Taste of India

Northern Indian food cuisine in Spa City

By Brad Hudgens Photography by Richard Rasmussen

Story by Brad Hudgens
Photography by Richard Rasmussen

8:25 p.m. … Tax day is tomorrow and I have everything together!

Indian food is possibly the most complex and delicious cuisine in the world! To the neophyte, one may incorrectly believe that all Indian food has curry powder, the bright yellow stuff sold in grocery stores, laden in every bite. Another misconception is that all food from India is overly spicy. Now for the facts: curry is not a spice, it is a blending of many spices that may include cardamom, cumin, garlic, turmeric, coriander, peppers, cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg. Most curries have very little heat but lots of flavor, and many delicious Indian dishes have no curry spices at all. I hope that by the end of this review, you will be confident in ordering and loving this northern Indian food from Taste of India in Hot Springs.

I’ve loved Indian food for a long time. Since moving back to Hot Springs, I’ve had to cook my own, pull from a stock of frozen Indian dinners, or travel to get my fix.

It’s fantastic that we now have Taste of India here in the Spa City. If you’re new to the cuisine, consider going here during their lunch buffet that is open Friday through Sunday. As they become busier, I’m sure this will expand to more days. Going to the lunch buffet will allow you to try many items so that you can discover the flavors that you like the most.GO!-TASTE2

When you arrive for the buffet, get your table, order drinks and immediately order Naan Bread. Naan is common in Indian restaurants, and you will want hot fresh naan with your meal. At the buffet bar, I always start by placing Basmati Rice in the center of my plate. I then add meat and veggie options, like spokes of a wheel, around the rice. Usually five or six items will judiciously be placed around the rice. Then add some mint chutney (a sauce of mint and cilantro), tamarind chutney (a sweet/fruity/ tart sauce) and spoon a small bit of Raita (a yogurt-based sauce with cucumber) around the plate. I hear they serve sliced Indian bread in Greece at the part-the-naan …

My favorite appetizer is the Samosa Chaat, which is street food in India. This is a tasty Samosa (like a mini veggie-filled chimichanga of India) which is covered with spiced chickpeas and veggies. Outstanding! The Veggie Samosas are good alone, or just order the Mixed Platter that includes Samosa, Vegetable Pakora (an Indian version of tempura) and Chicken Pakora. Pakora is usually also on the buffet. Several Nans are on the extensive menu, including the traditional Butter Naan, Garlic Naan and Onion-Paneer Kulcha, a naan filled with onions, homemade cheese and spices. This is a naan-event.

If you like grilled meats, try the Tandoori Mixed Grill. An assortment of chicken, lamb and shrimp are individually marinated, delicately seasoned and roasted, then brought to the table sizzling. These meats are brilliant, especially the lamb. Wow! Do they have Delhicatessens in India?

A very traditional and tasty entree is the Chicken Tikka Masala, a perfect Indian meal. This is tender pieces of chicken cooked with garlic, ginger, tomatoes and herbs. The Lamb Saag is a great choice, too. The cubed lamb is prepared with freshly chopped spinach in a mouthwatering sauce. I even love the Goat Curry. Any dish can be ordered mild, or with any level of heat. A nice seafood possibility is the Fish Curry, which is salmon in a mild spiced sauce. All entrées are served with rice.

TASTE OF INDIA PICTURES FOR GO!Biryani should be on your short list, and is available with different fillings. Think Spanish paella, but India-style. Basmati rice is simmered with spices and your choice of Veggie, Chicken, Lamb, Goat, Shrimp or Mixed. Served with Raita, Biryani is special!

If you are vegetarian, or just love veggies like me, Taste of India has an extensive list. A few of my favorites are the Palak Paneer (fresh chopped spinach cooked
with spices and homemade cheese), Baingain Bharta (chopped eggplant with tomatoes, onions, green peas and spices) and the Bhindi Masala (Okra cooked with ginger, onions and tomatoes). The Dal Makhani (black lentils) is very traditional and very succulent.

Taste of India has several great desserts, but for your first time, try the Gulub Jamun. These homemade milk balls dipped in honey syrup is a cross between a cake and pudding. Trust me! While Taste of India, located in the TraveLodge Motel on Central Avenue, is no Taj Mahal, it is in a nice and clean space with good lighting and great Punjabi-style music playing overhead. They have a limited wine list and beer available, and are open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Taste of India is like a hidden secret, so Mumbai’s the word. With my jokes, I tried to get work in Punjabi. Indian food will turn your palate into a palette of flavors! Try Taste of India today.

10:10 p.m. … Extending once again.

Story provided by Brad Hudgens

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