Swetha and Venkat Raju have known each other longer than most other people. They were childhood friends growing up in Bengaluru, India, and often spent summer vacations together with their parents, who were good friends as well. Though they left their hometown to go to different universities, their bond never broke. In fact, it turned romantic. The couple married before moving to Australia, returning to India and in 2014 settling in Brooklyn, where the software company Swetha worked for offered her a job. Now, they are working side by side on their lasted adventure: Brooklyn Curry Project.
Swetha and Venkat, who consider themselves big foodies, had visited New York before several times, and on each visit would scour the five boroughs for the best South Indian food.
“Indian food is so stereotyped outside India; it’s not just tikka masala. India has so many languages and states so every region has its own food,” Swetha says. “We are big foodies, we just love to eat. When we moved, we realized there were no South Indian spots [near us]. We really missed [the taste of] home.
The couple often made the commute from their home in Fort Greene to Flushing, Queens, to visit Temple Canteen, one of the few places they found serving food that reminded them of home.
As the family settled into the neighborhood, Swetha thought of ways she could connect and get to know her neighbors. She and her husband recalled that many of their fondest memories occurred at the dinner table.
“Back home, the way our culture is, everything is built around food, holidays, festivals, so all of us sat together and ate — it was such a merry thing for us. So we still had that in mind when we came here,” Swetha says. “We live in an apartment building, so in the common area we invited our neighbors, just to get to know each other and have conversations. I strongly believe that food really connects people.”
The neighbors loved trying South Indian food, and the more the couple prepared food for others, the more they learned.
They began to realize that their food had the potential to be very popular if they decided to sell it, but It wasn’t until 2021 when Swetha’s daughter had a lemonade stand that it clicked — she could similarly sell their food.
During the pandemic Swetha applied for a license, and the couple began selling lunch combos out of a small cooler. That grew into a dosa up a dosa stand next to the Fort Greene Farmers Market in 2021. They showed up every Saturday, and slowly began to build a customer base. All the while maintaining their full-time jobs.
Currently, Brooklyn Curry Project can be found at the Raju’s pop-up across the street from the Fort Greene Farmers Market on Saturdays and at Nimbus, a rental kitchen in Brooklyn, on Wednesdays.
Brooklyn Curry Project specializes in Karnataka-style food (Karnataka is the South Indian region where the couple is from), and its dosas are slightly different from the ones you typically find across the city.
“When we talk about dosas, it’s the same batter but the way it’s spread in the tawa and the spices that are used [set it apart]. There are two spices used, one is the chutney that is spread on the dosa or its the pudi that is also spread on the dosa,” says Swetha. “What we do is make a Karnataka-style pudi masala dosa. Our dosas are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. It’s steamed, rather than the thin version.”
“We try to keep it authentic like what we eat back home,” Venkat adds. “It’s what we grew up with.”
All the food at Brooklyn Curry Project is made from scratch with local ingredients and spices sourced from India. The turmeric used in the food comes straight from Swetha’s family farm and the red chilis are sourced from the farm of Venkat’s childhood friend.
The food has proved popular, and there is often a wait. But this allows customers to get to know each other — and connect through food as Swetha wants it.
“I live in the neighborhood and I came here right when they first started, it was really good so I kept coming,” Dee Yusuf says. “The red spice that they are putting on [the dosa], it’s got this tingly feeling to it and it’s different. A lot of the dosas in New York City are more from the Kerala region, which is different. It’s special. This one has more potato inside, it’s more compact and it’s crispier on the outside.”
Sam Learman lives in the neighborhood and decided to give Brooklyn Curry Project a try for the first time.
“The [mini idli sambar] is delicious. It’s spicy but not too spicy and tender. It’s nice because there is not a lot of food like this in the neighborhood. I’m sure that’s why the line is half a block long,” he says.
Hours of operation: Fort Greene, Saturdays 10:30-2 p.m., Nimbus Kitchen 383 Bridge Street, Wednesdays 10:30-2 p.m.
Phone number: (929) 248-2311
Most popular item: Masala Dosa
Special promotions: Bring your own cup for beverages and get 10% off your order