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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

East Meets West: Chai Pani at Decatur in Atlanta

You would think you were on Mumbai streets when Vada Pav makes its appearance on your table, but this is the creation of Mehrwan and Molly Irani, who have imported the idea of street food of India and have given a new twist. For Non-vegetarians, there was Bengali Fish fry sandwich, crispy and spicy.

Here the Indian street food becomes an art and you see it everywhere, in innovative Indian street food, in the ambience, the bright vibrant colors in the loud shades of bright green, orange, blue and red, on the walls, the pictures of common man in India and also of bollywood stars.

A favorite indoor game (enjoyed in Indian homes) Carom Board sits in the waiting lounge at the entrance, so while you wait for your table, you could pass your time over a game of Carom.

The bar area dominates the major part of the restaurant and serves some exotic drinks, blend of Indian flavors with Vodka, Whiskey or Gin. The mural at the bar are artistically done, with Indian script in bold.  A traditional Indian music in the background completes the picture. 

However, this is a restaurant on the other side of the world, far away from India, in a smaller suburb of Georgia, A restaurant with Indian concept and is called Chai Pani.

Chai Pani, (that literally means ‘tea and water’ in English and is aso used as slang for ‘bribe’ that we would give to an officer in India in return for a favor) is the hip spot in Decatur at Atlanta that serves Indian food in american style

I enoyed the American style french fries, topped with Kheema and cottage cheese, the crispy french fries (fried to perfection) and mince meat cooked in Indian spices made perfect combination of East meeting West.

And chicken fritters, chicken (marinated in salt and pepper) and deep fried in gram flour batter, it was very different from the chicken nuggets that you would find at MacDonalds, and yet so similar

The street food of India has been amalgated to suit American palate and this concept is very appealing, the restaurant was packed with Americans who enjoy different taste. Some of them have never been to India but still they seemed to enjoy Indian cuisine.

The menu had some interesting listings, and the speciality of the day changes everyday. On the day I visited, Papri chaat  was the day’s special. There was also Thali listed on their menu that had traditional Indian meals like you would find in many restaurants in India.

I was happy too to find my traditional Indian cuisine on foreign soil and happily munched on aniseed sweets on my way out……

Monday, August 3, 2015

Forbidden Fruit Tomato and Mutton Recipe

The other day I went to the local supermarket at Evanston, Illinois and spotted these small green tomatoes with paper skin husk that looked like gooseberry. I had never before seen this variety of tomatoes so naturally, I was curious.

On closer inspection, I discovered that these were Milpero tomatillo variety, smaller, sweeter and flavorful. I was told that these are primarily used raw or roasted in salsas and sauces or as compliments to Latin and Mexican dishes. These can last for a year if not removed from their husk.

Now, tomato is my favorite fruit/vegetable (call it what you want) but I use it in almost most of my recipes, be it in salads, sauces or curries. I cannot imagine that it was once considered poisonous, fearing not only appendicitis but also stomach cancer from tomato skins adhering to the lining of the stomach and it was planted only as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten.

As the story is told, it was Colonel Johnson who on September 26, 1820 once and for all proved tomatoes non-poisonous and safe for consumption. He stood on the steps of the Salem courthouse and bravely consumed an entire basket of tomatoes without keeling over or suffering any ill effects whatsoever. His grandstanding attracted a crowd of over 2,000 people who were certain he was committing public suicide. The local firemen's band even played a mournful dirge to add to the perceived morbid display of courage (source: google)

I picked up tomatoes from the market to use it in my recipe for Mutton Curry


1kg mutton
2 medium size potatoes
5 medium size tomatoes
4 medium size onions
4tbsp oil
2tbsp chopped garlic
2tbsp chopped ginger
4-5 bay leaves
2-3 cinnamon sticks
4-5cardamom pods
6-7 cloves
2 dried red chilies
1tsp turmeric powder
2tsp coriander powder
1tsp black pepper powder
1/2tsp cardamom powder
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp red chili powder
2tbsp lime juice
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing


  1. In a pot containing oil, add cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, bay leaves and dry red chilies 
  2. Add garlic, ginger and green chilies, stir fry.
  3.  Add onion and cook till light brown.
  4. Add mutton, tomatoes, turmeric powder, cumin seeds powder, cardamom powder, coriander powder, black pepper powder, red chili powder and salt.
  5.  Mix and cook till oil floats on the top.
  6.  Add 2 glasses of water, chopped potatoes and let it simmer on gas for one hour.
  7.  Add lime juice and coriander leaves.
  8.  Serve it with parathas and onion-tomato salad.

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