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Ben’s Best Deli names matzo dish for Baysider who won spelling bee

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (l.) and Arvind Mahankali (r.) taste mini knaidels -- called Arvinds -- presented to them by Ben's Best owner Jay Parker. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

It won him the Scripps National Spelling Bee title, and now Bayside’s own Arvind Mahankali and the “knaidel,” the Yiddish word for matzo ball, will forever be linked after a Rego Park deli named a special version of the dish for the whiz kid.

“In his honor instead of having one matzo in the soup, we are going to have many small knaidels or knaidelich,” said Jay Parker, owner of Ben’s Best Deli, at 96-40 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park.

Ben’s Best unveiled the new menu item called the Arvinds during a ceremony Sunday, attended by Jewish- and South Asian organizations.

“You know why we call them matzo balls? Because nobody can spell knaidel,” Parker joked. “Now the controversy is settled, we are going to spell it your way.”

Parker presented Arvind, 13, and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) with a steaming platter of the soup made from matzo meal, egg, margarine and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe was altered slightly for Arvind, who is a vegetarian, to remove the chicken broth.

“We were really exited and rooting for you in Queens and we are very proud of you,” Meng told Arvind before presenting him with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor.

“You now have a lot of pressure on your shoulders because you are now, and have always been I’m sure, a role model for many young people who will follow in your footsteps,” she said.

When it was his turn, Arvind shyly read from prepared remarks, thanking Meng and Ben’s Best for the tribute and those who supported him.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have received so much love and appreciation from our community over the past four years. I’m happy I could make Queens proud in my own little way,” he said.

Arvind has become somewhat of a celebrity since winning the title May 30 and made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’ ABC show.

He had a brief opportunity to swing by his school, MS 74 in Bayside Hills, June 4 where he saw his friends.

“They were all very happy for me,” he said.

The spelling bee tournament also gave Arvind the chance to make new friendships, which he says was one of the best parts of the experience along with getting to study 122,000 words.

“As you may have guessed, knaidel has become one of my favorite words,” Arvind told the crowd at Ben’s Best, as he was met by applause.

But the top of his list is the word “sardoodledom,” defined by Miriam-Webster as “mechanically contrived plot structure and stereotyped or unrealistic characterization in drama.” He likes it because it sounds funny.

The next step for Arvind is his freshman year at Stuyvesant High School, and in the future he hopes to study physics.

And what does Arvind think about the knaidels named in his honor?

“Unique,” he said.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com or by phone at 718-260-4589.

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