Curse you Indian food!
I love you, but at the same time I hate you. Why can’t I cook you? Why do you withhold your secrets? Why???!!!
I’ve tried, I’ve really, really tried. The one dish I’ve mastered is Chicken Vindaloo (my fav) but every time I try something else I fail. Last night, I really thought I had it though. I had thrown together a Tofu Korma (spiced with madras curry powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, cardamom, and a bit of cinnamon) and it looked right, it smelled right, but it wasn’t right. It was weird because on the front end the flavor was bland, but on the back end it did have a nice kick. Maybe I just have super high standards for Indian food deliciousness? I’ve even followed recipes in Indian cookbooks and it still never works for me.
So this is probably the fifth Indian dish I’ve attempted that failed (the worst was the tandoori snapper, really thought that was going to be good but it wasn’t). Maybe I should just break down and start using copious amounts of ghee because I’m pretty sure that makes everything super tasty. I did use 2 teaspoons of butter while cooking last night, so maybe I should just start using a tad of ghee and a healthy oil? Either way, one day I’ll get it and it…will…be…GLORIOUS!
At any rate, since the dinner totally failed, we needed a vegetarian meal (since that’s what I had planned for that night) and I was really craving Indian, so a call was placed to Shaan Indian Cuisine in Hyde Park Plaza.
Shaan offers North Indian food, which is typical of offerings in Cincinnati (you have to look a bit harder to find South Indian). The first time we ate here we were a bit worried about it because the place was empty, but were then heartened by the amount of people going in and out with carryout orders. The last time we ate here it was packed, like crazy packed, so I guess other people are getting hip to how good it is.
The first item we got was the Vegetable Platter ($4.99), which is really just fried deliciousness. Samosas, vegetable pakoras, and paneer pakoras, how can you go wrong (other than the probably not that healthy thing – but I take comfort in the fact that at least they’re vegetables). Also does anyone know the difference between the two samosas? One is cone shaped and the other is more of a rectangle but as near as I can tell they have the exact same filling. We’re also huge fans of the accompanying sauces. Although we skip the mint chutney, we both devour the tamarind sauce, and I’m a big fan of the red onion “pickle” for its flavor and heat. For the carnivores out there they also have a Mixed Platter which includes chicken pakora, etc for $5.49 but we actually prefer the vegetable one.
I knew we needed lunch for tomorrow so we ended up ordering two entrees. The first was Malai Kofta level 4 (on a scale of 1 – 6) for $9.99. I love the creamy tomato and onion sauce, and the “vegetable balls” filled with potato and I’m not sure what else. There was a huge portion of both the meal and the rice. Does anybody feel like Indian restaurants give you way more when you get carryout then when you order in? Or is it just a perception issue due to the disparity in the size of the container they serve it in (a long shallow plate/bowl vs a big round plastic container?)
The second entrée we ordered was the Saag Mushroom, level 4 also for $9.99. One of my favorite and super unhealthy Indian dishes is Saag Paneer so I was trying to reduce the consumption of calories/fat at least a tiny bit by getting mushroom instead of paneer (especially since we got the appetizer). Quick side note – I find it a bit disconcerting when they ask for a heat level on saag dishes. It’s basically creamy spinach, I think I would have to get something ridiculous like a 9 on a scale of 1 – 6 for it to actually have some heat.
But after eating it we should have just gotten the paneer. While the mushroom saag was good, it was nowhere near the awesomeness that is Saag Paneer. Also, the spinach part reheated well, but the mushrooms did not. I ended up picking them out at lunch, which is weird because mushrooms are one of my favorite vegetables, very umami.
On a funny side note I think I may have scandalized the owner when I placed my order. I said no bread and I could hear the incredulousness in his voice “No Bread?!” Garlic Naan = Crazy Good, but when we’re getting all the fried vegetables I didn’t think we also needed to add the naan in there. Maybe next time we’ll just get the naan and no platter.
Our food was ready in 15 minutes, and with a $4 off $20 coupon came to $20.97. With tip $24. Considering how many meals we’re going to get out of it (5 – 6), it’s a huge value in my opinion for carryout (it is of course, almost always cheaper to cook at home but I already explained what happened to that plan). We won’t even be able to use all the rice so I’m contemplating a leftover rice frittata for Sunday breakfast.
I like that the prices at Shaan are slightly cheaper versus a Baba or Ambar (it being 5 minutes from my house doesn’t hurt). The owner is super friendly and outgoing, and the food hits the spot when you experience that Indian food craving. To sum it up: go and try it if you haven’t been.