Indian cuisine is characterized by its use of spices and huge assortment of cooking techniques. Cuisine varies from region to region, but most Indian restaurants offer favorites that both children and adults will find delectable.
For starters, try samosas, deep fried and savory pastries filled with potatoes and peas, and Vegetable Pakoras, mildly spiced veggie fritters. For a main course, try the renowned Tandoori Chicken: succulent pieces of chicken marinated in yogurt and mild spices and cooked in the tandoor, a clay fire-oven. Biryanis are saffron and herb infused rice-based dishes accompanied by your choice of roasted chicken, lamb or veggies.
No Indian dinner out is complete without a side serving of Naan, a toasty, puffy, tandoor-baked flatbread that can be ordered plain or filled with everything from spiced potatoes to minced meat. Don't forget to sample some veggie main courses as well: Paneer Makhani is a rich dish of cottage cheese cubes marinated in a creamy tomato sauce; Aloo Gobi is a cauliflower and potato stew mildly spiced with ginger and herbs; and Vegetable Jhalfrezi is mixed veggies pan fried and tossed with tangy bell peppers.
Children will delight in the Mango Lassi, a sweet drink of pureed mangos mixed with fresh, creamy yogurt. Little tea lovers should try the masala chai, a spiced, sweet milky tea. For dessert, enjoy some Kulfi, Indian ice cream in fruity tropical flavors. Gulab Jamun are warm, sweet pastry balls, similar to doughnuts, soaked in a saffrony syrup.
India House, at 57 W. Grand in downtown Chicago, offers an excellent all-you-can-eat lunch buffet that's perfect for families: pick and choose exactly what you want and try new dishes as the menu rotates through the seasons.
Tiffin is also a great option and its location on Devon Avenue will transport you direct to India via Chicago. Be sure to try the Masala Dosai, rice flour crepes with onion and potato filling, and Chole Peshawari, a chickpea and potato stew that originates from the region near the Afghani border. Check out the rear of the restaurant where kids can watch the chef prepare Naan in the traditional tandoor fire-oven.
While on Devon, pick up some pretty and inexpensive bangle bracelets for your daughters from one the many fashion boutiques that dot the avenue. Patel Brother's supermarket at 2610 W. Devon is the place to find a case of mangoes when they're in season, as well as all the spices you'll need to prepare your own special Indian feast at home.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
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