Last week, my friends and I had a takeaway. As a rule, when ordering takeout, there are three options: Chinese, Indian, or Pizza. Within these three options, whilst I love trying new things, my range is pretty limited: Chinese – beef in black bean or sweet and sour chick, Indian – lamb saag, and Pizza – pepperoni or bbq. With the exception of pizza, takeaway is really the only way I taste these different cuisines. I’ve never been to China or India, and whilst I cook my own curry with paste, I definitely cannot tell between different spices and don’t really know the difference between curries except that Vindaloo is seriously tongue-under-tap hot.
Last week I went up to Birmingham to visit my sister and we went out for dinner to an Indian restaurant called Asha’s. The restaurant itself is lovely, with impressive, bright floral decorations that glow different colours and cast shadows on the red walls. There was a lively atmosphere when we arrived so waiting for a table was actually enjoyable, surrounded as we were by conversations between the barmen and customers as well as the occupied tables.
As I said before, I’m fairly clueless when it comes to Indian dishes. I suggested Lamb Bharta because one of the ingredients was ‘Ashaji’s own garam masala’ and the vegetarian option was often served in Indian homes so it promised to be authentic. We decided to ask the waiter’s opinion for the second one. He recommended Ghar Ki Dal, which is made with yellow moong lentils. Both these were from recipes of ‘Asha Bole’ so I was excited to try them with a Peshwari nan.
I have to go through the dishes one by one because when they appear in my mind they fill it with such warm intensity the other one is sidelined for a moment. So, Lamb Bharta: minced lamb, aubergine, garam masala, coriander. It was a dark, warm red thick curry, with a depth that added layer upon layer of flavour. That’s what distinguished it from my previous experience with curry – the taste continued to evolve. I have also never had mince in a curry before, but it worked really well because the lamb was tender and the sauce was one with it. The Ghar Ki Dal (tempered yellow moong lentils with coriander and cumin) had a beautiful soft thick texture, its yellow vibrant, and when scooped up by the sweet peshwari nan with the Bharta already sinking into the bread it was red yellow sweet salty spiced soft intense loveliness which is quite difficult to describe. Washed down intermittently with Cobra beer and accompanied by the sneezes of a helpless man (which was hilarious and we all had a good laugh about it).
One of the most warming, delicious dining experiences ever!