Archive for the 'Indian' Category

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Love Thy Neighbor: Making Dosas with Renuka

Dosas with Renuka

Last spring, a wonderful woman named Renuka moved into the apartment across from mine. She and her husband arrived from Madras, India to spend six months with their son Raga, a graduate student at Caltech. The moment Renuka stepped into her temporary home on East Del Mar Boulevard, she whipped out the pots, pans, and spices that she had carried with her from India, fired up the stove, and began cooking non-stop. Raga had been without proper home cooked meals for over a year, and as his coddling mother, she felt compelled to remedy the situation immediately.

Before I met Renuka face to face, I was seduced by the smells emanating from her kitchen. Whenever I stepped into the hallway that our apartments shared, I was smacked in the face by an intoxicating blend of chilies and spices. It was torturous to say the least.

Dosas with Renuka

I remember the first time I met Renuka vividly. It was early afternoon and I was preparing to grill a pork tenderloin. As I was carrying the meat from my apartment to the barbecue set up in the back lot, I noticed Renuka peeking her head out from her kitchen. I said hello and explained to her that I was working on a pork-intensive food photography project. She made a bit of a funny face and told me she was vegetarian. While holding the bloody hunk of pork in my hands, I tried my best to convince her that my regular diet was mostly meat-free. I’m not sure she believed me.

From that day forward, we spent time together on a regular basis. At first it was just hellos and how are yous, but it eventually evolved into a solid friendship—I’d never had such a lovely neighbor.

Dosas with Renuka

The first time Renuka invited me into her kitchen, she prepared one of her specialties. Dosa, a typical dish in South Indian cuisine, is a thin and crispy fermented crepe made from rice flour and lentils. I was hoping to witness the entire process from start to finish, but Renuka had already prepared the batter and the accompanying chutney by the time I arrived. All that was left to do was a little frying on the stove.
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Mezbaan Indian Cuisine – Pasadena

Mezbaan Indian Cuisine - Pasadena

When the Indian kids studying at Caltech are hungry for a taste of home, they head to Mezbaan Indian Cuisine in Old Pasadena. It’s hardly the closest Indian restaurant to campus, but the quality makes up for the longer trek, according to our friend Raga, a computer science grad student from Madras.

Raga introduced The Astronomer and me to his favorite spot a few Sundays ago. We came for the  all-you-can-eat buffet, which is priced at $10.95 and includes champagne. The fun starts at noon and runs until 3 PM. Mezbaan also has a weekday buffet for $8.99 from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. For grad students living on a stipend, these buffets offer a lot of bang for very little buck. Ordering a la carte will come once PhDs are in hand. Or maybe not…

Mezbaan Indian Cuisine - Pasadena

While we were filling up our plates at the steam tables, our really nice and attentive waiter dropped off a basket of warm and pliable naan. This was the first of two baskets we plowed through during our meal.

Mezbaan Indian Cuisine - Pasadena

On our visit, Mezbaan offered three different condiments—mint chutney, tamarind chutney, and raita, a cooling yogurt sauce. Raga had a soft spot for the minty one, while I favored the sticky sweet tamarind one.

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Great Balls on Tires – Los Angeles

Great Balls of Tires - Los Angeles

When I stopped by the Ahn Joo truck a little over a month ago, Debbie Lee tipped me off that a meatball truck would be hitting the streets shortly. Meatballs and I get along quite swimmingly, so this was one launch that I was a wee bit more excited for than the rest.

After polishing off two gut busting deep-fried sushi rolls from Yatta-! Truck at Art Walk, The Astronomer and I moseyed on over to Great Balls on Tires for our second course.

Great Balls of Tires - Los Angeles

Great Balls on Tires was founded by Clint Peralta and Michael Brombart. According to the truck’s website, the duo chose to focus on meatballs because of their universal popularity and appeal. “They are found in nearly every culture with names like polpette, kofta and frikadel.  They are found in dumplings and on top of spaghetti all covered with cheese.”

Great Balls of Tires - Los Angeles

Inspired by travels abroad, the menu encompasses a wide range of flavors from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. By the time we arrived at the truck, they were sold out of the “IncrediBall” (Kobe Beef ball wrapped in bacon and gruyere) and the “Ballywood” (Garam Masala chicken ball cradled in a coconut curry and set atop saffron basmati rice), two of the most enticing menu items. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we finally settled on the “Ball Gogi” ($5.50).

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World Fare Bustaurant – Los Angeles

WORLD FARE BUSTAURANT

In a crowded market like the Los Angeles mobile food scene, it’s tough to differentiate one truck from the next. Each one has a clever name, a nifty logo, and a bill of fare that sounds tastier on paper than it actually is in person. However, the debut of the World Fare Bustaruant was different enough to turn some jaded heads.

Instead of a traditional roach coach, Travis Schmidt and Jason Freeman bought a vintage double decker bus. And rather than fusing a random cuisine with Mexican fare, they introduced something totally different—South African “bunny chow.” The Astronomer and I, along with Donna of Dishy Goodness, ran into the bustaurant after a long day of powwowing at the Food Blogger Forum. Even though dinner plans were around the corner, the lure of testing out a well-regarded truck proved too enticing to resist.

WORLD FARE BUSTAURANT

After four years as Corporate Executive Sous Chef for the Michael Mina Group and two seasons as sous chef in Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” Andi Van Willigan hopped on board the bustaurant to man the moving stoves. The bus’ two tiers are utilized to the fullest—there’s a (relatively) spacious kitchen for the chef and a rooftop dining space for customers.

WORLD FARE BUSTAURANT

We started off  with a complimentary order of Truffle Mac and Cheese Balls ($3). For me, the best part of a mac and cheese experience are the bites with a few gooey noodles and lots of crunchy breadcrumbs. Thus, these crisp balls were totally to my liking.  The truffle essence was a nice bonus.

WORLD FARE BUSTAURANT

From what I understand, bunny chow is of Indian origin, but is considered a South African dish. It’s comprised of hollowed-out bread filled with savory stews and curries. The Short Rib Bunny ($4) with Worcestershire braised short ribs and horseradish crème fraiche was as hearty as anticipated and seasoned just right. “The Original” Bunny ($4) with chicken curry, coconut milk, chickpeas, cashews, raisins, and cilantro tasted like a mild Thai curry. There wasn’t a lot of heat to it, but the spices and flavors were robust. Bunny chow is the kind of stick-to-your-bones comfort food that makes me smile.

WORLD FARE BUSTAURANT

Lastly, we dug into a decadent and delightful butterscotch bread pudding ($3). It was heavy, yet heavenly.

Follow the World Fare Bustaurant on Twitter @WorldFare.

POWER RANKINGS

India Jones Chow Truck > Dim Sum Truck > World Fare Bustaurant < Border Grill Truck > Cool Haus > Lomo Arigato > Don Chow > Kogi > Marked 5 > Dosa Truck > Phamish

 

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