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Ambala Sweets & Snacks is a small store on Pioneer Boulevard that sells Indian sweets, savory mixes, chaat, and more. It's a stalwart institution that has lasted twenty-plus years in Little India, which says a lot. Inside, the setup is rather simple: A service counter/display case at the rear of the public area, five or six tables ridiculously cramped together, and a dining counter. Over the service counter/display case, the word "WEL-COME" is spelled out in plastic marigolds.
I visited Ambala on a weekday morning. As I approached the store, I noticed eyes pointing my way: Asians have an uncanny habit of staring at foreigners. Entering the store, there were several folks lolling about - turbaned Sikhs with auburn colored hair. I had a tepid exchange with the proprietor, ordered my food, and sat down at a table. All of this is rather normal. Therefore, be prepared for a bit of culture shock if you're not used to being out of your comfort zone.
down to business, starting with the Papri Chat. The first thing that struck me was the surfeit of sauce on the plate. Regardless, I dug in and found that the chaat was quite delicious. The yogurt was refreshing and there was a nice interplay of sweet and herbs from the two chutneys. The papri was crunchy and the potato, chickpeas, and onion added more texture and flavor. Anchoring the pile of ingredients was a substantial vada, which I did not expect to find in the mix.
Next, I tackled the Dahi Vada. The sauces were the same as the Papri Chat, which I regretted because I already had my fill. The vadas were substantial and spongy. I could tell they were soaked in water because of the small pools of water on the plate. Flavorwise, the dish was monotone. Altogether, I thought the Dahi Vada was quite boring.
Of the two chaat I ate, I thought the Papri Chat was much, much better. Due to the many textures and flavors, it remained interesting, even after several bites. In regards to both the Papri Chat and Dahi Vada, I would have applied less sauce, just enough to lightly dress the ingredients.
There was a sign above the utensils and water station that told customers to take only what was necessary for the Environment's sake. I suspect the owners care more about keeping their expenses low than the health of our Environment. Come on, just tell it like it is. Don't use the Environment to elevate your agenda!
There is a parking lot in front of the store, which is restricted to customers of Artesia Plaza. I had no problem finding a spot on a weekday morning, but it's probably impossible to find one when most customers are out and about, shopping and dining. Street parking is also available on side streets; 186th Street is nearest.
The Bill: 8.21 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (satisfactory to good). Open every day, 10:30 AM to 9 PM. Ambala's Yelp! review says they accepts credit cards but I would bring cash anyway. www.ambalasweets.us
Last Word: Next time, I want to visit Surati Farsan for their chaat. The store has received a lot of good reviews, and when I passed by, it looked really nice inside and was full of Indians!
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