Indian Empire

Indian Empire1

Indian Empire
64 George St
Launceston, TAS 7250
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 6331 2500

I love Indian food. There’s no way that anyone who knows ANYTHING about me couldn’t know this. What I love most about visiting different Indian restaurants is that they often have very similar menus, but they all make everything differently/in their own way. Indian Empire is no exception to this.

Prior to my visit, I didn’t think to see if their menu was online. It in fact is. So… When I arrived and looked over the vegetarian section, I was feeling a bit nervous and uncomfortable. Just about everything there was known to me as containing cream, or was listed as containing paneer… Then I panicked and thought “what if they use ghee in everything???”.

Thankfully, the woman managing the restaurant was really helpful and accommodating – and best of all, she didn’t pull a face at me for being vegan. She pointed out a number of items in the vegetarian section that could be made without the cream, or could be made with vegetables instead of paneer, and she assured me that there wouldn’t be any ghee in my meals. ROCK AND ROLL, KIDS. Would it be inappropriate for me to propose to her? Probably… I’m sure she didn’t “swing that way” and neither do I (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – plus, Mr. AA was sitting right across from me.

Indian Empire2

These onion bhaji were very different to the ones I get at my favourite local restaurant, Curry Garden (which will forever be known in Bendigo as the “downstairs Indian restaurant” because there’s an inferior Indian restaurant next door and upstairs) – BUT they were almost as good. For a start, these were in clusters rather than rings and the seasoning was only very light. These would have been excellent if they weren’t burned.

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The first main I chose (YES I CHOSE MORE THAN ONE!) was the dal makhani. I haven’t had one of these since going vegan because they’re always made with cream and every other restaurant I’ve been to has been unwilling to compromise on this.

This used to be my favourite curry… And I think it still is. Though really, it’s hard to pick just one. Normally dal makhani is mild, sweet and runny but this one had a bit of kick to it and it was really thick, rich and earthy. When I say that, what I mean is – you know you’re eating lentils. That’s definitely not a bad thing if you’re crazy about lentils like I am. I’d eat this curry over and over again in a heart beat.

Indian Empire4

My second choice was the vindaloo, made with vegetables instead of paneer. Holy hell. This had a tomato base and was heavy with a very aromatic mix of spices… Topped with the kind of heat that made my mouth tingle and my nose run. The best part was that even though it was hot, I could still taste all the flavours. I could actually decipher individual vegetables on my palette. That’s how spicy food should be, people!

I also ordered rice and roti, but didn’t photograph them. Rice is rice, not much to say there. The roti was perfectly thick and chewy – I hate when restaurants make their roti too thin and crispy – what kind of sauce do they expect you to mop up with that?

Heartfood

Hi Everyone!

Sorry I’ve been MIA – I just arrived home from a fabulous trip in Tasmania, where Mr. AA & I got engaged. I have plenty of updates coming up for you (both eatery reviews and recipes), so stay tuned!

When we arrived in Hobart, even before checking in to our cabin, I insisted on making a special stop for lunch. We’d heard of a place called “Heartfood” via the Happy Cow website, so we made our way into town. Hobart is a surprisingly easy city to navigate – once you have all the one way streets worked out. After 3 days, we felt like locals! Ha.

Heartfood1

Heartfood
64 Liverpool Street
Hobart TAS 7000
AUSTRALIA
(03) 6234 2884 ‎

Heartfood is a little take away shop – much smaller than I was expecting – that’s only open for lunch. There’s 4x tables of two in there and a giant floor-to-ceiling mirror to make you feel a little less claustrophobic. Mr. AA & I sat at a table looking out, watching the hustle and bustle of Liverpool St. If you don’t fancy sitting inside, there’s a communal outdoor eating area that all the surrounding eateries share which is just a short walk to the other end of the arcade.

Heartfood2

This was the first thing I saw when I walked in and I might have let out a little squeal of excitement when I realised they had sweets I could eat (I’m not kidding). To the right of this was a drinks fridge, which not only stocked Phoenix cola, but also coconut water with no additives (I don’t know about y’all, but I struggle to find coconut water that doesn’t contain sugar – what’s with that?)! To the left was the bain marie, which housed all the hot, savoury options which change daily.

