Did you know that Indian cuisine, the kind offered at Tandoor Cuisine of India restaurant, is the most vegetarian of any ethnic cuisine in the world?
In fact, the Love Food organization considers it the “most veggie-friendly” of all ethnic eats by far. They claim that a full 40% of India’s burgeoning population is vegetarian, and a large percentage of that number are strictly so, eating no eggs or fish.
There are traceable reasons for this vegetarian bent among India’s people. One is the agrarian heritage there. Dating back at least to 1000 BCE, geography has caused a natural gravitation toward vegetables. Fertile land, optimum growing seasons and high per capita numbers in relation to the land available made agriculture a more sensible approach than animal husbandry in feeding the masses. Said another way, in a densely populated country, historians claim that using every cubit of land for crops made the most sense. So, that’s what Indians did then and still do now.
Religion is another traceable factor. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism each in their dogmas, advocate “ahimsa,” which means non-violence. Each of the three religions believes in the underlying connection or unity of all beings, human, animal, and even insect. Also, each believes in reincarnation. Enter the concept of “karma.” If a person leads a correct life, eating only vegetarian food, for example, that is a non-violent attitude toward domesticated animals. Such a person, the belief goes, will be reincarnated at a higher level in the human caste system. Incorrect living? You could come back as the family cow, or worse, a bug of some sort, to be squashed by a careless foot or splatted on a windshield traveling at a high rate. Not what you’d want, in any event, so why not eat veggies and stack the deck in your favor?
At Tandoor Cuisine of India, meat is available. Tandoor features chicken, lamb and fish dishes. But vegetable dishes, such as mushroom matter, often are the stars of the show for many diners out. The matter dish is a combination of mushrooms, which predominate, and peas in a modestly thick brown sauce. We have talked to diners such as Bill Lipsky, who come to Tandoor primarily on Fridays for lunch because that dish, the mushroom matter, is on the buffet.
A woman at the buffet made the same remark: “Today, Friday, they have this mushroom entrée on the buffet. I love that dish! It’s probably my favorite of all the Indian food I’ve eaten, and being a vegetarian, there are a lot of items to choose from here. Tandoor does about the best job, I think, and I’ve tried just about every Indian restaurant in this city. So, I come here, and mostly on Fridays for lunch, because I love the mushrooms and peas. This vegetable jalfrazie is very good too, a little spicy, but very good.”
On the buffet there is nan, the Indian flatbread, and tasty lemon rice, along with a section for tandoori chicken and other meat dishes. For kosher-style diners out, the main part of the buffet is vegetarian with plenty of variety. On the Friday of my visit, there was saag paneer, a spinach dish made with cheese. In addition, there were perhaps four or five more trays of vegetarian dishes. Of course, most of the meat dishes and fish selections on the menu are suitable for kosher-style dining as well.
Naren Patel, owner of this venerable restaurant, often is found in the kitchen putting together the dishes that are brought to the buffet. He is native Indian, and steeped in the cuisine of his homeland, but with a regional twist. He says his dishes come primarily from Northern India, where an East European connection exists. That connection carried influences.
“These influences came into the North of India and never really went beyond that area of my country,” Patel said.
That northern part of India is rich in fresh produce, vegetables such as eggplant, squash, spinach, potatoes, okra, carrots. While you can order entrée items that are firecracker hot, many of the dishes tend toward subtle flavors and more delicate taste profiles – frankly, more the way I like them. But that is the beauty of Indian cuisine; you can have it as mild or as spicy as you want. For Jewish patrons who dine out, that is a benefit when kosher style dining is the goal, because the kitchen has the ability to alter recipes to accommodate dietary needs.
See you at Tandoor, Cuisine of India!
Tandoor, Cuisine of India
8702 Market Place Lane
Montgomery, Ohio, 45242