Indian And Californian Blending Well

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Indian Kitchen in West Hollywood seems to us the perfect marriage of Indian and California culture and cuisine. The menu is Northern Indian all the way, but the dishes have been altered to suit a Los Angeles clientele. Beef, an option not usually found on Indian menus, shows up as a protein choice and sauces are lightened with coconut milk replacing 75% of the heavy cream normally found.

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They also embrace vegan and vegetarian options, happily supporting those whose lifestyles require few or no animal products.

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We noticed some unique drinks and ordered the ginger iced and ginger hot tea. Both have a serious ginger bite and come unsweetened. Sugar packets on the table can be added for those prefering a sweet and spicy ginger experience. Iced chai and spiced iced tea are also available for warm Southern California days.

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We like to start with papadum, lentil and garbanzo flour, folded, flat, crisp breads that go well with chutney.

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Mint chutney, spiced with green chili and cilantro is an herb based, savory dipping sauce while the tamarind chutney is a well balanced sweet and sour contrasting encounter. Either can be spooned onto appetizers or salads for enhanced oomph.

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The mixed vegetable pakora appetizer starts with freshly shredded vegetables and dips them into a garbanzo batter laden with spices before frying them up. They remind us of the Jewish flavors of both falafel and potato pancakes, as if they were unified in one dish.

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A chana chat salad takes Indian street food and transforms it into a refreshing starter of garbanzo beans, spiced potato, cucumber, tomato and raw onion, mellowed by yogurt and chutney for a tongue teasing melange of flavors.

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We were informed that the secret to Indian cooking is the fresh whole and ground spices imported from India. Nutmeg, mace, turmeric, curry powder mixes, cumin, coriander and garam masala (a combination of Indian bay leaves, cloves and cardamom) are some of the spices responsible for the flavor profile.

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Most dishes can be ordered with guests choice of chicken, lamb, beef, fish, shrimp or tofu.

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Ginger chicken, presented on a sizzling platter, has a sharp snap of the fragrant root which permeates the tender, white meat poultry in addition to the infusion of smokey flavor from the tandoor oven.

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The chicken and lamb shish kabob are an interesting mix that are beautifully enhanced by the sweet grilled onions abounding on the hot skillet.

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Each biryani we taste is a new adventure and we were particularly taken with Indian Kitchen’s lamb biryani. A dry, non-greasy, yet exceptionally moist, well spiced and saturated bed of rice and peas conceals soft chunks of roasted lamb topped with crunchy fried onions. Each bite is a journey along the spice trail and we were seduced by the savory cinnamon accents.

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Our chicken pasanda was a fragrant green curry, combining pistachio nuts, herbs and a special spice blend that retains a nut crunch and texture in the creamy, tangy, lemon kissed dish.

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A coconut cream, lightened version of chicken korma carries the full savoriness of the rich sauce and is topped with raisins and cashew nuts. We are thankful that it doesn’t weight us down with gobs of heavy cream.

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The classic chicken tikka masala also gets a reinvigoration of coconut cream in place of most of the heavy whipping cream, resulting in a delightful Indian spiced tomato sauce.

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Those looking for healthy alternatives have a lot to choose from including the jalfrezi or zalfraze. This light dish, no matter how you spell it, is a tumble of vegetable chunks and the protein of customers choice resulting in a dry, stir fry, cauliflower, bell pepper, tomato and onion melange.

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We like it hot and if you do too, check out the volcano, one of the chef’s secret recipes. We managed to pry out that it is based in hot red chili powder, crushed red chili flakes and ghost peppers. Our lamb volcano also incorporates a blend of turmeric, curry powder, bay leaf, curry leaves, coriander, paprika, nutmeg and black pepper. We requested ours medium which left a nice tingle trail over the tongue and down the throat.

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The staff at Indian Kitchen are well aware of the dietary restrictions that abound in our fair city and are happy to accommodate guests.

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From the vegetable menu, fresh okra is sautéed along with onions, tomatoes and herbs in the bhendi masala. The chefs definitely know their way around okra and its optimal preparation.

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Tofu makhiani is a tomato based cream curry with roasted garlic and ghee resulting in a buttery, tomato sauce often referred to on menus as butter chicken (when served on chicken not tofu of course).

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And the tofu yellow curry is an onion based sauce tinged with turmeric for a sweet and spicy treat.

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Lunch specials are affordable and available Monday through Fridays.

