No clue what a dahi papdi is? Aloo gobi or vindaloo? Wondering what the hell a paneer tikka is? I'm Indian, and I don't even know what's in chicken 65. Or jalfrezi.
Indian food can seem wildly exotic, and sometimes mysteriously unappealing, just like the jolting aromas, loudly chaotic streets and unnecessary shoving of India itself. But Indian food, curries, kormas, naan and all, can be wonderful if you simply know what you like, what to order and where to go. And a little ice-cold kachumber raita, like aloe vera on a sunburn, never hurts.
So where does this Indian eat Indian? India's Restaurant, of course.
For more than 20 years, India's Restaurant has been serving a loyal clientele its fresh, robust North Indian dishes. With influences from the foothills of the Himalayas to the eastern shores of the holy river Ganges, India's masterfully concocts age-old favorites habitually feasted on at gargantuan Indian-American weddings while also specializing in other, lesser known, yet fabulously tasty, grilled meats and veggies in curry.
India, with a population now at one billion, boasts a wide variety of topography, languages, people and thus food. In the South, flying saucer rice and lentil cakes, or dosas, overflow even the largest plates, and coconut, rice and seafood dominate. In the western desert state of Gujarat, my personal motherland, Indians remain primarily vegetarian, eating from large steel thalis, or plates, filled with a variety of entrees lacking a wet curry yet uniquely adding sugar. Bombay is famous for its street chaats and frankies, while uber northern regions prefer korma, keema, biryani and kebabs.
India's Restaurant specializes in cuisines of North India, particularly food from a region called Punjab, which now straddles Northwestern India and Eastern Pakistan. Even Indian food novices who have merely dabbed their lips with masala have probably done so with Punjabi dishes such as saag paneer, cholay, chicken tikka masala and tandoori naan. Punjabi cuisine is known for its vibrant colors, heavy cream and thick gravies. Copious amounts of onion, garlic and ginger enhance the flavors of the spice, and large amounts of clarified butter, or ghee, provide a soothe smoothness.
Whether you're an Indian food novice or masala pro, India's maharaja feast of a buffet is the way to go. Its one of the best spreads in Indian cuisine I have ever seen.
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SHOW ME HOW
Every Sunday, to a packed house, India's provides hot, fresh lamb curry, butter chicken, navratan korma, pakoras, basmati rice, daal and much, much more. Waiters deliver naan piping-hot from the oven directly to the table. Just make sure it's garlic. Be friendly to the waiters, bat them eyelashes, and dahi papdi chaat could arrive at your table along with some fresh-from-the-oven, shiny-red tandoori chicken. No matter what you fancy from the buffet, no one leaves India's anything but overstuffed, unable to move...and maybe even a little smelly.
Then, at the end, in little gift-like silver foil, paan is presented to freshen and mintify undeniable funky breath. Made with betal leaves and stuffed with areca nuts and spices to aid digestion, paan is a bit strong for my taste but an Indian delicacy and must-have for most natives. I just grab an American peppermint in my yellow stained fingers and attempt to neutralize the spices that will take at least until tomorrow to fade.