.Desi Express in the SoFA Market

Desi dishes up delights

When I first heard of San Jose’s SoFA market, I envisioned a shop filled with leather loveseats and feather-stuffed cushions, but the reality is better than that. It’s a food hall in the South First Arts (SoFA) district that showcases slices of San Jose’s diverse communities through the senses. As patrons walk through the door, they hear carne asada sizzling on the grill; smell pizza roasting in the oven; and see cooks expertly rolling sushi. It’s one of the few places in the Bay Area where diners can sit down for lunch with a tamal Cubano in one hand and a banh mi in the other.

At the very back of the SoFA market sits Desi Express, an Indian restaurant that specializes in chaat and sandwiches. For those unfamiliar with chaat, it’s a category of savory, sweet and crunchy snacks. Dahi sev puri are crisp semolina puffs filled with creamy yogurt and savory chutney. The golgappe offers five flavor-infused waters that are poured into the pani puri along with a chickpea mixture that pops as teeth crack the crispy shell. 

 Of particular note are the samosa chaat: potato-filled samosas topped with chickpeas, chutneys, yogurt, onion and cilantro. Although they’re snack-sized, this fully-topped dish is enough to transform it into a full meal. With over a dozen variations of chaat on the menu, it can be difficult to choose just one. To enjoy the range of tastes, order the peanut chaat, corn chaat and samosa chaat to share with dining companions.

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The sandwiches at Desi Express are stacked with a combination of chutneys, curries, vegetables, chiles and cheese. I believe their star sandwich is one that combines their two specialties, sandwiches and chaat.  The samosa sandwich layers pieces of samosa, cucumber, tomato, and red onion on charred sandwich bread. The crisp samosa bits provide textural contrast against the large ratio of fresh, juicy vegetables. I love that most of the items on their menu can be stuffed into a sandwich for easy eating on the go.

Keeping with the tradition of portable food, they also offer a collection of hot pocket-sized pastry puffs. For something cheesy, try the pesto paneer puff. On the spicy end of the spectrum, a jalapeño cream cheese corn puff will fit the bill. My favorite is the chicken tikka puff that is stuffed with savory, tender chicken. The pastry itself is delicate, flaky and neutral tasting to allow the flavorful fillings space to shine.

Desi Express is the perfect place to load up for a picnic or snacks for a party. There’s outdoor seating both in front and behind the building. Or if you prefer, take a seat near the bar and wash down your lunch with a drink. Pro tip: An extra big table in the back provides space to spread out all the chaat.   

SoFA Market

387 S 1st St, San Jose


Open daily, closed Tuesdays



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