Of The Week
Shaheen Sweets And Restaurant Is Still Best
Shaheen Sweets was the first Indian pastry shop established in the United States. Thirty years later, the same eye-dazzling, mouthwatering pastries and sweets are still made on the premises of the shop and restaurant on Broadway in Jackson Heights and Shaheen’s famous sweets are shipped daily all over the United States, Canada, Japan and Korea.
Not only is an amazing array of beautiful, delicate pastries arrayed in sparkling display cases, a full-service restaurant offers the tasty cuisine of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Tariq Hamid, the kind and congenial owner of the business his father started in the early 1970’s, presides over a unique eatery offering vegetarian, meat, chicken and fish dishes, all prepared to order at very low prices.
A trip to Shaheen might be adventurous for some, as there is no menu available. That’s where the helpful staff comes in. Just tell them what kind of meat, fish or vegetables you prefer and your food will be cooked to your specifications, using as much or as little spice as you like. Your foray into this exotic cuisine will be rewarded with a host of tempting appetizers, entrees and side dishes, all for far less than you could expect to pay almost anywhere else.
We started with an appetizer of handmade samosas, puff pastry filled with potatoes and spices. These tender triangles are mashed and served with sweet and spicy yogurt sauce as hot as you request, or not hot at all. A delicate square of puff pastry filled with minced chicken and mild spices was devoured in short order, along with some of the three dipping sauces, sweet and tangy tamarind, chili and yogurt, that accompany them. Fluffy, light nan bread can be dipped into these wonderful sauces and used to scoop up all the delicious food that is part of every meal at Shaheen.
Most entrees cost only about $7 and come with salad and a piece of freshly baked nan bread. No wonder Shaheen is always packed with families and friends dining together. We had their tender, succulent chicken tikka, which was marinated in a mild yogurt sauce, then cooked in the clay tandoor for ultimate flavor and tenderness. Shaheen’s homemade chicken shish kebabs grilled on long metal skewers are flavored with mild herbs and spices. Whole fish are cooked on the grill and served with lime and salad. All these entrees are served with onions and tomatoes and brought steaming hot on sizzling platters.
Rice biryanis are one-pot meals that can be prepared with juicy lamb or goat or vegetarian style. Vegetarian dishes include lentils, wonderful chickpea stew and spinach or cheese dishes. Just tell your waiter what you’d like and you’ll be pleased with the results. Shaheen makes basmati rice extra special by cooking it with green peas, special herbs and a whole cinnamon stick, which lends a warm and fragrant note. There will be plenty to take home too.
Save room for their famous sweets and pastries, all hand made and visually stunning. Their unique flavor comes from age-old recipes, combined with the long hours necessary to create them. Baju pista is made from pistachio and cashew nuts while habshi halwah, a type of halvah, is made of sesame paste, nuts and spices. White fudge is made from slowly cooking fresh milk and cream for hours until their sweetness is brought out, then mixed with natural flavors. Rasmalai is a kind of farmer cheese, served in sweet milk. Galub jamun are pastry balls soaked in sugar syrup. There are too many to describe so you’ll just have to go and see them for yourself. All can be boxed to take home and they make thoughtful gifts.
Stop in seven days a week for lunch or dinner. Shaheen Sweets is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. No alcohol is served but there’s lots of fresh, delicious food, prepared to order, and of course, their famous sweets. Politicians, including former Mayor Ed Koch and present Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of prominent Queens business people have frequented Shaheen expressly to feast on these delicacies.
A private banquet room can accommodate 50 to 120 people for a business function or private party. Shaheen is conveniently located near the BQE or the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue stop on the E,F,G,N and 7 train lines. Come see the first Indian pastry shop and restaurant of its kind in the U.S. and enjoy a great meal.
Shaheen Sweets And Restaurant