Indian Food in Chicago...

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ExtraMSG
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2004/11/18 18:33:40 (permalink)

Indian Food in Chicago...

Here's a report I recently posted on my blog about Indian food in Chicago. What a great city for ethnic cuisines.

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    zataar
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 18:56:45 (permalink)
    Great information about Devon Street! A very overlooked area of North Chicago (North East or West?) I've enjoyed your food blogs at the recommendation of Bill Voss. They're always so interesting. I'm very interested in ethnic roadfood, which in my area is starting to evolve into some seriously good food.
    #2
    ExtraMSG
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 19:15:15 (permalink)
    Well, in KC you're lucky enough to have your own ethnic cuisine: BBQ, fried chicken, and home cooking. People travel to *you* for ethnic food, regional American.

    Thanks for the kind words.
    #3
    jeepguy
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 20:16:59 (permalink)
    The last time i drove down Devon it looked like i was in downtown Bombay. People everywhere walking without looking and crossing the street- and NO place to park. Lot's of good junk stores and luggage stores. We did find a cool coffee shop that served the little meat pies etc.
    #4
    seafarer john
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 20:51:23 (permalink)
    Here in our little Village of New Paltz, NY we have just gotten our first Indian restaurant. I'ts been here about six months and I've been there once, I liked what i had, but nobody n the place spoke English and I don't speak any of the myriad Indian languages and dialects- so I had little idea of what I was ordering. Subsequently we wound up with three kinds of bread- all of them good, but it seemed a bit of overkill to me.

    Any hints from my fellow Roadfooders as to how to order a meal in an indian Restaurant would be helpful - because I want to go back- i just know there is great stuff there if only i know how to ask for it.

    Cheers, John
    #5
    Shane
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 21:04:37 (permalink)
    Devon Ave rocks!

    Chicago rocks!

    Off the top of my head I can think of a place that fits each of the following (loosely to the tune of "I've been Everywhere, Man" by the late, great Johnny Cash)

    Indian, African, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Afgan, Jewish, Middle eastern, Pakastani, Italian, German, Swiss, Greek, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, French, English, Scottish, Portugese, Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Carribean, South American...
    #6
    zataar
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 21:14:06 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by seafarer john

    Here in our little Village of New Paltz, NY we have just gotten our first Indian restaurant. I'ts been here about six months and I've been there once, I liked what i had, but nobody n the place spoke English and I don't speak any of the myriad Indian languages and dialects- so I had little idea of what I was ordering. Subsequently we wound up with three kinds of bread- all of them good, but it seemed a bit of overkill to me.

    Any hints from my fellow Roadfooders as to how to order a meal in an indian Restaurant would be helpful - because I want to go back- i just know there is great stuff there if only i know how to ask for it.

    Cheers, John

    John, Check to see if they offer a thali meal. It's a great way to order an Indian meal if you aren't too familiar with North Indian food. It has small portions of well chosen items and a balanced variety of dishes, from chutney to entrees on one tray. Order a couple of breads if they aren't offered and you should get an idea of what you'll want to order next time.
    #7
    zataar
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 21:16:32 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by ExtraMSG

    Well, in KC you're lucky enough to have your own ethnic cuisine: BBQ, fried chicken, and home cooking. People travel to *you* for ethnic food, regional American.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    We do love our BBQ! If you ever make your way through KC try some of the many different Asian, Mexican and Indian places that are cropping up here, most are very close to freeways and interstates. Just this weekend we had a late breakfast of tortas barbacoas and carnitas and jamaica aguas frescas at Paleterias Chihuahua. Very good. A great selection of paletas. Maybe not as intensely exotic as Devon Street, but for KC, very enjoyable!
    #8
    carlton pierre
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/18 21:45:14 (permalink)
    I spent some time in Paskistan and I love their style of dress. The only place I've been able to find shalwar kameez is in Chicago. Whole neighborhoods of Pakistani clothes and restaurants. Chicago is such a great city for all the diverse cultures there.

    #9
    cunamara
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/19 12:35:04 (permalink)

    Check to see if they offer a thali meal. It's a great way to order an Indian meal if you aren't too familiar with North Indian food. It has small portions of well chosen items and a balanced variety of dishes, from chutney to entrees on one tray. Order a couple of breads if they aren't offered and you should get an idea of what you'll want to order next time.


    Your reply suggests you know a thing or two about Indian food so I thought you might be able to help me. I live on an island off the coast of Honduras where (big surprise!) Indian ingredients are simply not obtainable -- and yet I have a persistent craving for Indian-style food. Can you (or someone) give me, or point me in the direction of, a recipe that relies on ordinary every-day "Western" ingredients but results in something sufficiently Indian-like to satisfy my craving?