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And finally don’t forget to check out the dessert menu where we found some of the best rasmalai we have had locally. Milk based patties in a creamy sauce are scented with rose water and this version brings together the soft textures, full boded smoothness and crunch of pistachio in a perfect blending with nothing overpowering the delicate balance.

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For a creative Indian dining experience, with nods to America’s love of beef and California’s desire for stellar health, The Indian Kitchen satisfies everyone in exactly the form that works best for them.

The Indian Kitchen, 8165 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Phone – 323-656-9000           web site – indiankitchenla.com

Southern Indian Enchantment

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Mayura brings the flavor of Southern India, Kerala to be exact, to Culver City.

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Their lunch buffet, lunch and dinner specials are reasonably priced and offer the curious a chance to indulge.

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The extensive buffet lines the western wall of the restaurant and comes with a drink and made to order dosa (rice and lentil flour crepes), on request.

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Our favorite dishes on the buffet were the goat curry and fish curry, both deep, complex, rich sauces concealing well prepared meat and fish.

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Mayura is one of the few places locally where we find appam , light, spongy, rice, lentil and yeast pancakes that absorb the curries served alongside.

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The buffet includes appetizers and soups,

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and of course traditional naan bread.

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South Indian cooking crafts amazing vegetable dishes to appeal to the vegetarian population. We benefit from this dedication in the form of mixed vegetable curries and a savory, dry string bean recipe on the day of our visit.

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An entire buffet island is dedicated to condiments, salads, pickles and raita.

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The condiments and potato curry from the buffet are savory and sometimes spicy dips for the dosa which come in a variety of shapes including the cone dosa below.

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Mayura prides itself on setting out the best dishes from Kerala and providing stellar customer service. They follow the philosophy of Gandhi and have his definition of customer on the wall, assuring a splendid afternoon or evening meal.

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Mayura Restaurant, 10406 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
Phone – 310-559-9644           web site – mayuraLA.com

Inspired Indian Goods Emporium And Restaurant

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We were blown away by the overflowing imported goods available at Bhanu Indian Cuisine & Grocery.  Whoever does the buying at this store certainly knows their way around world renowned snacks, sweets and ingredients.

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Half the shop is dedicated to an Indian restaurant serving up mighty tasty vegetarian as well as omnivore centric Indian food.

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A periodic table on the back of the menu explains the chemistry of chili, a subject of endless fascination to us and an indication that the meal, ordered at a spice level 7, was going to be a seriously spicy dinner.

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The market is a joy to shop with narrow aisles loaded with exotic brands of Indian and South East Asian essentials.

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Snacks for making chat (Indian street or fast food) and ghee for cooking abound.

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Beauty products captured our interest as we contemplate the beauty of Indian women’s flowing dark hair.

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In the restaurant the large menu covers Indian snacks, street food, vegetarian, fish, chicken and meat based dishes.

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We love starting with a relaxing spice and milk filled chai.

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Our vegetarian thali plate came with light and fluffy basmati rice, chana masala, a refreshingly light eggplant curry, a creamy well spiced spinach with paneer, tart yogurt and we sprung for the extra .50 cents to have garlic added to our naan, for a crisp-edged, soft-centered, garlic infused delight of a bread.

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The spicy lamb korma was loaded with chunks of exceptionally tender lamb in a creamy, fruity, nut scented sauce that simply melted on the tongue.

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For an enthralling  experience delving into the markets, restaurants and cuisine of India, a stop by Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine is a must try.

Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine, 7246 Rosemead Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA 91775     Phone – 626-291-2101         web site – mybhanu.com

A Local Indian Adventure

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One of the larger shops in the independently owned India Sweets & Spices chain is located in Northridge. Serving the local community, they offer a wide selection of goods for those interested in cooking, eating and living India culture and cuisine.

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A small produce section offers the basics at the front door, while aisles carry prepackaged mixes to facilitate the easy cooking of traditional snacks, dishes and sweets.

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At the back of the store, a hot food counter and small seating area supply Indian street food, mixed plates, chai and yogurt drinks for just a few dollars.

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The hot trays showcase what’s available on each particular day. A completely vegetarian menu highlights the talents of Indian chefs who have mastered the art of produce and legume specialties.

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A side case displays chaat and snacks that are commonly seen as Indian street and fast food.

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At the front near the register we encountered freshly made sweets. We had a hard time choosing from the colorful milk based desserts.  All are exceptional rich and a few bites satisfies our sweet tooth completely.