Heartfood3

All of the dishes were clearly marked – most of them were both gluten free and vegan. I was having a lot of trouble making a decision, so I chose to try two dishes with rice.

Heartfood4

At the back is a tomato/veg/tofu dish. Mild and not overpowering – but not too bland either… Though it seemed pretty dull compared to the amazing coconut milk curry on the left. None of the food was spicy, so if you don’t dig chili, then you’re in for a treat.

Heartfood5

This was the vegetarian lasagne (not vegan) and a couple of vegetable pakoras. Mr. AA said these were both excellent and he was thoroughly satisfied!

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I have no idea why this is called a “rainbow cookie”, but it was AWESOME. It was like a chewy muesli bar bite with chocolate on top. I might have gone back for another one of these.

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I went back on another day during our trip for a take-away lunch (yes, I liked the food that much) and got another great veggie curry! This one was tomato based (not creamy) and comparable to a mild aloo mutter, only with a bigger variety of veggies in it.

I was thoroughly satisfied and impressed and wish there was a Heartfood around the corner from where I work, so could eat there every day! It actually made me a little homesick for Lentil As Anything.

Dhosa Hut

Dhosa Hut 1
Dhosa Hut
32 – 42 High Street
Bendigo VIC 3550
AUSTRALIA
P: (03) 5443 3222

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Dhosa Hut is a really pleasant restaurant to be inside. It’s clean, modern and welcoming. I wish I’d taken more photos for you!

Dhosa Hut 3
Battered chili (using chickpea flour). This didn’t sound too appealing to me on the menu but I was admittedly curious. Someone else on our table ordered it and after being assured it was vegan, I decided to have a taste and I actually REALLY liked it. It was well seasoned and fairly mild (well, for a fried chili!).

Dhosa Hut 4
This is the eggplant masala – it’s normally something I’d avoid because almost every other eggplant masala I’ve ever had has been swimming in oil, but this one was rather lean and had other veggies mixed in with it. I’m not sure if the red cabbage had any purpose other than to look pretty, though.

Sadly and surprisingly, this was the ONLY vegan main on the menu – AT AN INDIAN RESTAURANT. Sorry guys, but… WTF? I asked lots of questions about the menu (the waiter was very helpful and patient with me); I was keen to have a dahl, but all three dahls on the menu contained dairy and couldn’t be made vegan for me. Sadface.

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Saffron rice.

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Stuffed bread (onion & spices). Definitely a winner!

At the time, we were the only table of patrons in the restaurant and the meals were coming out very slowly. Granted there was 9 adults and a child at our table – but we’d made our booking well in advance. I suspect that there was only one person working in the kitchen that night and he/she was feeling the pressure. The meals came out in a fairly orderly fashion, but the breads were all over the place. Some arrived before the meals and others (mine) didn’t arive until well after I’d finished my curry – and I was eating my curry VERY slowly. What’s the point of ordering bread, if not to mop up some curry, right?

Staff were friendly but the kitchen was slow. If you were to order take-away, you’re likely to get much better service. Sadly I won’t be heading back here – not only because there was only ONE thing on the menu I could eat, but also because there’s a far better Indian restaurant down the road (which I’ll definitely be reviewing for you in the near future).

Dhosa Hut on Urbanspoon

Panch Phora (Bengali 5 Spice)

I’ve been keeping myself very busy this weekend. Among the many house chores I took on, I decided to finally fill up my new herb/spice jars and label them because I tend to be a little crazy about having things in the kitchen organised. Unfortunately I underestimated how many jars I’d need and below this drawer is another full drawer of little bags of herbs & spices with pegs holding them closed!

Spice Drawer

I hope y’all don’t feel that today’s post is a bit of a cop out because trust me – it’s an awesome spice mix and it’s going to come up on this blog more than a few times. It has many uses; my favourite is Mr. AA’s fiery Burmese style laksa (a cross between laksa & khao suey). The particular recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on one published by Charmaine Solomon.

Panch Phora

2 TBSP Yellow Mustard Seeds
2 TBSP Nigella/Kalonji (these look like little matte black sesame seeds)
2 TBSP Cumin Seeds
1 TBSP Fenugreek Seeds
1 TBSP Fennel Seeds

Mix together and store in an air tight jar!

