Surati Farsan Mart (Los Angeles, December 2021)


I noted in my review of dinner at Mo Ran Gak earlier this week that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a couple of years ago has meant the loss of Koreatown as our base of operations on our trips back to Los Angeles. But as an unfortunate bearded bloke once said, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. For us this has meant greater proximity to the Japanese restaurants of Gardena and Torrance. And it has also meant even greater proximity to Artesia whence is located Southern California’s premier Indian enclave. Back when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s, trips to Artesia to eat on the long drag of Pioneer Blvd. were always special—there not being very good Indian food in Los Angeles proper (a situation that is still probably true). But it was also a major pain in the ass to get there from the Westside. Now, it’s a short 15 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s door to Pioneer Blvd. And so on a day when the boys demanded burgers from In-N-Out I abandoned the family and sallied forth in search of chaat and dosas. My first port of call: Surati Farsan Mart. Continue reading

Chaat, Puchka, Chaat (Delhi, Calcutta, Delhi, Jan-Feb 2020)


We returned from India on the 4th of February. It is now almost the end of August. The time seems right to finally post the last of my meal reports from our trip. This report encompasses one of our first meals out in Delhi on this trip as well as our very last meal out in Delhi; in between is a spot of eating in Calcutta. All these meals have one thing in common: chaat. As I noted many years ago in my first report on chaat on the blog (which you really should read), chaat is one of the genres of food I miss the most, living outside India, and it is one of the things I make sure to eat as much of as I can when I do go home to visit. Continue reading

Chaat x 2 (Delhi, December 2018)


Here, finally, almost five months after I returned to the US, is my last food report from Delhi. Fittingly perhaps, it covers the two most informal meals I ate out in India on this trip and the genre of food I look forward to eating more than any other when getting off a plane in India: chaat. The last time I wrote about chaat on the blog I went on rather a lot—if you’re interested you can read that earlier post to find out a little more about the ins and outs of chaat and also for a rare autobiographical reverie on my part. I’m not sure if chaat is still something that American foodies are excited about—or if novelty in Indian cuisine in America is now being sought elsewhere—but it is never going to stop being popular in India. And it’s one of the few things that I think cannot be improved on: the essential of the chaat experience—paapdi chaat, gol gappas/paani puri, alu tikkis etc.—were perfected a long time ago and people know better than to mess with them. Continue reading

Chickpea-Potato “Chaat”

Chickpea-Potato Chaat
On Thursday I posted a recipe for a simple tamarind chutney. Here now is a recipe that it plays a central role in. You can make the chutney while the components of this one cook and it’s very easy to pull the final dish together. This has all the flavours of chaat—I put the word in quotes because it’s not a classic chaat; you might just as easily think of it as a chickpea-potato salad with Indian flavours. It will feed two as a main dish and 4-6 as a first course or snack. As always, I use Rancho Gordo garbanzo beans which require no soaking, cook incredibly quickly anyway and have a wonderful sweet taste and great texture. If you’re using chickpeas from some other source you will have to adjust the cooking time to their reality; if you are using canned chickpeas please don’t tell me about it. Continue reading

Chaat etc.

There are few genres as tedious as that in which a middle-aged immigrant waxes nostalgic for the food of their youth/home country and tells you that you can’t get good versions of it where they live now. So I hope you’ll excuse this post.

I left India in 1993 to come to graduate school in the US. Through the 1990s Indian food in the US was an unmitigated disaster: like a bad analogue of Olive Garden’ish Italian food or airport Chinese food. Pretty much all that was available was a bad copy of North Indian Mughlai food made for the most part with pre-fabricated sauces and substitutable meats; with buckets of cream and nut pastes masking the lack of actual experience or care in the kitchen*. None of this was much of a loss for me. This genre of food is restaurant food even in North India–no one eats it at home; and what I mostly wanted to eat I could make for myself at home. I was a decent enough cook when I arrived in the US and necessity made me much better. The ingredients for home-cooking–in my case, Bengali cooking (Indian food is intensely regional)–at any rate were available in Indian stores in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Café Lota (Delhi, January 2014)

exterior
Okay, so in my last Delhi restaurant review I noted of Indian Accent that it must surely be on the short-list of highly talked about and ambitious restaurants in the city and environs. It has recently been joined on this list by a restaurant very far away from it in price and ambience, though not, as you will see, in culinary scope. I refer here to the new(ish) restaurant at the Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan, the unfortunately named Café Lota. We ate two wonderful meals there, but before we get to them let’s take a bit of a necessary detour first. Continue reading