Above: Pictures taken during my trip last March – April 2013.
My mind is still full of vivid memories and striking imagery following my 6-week trip to India last year: The indigo-coloured buildings; the jurassic calls of hidden peacocks; monkeys cartwheeling across telegraph wires; the cries from the street seller pouring lassi into tall terracotta cups; road horns, and oh boy, the food.
It’s very easy to eat like a vegetarian king in India. As you’d suspect, the food is pretty different to what’s served up across UK curry houses. You haven’t really eaten authentic Indian food until you’ve actually been to India. But as I found out yesterday, you can come very close.
Last night was a trip down memory lane. Me and the fella went to a Norwich-based restaurant: Namaste India “Norfolk’s first Indian vegetarian restaurant”. A small family business focused on serving health Indian cuisine, 80% of the dishes served are vegan or gluten free.
The interior reminded me of the unfussy canteens you find across India, and unlike typical curry houses, there wasn’t a drop of alcohol or a red and white tablecloth in sight. What a refreshing change. You don’t need alcohol, when traditional mango lassis are on the menu.
As all the dishes came piling out, it was clear that everything was handmade, including the tasty pickles and chutneys we were brought to accompany our popadoms: pomegranate raita, mango chutney and a firey lime and chilli pickle.
For starters we had the Aloo Bonda (GF) (potato bhajis) – Spice infused stuffed Potato fritters with mustard seeds. These were delicious with the homemade chutneys.
I was so excited to see Masala Dosa on the menu: A south Indian dish which is usually eaten for breakfast. It’s a rice and lentil flour crepe filled with a dry, light spiced potato and onion curry and served with lentil soup (sambhar) and cool coconut chutney. You simply tear off a piece of the crepe with your fingers and dip this into your lentil soup and coconut chutney. Bliss.
My other half went for the mixed vegetable curry – a korma with a difference: Prepared with Namaste’s homemade special sweet, mildly spicy and creamy sauce. It as very unlike the typical Korma you’ll find in a curry house, instead of a bright yellow colour, it was a natural pale brown nutty coconut colour. And spicier than you’d expect. This was served with cumin basmati rice and some plain paratha – Indian flat bread made by pan-frying whole wheat dough on Tava.
The meal cost less than £37 for two which included two mango lassis, a mango juice, popadoms and chutneys, a starter to share, two mains, rice and Paratha bread. If we had room, we would have gone for the Masala Chai tea and Khir (an Indian style rice pudding, served cold – the creamiest dessert you’ll ever taste). The staff were so friendly at Namaste India, their hospitality reminded me of the reception you’d receive eating out in India, where there’s a high level of pride and care taken to look after guests and the food they serve. The owner was such a lovely chap, very warm and genuine, taking an interest in each of his guests. What a difference that makes.
It seems that Indian food inspires all sorts of indigo-coloured dreams in my life. After our meal here, me and my other half made a bit of a pact, that we’d to return to India, this time perhaps by a different mode of transport. On one of his motorbikes. At this stage it’s just a pipe dream, but who knows with us!
For more info about Namaste India Restaurant, go to:
2A Opie St, Norwich, Norfolk NR1 3DN
01603 662 016