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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gandhi Mahal

Begun Borta (eggplant), Chashi Motor Paneer (cheese and peas in
creamy almond and cashew gravy), basmati rice and
Moghal Saagwalla (spinach, onion and lamb). 
Papadam
Onion Bhaji, eggplant- potato- cauliflower pakoras and papadam  (cumin wafer)
Condiments for appetizer platter: tamarind, cilantro and pickled onion
Ever since I was a young runt my parents have been taking my siblings and I out to Indian restaurants. Because I have been familiarized with Indian spices and flavors, I have learned how to differentiate good from bad Indian food. My parents claim that Gandhi Mahal is the best Indian restaurant in the Twin Cities and until tonight I had never tried it. They claim the flavors reach a complexity few are able to master. Naturally, I was eager to determine it's greatness or lack there of for myself. Gandhi Mahal is located in the Longfellow neighborhood at 3009 27th Avenue South. The interior is painted in rich reds and oranges, giving it a sense of warmth. The restaurant is fairly large with three main dining rooms, booths, tables and a buffet station utilized during lunch. My parents and I slid into a back booth and ordered an appetizer combo to start. The four offerings are all deep fried yet pack more flavor that one might expect out of fried foods. My favorite was the pakora, a fried snack eaten all across South Asia. Pakoras are often made with potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, tomato, chili or plantain. Accompanied by the tamarind, cilantro and pickled onion condiments, the fried appetizers please the senses and the pocket at an affordable $5. For the entrees, we ordered garlic naan, an eggplant, paneer and lamb dish. For starters, Begun Borta the eggplant dish is made with grilled, pureed eggplant, and a slew of spices including: coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, tomato paste, turmeric, garam masala and cumin. The dish was fairly mild and sweet from the grilled eggplant. I am not usually a fan of eggplant, but this was delicious and full of flavor. Secondly, we sampled the lamb dish Moghal Saagwalla, an aromatic combination of tender lamb, spinach, onions, spices and mint leaves. This was my favorite dish because it tasted as if it had been cooking at a slow simmer for days collecting and building flavor by the minute. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender and added a depth to the sauce. Lastly, we try the pea and paneer dish. Paneer is a fresh cheese popular in South Asian cuisine. The cheese dates back to 3000 BCE and is made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar and yogurt. Paneer is my favorite cheese for its density, similar to farmers cheese or queso fresco. The base is a combination of peas almond, and cashew gravy. The gravy is thickened with heavy cream which adds richness to this already luxurious dish. As my parents had eluded, the flavors and spices seem to produce a superior level of complexity compared with other Indian restaurants I have tried. This leads me to believe that they muddle their own fresh spices and simmer their own curries daily (I will investigate and report back!). I was thoroughly impressed and pleasantly surprised by my parents diamond in the rough discovery! 


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