ANN ABOUT TOWN: Favoring Curry

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 7:18 am
Ann Nichols

If you hear that I am in rehab, it will be the direct result of my lifelong addiction to Indian food. My parents hooked me as a child with curry, the gateway drug, which my mother cooked and while my father prepared all of the accompanying “boys” including bananas, cashews, raisins and mango chutney. I am still unable to resist the smell of cardamom, curry and turmeric, or a platter of crisp, spicy poppadums.

Last Saturday we ate lunch at Sindhu Indian Cuisine, in the Hannah Plaza. The room is plain and clean, Kali and her many arms sits atop the bar, and the owner is often at one of the tables reading his paper. The crowd is mixed, with lots of MSU students, Indian families, older couples and parents with small children.

The buffet provides a solid and accessible intro to Indian cuisine. There is iceberg lettuce with dressing, and then an array of more mysterious items. There are ingredients and directions for making Chaat, a savory snack involving crispy fried things, diced onions and potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and mint and tamarind chutney. It’s a leap-of-faith thing, but the combination of flavors and textures is unusual and sets the stage for culinary adventure.

Take small dishes of spicy mint chutney, sweet tamarind chutney and cool, yoghurt raita so that you can experiment with which sauces taste good with which dishes. Then take some rice – there’s plain Basmati, and also Biryani which has chicken and/or vegetables and spices in it. (Biryani is more of a dish in itself, like fried rice at a Chinese restaurant, but you can still use it as a base for your main dishes). The basmati and vegetable Biryani are vegetarian.

Oh, and take some Naan bread which is hot, buttery, cushiony and a great way to scoop up the last bits of sauce. I kind of have to insist on that. My companion has been known to eschew the last couple of pieces of Naan so that he can wait for a steaming, brimming, new pan of the stuff to emerge from the kitchen.

You might also try some dal, a thin lentil-based sauce which is often served over rice, or some of the crunchy, deep-fried offering which may be small balls of dough, onion and cabbage called Pakora. All of these deep-fried nibbles provide a great vehicle for sauce-trying experiments, and all are usually vegetarian.

Once you have the starchy underpinnings and the saucy embellishments for your meal, it’s time to consider the various dishes. There are always Tandoori thighs and drumsticks, which have been marinated in yogurt and spices and then cooked at very high heat in a Tandoor oven. The meat is not at all spicy, and gets its alarming red color from spices.

Based on extensive observation, by the way, I can assure you that the pickiest child in the world can usually be persuaded to eat plain rice, Tandoori drumsticks and lettuce with ranch dressing. They might also like Naan, and might even branch out to carrot halwa, made mostly of ground carrots and honey, which tastes like dessert.

There are usually two curries, one chicken and one goat. These tend to be pretty straightforward, red-sauce curries that are not too hot for the timid. There is, however, hot sauce available where the chutneys are; my companion likes to make his curry atomic.

There are several vegetable dishes, including Korma, a creamy mixture of sauce and a variety of vegetables including peas, mushrooms, and carrots. Sindhu staff is available and willing to answer questions for diners with special diets or food allergies, including which dishes are safe for vegetarians or vegans.

Also available is Masala Aloo, a potato dish with onions, ginger, chills, curry leaves and a host of other spices that make it flavorful and rich, but not too spicy. There is also Bhindi Masala, a non-creamy curry based on okra, or “Bhindi.” Behind the buffet line is a pot of soup, sometimes lentil dal and sometimes Madras or Mulligatawny, along with platters of Idli, a small rounded cake make from fermented black lentils and rice. A bit like sourdough, it is offered as accompaniment to a cup of soup.

Sindhu offers its buffet beginning daily at 11:30, although it is unclear at what point the buffet is taken down to prepare for dinner; it seems to depend on how many customers are still eating lunch and hoping to refill their plates. The restaurant has a beer-and-wine only liquor license, and also makes yogurt and fruit lassis which are very much like smoothies.

If the lunch buffet pleases your palate, you might come for a sit-down dinner with dosas, poppadums, and possibly a Tandoori mixed grill, a Saag dish rich with cream and spinach, or a Vindaloo curry that will set your mouth on fire.

On the way out, take a tiny spoon full of the cardamom/anise mixture near the register and chew until your breath is fresh again. When in Delhi,,,,


Sindhu Indian Cuisine is located at 4790 S. Hagadorn Road, in East Lansing.

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