I have heard many Midwestern people complain that they don’t like the taste of curry, and therefore will not eat Indian food at all. I can relate to that, but I just find curry powder pretty boring. Curry powder itself isn’t Indian. It is an invention of the British that was made to export during their colonial occupation of India. It is a blend of coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, celery seed, and other spices. I think it’s the fenugreek that people respond negatively to—it has a weirdly earthy, sweaty smell that you either adore or find repellent.
Curry powder haters take note: Real Indian cuisine does not generally use prepackaged curry powders. Each dish is prepared with a special spice blend called a “masala” that is unique and individual to the dish and to the cook. These masalas can be simple or complex, depending on the recipe. I know of one that contains more than 12 ingredients (for a royal dish of creamy lamb with nuts) and another simple lentil dish that contains only cumin seed and mustard seed. Both are delicious and taste nothing like curry powder.
Lately, I’ve had a crush on a relatively new Indian and Pakistani restaurant called Kababs. The food is fresh, spicy and delicious, and tastes like it’s prepared with love. I love their saag paneer, a dish with soft-cooked greens and cubes of fresh cheese that melts in your mouth. A good way to try a variety of things is to go to their Sunday buffet and have a little bit of everything.
Kababs is small and lovely and their owner and his wife are friendly and happy to explain anything on the menu. Their naan bread, a puffy, soft, garlicky flatbread is alone worth the price of brunch. They are located on Tyler, near Central, and their signage is subtle, so keep your eyes peeled—you don’t want to miss it!