(r)Adelaide: Vego To Go

I want to preface this with an apology about the shitty photos. I was traveling, excited to eat and on this occassion forgot to bring my camera along and had to take photos with my boss’ iPhone. Whoops… Nevertheless, I have plenty to say about my experience!

Vego To Go
Norwood Mall
Shp 12/The Parade
Norwood SA 5067
Australia

Cabinet

I’ve gotta tell you guys – when I walked in and saw this cabinet, I just about pissed my pants with excitement. There was a lot of variety and much of it was vegan. To top it off, anything that was vegan was very clearly labeled. This made me oh so happy! The only down side was that my brain switched to over drive and I had no idea what I wanted to order. It’s not often that I go out in public and am faced with more than two choices!

I started off with a rice ball (pictured below). This was about the size of my fist and came with a really yellow-y peanut sauce that got me thinking about all the different peanut sauces I’ve tried in my time. Everyone makes it different! This one was sweet and delicious and really complimented the rice ball which was fairly simple in flavour. On the inside, it seemed to be dotted with flakes or nori and what I suspect was red capsicum. It was GOOD.

Rice Ball

Next, I tried the vindaloo, which was recommended by the girl behind the counter. I’m always up for something fiery, so this excited me! As you can see, there was a variety of veggies in there and the dish was seriously packed with flavour – I loved it. The only let down, for me, was that when I order vindaloo, I expect to walk away with my mouth tingling. Unfortunately, my nose barely ran. I understand WHY they’re conservative with the heat, but I wish they weren’t. That being said, it really was delicious and I wouldn’t give it back.

Vindaloo

This is my boss’ Thai green curry. I stole a piece of broccoli out of it, but I didn’t really taste the dish as a whole. What I can tell you is that it smelled great, it was vegan and my boss liked it (and he’s not even remotely veggo).

Thai Green Curry

Finally, these are the veggie balls (vegan) served with a vegetarian mint yoghurt dipping sauce. My co-worker ordered these and while I didn’t taste them, I was assured that they were great! These didn’t look like some kind of run-of-the mill potato-flour based thing – they had a really good variety of mixed veggies in them.

Veggie Balls

The serves at Vego To Go are really decent and won’t leave you hungry – but they will make you somehow want more! The food was really tasty, the labels were clear (from memory, I think GF items were also labeled) and the cutlery was made from bamboo. The only thing I didn’t really like was that it was a small shop which felt crowded even when it wasn’t full but I can’t really complain too much because we scored a quiet table in the corner. I’d just warn you that the set up is more like a take-away shop than a café.

If I hadn’t already planned to visit another place the next day, I would definitely have gone back to try more of the menu. I highly recommend the food here and will drop in again next time I’m in (r)Adelaide!

Las Vegas: Mint Indian Bistro

Mint Indian Bistro
730 East Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119, United States
(702) 894-9334

Mr. AA & I recently returned home from a stylish road trip in a Mustang up the west coast of the USA; we then visited Vancouver & Winnipeg. Over the coming weeks, I’ll update you all on some of our food adventures.

Pictured below is Mint Indian Bistro in Las Vegas. Check it out – there’s Mr. AA making a cameo at the bottom left. What a stud muffin!

Mint 1

Eating in Las Vegas was a challenge for me to say the least. You’d think that among all those ridiculous buffets there would be several vegan options but in truth, guys, the ones I experienced had steamed veggies drowning in melted butter and salads smothered in ranch dressing and other questionable things. Even the breakfast buffets were a nightmare for me – providing fruit from a can as the only vegan option. More than once, I was almost in tears because I was JUST THAT HUNGRY.

I want to first warn you all that Mint is not walking distance from the Las Vegas strip – especially on a hot day – no matter how small the street blocks look on Google Maps.

My poor pale skin was frying under the harsh Nevada sun that day and I was aching for a seat and a cold drink. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, we hailed a cab driver, who took us half a block further to the restaurant. We’d almost made it by foot; but I wouldn’t recommend it.