    Tom
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    ExtraMSG
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/19 14:29:14 (permalink)
    Tom, I'm actually surprised you can't find many of the ingredients. Maybe it's the island. Is there a Mexican grocer around? Some of the best Indian food I've ever had was a Sri Lankan/Indian restaurant in Mexico. Why? Because they share ingredients. It may be difficult to find cardamon, but most other spices are usually as prevalent in Mexican cooking as in Indian cooking. And, of course, chiles are from the Americas. Same with tomatoes. Otherwise, for most curries, yogurt or coconut milk can be used as a base, then you just put it over rice. Obviously beef isn't used really because of the Hindu and pork actually isn't that common because of the Muslims. But lamb, goat, or chicken would all do. I imagine you'd have access to some types of daal (legumes), like split peas, chickpeas (garbanzos), or lentils. I can't think of any recipes off-hand that don't use some sort of spice blend, even something relatively bland like saag, however. Google "garam masala" and see if you can make that. Once you have a basic spice blend, it gets real easy.
    #11
    cunamara
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/19 16:10:26 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by ExtraMSG

    Tom, I'm actually surprised you can't find many of the ingredients. Maybe it's the island. Is there a Mexican grocer around? Some of the best Indian food I've ever had was a Sri Lankan/Indian restaurant in Mexico. Why? Because they share ingredients. It may be difficult to find cardamon, but most other spices are usually as prevalent in Mexican cooking as in Indian cooking. And, of course, chiles are from the Americas. Same with tomatoes. Otherwise, for most curries, yogurt or coconut milk can be used as a base, then you just put it over rice. Obviously beef isn't used really because of the Hindu and pork actually isn't that common because of the Muslims. But lamb, goat, or chicken would all do. I imagine you'd have access to some types of daal (legumes), like split peas, chickpeas (garbanzos), or lentils. I can't think of any recipes off-hand that don't use some sort of spice blend, even something relatively bland like saag, however. Google "garam masala" and see if you can make that. Once you have a basic spice blend, it gets real easy.


    I've goggled as you suggested and, combined with your "intro," I see I have my starting place. It may take a few weeks before I get around to this but, when I do, I'll let you know how it turns out. Muchas Gracias, Tom
    #12
    zataar
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/19 19:53:05 (permalink)
    Tom, ExtraMSG is right on the mark. In your geographical area, cumin, coriander, cinnamon or canela, nutmeg, cloves and dried red chiles such as arbol should be readily available. The fresh things, onions, garlic, ginger and maybe even fresh turmeric if you choose to use it, should not be too difficult to obtain. And certainly coconut milk. Cardamom may be more scarce, but I would be happy to send you some, along with a recipe for Garam Masala. As long as you fill me in on Honduran cuisine!
    Zataar
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    cunamara
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/19 23:04:31 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by zataar

    Tom, ExtraMSG is right on the mark. In your geographical area, cumin, coriander, cinnamon or canela, nutmeg, cloves and dried red chiles such as arbol should be readily available. The fresh things, onions, garlic, ginger and maybe even fresh turmeric if you choose to use it, should not be too difficult to obtain. And certainly coconut milk. Cardamom may be more scarce, but I would be happy to send you some, along with a recipe for Garam Masala. As long as you fill me in on Honduran cuisine!
    Zataar

    I guess what tripped me up was not realizing that things like "Garam Masala" might simply be a blend of spices that might be fairly obtainable, instead of some kind of esoteric ingredient in and of itself. I've now checked a few recipes for it and, as you suspected, the only thing I might have a problem with is cardomom "pods" or "seeds." I'll probably have someone tuck a supply in their bag on a return trip here, which is what I had to do to get all the spices needed to make some genuine Italian sausage; fennel seed, for instance, cannot he had here.

    Honduras, alas, is not known for it's cuisine. The only thing I've incorporated into my eating habits is the baleada, which I have homemade con juevos most mornings. Most Hondurans don't venture very far from their staple rice, beans and boiled bananas while a few items that sound interesting are much better elsewhere.

    Their banana-leaf-wrapped tamale, for instance, is somewhat gloppy and bland compared to the Mexican varieties and is usually filled with bone-in bits of meat (often chicken back) and a few mixed vegatables from a can. Their "mondongo" is a boring variation of the Mexican menudo and the most you can say for the native meats is that it's on the tender side of footwear. In the States, I lived in an area where I became addicted to Jamaican food and was disaapointed to find nothing remotely as good here.

    Tom
    #14
    Mark in Ohio
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/20 09:54:59 (permalink)
    Three voyages to India have endeared me to its wonderfully diverse people, regions, and foods. Raitas (or raytas - transliteration is an inexact science) are yogurt "salads" (certainly not a salad in the western sense, there's no lettuce) which provide a wonderfully cooling contrast to any hot spiced or curried dish. It's primary ingredient is yogurt (dahi) and can be flavored with bits of cucumber/tomato/fresh mint/chopped onion. Other raitas may be garnished with bits of eggplant or fruit and nuts. A delightful fire extinguisher of a side dish.

