I wasn’t always an adventurous eater. In fact, my best friend used to make fun of me in high school for being persnickety. College changed all that. College was when I began traveling, and traveling expanded my horizons – geographically, culturally, and culinarily (is that a even word?).
I had my first real experience with Indian food during the summer of my sophomore year, during a trip to Malaysia. That was the beginning of my obsession with curries. Thai curry, Indian curry, Japanese curry, Mom’s homemade curry; curry quickly became one of my ultimate comfort foods. So when I discovered that there was a curry I hadn’t yet tried, I was immediately intrigued.
My friend Diana and I decided we needed supper after salivating over Old Town Pasadena’s independent bookstore Vroman’s, a bibliophile’s paradise — the smell of fresh paperbacks, the shiny hard covers, and the paragraph-long employee recommendations. A short stone’s throw away is the Himalayan Café. It specializes in a range of food, with traditional Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian cuisine – including several different kinds of curry – served in a dimly lit, family-style restaurant.
Having never had Tibetan food before, we deferred to the recommendations of our server, whose name I never caught. We didn’t get the name of our appetizer, either — a flat savory crisp of sorts, speckled with cumin seeds (a little bit of Googling turned up papadam as our unknown appetizer – a crispy lentil wafer or cracker). Breaking off pieces with a snap, we dipped them greedily in a mint green, spicy sauce. Addicting.
While we waited for our food, Diana ordered a mango lassi, a refreshing yogurt based drink with an almost smoothie-like thickness. Hungry and curious, we swapped our travel tales, delicious food memories and a few yummy Instagram photos.
Minutes later, our server brought out the first of our dishes, bhenta ra aaloo, with firm chunks of soft eggplant and potato tossed artfully together with generous amounts of onion, garlic and pungent herbs. Our spicy lamb curry came shortly after, with chunks of boneless meat bathed in thick curry sauce lovingly stewed together with onion, tomato, and ginger.
We topped our heaping piles of white rice with extravagant spoonfuls of the eggplant and lamb curry, sopping up the leftover sauces with pieces of garlic naan. The problem with this curry obsession, it turns out, is it can never be satiated; the more curry I eat, the more I want. But Diana and I finally slouched mournfully in our chairs and admitted defeat, our gastronomic adventure over – at least for the night.
36 S. Fair Oaks Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
What is your favorite curry dish?