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Posts Tagged ‘naan’

Since I cooked a few meals for Yuki’s parents when they were in town I thought it was only fair to cook one for my mom last night before she left this morning. Being a woman who could make a meal out just naan, I thought something with Indian curry would be a good idea. She had requested seafood, so I picked up some salmon. It all came together as the dish you see above.

I made the lentils first. I used about 1/3 cup of cilantro chopped up, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1.5 cups brown lentils rinsed, 2 carrots diced, 2 ribs of celery diced, 5 small red potatoes diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes.

I heated my pot up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds until they became very aromatic. After that I added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then added the potatoes. I didn’t want to cook the potatoes too much to keep them from melting in the chicken stock, so I only stirred them around for a few seconds to coat them with the oil. Then I added the can of tomatoes, curry powder, some salt, and pepper. Once the tomato juice started to boil I poured in the chicken stock. When that started to boil I added the lentils. I let it come back up to, you guessed it, a boil and then covered the pot and turned the heat down to med-low. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils were simmering I grilled up the salmon and zucchini. I had a 1.5 pound salmon filet (enough for 5 portions since my brother was also here and I needed a piece for Yuki’s lunch today) and 2 large zucchini. I cut up the salmon into equal portions. I sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise and cut them into 2 inch pieces. I drizzled olive oil, salt, and pepper over everything.

I put the zucchini on the grill, cut-side down, over med-high heat for about 5 minutes. This gave it nice grill marks. Then, I moved it to the top rack flipping it over. I put the salmon on the bottom rack, skin-side down, and turned the heat down to medium. I let it cook for about 7 minutes or so. This really gave the skin a nice crisp while leaving the flesh beautifully medium.

When the lentils were done I removed the lid, re-adjusted the seasoning, and stirred in almost all of the cilantro. I plated everything up and then garnished the entire plate with the rest of the cilantro. With 4 clean plates about 30 minutes later I’ll assume dinner was a success.

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Yuki used some of her United miles to get a coupon for the Chicago Curry House. I remember a couple of years ago she took me there for their lunch brunch. Featuring Northern Indian and Nepalese food I remember it being pretty good. When she got the coupon we figured that’d get us back down the Printer’s Row for some good Indian, the other night it did just that.

It’s in a very inconspicuous location. On the first floor of an apartment building its entrance is hidden behind brick just off State and 9th. What lies inside though is a very good, but typical, Chicago Indian restaurant. As usual, my phone pics turned out horribly. Deal with it and read on.

When we sat down we were greeted with pappadom and the usual three sauces, cilantro, chutney, and tamarind. I quickly ordered a King Fisher beer and continued perusing the menu, which is quite extensive.

Yuki ordered the Sambar Soup. I light lentil soup with vegetables it was much thinner than what we’re used to. It was very light, but very flavorful.

Our first appetizer was the Vegetarian Samosa. Some of the biggest samosa’s I’ve ever seen! Nice and spicy with whole spices, you can tell these were freshly made samosas.

Next we had the Chicken MoMo, Nepalese-style dumplings. Curry spiced ground chicken with a curry sauce to dip them into. These had some kick to them and were very tasty.

In order to try numerous menu items and ensure lunch the next day (two appetizers helped with that) we decided to get two of their “sampler” entrees. This is the Curry House Vegetable Special Dinner. It comes with Dahl Makhini, Palak Paneer, Aloo Ghobi, Navratam Korma, Chana Masala, Garden Mix Vegetable, Cardamom Rice Pudding, Raita, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

On this sizzling hot platter was the Curry House Non Vegetable Dinner. This contained Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Lamb Seekh Kabab, Naan, and Basmati Rice.

It also came with Navratam Korma and Butter Chicken.

The Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken were two of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant. The flavors penetrated through all of the meat while the chicken stayed nice and moist in both dishes. Absolutely fantastic chicken. The Palak Paneer was my favorite from the vegetarian dishes. Everything, however, was above average.

The service was nice and the space warm and inviting. Combine that with above average Indian Food and Printer’s Row has a keeper. While Chicago Curry House is a bit of a drive for me I don’t think I would go out of my way for it. If I lived in the neighborhood or ever crave Indian Food while in the South Loop area I will definitely make my way back. It’s a place that should definitely be frequented by its local townies.

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After years of wondering why there was no Indian food in Wicker Park one finally opened up a few months ago at 1414 N Milwaukee, a nice 15 minute walk from my place. It’s called Cumin. They claim to be modern Nepalese/Indian, and while there really isn’t anything modern about it, it was damn tasty!

They have nice paintings of Himalayan villages on the walls and a pretty nice bar. Tables were a little too close together when getting up to leave or go to the bathroom, but were otherwise spaced alright while eating. The two-top tables were too small though. There was barely enough room for our food and didn’t leave us any elbow room. Overall, we weren’t uncomfortable though.

Once we ordered they brought out the pappdom and sauces. The standard tamarind, cilantro, and chutney. The tamarind sauce was excellent! One of the best I’ve ever had.

For an appetizer we got the “true national dish” of Nepal (according to the menu), chicken momo. It’s basically just a regular dumpling filled with seasoned ground chicken. Amongst the seasonings were turmeric, ginger, and cumin. It was delicious! Very simple, very fresh, full of flavor.

We shared two entres along with some Indian rice and some naan. We got lamb keema matar and jhaneko dal. The lamb dish was ground lamb cooked with peas, big slivers of ginger, carrots, onion, and tomato. The dal was a Nepalese lentil dish stewed with onion and cumin. Both dishes were excellent!

The appetizers range from $4-10 while the entres start at $11 and top out at $20 for seafood. They average about $12-14 though, so this restaurant is not overpriced at all. It’s priced in line with a typical Indian restaurant. The quality of food is fantastic as well. The ingredients were all fresh and nicely prepared.