    In a country with 14 officially recognized languages and several hundred dialects, you known the food will be diverse. As a VERY broad generalization: south Indian dishes employ rice and northern Indian dishes favor cereals and grain. It's all good.[:P]
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    zataar
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/20 18:58:11 (permalink)



    Honduras, alas, is not known for it's cuisine. The only thing I've incorporated into my eating habits is the baleada, which I have homemade con juevos most mornings. Most Hondurans don't venture very far from their staple rice, beans and boiled bananas while a few items that sound interesting are much better elsewhere.

    Tom, too bad about the boring food. I once cooked with a guy from Honduras who made amazing tamales, but he admitted they were Guatemalan. There is a book, easily available on Amazon.com I think, called Quick and Easy Indian Food. It's by Mahdur Jaffrey. It does rely on readily available ingredients. My daughter took it to college with her and said it was a life saver.
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    cunamara
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/20 19:58:29 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by zataar




    Thanks for the cookbook tip. I found the book on Amazon.com and will order it as soon as I finish switching shipping companies for my mail. It looks like just the thing I need. Two separate friends of mine in the States are really into Indian food -- one actually preparing it -- but neither could advise me on how to get started. I don't see myself as getting into Indian cuisine all that seriously but it seemed to me that there ought to be 1 or 2 (or 3) dishes that could prepare without a great deal of fussiness and still satisfy my craving for a cuisine that lights up my palate despite my ignorance about it.

    I have a friend who, at my urging, has tinkered with the tamale typically found in this part of Central America and the result was much bettwe, although still well shy of the Mexican varieties.

    Tom
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    chicagostyledog
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/21 08:20:26 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Shane

    Devon Ave rocks!

    Chicago rocks!

    Off the top of my head I can think of a place that fits each of the following (loosely to the tune of "I've been Everywhere, Man" by the late, great Johnny Cash)

    Indian, African, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Afgan, Jewish, Middle eastern, Pakastani, Italian, German, Swiss, Greek, Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, French, English, Scottish, Portugese, Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Carribean, South American...


    Devon was always a great street. When my family moved from the west side of Chicago to Lincolnwood in the mid fifties, our life centered around Devon. There were lots of department stores and restaurants. From McKormick to Western, the area was mostly Jewish with lots of kosher butcher shops and Jewish book stores. The Ranch aka Lippy's was the best place on the north side for a hot dog & fries. Even the Dunkin Donuts was kosher (no lard in the donuts). My grandfather owned a small candy store on Devon. My favorite store was Hobby Models on the corner of Devon & Western. During the last 35 years, Devon has changed and become a great melting pot of international cultures. The orthodox Jewish population still exists and has migrated north of Devon & Californa. There are a only a few kosher butcher shops and Jewish book stores on Devon. I still enjoy visiting Devon. It's like taking a vacation without the air fare.
    #18
    kland01s
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/11/22 10:41:59 (permalink)
    Tom, try this website for spices. When I first looked at their catalog, I thought they were expensive but now that I have been using their spices, I have found that a little goes a long way. I am lucky in that I have a Penzey's store a half hour away because they have samples for each spice, the smells are wonderful!

    http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/shophome.html

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    danimal15
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/12/06 16:33:16 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by zataar

    Great information about Devon Street! A very overlooked area of North Chicago (North East or West?) I've enjoyed your food blogs at the recommendation of Bill Voss. They're always so interesting. I'm very interested in ethnic roadfood, which in my area is starting to evolve into some seriously good food.


    Call Devon Ave. the "far North Side" of Chicago. No native calls it
    "North Chicago" - that's actually the name of a town well up the Lake Michigan shoreline and not to be confused with the city of Chicago. No one refers to the "northeast side" of Chicago; however, you will hear references to the "southeast side," which is sometimes just called the "East Side" - that neighborhood is about 120 blocks south of the Loop (downtown), and borders Indiana.

    There's a little geography lesson for all you non-Chicagoans.
    #20
    danimal15
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2004/12/06 16:36:05 (permalink)
    I've eaten at many of the Devon Ave. Indian restaurants and haven't found a bad one yet. But my sentimental favorite (perhaps because it was the first I tried) is Gandhi India. They have a wonderful combination platter of appetizers which we always order - it's full of deep fried stuff. Very fattening but very good. All the lamb dishes I've had there have been great, and the naan (Indian fried bread) is top-notch.
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    khan
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    RE: Indian Food in Chicago... 2005/04/23 16:26:42 (permalink)
    quote:


    Your reply suggests you know a thing or two about Indian food so I thought you might be able to help me. I live on an island off the coast of Honduras where (big surprise!) Indian ingredients are simply not obtainable -- and yet I have a persistent craving for Indian-style food. Can you (or someone) give me, or point me in the direction of, a recipe that relies on ordinary every-day "Western" ingredients but results in something sufficiently Indian-like to satisfy my craving?

    Tom


    Send me a mail tom I can get you started with Indian recipes with stuff usually available in western markets. I suspect Honduras would have more than its share of ingredients which are suitable for Indian cooking.
    #22
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