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A fried snacks case displays spicy, salty crunchy delights that are eaten throughout the day.

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We are fascinated by the beauty product aisles that hold the secrets to beautiful hair and skin.

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After browsing the store for a bit, we chose a selection of sweets that we will be savoring through the holidays.

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For an exciting look into India’s delicious locally made and imported treasures, India’s Sweets & Spices is a exotic adventure not to be missed.

India Sweets & Spices, 18110 Parthenia Street, Northridge, CA 91325
Phone number – 818-407-1498

Banquet Menus Offer A Glimpse Into Secrets Of Indian Cuisine

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We are always learning new things about ethnic food as we travel through Los Angeles and dive into the abundance of cuisines. At New India Grill on Westwood Boulevard just a couple blocks south of Wilshire, we learned that there is a banquet menu and that we can order off this secret menu anytime.

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An assortment of Indian appetizers available for weddings, banquets and catering are not traditionally on the menu handed to customers. We found these new wonders an exciting addition to the meal. Sweet corn and cheese balls combine corn, mozzarella, potato, ginger and cilantro into a fritter that is coated in bread crumbs before being fried crisp. The warm, smooth potato and cheese filling is highlighted with a bite of ginger and a crumbly crust.

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Bite sized spinach samosa are a nice departure from the traditional potato version, with creamy, spicy, spinach folded into a thin fried wrapper which adds exceptional crunch.

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Paneer Szechwan fingers integrate Indian and Chinese cooking to produce a ground paneer cheese, tomato, onion, spice and herb roll that can be hit with a splash of heat from the spicy chili sauce served alongside.

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Sufferd spinach kebabs are formed into patties for a dense green bite that has fresh spinach harmonizing with the spices and breading.

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While tandoori mushrooms are plump and juicy first from their marinade, then from the stuffing of chopped mushroom, garlic, onion, ginger and spices that are skewered and barbecued in a clay oven.

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As far as unique dishes go we were taken with the Methi chicken which starts with tender pieces of poultry meat and stews them in a spicy sauce highlighted by the sweet and slightly bitter greens flavor of fenugreek leaves.

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Pepper lamb is tender lamb chunks complemented by the sour, char of toasted mustard seeds that gently tempt out the best flavors of all the ingredients in this dense, rich, meaty dish.

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We love paneer and found the in house made cheese smothered in a tomato and tamarind sauce a delightful departure from our regularly ordered saag paneer.

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Our favorite dish of the day was the Kasmiri dum aloo. Potatoes are cooked to be light and soft, yet firm enough to support the stuffing of cashew nut and herbs.

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The thick, slightly sweet, yet generously spiced sauce has a mild tang and the contrasting flavors play well with the fluffy nut filled potatoes.

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Finishing off with a touch of dessert we tried the chikoo kulfi. The chikoo or sapodilla is a well known fruit on the Asian subcontinent, with a sweet tropical flavor and a brown hue.  Kulfi is a dense Indian ice cream which means a few bits are all that is needed to get one’s satisfaction.

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We are excited to have found this hidden resource of Indian dishes and look forward to exploring more of the banquet menu for a deeper immersion into India’s cuisine.

New India Grill, 1321 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone – 310-996-0064           web site – newindiagrillla.com

Classic Northern Indian In Silver Lake

In Silver Lake we found a little Indian spot called Agra Cafe where Northern Indian specialties abound.  The comfortable space is an easy spot with an abundance of free parking due to its location in the back corner of a mini mall.

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The history of Mugahlai cuisine is explained on the menu and we were invited to dig in.

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We particularly enjoyed the potato and pea samosa of super crisp dough layers on the outside with warm, smooth and creamy potato goodness on the inside. We couldn’t resist dousing them in the remarkable green chutney which added a zesty, spicy, refreshment of bleneded cilantro, mint and green chili.

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There are special lunches and dinners available to help customers sample a number of the dishes they showcase each day.

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Ordering individually off the menu offers such delights as the hit of green chili  in the chicken bhuna which takes pieces of chicken and entwines them with fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers and spices for a unique mix of heat and flavor that we found a nice contrast to the cream dishes we often encounter.

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Found on most Indian restaurant menus, the chicken tikka masala involves roasting birds in a yogurt, herb and spice flavored marinade. The subtle and sometimes not so subtle sauce differences between each establishments version of this classic dish make for a constant source of fascination and the most ordered dish from this Indian menu.

