The Filling Fried Mashed Potato Sandwich You Can Get In NYC

From Nashville hot chicken to Kentucky fried, Americans can't seem to get enough deep-fried poultry, especially when slathered in spices and sandwiched between two slices of bread. In fact, the fried chicken sandwich ranked amongst the top 10 most-ordered dishes of 2022, according to Grubhub's annual report. But, make no mistake, Southerners aren't the only ones with a key to the coupe — Indian fried chicken is making a splash in New York City.

Chef Chintan Pandya of New York City's Unapologetic Foods opened Rowdy Rooster with his business partner Roni Mazumdar last year. The New York Times quoted Mazumdar's idea of their East Village fried chicken joint as "a food truck without wheels" because of its tight space sandwiched between other 1st Avenue businesses. But there's nothing tiny about the food coming out of that kitchen, which includes a small-but-mighty vegetarian menu consisting of dishes like eggplant pakora and chili cauliflower.

One vegetarian staple, in particular, is demanding diners' attention — and The New York Times declared in a review, "Underestimating it would be a mistake." Crisped to perfection, the Vado Pao served at Rowdy Rooster is the fried mashed potato sandwich giving folks something to cluck about.

Rowdy Rooster's Vado Pao

It's no secret that finding cheap eats worth trying in New York City is like finding an egg in a "henopausal" hen house. But, Rowdy Rooster takes exception by serving up classic Indian street fare, including Vado Pao, all under $12.

"I grew up in Mumbai, India, and Vada Pao is the most iconic dish from Mumbai. Every person has grown up eating it, if you are from Mumbai," chef Pandya told Tasting Table in an interview, "Everyone has their spot to eat it, and I had my own."

But which came first, the chicken or the potato? Pandya told us, "We had been working on the fried chicken sandwich for nearly two years, but I always knew Vada Pao would be on the menu, as lots of my memories were attached to it. So, I would say Vada Pao was part of the menu even before everything came into place."

Pandya describes his rendition of the sandwich as "a comforting combination of spicy deep-fried potato patties, dipped in besan (gram flour) battered before frying, and sandwiched between soft, white pao." It's served with his version of thecha — a condiment of garlic, chiles, and coconut to cut the spice — and house-made chutney.

At just $7 per Vado Pao, you may be full after Pandya's vegetarian sandwich, but he told us to save room for the mango lassi that'll stand up to any milkshake.