In metropolitan areas nationwide, Indian restaurants are popular. That includes Des Moines and its surrounding communities. The complex, layered spices of Indian cuisine lend exotic flavor to simple ingredients, including chicken, lentils and vegetables.
Indian food provides a spicy, comforting homecoming for those who love Southeast Asian cooking and are new to Des Moines or have moved from one part of the metro area to another.
No two Indian restaurants are likely to have the same items on their menu, because India is a huge country with distinctive culinary traditions based on geographic areas. These regions are roughly defined as the northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the country. The online hospitality company TableAgent notes that except for pappadam, a rice cracker spiced with black peppercorns, southern Indian dishes aren't frequently served in in Indo-American restaurants. However, southern dishes do pop up in some metro Des Moines' restaurants.
Eastern India is known for its lightly spiced seafood and desserts. Seafood is also big in western India where Portuguese influences also make that area home to beef and pork specialties. TableAgent explains that Portuguese culinary tradition is responsible for eastern India's spicy hot Vindaloo dishes, based on Vinho de Alho -- a marinade of chilies, garlic, vinegar and wine.
Northern India dishes are the main kind found in America's Indian restaurants. It focuses on dairy products such as yogurt-based sauces and the mild Indian cheese featured in the creamy spinach dishes saag paneer and palak paneer. Other common northern dishes are samosas (fried pocket pastries mostly filled with spiced potatoes), Tandoori clay-baked chicken, lamb, and chewy flatbread called naan. For those who avoid dairy products, consider Indian curries based on coconut milk.
Cream rises to the top of whole milk. Similarly, favorite restaurants rise in media reports about delicious dining. Here are five popular Indian choices in the Des Moines metro area.
India Star, 5514 Douglas Ave., Des Moines, IA 50310
Phone: (555) 279-2118
Readers of Des Moines' Cityview website voted India Star the metro area's best Indian restaurant. Although it primarily serves northern cuisine, you'll find the sweet and savory chutneys of western India included with chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian entrees.
Indian Tadka, 280 West Hickman Road, Waukee, IA 50263
Phone: (515) 987-3165
Waukee is a Des Moines suburb just northwest of the city. Indian Tadka's menu includes many northern choices, such as the nomadic lentil dish dal banjara from the province of Rajasthan.
Namaste India Restaurant and Supermarket, 7500 University, #A, Clive, IA 50325
You want it hot? You've got it at Namaste in Clive, which is just north of West Des Moines. Southern Indian Dosas, crepes served with coconut chutney and sambhar (a hot lentil sauce), are a specialty.
Paradise Biryani Pointe, 6630 Mills Civic Parkway, #3102, West Des Moines, IA 50266
As the name West Des Moines indicates, this large suburb is directly west of the city. Fragrant basmati rice is the basis of this restaurant's leading specialty, biryanis for vegetarians as well as chicken and goat varieties.
Taj Mahal, 2731 100th Street, Urbandale, IA 50322
You'll find lots of Tandoor entrees here, including kabobs marinated in garlic, ginger and other spices. Urbandale is west of Des Moine's northern boundary.
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