Lefferts Gardens isn’t a food destination. Manhattanites (or other Brooklyn kin) aren’t trekking here for off-the-beaten-path grub featured in influential publications, but for anyone that lives here, De Hot Pot is a sweet Trinidadian curry and roti café .
Vee cooks the food. She’s a moody lady and she’ll give you the cold shoulder if she feels like it, for no apparent reason. I like her despite the hot and cold temperature, or perhaps I like her for it. The first time I introduced myself as a newcomer to the neighborhood I was met with frosty skepticism. Until, that is, I told her Fritz (my neighbor and a long time Lefferts resident and Trini ex-pat) sent me. The ice melted. My intimate knowledge of achar (spicy Indian pickle) didn’t hurt either.
The third encounter had us bonding over curry recipes. I bemoaned the distance I had to travel for curry leaves. She looked at me oddly, tilted her head, and questioned, “girl, ya mean kari poulay?” The common language for curry leaves got me way excited. Vee gets her ingredients from Queens, where there is a large desi community. She travels to work everyday, from one borough to another.
On this visit I felt bold enough to approach the subject of roti. I told her I’d never seen roti so big – “it’s the size of a table cloth” exclaimed my friend Chantal — to which Vee explained that in Guyana the rotis are small like India but Trinidadians make them big for the practical purpose of feeding guests at large weddings and celebrations. It’s easier to roll out one big roti instead of three small ones when you’re feeding hundreds.
We’ve shared our love of bones with each other too. Here’s an excerpt (as much as I can recall) of another recent visit.
Me: Hi Vee, I’m here for goat curry. I like the bones, will you give me plenty of bones?
Vee: Ya like bone? Ya like me. I don need meat, jus bone.
And did she pile it on. I came home with a container overflowing with curry sauce and a roti the size of a tablecloth.
Here’s a picture, portioned out of course.