From the outside, Mint looked a little questionable to me, but we walked in and were greeted by really friendly staff and strong, cold, Indian beer. The exterior is pretty deceiving; on the inside, Mint is actually a really nice, unintimidating restaurant. It’s classy, inviting and unpretentious.

And now, you finally get to see my face! Shamefully, I only drank about 25% of this beer. I was worried about bloating and really wanted as much room in my stomach for Indian food as possible at that moment.

Mint 2

We started with the “organic Himalayan samosas” which were stuffed with peas and potatoes. I’m often weary of samosas because I don’t like ultra greasy food – these, however, were just right. And the DIPPING SAUCES! Oh, how I wish you could taste this photo. The darker one is a tamarind sauce which was sweet and tangy and the green one is a mint chutney. Both were excellent but I preferred the mint chutney while Mr. AA preferred the tamarind sauce. This suited me just fine because it meant we weren’t silently racing each other to the best one!

Mint 3

Here is where I tell you that I was treated like ROYALTY, just for being vegan. When I explained my dietary requirements to the waiter, the manager was at our table having a good old chat with me in minutes and he was excited for me to try something that wasn’t even on the menu yet – a vegan version of the “karma korma”, made with almond milk. He looked far too proud for me to turn him down and honestly, if someone wants to feed me right, who am I to complain??

Below is: garlic naan, butter chicken (Mr. AA’s meal, not vegan), dal tadka, rice, vegan korma & roti. I’d actually tried ordering the dal maharani instead of the dal tadka at first because it was labeled as vegan friendly on the menu, however that wasn’t the case. Thankfully the waiter had the know-how to correct this for me verbally!

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We were pretty satisfied by the end of this and pretty much ready to ROLL out of the restaurant. I was mildly upset that I didn’t have room for dessert but that feeling was quickly alleviated when we were invited to come back for the lunch buffet. So yes, two days later, before we left Las Vegas, we went back for one last hoorah. Check out this plate of awesomeness!

Spicy tomato soup, potato & spinach curry, dal again, vegetable pakoras, 2 kinds of rice (one plain and one spiced), chickpea salad and that incredible mint chutney again! Everything here was incredibly impressive – the tomato soup was especially amazing.

Mint 5

And here it is – vegan dessert! While one of these little donut-like dumplings in syrup would have been enough, I was feeling especially gluttonous and ate three. The syrup was spiced with cinnamon and it was just DIVINE.

Mint 6

I’ve been to Indian restaurants across Australia, Japan and now America and this is absolutely one of my top two. I highly recommend you visit it if you’re in Las Vegas, whether you’re vegan or not!

Mint Indian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Book Review: The Indian Vegan Kitchen

IndianVeganKitchenBookCover

Yes, that’s a JB Hi-Fi receipt I’ve been using as a bookmark. I’m classy (thrifty) like that.

So far, I’ve tried four recipes from this book: Cabbage Mixed Vegetables (p. 108), Tomato Rice (p. 144), Zucchini Tomato Dal (p. 136) & Creamy Mushroom Curry (p. 103). The first two listed are pictured below.

IndianVeganKitchenDishes

I’m going to review this in point form so it’s short and sweet.

The Good:

  • Most of the recipes are simple and very straight forward.
  • The book does contain slightly more difficult recipes but they are difficult in the sense that they’re more time consuming as opposed to requiring special techniques.
  • The lists of spices are short and unintimidating (this is also a bad point!).
  • The ingredients are easy to find.
  • The creamy mushroom curry is a serious winner.
  • There is nutritional information for each recipe and suggestions on how big the serves should be. This is a major plus for those who are counting calories etc.

The Bad:

  • Aside from the cover, this book doesn’t contain photographs which can be a little overwhelming for the inexperienced and/or unconfident cook.
  • The short, simple lists of spices mean that the dishes often lack complexity and feel unfinished.
  • There is no pumpkin in this book, which I found odd and a little frustrating, especially considering I have 3 giant pumpkins at home at the moment. There is also no recipe for korma – so I’ll endeavour to work on this and bring you a recipe for it in the near future!

While this book isn’t perfect, I certainly don’t regret buying it. It’s a valuable addition to my cookbook collection and I don’t doubt that I’ll be referring back to it often – especially when I’m in the mood for some quick Indian food and don’t have the cash for take-out.