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Lamb Pasanda is an herb based yogurt and spice gravy which takes the creamy, intense flavor combination and finds its ideal mate in tender lamb.

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The saag paneer is steamed spinach cooked with homemade cheese in a cream based sauce. The slight pickled flavor shines through the spiced, mellow and exciting interpretation of this dish.

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Jack and cheddar cheese make for a unique naan as does there mozzarella based garlic cheese naan. Nothing like hot oozy cheese packed inside a warm garlic naan pocket to make our day.

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The garlic basil naan sprinkles the leaves over dough before sticking it to the side of a tandoori oven and baking until bubbly brown.

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Their gulabjamon is served warm, our favorite way, and has a light and airy center which soaks up the sweet syrup creating a warm sweet kiss of a dessert.

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When one finds themselves in Silver Lake Agra Cafe is a solid choice for classic Northern Indian fare with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

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Agra Cafe, 4325 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029
Phone – 323-665-7890            web site – agracafeonline.com

Tempting South Indian Exploration

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Annapurna Cuisine in Culver City serves up the relatively hidden Southern Indian food. This vegetarian restaurant skips the chicken tikka masala and tandoori for dishes such as dosa, uthappams and vada.  If these terms seem foreign, than this is the place to expand your Indian repertoire.

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We inaugurated our research with a cool and innovative rose lassi. The sweet, thick, creamy yogurt drink is tinted with rose water creating a mild floral finish to the “smoothie”.

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From the appetizer menu we found the medu vada, spicy lentil doughnuts that are crisp skinned with light and fluffy insides, to be an exciting flavor and texture profile.  The paruppu vada or dal vada are crumbly lentil donuts that have an extreme seeded texture.

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Sambar vada take lentil doughnuts and submerge them in sambar, a lentil and vegetable based broth. The porous vada soak up the tamarind and spice laden soup for an exciting mix of flavors and textures.

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Uthappam are pancakes made of fermented lentil and rice flours.  They can be topped with an assortment of vegetables, chili, herbs, cheese, etc. and are served with dipping condiments.

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Rava dosa are super thin crepes of rice and cream of wheat garnished with spices and herbs, served along with sambar.

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Annapurna also has a number of specialties that shouldn’t be missed.

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A mixed vegetable pulau is interspersed with greens, potato, carrots, peppers, onion and coconut milk, served with a side of raita.

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The puffed bread (puri) served with the chana masala looks like an alarmed blowfish and is the perfect vehicle for scooping up the heavenly spiced smooth and tender garbanzo beans.

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Their gobi Manchurian takes tender califlower coated in batter and deep fries it before gently covering it in a spicy red sauce.

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For dessert the beet, carrot, white pumpkin or cracked wheat halwa all shine with the warm, rich, flavor of ghee, milk, and sugar followed by the sweet, smokey roasted flavor of the vegetables. The satisfaction level of these desserts runs exceptionally high.

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For an in depth exploration of South Indian delicacies, Annapurna Cuisine on Venice is a great spot to learn how deep these flavors run and how supremely sating vegetarian food can be.

Annapurna Cuisine, 10200 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
Phone – 310-204-5500          web site – annapurnacuisine.com

Westside Indian Chat

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We are always excited to find street food and savory snacks, called chat, on westside Indian menus. The hard to find items represents some of the most delicious aspects of Indian cuisine. They must be make fresh, just prior to serving and explode with complex and exciting flavors.

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India’s Tandoori on Wilshire near Barrington Avenue has added chat to their menu and we find the new additions compelling.

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We sampled the new samosa chat, a dance of sweet and savory chutneys over freshly chopped tomatoes, onion, shredded ginger, meaty garbanzo beans and concealed samosa.  An absolute party on the tongue is the best way we can describe the experience.

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Chicken Pitha are empanada shaped, tender dark meat chicken, cooked with vegetables, turmeric and cumin all encased in a warm, thick, saffron colored, rice flour crust of pure comfort.  Green chutney is a great addition to the mix.

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From the menu, gobi Manchurian takes cauliflower and coats it in a thick batter before deep frying and immersing it in a Chinese inspired sweet and spicy sauce.  There are many versions of this stellar dish all over town and we love tasting each chefs interpretation of this blending of cuisines.

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A sour raita or spiced yogurt with shredded vegetables is a cooling and refreshing side dish to anything served on the Indian table.

