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Favorites at India Palace include (clockwise from front) chicken tikka, Kasmiri pulao, bayngan bhurta and chicken tikka masala. (Photograph by Thom Thompson)Passage to India

With at least five Indian restaurants on or near its busy lanes, Kirkwood Highway could be considered a passage to India. When traveling along this east-west thoroughfare, one can find Indian cuisine predominantly of North Indian approach, though the cooking styles of all four regions are present.

Just a bit north of this stretch is India Palace. It is here where one will find authentic Northern Indian cuisine prepared by Sushil and Anjna Sharma, both from Punjab, a state in the northwest part of the country.

Like many Indians who have brought the cuisine to the United States, Sushil became interested in its preparation as a young man. His mother taught him the ropes, and a friend who had formally trained in the style helped Sushil to master the tandoor (a clay oven used to cook with charcoal).

The Sharmas focus on preparation of tandoori and Mughalai cuisine. Mughalai came from the Moguls, Muslims who ruled much of India from the 16th to 19th century, thus, the prevalence of raisins, cashews, almonds and walnuts in the fare.

The key to authentic Indian cuisine, the Sharmas say, is fresh ingredients and the proper masala—blending of spices such as curry, ginger, garlic and cumin seeds. Turmeric powder, a deep yellowish-orange, helps give dishes their color.

Spices are added to oil and cooked until a reddish or copper color. Then the meat or vegetable is added. It is mixed and left to cook, spreading the flavor throughout. Each dish contains a minimum of eight spices. Meats are marinated and cooked either curry style (in gravy) or in the tandoor.

Another key ingredient is patience. “Indian cuisine takes time,” says Sushil. “It can be expensive because it takes time to prepare.”

Himalaya Indian Restaurant
2671 Kirkwood Hwy.
Meadowood Shopping Center
Newark, 369-3993

Owner Krish Obillaneni favors the South Indian style of cooking, which he refers to as homestyle. Himalaya’s focus on the southern cuisine is meant to distinguish it from the many Indian restaurants along Kirkwood Highway, most of which lean toward Punjabi cuisine. Obillaneni keeps a number of northern dishes on the menu for customers who prefer that style. The Chicken 65, an appetizer from Hyderabadi in southern India, is cooked with fried curry leaves, yogurt and spices. The masala dosa—a crispy rice crêpe layered with a special paste, potatoes and onions—could be addictive. Biryani of vegetable, chicken, lamb or shrimp is marinated in exotic spices, stirred with onion, ginger and green peppers, then steamed with basmati rice to spread the flavors throughout.

India Grille
3456 Naamans Road
Tally-Ho Shopping Center
Wilmington, 478-2428

If variety is the spice of life, India Grille’s got kick. The menu of more than 100 dishes, including soups and salads, welcomes you “to the land of one thousand and one spices of Indian cuisine.” The non-vegetable appetizer is a combination of meats: meat samosa, chi-tikka, shish kabab and shrimp pakora (or shrimp fritters). A selection of five soups includes the standard offering of tomato with spices and curry seasoning, lentil, coconut cooked with pistachios and cardamom, chicken and mulligatawny—an East Indian soup with a lentil base and vegetable and curry seasoning. For dessert, try the coconut kulfi—frozen milk and cream flavored with coconut.

India Palace Indian Restaurant
101 N. Maryland Ave.
Wilmington, 655-8772

Sushil and Anjna Sharma welcome you into their corner restaurant as if it were their home. The couple, from Punjab, India, has brought locals Mughalai and tandoori cuisine since 1991. The Mughalai style originates from the Kashmir region along the northern Indian border and features nuts and dried fruits. A classic Mughalai entrée is chicken shahi korma: marinated chicken simmered in cream with spices and cashews. Other popular dishes at India Palace include the chicken saag: boneless chicken pieces cooked with creamed spinach and enhanced with mild Indian spices; and lamb korma, cooked in mild cream sauce with cashews. Breads such as tandoori roti, made from whole wheat rather than flour, and the garlic naan are baked fresh in the tandoor each day. Some regulars visit often for the kheer—cardamom flavored rice pudding garnished with nuts.

Page 2: More Indian Cuisine

 

Maharaja Indian Cuisine
1450 Kirkwood Hwy.
Shoppes of Red Mill, Suite 121
Newark, 369-1202

Maharaja offers fine Indian dining in an elegant but casual setting. Leaving the strip mall facade behind, as is required in most Indian restaurants in this area, you are welcomed in the foyer by ornately framed paintings of jeweled elephants. The light yellow faux bricks that form the walls in the dining room are complemented by the deep burgundy of the curtains, booth cushions and tablecloths. Classical music completes the feel. The extravagant dinner buffet offers favorites such as gobhi Mancurian, mutter pamner, sambar, aloo gobhi, yellow dal, malaikofia, green beans and lamb vindaloo, to name a few. From the menu, the spicy shrimp pakora is made with jumbo shrimp marinated with chick peas, flour and aromatic spices. Vindaloo dishes—spiced cubes of your choice of meat—are cooked with potatoes in a tangy goan sauce made from coconut and mangosteen, a sweet, juicy tropical fruit. Warning to those who avoid spicy heat—this dish is a hotty.

Palace of Asia
3421 Kirkwood Hwy.
Wilmington, 994-9200

Located next to the Blockbuster at the former site of Café Bellissimo, Palace of Asia is a regional chain worth checking out, albeit a bit pricier than its local relatives. The ornate dining rooms and bar present a classy atmosphere inspired by the architecture of the royal courts of India. In-house lunch and dinner combinations offer various choices of appetizers and entrées, all served with naan and paratha, mint and tamarind chutneys, raita, sliced salad, achar (an Indian pickle), papadum, soda bar and choice of two desserts.

Star of India
1710A Newport Gap Pike
Wilmington, 999-0855, 999-1802

At the beginning of this year, the Star of India in Newark was uprooted and moved to this location, formerly called Indian Paradise Restaurant. Star of India regulars will have to follow their favorite food to this unassuming locale behind Prices Corner Shopping Center, but they can take comfort in the fact that the Star menu will remain intact. The special Sunday dinner buffet will no doubt remain a hit.

Taste of India
2628 Kirkwood Hwy.
Meadowood II Shopping Center
Newark, 737-9483

When owner Gian Singh P greets you, his white, close-cropped beard and black turban make you feel like you’re in Punjab. This spacious but comfortable restaurant includes a full-service bar and seats 75, with an adjoining banquet hall that accommodates 125. The faux white brick walls, dark woods, a classy elephant border and large copper serving dishes at the buffet add to the feel. The cuisine is primarily northern, featuring plenty of dishes finished in the clay tandoor oven. The tandoori mixed grill includes a combination of tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, seekh kabab, boti kabab and shrimp grilled in tandoor, all served with a fresh garden salad. Another filling entrée is the chef combination dinner: soup, papadum, seekh kabab, chicken tikka, lamb or chicken curry, vegetable korma, rice, mango chutney and naan bread. Kids specials include shashlik: skewered cubes of chicken or cheese, onions and tomatoes served on a bed of saffron rice with homemade yogurt sauce.

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