Earlier this month, chef and author Raghavan Iyer won the James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Award for Video Webcast, Fixed Location and/or Instructional category for his online video series titled “Indian Curries: The Basics & Beyond.” Such news inspires a peek at the cuisine and what dining options we can find in Rochester.
Classic Indian dishes burst with fragrant aromas and vibrant flavors from spices and herbs, including coriander, ginger, cumin, fenugreek, turmeric, mint, tangy citrus juices and coconut. Throughout India, spices are often ground fresh.
While the cuisine is as diverse as the country itself, common throughout is a dislike for the raw taste of meat. Preferring well-done preparations, Indian dishes often call for marinating in a spice mixture, often with yogurt added, then cooking in a slow oven or tandoor, a Northern style of cooking in cylindrical coal-fired ovens.
Curries prevail throughout the country, with those of southern India being more watery and soupy than one might expect. The term curry can be applied to a spicy Indian dish or to a blend of aromatic spices, seeds and herbs, up to as many as 20 components. North Indian cuisine relies on cream and ghee (clarified butter) and incorporates a higher proportion of dairy products including paneer (a whole milk cheese).
Indeed, as one explores the menu options here in Rochester, one finds a rich variety of dishes including Biryani, or savory rice dishes, Tandoori specialties, hearty meat dishes and vegetarian specialties.
India Garden has served the Rochester community since 1997. Standout, unique dishes here include their Peshwari Naan – Naan bread stuffed with coconut, almonds, sultanas and sweet spices – and the Dewanu Handi, which is a favorite of vegetarians given the combination of spinach, eggplant, cauliflower, green peppers and radishes along with fresh herbs and spices. They offer a lunch buffet daily, which expands on weekends to include more dishes, including several vegetarian items.
Royal Indian Cuisine offers a daily lunch buffet. An extensive dinner menu includes patron favorites such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Tandoori Chicken Sizzler. With the warmer weather these days, their selection of ice creams – ginger, mango and coconut – prove a delightful end to the meal.
Just two months ago, Blue Diamond Restaurant, named after a 5-star hotel in Poona, India, opened on the second level of the downtown food court off First Avenue Southwest. In addition to the lunch entrees offered Monday through Friday, they also are open for breakfast, offering specialty savory breads and upma, a spicy cream of rice dish.
The day starts early for owner Anu Dhumne who arrives about 7:30 a.m. to begin food prep for the day.
This includes preparing a fresh mango lassi, or yogurt based drink, which is nutritious, filling and delicious. She also offers a mango milkshake. Both are prepared using fresh Alfanso mango pulp.
Entrees rotate on a regular schedule with three offered daily, along with salads and other side items. For lamb lovers, Friday is the day you will find the Lamb Curry. Tender meat in smothered in a rich red sauce, making this a standout dish. It is not chance that this has proven one of the most popular dishes among patrons.
It has been a longtime dream for Anu and her husband to open an Indian restaurant downtown. Undoubtedly, their presence downtown addresses the current trend towards “grab ‘n go,” complementing the sit-down table service offered elsewhere in town. Watch for Anu’s menu to expand in the months ahead.
Indeed, once you discover the myriad of flavorful dishes Indian cuisine delivers, you will want to learn more and experience what our local restaurants offer.