Pepper Punk’d

The Dosa Cart in Washington Square Park is often written about as a great New York deal; top notch homemade dosas as well as other Indian treats for not much money. Here is a picture I took of it with my cellphone:


Last night at approximately 6 pm, I was killing time before going to see Marcia Gay Harden do a reading of a Tisch graduate’s play at school. This seemed a perfect opportunity to try the Dosa Cart. I approached it with great enthusiasm.

“Hello!” I said, “I am greatly enthusiastic about trying your food!”

I read the menu on the side of the cart and decided to order the $5 thing with potatoes. It seemed the most filling.

“Sorry, my friend,” said the man behind the cart. “All we have left is dosa and ____” (the second thing being fried fake chicken on a sugarcane stick).

“Oh,” I responded, “I was hoping you’d have enough for dinner.” I began to walk away.

“No no, don’t go,” he said, “You can make a dinner. Look.”

He took a plate and put two dosas, two ____s, and a plastic tub of salad on it. “All this $5,” he said, “My last sale of the day before I close.”

“It’s a deal,” I said and I gave him $5.

It was a beautiful day in Washington Square Park. I found a bench near a man playing Oasis on guitar. I ate the dosas first, they were tasty and filling—-little pyramids of dough stuffed with potatoes and onions. The _____s were also tasty: the fake chicken tasted quite chickeny, and the sugarcane stick running through it gave it an extra dose of flavor.

Then came time for the salad. “There’s no dressing,” he told me when he handed me the plate. “So I give you salt and pepper.”

I didn’t use the salt and pepper but I admired the freshness of the vegetables: cucumber, tomato, onion, lettuce. I stabbed at them with a plastic fork and pleasantly took them to my mouth. As far as dressingless salads go, it tasted pretty good.

Then something happened. Something big, something awful, something scary. While chewing a piece of cucumber, I felt this fiery sensation in the back of my mouth: as if my uvula was experiencing spontaneous combustion. The sensation traveled around to my cheeks, my gums, my teeth, my tongue. MY mouth was on fire and I was in utter pain.

“Aaaaah! Aahhh! Ahhh!” I hacked internally and externally. I sucked down a bottle of water and swished and spat while tears streamed down my face. I took a napkin and scraped it on my tongue.

I am no pepper expert, and I am not brave when it comes to heat in food. But whatever this was, it was DAMN hot. Hotter than anything I’ve ever experienced be that Mexican or Thai cuisine. I felt traumatized. I threw out my salad.


Before the Marcia Gay Harden reading, I told this story to one James Felder of the category “James Felder” and the site Snapshot Artifact. He nodded in sympathy. I felt validated—that my tale had been heard and processed. That I’d been through something.

After the reading, there was a reception with food and wine and napkins and all sorts of reception-type things. James lifted a skewer of chicken off a table and tasted it. Moments passed. I drank some wine.

“Adam,” said James, “you have to try a chicken skewer, they’re delicious.”

Always one to try something delicious, I obliged and bit eagerly into a chicken skewer.

“Haha,” he said, “they’re really hot!”

Coated in cayenne, these skewers WERE hot. Had I not experienced the mouth-numbing pain at the Dosa Cart I may have reacted with fire and brimstone. But instead I just laughed it off and jabbed James’s eye out with the remaining skewer. Just kidding. I enjoyed the laugh. James is my own personal Ashton Kutcher.

You may also like