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A black pepper scented chicken biryani takes rice to new heights of flavor and is always an inspired change of pace from plain basmati rice.

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Some new desserts are being introduced to the menu at India’s Tandoori.

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Puli pitha is a crescent shaped rice flour dumpling stuffed with coconut, spices and sugar. They can be either fried or steamed and both versions are soft, sweet, coconut, chewy bites.

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Another unique, dish not found on many Indian menus are bhapa pitha,

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 Bhapa pitha are molasses and coconut infused dumplings that take the concept of sweet desserts to a high level of intensely tropical enjoyment. The rich, gooey filling is a savory, sweet treat that we are excited to have found available locally.

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For a smattering of underrepresented tastes of Indian cuisine seldom found in Los Angeles,  India’s Tandoori is bringing the goods and we couldn’t be more thrilled for these fantastic flavors, textures, spices and expanded choices from the Indian treasure trove of sweet and savory recipes.

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India’s Tandoori, 11819 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 206, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-268-9100          web site – indiatandoorila.com

Well Stocked Tiny Indian Market

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We love little markets and marvel at how much they can squish into the smallest of spaces. One such wonder is India Spices & Groceries.

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This tiny shop between La Cienega and Fairfax on Pico Boulevard, has an exotic produce section where burro bananas, squash, fresh herbs, coconut, eggplant and peppers are readily available.

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They stock everything needed for Indian vegetarian cooking including a wide assortment of legumes.

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Indian cuisine is distinct in its heavy handed use of both whole and ground spices and here they set aside lots of shelf space for these necessities.

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Both raw and roasted nuts are fresh and well priced with cashews, pistachio, peanuts and almonds available in a variety of sizes to accommodate any recipe.

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With the extended hot weather in India, preservation of fruits and vegetables is paramount and the pickle is an integral part of any Indian meal. In the market one can find pickles of carrot, mango chili, lime, garlic and stuffed red chili to start.

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Oils from coconut to mustard, sesame and more all add a distinct flavor to dishes.

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Ghee, a form of clarified butter and a classic ingredient of Indian cooking is offered in many brands. Through the boiling off of milk solids, butter can be preserved for longer periods, even when refrigeration is scarce or nonexistent.

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Alongside the Indian ingredients, India Spices & Groceries also carries traditional Indian cooking, serving, prayer and decorative ware.

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And lets not forget the beauty products that keep Indian women beautiful.

For an uncrowded, unhurried, one stop shop good for everything needed for the Indian vegetarian chef, India Spices & Groceries is an impressive little place to avoid the crowds, beat local prices and get in and out in a snap, which all come in very handy in our time crunched world.

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India Spices & Groceries, 5994 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone – 323-931-4871

Baba Sweets Reopens With Spectacular Indian Desserts

DSC_0226The October 2015 grand reopening of Baba Sweets in Canoga Park is proving to be a sweet experience all around. We visited on Diwali and found a steady stream of guests picking up treats to commemorate the Indian festival of lights.

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Staff, armed with stacks of boxes, quickly filled the colorful containers with milk solid and condensed milk based Indian sweets such as barfi, a fudge like delicacy and jalebi, a fried, fermented batter, pretzel shaped dessert soaked in sugar syrup.

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We were especially taken with the highly recommended mango barfi, a rich, thick, creamy milk based fudge that melts in your mouth evoking the sweetest celebration of the magnificent mango.

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Baba Sweets staff are wonderfully accommodating, allowing customers to taste the days offerings. We took small samples of everything on the table before deciding which to purchase.

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Then decided on the small gift pack and asked for a smattering of our favorite sweets.

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A variety of textures and spices highlight the unique desserts and we found Baba’s delights to be some of the best Indian sweets we have had the pleasure of enjoying in Los Angeles.

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Don’t be surprised by the introduction of cardamom, pistachio, cumin and a slew of exotic spice, fruit and nut combinations.

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Everything is priced exceptionally well including drinks, mango lassi and the weekend lunch which is offered in combinations based on the number of vegetarian dishes guests choose.

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Don’t miss the free chai on the right side near the center of the room. The warm sweetened and spiced tea is the a perfect complement to the treats they sell. For a spectacular taste of India, a stop at Baba Sweets will both transport and delight.

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Baba Sweets, 21318 Saticoy Street, Canoga Park, CA 91304
Phone – 818-883-5825         web site – thebabasweets.com