratic, I'm told, so that dish is not always available.)
There are quite a few spicy vegetable dishes to choose from, however, including Rajmah (featuring red beans), Chole (chickpeas), Palak Paneer (spinach and a soft cheese), Mattar Paneer (peas and the same soft cheese), Gajar Mattar (carrots and peas) and the very nice, mild Indian pilaf known as Vegetable Biryani.
Deserving of special mention are the different versions of Parantha that are offered. A Parantha is made, I'm told, by rolling out a light dough and placing a cooked filling in the middle — the choices of filling being Gobi (cauliflower), Aaloo (potato) or a combination of the two (which I can say from experience is very good). The dough is then gathered up into a ball and rolled out again, which integrates the filling into the dough. The flat circle of dough is then cooked on a griddle and emerges as a moist, tasty creation that is almost crêpe-like in texture, even though it does not contain eggs.
Desserts include Kheer (Indian rice pudding) and Gajerila (carrot pudding). There are special Indian drinks available, too: Masala Tea, Lassi (a yogurt-based drink) and my favorite, Mango Lassi, which is made as ordered and is, in my opinion, well worth the wait.
All the cooking for the Indian Food Menu is done by 73-year-old Dajit Kaur Sandhu (known to all as "Grandma"), with the able assistance of the restaurant's head cook, Maribel DiLullo, who has been learning the intricacies of Indian cuisine since the spicy food was introduced in the restaurant about a year and a half ago.
Prices on the Indian Food Menu are very reasonable, ranging from $3.99 for virtually all the vegetable dishes (including Vegetable Biryani) to $5.99 for the Chicken Curry and $7.99 for the Goat Meat Curry. Raita costs $2.79. Plain yogurt is available for $1.99, and can be used like Raita to tone down the heat of the curries. Prices for the various types of Paranthas range from $1.89 (plain) to $2.29 for Aaloo or Gobi Paranthas.
Takeout prices are higher, apparently because portions are larger. All the prices are listed on the Indian Food Menu. Two sizes for takeout are available: 16 ounce and 32 ounce. It's advisable to ask for your takeout order to be packed in plastic containers; otherwise, the dishes come packed in tall cups that are difficult to transport safely.
The food on the regular menu at the Deming Truck Terminal includes fairly standard American and Mexican options for breakfast, lunch and dinner — all reasonable in price and all above-average in quality. Here and there on the menu are unexpected little special touches — like the grilled pineapple slices served with the grilled chicken breast dinner.
"The meals do not come out of cans," Maribel states flatly. "I make the sauces myself — the spaghetti sauce, the chile con queso, the red and green chile sauces, the salsa. I make the soups and the stews. Even the pizza dough is made here fresh."
Maribel also makes the breakfast biscuits and sausage gravy from scratch, and the result, Baljinder Singh says, is outstanding: "People come from Albuquerque for our biscuits and gravy."
A Sunday buffet has recently been added at the Deming Truck Terminal. The buffet runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, and features all three types of cuisine offered at the restaurant: Indian, American and Mexican. The cost is $7.95.
The Deming Truck Terminal is located at 1310 W. Spruce St. in Deming. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call (575) 544-2228.
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