Tag Archives: Indian Food

Pinch me and tell me this is for real!

If I rattle off the following words in no particular order – lucky, amazing, beautiful, incredible, unbelievable, memorable, special – does it conjure a certain visual imagery for you? For me, it is these words along with the Hindi word  “kismat” that sum up how I felt last Saturday night walking out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York City.  It was almost a “Cinderellaesque” moment, except I wanted the night to linger on as I descended the steps of the Met and got into my cab to head back home.

So what was it that led me to this happy, blissful state?  First and foremost it was clearing a wait list to take part in an event.  Not just any event, but one that brought together Madhur Jaffrey, the prolific actress, chef, and writer with Yotam Ottolenghi, the man whose recipes I’ve been creating joyfully in my kitchen since discovering him during our time in the UK.  These two stalwarts were coming together with Floyd Cardoz, yet another luminary on the Indian food scene to host a “Feast of India” at the Met.  Tickets had been sold out since April and yet through some magnificent stroke of luck, I cleared the waiting list a few days before the event.   Not only did I come beaming ear to ear, but lady luck blessed me with front row seats where I sat within arm’s length of my beloved chefs and next to their families and the curators of the event.  And that was just the kick off to a brilliant evening that had me pinching myself in disbelief at every turn.

Since the lavish evening banquet was in conjunction with the brilliant photography exhibit Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs, the event was kicked off by the talented Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at the Met who spoke eloquently about Raghubir Singh’s talents, a topic that was deftly woven into the discussion on vibrant  food and flavors throughout the evening.

As dishes from the north, south, east and west of India were brought out family style and the audience dug in, Yotam embarked on a Q&A with Madhur, asking questions about each dish and Madhur waxing eloquence in fluid prose with a little story and factoid on each dish followed by a video that demonstrated the dish being prepared.  Periods of audience silence were followed by animated chatter where each of us tried to pick our favorites.  Over the course of two hours, Yotam and Madhur paired up playfully to take the audience on a beautiful journey through the tastes of the Indian landscape. From bhelpuri to aloo parathas, pesarattu to jhalmuri, the food straddled the line between familiar and unfamiliar tastes.

As someone who can talk, eat, dream and cook food around the clock, I was just latching on to every word that came from Yotam and Madhur and truly had my fangirl moment when I got to speak to each of them and take pictures too! Floyd Cardoz who supervised the kitchen and was the vision behind the food served talked at the end about his experience creating bolder flavors for the American palate.  He affirmed that the world of bold, bright, deep flavors is here to stay and the world has shifted to a more adventurous mood in terms of food and eating habits.

It is incredibly hard to take a country like India with its kaleidoscope of colors, emotions, people, and flavors and bottle it into a two-hour experience, but the event curators at the Met really did a beautiful job of making the most of this enriching, informative, delicious event.

I’m still basking in the glow of happiness, recreating the evening in my head and trying to source the perfect green chickpeas that as a seasoned Indian and a decent cook I had never tasted in my life till the Met opened my eyes!

!

 

 

The Biryani Cart- Delicious NYC Street Food

Biryani Cart NYC
(http://newyorkstreetfood.com)

By Siddhi: 

In a city whose street life is fashioned by at least two food carts a block that serve the same snacks and fall into overwhelming mundaneness, saying that one of the most authentic meals I’ve had in the New York was from one of these carts seems absurd.

The Biryani Cart, which has been nominated for Vendy Awards and took home the People’s Choice Awards two years in a row, is situated in front of Europa Café at 46th Street and 6th avenue in Manhattan. Its exterior is beyond deceptive, and other than the small newspaper and magazine clippings with elite critiques fastened to its metal walls, it looks like any other food cart in the city.

The menu consist of both vegetarian/non-veg traditional and distinct regional spices and flavors of the Indian subcontinent. You can look at the offerings here:

 http://menupages.com/restaurants/biryani-cart/menu

The Kati Rolls simply dissolve in your mouth with a genuineness that I’ve never tasted anywhere but home kitchens. Hot mint habanero sauce, mango pickle, and a wide selection of curries are among the additions to choose from to make your “dining” experience even more memorable.

As someone who has never been a fan of rice, the Vegetable Biryani blew my taste buds away. I don’t think I’ve ever loved rice that much, and growing up in an Indian family that cooks traditional meals on a near daily basis, that is a huge statement to make!

The only aftermath of the Biryani Cart experience is that the “fast food” greasiness of the meal yields a necessary lounge period while the food settles in your system. But hey, for a great meal, that’s a small price to pay.

So if you find yourself in Manhattan and want to grab a quick but delicious meal, check out the Biryani Cart.

It’s cheap (four to six bucks can snag you two rolls and a filled, content stomach), it’s convenient, and it’s too good. Could you ask more of street food?

Vatan – Awesome, Authentic, Pricey Gujarati Indian Food in New York City

Vatan Entre Plate

By Lakshmi:

For many years, I have heard from local friends who hail from the Gujarat region of India that the best place to sample authentic, Gujarati, vegetarian food in the tri-state area is at Vatan in New York City.

So, a few weeks ago, we decided to give the place a try.  As soon as we entered Vatan, the decor and ambiance stood out.  Welcoming us into the restaurant was a huge idol of Lord Ganesha.  The entire place was set up like an authentic village from Gujarat, with trees, thatched roof huts, and low seating.  And just like at a home, you are asked to remove your shoes prior to sitting down for a meal.

A few facts you should know before going to Vatan.

– The food is vegetarian.  No meat is served.

– The meal is a set meal.  Which means that other than drinks, you don’t have to order anything.

– It is an all you can eat meal, but not a buffet.  You get unlimited refills of whatever you like.

– You can ask your meal to be mild, medium or hot.

– If you have dietary restrictions, you simply let them know and they bring your trays pre-populated with food you can eat.

– The meal is not cheap.  It is $32.00 per person and drinks are extra.

– The place is only open for dinner, which is a good thing, since you can eat little all day and then indulge in this repast.

Now to the actual meal itself.  First, we were brought a tray with an assortment of appetizers.  This included green chilly bhajis (green chillies deep fried in batter), batata vada (a spicy potato ball, dipped in batter and deep fried), dhokla (steamed chick pea flour cakes), ragda patties (potato balls with a spicy sauce), dahi batata puri (a yogurt, lentil street food), a chick pea salad, and more.  (There is so much, that it is easy to lose track of what was served!)

You can have seconds and thirds of appetizers, but you need to save some space for the entres.  The entre tray comes with puris (fried bread) with an assortment of vegetables, plain rice, a rice lentil combo, papad and kadhi.  The food is simply yummy and while it is difficult to polish off such a big meal, we seemed to have done justice to the food presented.  There was an added bonus for me.  Siddhi (with her gluten challenges) and Sathya (with her picky eating habits) both loved the meal and devoured most of what was put in front of them (they brought Siddhi bajra roti, a gluten-free bread).

Yes, there is dessert at the end of this meal: mango ice cream. And if you are so inclined, they offer masala chai and coffee, a perfect finale to a lovely evening.

If you are in the New York city area and craving for an Indian meal that is off the beaten track, Vatan is a lovely discovery.

To learn more about Vatan, click here.

http://www.vatanny.com/