People who believe that the ideal side dish with fried potatoes is more fried potatoes can order the vada pao, with oblong potato chips wearing a cloak of batter that fits them like a puffy down jacket. There is, too, a small pile of thumb-size eggplant pakora.
If you prefer your vegetables on the end of a fork, there is a very spirited interpretation of chili cauliflower. A similar fried cauliflower dish, gobi Manchurian, is sometimes found slicked down, like a duck in an oil spill, by a sauce that has the cloying sweetness and negligible spiciness of bottled barbecue sauce. This is not the case with the sauce on Rowdy Rooster’s chili cauliflower, where fresh and dried chiles create a complex flavor and heat comes at you in waves.
The chili chicken is doused with this sauce, too. It shines darkly, invitingly, and only uncorks its assault of spice once you are crunching away at the firm, crisp fried shell, by which time it is too late.
Boneless chicken is used for this dish, for a three-piece bucket called the Smooth Operator and, of course, for the sandwiches (Lil’ Rowdy and Big Rowdy). The bones are left inside the four smallish, cut-up pieces sold under the name Bad to the Bone, which is probably the item that delivers the most flavor and crunch per cubic inch. No matter what shape it starts out in, the chicken is brined first, marinated in yogurt and then cooked like a pakora — rolled in a seasoned blend of flours and plunged into hot oil.
This produces a crust that is light enough to have some delicacy when served dry, with nothing more than a sprinkling of ground chiles. But it is also substantial enough to survive being drenched in chile sauce or pressed between halves of a bun to make the Lil’ and Big Rowdies.
There is nothing radical about these sandwiches. Mint chutney and scallion yogurt are spooned over the chicken, and pickled onions are tucked in below the top bun. The bottom bun glistens with drippings of the dark chile butter brushed over the chicken, giving whichever Rowdy you are eating a steady, warm buzz as sustained and suggestive and enveloping as the drone of a tanpura.