Atlanta Magazine :: October 2009 :: Spice Routes :: Northern India

Spice Routes - Northern India

Stories 1 to 4 of 5

About Northern Indian Cuisine

Anyone who has eaten even once at a nonvegetarian Indian restaurant will likely remember the dusky brown sauces and cream-based curries that envelop hunks of meat, the fried samosas stuffed with spiced potatoes, puffy naan breads slick with butter, and the oversize piles of rice called biryani. They all stem from the Islamic, Persian-influenced cooking of the Mughal Empire, which reigned over the whole of India from its northern seat for four centuries. Frankly, much of this cooking, in its restaurant iterations, can be bland and slapdash. I’ve found only two local restaurants at which I’m genuinely impressed by the North Indian food, and two others with noteworthy Pakistani food. Pakistan was part of northern India under British rule until the violent separation known as Partition in 1947. Rarely do restaurants identify themselves purely as Pakistani—in part because, as with so many facets of the two nations’ complexly entwined cultures, North India and Pakistan share congruent cooking styles. Read More


It might seem contradictory that a restaurant with the tagline “Fusion—Homestyle Indian—Tapas” would serve the most attuned North Indian dishes in the area, but New Delhi native Archna Becker—who owns the restaurant with her family—holds a marketing degree from Georgia State University: She’s inclined to pepper her business slogans with distinguishing language. Bhojanic’s lamb curry has the classic murky complexion, but the kitchen grinds its own spice combinations (many restaurants use packaged spice blends), so the flavors chime on the palate with greater clarity. Punjabi kadhi—fluffy onion dumplings in a yogurt sauce with layers of spiced nuance—is a comforting recipe from Becker’s grandmother. India has become one of the largest producers of corn in the world, and its most famous use of cornmeal is makki ki roti, a thin flatbread—thinner, firmer, and flakier than hoecakes. A thick dip of roasted eggplant, tomato, and caramelized onion accompanies Bhojanic’s roti. The menu does occasionally meander into fusion-ish territories: Malaysian breads, shrimp seasoned in a South Indian manner, cheesecake for dessert. I stick to the superior Northern specialties. 1363 Clairmont Road, Decatur, 404-633-9233, Read More


After staining my tongue crimson too many times on scrawny, desiccated pieces of so-called “tandoori chicken,” the meats at Tadka look and taste like an epiphany. Tadka eschews the heavy use of red food coloring that most North Indian restaurants chuck into their marinades, and it cooks chicken, lamb, seafood, and kebabs slowly over charcoal in a genuine tandoor—the country’s traditional, barrel-shaped oven. The kitchen staff stays attentive so the proteins, even the shrimp, emerge moist and plump. Vegetable curries hail from all over the Indian map: If you’d like to stick to the North, order dum aloo Kashmiri—small potatoes in cream gravy enlivened by tomato, onion, garam masala (a sweet spice mix), and fennel seed. 11105 State Bridge Road, Alpharetta, 770-817-7788, Read More


The name is a misnomer: Sultry Pakistani stews, rather than tandoor-cooked dishes, draw an increasing base of loyalists here. Owner Shamshad Karim, who lived in both India and Pakistan as a child, frequently runs a one-man shop, and the utter lack of decor makes his storefront better for carryout. But oh, his nehari—unctuous, slow-cooked beef in a ruddy broth topped with ginger shreds that slice through the richness. Even better is his haleem, an odd-sounding porridge made of ground meat (in this case, goat), lentils, and flour simmered until all the ingredients combine into the culinary version of a warm hug. The meat-free equivalent is chana dal, a thick potage of spiced split chickpeas cooked into a silky puree and intensified with green chiles. Sop the sauces with a tortillalike chapati flatbread. 279 Powers Ferry Road, Marietta, 678-560-2038 Read More