On Sunday, Amy and I went to the eGullet Indian Street Food Event at Passage to India. We met a lot of new people from eGullet and had a chance to try lots of Indian food that we'd previously been unable to find at any Indian restaurants. All of the food was wonderful. Chef Sudhir did a great job with preparing all the food and Monica Bhide did a great job organizing the event. Overall the event lasted four hours. We ate a ton of food - I was so full when it was over. It was an Indian-food-lovers' paradise.
The event started with a Chaat bar. One table at a time, we went up and the chef prepared a mixture of chaat for us. Clueless, Amy started scooping individual ingredients on her plate, and the chef quickly corrected her and told her that she should wait for him to mix them up for her. (Editor's Note: Amy the Editor resents the "clueless" comment. That is all.) The chaat bar consisted of potatoes, rice noodles, puffed rice, red onion, tamarind sauce and fried noodles. Dr. Arthur Agatston is rolling over in his grave - oh wait, he's not dead.
When we were done with the chaat, they cleared our plates and started bringing out the appetizer dishes. I started out really brave, having seconds with each course. Then I realized that we were only on dish number two and we had about 10 others still to come. I enjoyed all of the appetizer dishes, but I thought the best ones were the Ragda Pattice (potato patties with spicy white pea curry) and the...wait for it...wait for it...Samosas with Chutneys. However, the Pao Bhaji (vegetables masala with bread) was in my opinion the best. Although the Pau was more like a hamburger bun (the chef was unable to find the proper kind of yeast in the States for authentic pau). At about 7:14, we were done with the appetizer courses and I was officially full.
Luckily, we had a nice 20-minute break between the appetizers and the main courses, which gave me just enough time to digest a little and start getting hungry again. All the while the servers were preparing the cooker at the buffet area. The "cooker" consisted of a large cast-iron plate on top of an electric burner. The chef started putting the kabobs and shrimp and such out on the plate and instantly you could smell the food throughout the room. I'll post the whole menu later in this post, but I will note a few of my favorites here. The tandoori chicken was amazing - probably some of the most tender I've ever had. I could have eaten this all night. The tawa chicken was also good. It was made with a sauce that reminded me a lot of Jamaican jerk chicken...but better. And of course, I loved the chole bhature. It was not the average chickpea curry that you get at an Indian restaurant.
On top of all the food, they paired Indian drinks with most of the dishes. My favorites were the Indian lemonade, roohafza (rose milk, which really tasted like roses) and a nutty milk drink served with a rose petal. The nutty milk drink definitely had cardamon in it and contained ground cashews. It was almost like drinking Indian rice pudding. I noted that all of the drinks could have used a little alcohol in them and someone at my table noted that some Sambuca would have paired nicely with the nutty milk drink. (Monica mentioned that, in India, this drink traditionally contains marijuana!)
By 8:15, we were done with the main courses, and they started bringing out the desserts. Now, I have said in previous posts that desserts are not something I typically eat at Indian restaurants. I'm usually way too full to attempt dessert, and if I'm not, I'll just order some rice pudding to settle my stomach. In this case, however, I made an exception. My favorite dessert was the shreekhand, or saffron-flavored yogurt. It was very sweet, but complex. I love Indian spices. The others were…ok. A little too sweet, on the whole. But like I've said before, I'm generally not a fan of Indian desserts. Everyone else seemed to enjoy them very much, even though they were all holding their stomachs.
The full menu for the event can be found here.
I also learned a lot about Indian food and culture at this event. My Indian co-worker Amol and his friend, both of whom are from Bombay, attended. We discussed each of the dishes and its ingredients. We also talked about where one would get this food in India. Basically, Amol said that this food was the equivalent of a hot-dog stand down on the Mall, which we found interesting.
We all asked, "Where do you fit all the ingredients on a hot-dog cart?"
Amol answered, "Well, the carts are a bit bigger."
I also asked what wines people in India drink with their meals and they said that actually, wine is not typically drank. This explains the reason why I always have trouble pairing a wine with Indian meals. They said it's more typical for people to drink beer. Also, I found out that India only has a single winery where they brew cashew wine. Mmm, cashews...
Sadly, I had never been to Passage to India before. The location has changed owners and names several times. At one point Heritage India had a restaurant there. Now Chef Sudhir is the proprietor and Amy and I plan to go there to have their regular Indian menu. (Maybe we can convince them to make us some of the wonderful dishes we had at this street-food event!)
Monica, if you are reading this, we need to do this again!