I won’t go as far as saying that Cumin is my new favorite Indian restaurant, because it isn’t. However, having one of its caliber so close is music to my tongue.

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I made a vegetarian curry for Meatless Monday last night. For the protein I used paneer, but since it’s expensive ($8.99 for 8oz!) I decided to add a bunch of this really nice Japanese Eggplant they had at the store (only $2.99 a pound). I know eggplant isn’t protein, but it helped add substance to the dish while cutting the cost.

I started by melting 3 tablespoons of ghee in a medium-high pan. I added a teaspoon of ground cumin and let it cook for a minute. Then I added an inch of grated ginger and 4 minced garlic cloves. Once those became fragrant but not burned I added a small onion that I had roughly chopped and then put in a processor to finely mince it to the point just before it became liquidy. I let the onion cook for about 6 or 7 minutes before stirring in 2 teaspoons of freshly ground coriander seed. Then I added a large russet that I had peeled and small diced. That went for about five minutes before I added one 28oz can of diced tomatoes. To that I added 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of garam masala.

Once that all got to a slight boil I threw in five 5-6 inch Japanese Eggplants that were cut into chunks. Then I turned the heat down to medium-low, covered it, and let it stew for about 15 minutes.

Once the eggplant and potato were cooked through I added the block of paneer that I had cut into smaller chunks, about 3/4 inch cubes, and 3/4’s cup of peas. I just needed to the paneer and peas to heat through, so I let them sit in the simmering stew for about 8 minutes uncovered which also allowed it to thicken up a bit.

I wish I had some naan, but I did make some white rice to serve with it.

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This past Saturday was date night with the wife. I know, Yuki and I are one of those cute couples everyone hates to see. We hold hands and all of that crap. But hey, she’s cute as hell, what am I supposed to do? Anyway, we decided that it was time to catch Slumdog Millionaire. Looking in The Reader I saw that the three closest theaters playing it were the one on E. Illinois downtown, the one on Clark in Lincoln Park, and The Davis Theater on N. Lincoln in Lincoln Square. Not wanting to pay $20 to park while having dinner and eating we headed up to Lincoln Square where I knew there would be free street parking close to the theater. Sorry for not calling you Scotty and Brenna as we parked by your place, but I was on a date.

 

There are tons of great eats on that strip of Lincoln, but since we were going to see a movie that takes place in India we decided to stop in at Essence of India at 4601 N. Lincoln, right on the NE corner of Lincoln and Wilson.

 

It’s a nice little restaurant, clean with Indian art hanging on all of the walls. Nothing fancy, but not bare and sterile either. We sat at a four-top near the window and were quite comfortable.

 

The menu looks like just about any Indian joint in the states. It’s broken down into apps, tandoori items, chicken, lamb, etc. So far everything seemed to be right in line.

 

We order samosas whenever we eat Indian. I guess it’s kind of like Crab Rangoon for me at Chinese restaurants, I gotta have ‘em. However, I was feeling kind of crazy that night, my friends (sorry, don’t mean to sound like McCain). I don’t know if it was that sexy Japanese woman I was dining with, or something I smoked prior to dinner, but I was definitely feeling a bit antsy, ready to go against the grains of my reality. We didn’t order samosas, instead, are you ready for this? We ordered the Vegetable Pakoras. Mmmmm, am I glad we did!

 

Fresh vegetables coated in a lentil batter and deep fried into golden bliss. That night’s offerings were potato slices, onions, and cauliflower (a vastly underused vegetable in my humble opinion). The coriander sauce had a shtickle of spice behind it that really kept the deep fried flavors clean going down, and a little spicy going out.

 

After that we decided to keep dinner simple and shared the Tandoori Chicken and Seekh Kabob. I think the true test of an Americanized Indian restaurant is how well prepared the Tandoori Chicken is. Out of the numerous Chicago contenders I’ve digested, Essence of India’s ranks right up there with the best! It was absolutely cooked to perfection. The outside had that nice almost-caramelized crust while the inside stayed moist and juicy. There was a touch more lemon in their marinade, but I like that, I like that a lot!

 

The Seekh Kabob was also very good. It didn’t quite rank up there with the best of them like the chicken did, but it was a tasty dish. I love a tasty dish. Very well flavored and also cooked nicely, keeping the meat juice encapsulated. There could have been a few more vegetables on the dish such as grilled peppers, a natural marriage with lamb. Grilled cherry tomatoes also would have been lovely with their little bursts of acid (don’t get too excited Mark, not that kind of acid). However, it was a satisfying dish on the molecular as well as the spiritual level.

 

The Naan was, well, it was Naan. My mom loves Naan so much she could make a meal out of it all by itself! And she tells us this every time we have Indian food with her.

 

Service was very attentive without being overbearing. Food came out on cue, water was filled as soon as our glasses became half-empty. The front house is very well run.

 

My only gripe with Essence of India was the cost of my Mango Lassi. For $3.50 they could have given me twice as much. My narrow Collins glass was so full of ice that there was hardly any Lassi in it. I have a buddy who would never put ice in his cup at self serve machines because he didn’t want to waste room that could be used for drink. Well, I always thought that he was just being stingy (which he is), but I understand his thinking now. I would have much rather forked over $3.50 for Mango Lassi than for a glass of ice.

 

All in all Essence of India is a better-than-average, typical Americanized Indian restaurant. Food and service are top-notch while the prices are consistent with other Indian joints in Chicago. While I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, I would definitely go back if ever in the mood for Indian while in Lincoln Square. It’s a great place to have in the neighborhood and actually made me jealous that there isn’t any Indian in my neighborhood. Come on Wicker Park restaurateurs, aren’t any of you Indian?

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