Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sindhu Indian Cuisine

I love Indian tandoor ovens. They are beehive-shaped, searingly hot, and roast some of the most wonderful breads, meats and even veggies. We've been lucky that the major Indian restaurants in this area have all had tandoors, but maybe that's what makes them so great. (Unfortunately, this town doesn't seem to be able to support more than one or two Indian restaurants at a time. Right now we've got Sindhu and India Palace. I encourage all to support them both.)

Sindhu Indian Cuisine, in the Hannah Plaza off Hagadorn south of Grand River, has been around the longest, and seems to have weathered the ups and downs of business in a college town best. Lunchtime (as it is with India Palace) is buffet time -- and that is a great way to eat Indian food. The dishes are varied and flavorful, and you really should eat a sampling of many dishes rather than just one or two. Besides, it's a great way for the uninitiated to figure out what they like best.

The buffet always has a few vegetarian dishes, several curries of various flavors and various heat levels. They always have Naan, the glorious flat bread cooked on the walls of the tandoor, and Tandoori Chicken -- the bright red, marinated and dry-roasted chicken. Tandoori Chicken is not hot, but rather is lemony and seasoned with more aromatic spices. Served, fajita style, with roasted onions and peppers. Usually some Dal (which is like a thick, spiced lentil soup) and Idli (little pillows of bread made of rice and lentil flour). Sometimes they have Masala Dosas, crispy crepes which you can fill with spiced potatoes and onions. (At Taj they used to set these on the table when you sat down, like bread sticks.)

At dinnertime you order off the menu. We usually try to get enough people to go along so we can share dishes, but if you want a lot of variety on your own, you can fall back on their thali, full dinners with appetizers and breads and a curry and vegetable dish. We usually can't resist their specials, such as the Chicken Reshami Kabob (pictured above). The chicken, marinated in cream, yogurt, chickpea flour, herbs and spices, is roasted in the tandoor, and served on a sizzling bed of onions, peppers, carrots and lime slices. It gives an amazing burst of citrus and spices.

To go with that, you can get creamy dishes, like the kormas or hyderabadis, or sharper curries and masalas. There is a wide variety of vegetable dishes, as well as meat dishes. "Medium" is nicely zippy, although some dishes, like Vindaloo, really need to be had "hot". If you get something spicy hot, I recommend accompanying it with one of the creamier dishes served mild for contrast. (What's a Vindaloo? It's a meat and potato curry with extra mustard and tamarind flavors. Great with lamb, but the shrimp vindaloo here is very nice too.)

And, of course, don't forget the Mango Lassi for a refreshing drink to clear the palate between the other intense flavors.

Sindhu Indian Cuisine is at 4790 S Hagadorn Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823. (517) 351-3080.
Recommended Links:
Malabar Spices (This blog hasn't updated in a month, but go looking in the archives. Wonderful Kerala home cooking.)
Salt and Pepper (A wide variety of foods -- from all over.)
Vindhu (A large index of recipes and links)

Recommended Reading:
Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking is my favorite Indian cookbook. It is a classic.

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