Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cuisine of India, To Cook at Home or Dine Out?

Indian cuisine has to be one of my favorites to both prepare at home and to order for take-out. Some of my favorite dishes come from the Western region near the shores where you get a lot of the Portuguese influence in the dishes. Those truly spicy dishes that many of us have had the please of trying, such as my favorite vindaloo (spicy curry dish with vinegar) come from the west, specifically from the city of Goa. Goa being a one time possession of the Portuguese empire, there influence is seen in an odd way. In a country filled with vegetarians and those whom are against the eating of pork, pork dishes are popular in Goa. The word vindaloo itself is Portuguese in origin meaning "with vinegar." While we are on the subject of curries, check out this book by Lizzie Collingham entitled Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors.

I love the vegetarian dishes of the whole country as well. Almost anything with fenugreek, fresh curry leaves, cardamom or cumin in it is tasty to me. Indian cuisine is certainly one of the few that I think I could survive off of the rest of my life as a vegetarian. The problem is I would soon be craving pate, terrine, cassoulet, cheese and other French items. I do so love the chickpea, mung bean, urad and dal croquettes, which you never see in Indian restaurants. Luckily I can make them myself. On that note I think I will share with you one of my croquette recipes.

Spicy Mixed Bean and Coconut Croquettes
1/2 cup yellow split chickpeas (channa dal)
1/2 cup white urad beans (dhulli urad dal)
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup organic nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup white onion, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 or 4 dried red chili peppers, ground (less or more depending on your preference for heat)
1 to 3 fresh green chilies, seeds removed and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup hot water
Enough peanut oil for frying

1. Soak the beans for three hours in water.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor until as smooth as possible. Add rice flour, coconut, yogurt and puree until well combined and smooth.
3. Place puree into bowl and mix in remaining ingredients except peanut oil, adding more water if needed in order to make a thick batter that can be formed.
4. Heat peanut oil in a fryer or if you do not have a fryer heat oil in a pot to 350 degrees (use a candy thermometer if using a pot)
5. Shape batter into balls and deep fry in oil until golden/brown, turning in oil often to permit even cooking, this should take approximately 2-3 minutes.
6. Drain croquettes on paper towl and season with salt and pepper.
7. Serve with a spicy chutney or a cooling yogurt raita, available in Asian markets or wait and I may supply a couple recipes for both sometime in the future when I talk about condiments.

While in Boston though, if you are looking for a good place for a good Indian restaurant, for either dining out or take-out here is a list of some of my favorites and some that others have recommended and I have not tried yet. Most of the links will bring you directly to the web page for each restaurant, the others bring you to reviews from other people.

India Quality
484 Commonwealth Ave
My favorite in Boston, nothing bad on the menu, really popular as well. They are in Kenmore Square, lucky me, down the street from my apartment.
India Samraat
51 Massachusetts Ave # A
A second close favorite, very close.
Punjab Palace
109 Brighton Ave in Allston
I order from here once in awhile as well, the appetizers are really good.
Desi Dhaba
401 Massachusetts Ave in Roxbury
Supposed to be really good as well, but I haven't tried it yet.
Bhindi Bazaar
95 Massachusetts Ave
Another place that is supposed to be really good, but I have heard great things. The menu features food by region, which I love.
India Castle
928 Massachusetts Ave
In Cambridge, has great ratings as well.
Gourmet India
800 Boylston
Another highly rated location
52 Temple Place ($$$)
Here is an interesting Indian concept here as well, with a French influence. I'm looking forward to trying this one someday

A list of the rest

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