Though the South might have a reputation for comfort food, we Midwesterners are no strangers to the amiable hot dish or hearty fare. While there’s nothing wrong with liking what we know, where’s the fun in never breaking camp from your go-to cuisine?
Lucky for us here in Plymouth, there are plenty of ethnic restaurant options to help us escape our comfort zones. Take, for example, India Palace, voted “most popular Indian food in Minnesota” by WCCO–CBS. With five locations around the Twin Cities, each independently owned, India Palace has a long tradition of service and heritage cooking. According to the owner of the Plymouth locale, Pramod Chopra, food and hospitality go hand-in-hand in Indian culture, so the staff tries to honor those qualities through each dish that is prepared.
Even if you can’t pronounce much of the menu at India Palace, don’t let that keep you from taking advantage of the wide spread available at the weekday lunch buffet ($9.99; $11.99 on weekends). For those who only associate Indian food with curry, get ready for a tantalizing surprise. Remember: It’s a buffet, so if at first you don’t succeed with your food choices, try and try again.
Bypass the first buffet station—which is full of dessert (save room!)—for the steaming trays of chewy flatbread naan, hearty chana masala (chickpeas in a tomato sauce with traditional spices), palak paneer (cooked, creamy spinach and Indian cheese cubes) and our personal favorite, the malai kofta (vegetable balls with nuts and raisins in an Indian sauce). This is North Indian cuisine, distinctive in spices and flavor combinations from its southern counterpart.
Leave room on your plate for the classic Indian chicken tikka masala on a bed of jasmine rice, found at the third buffet station. Chicken tikka masala is prepared by marinating pieces of chicken in spices and yogurt, then baking the dish in tomato sauce. The meat is super tender and the spice is totally offset by the creamy yogurt and masala. Tikka masala is to North Indian food lovers what tater tot hot dish is to Minnesotans—it’s easy to eat a lot and keep going back for more.
On the sweet side, back at the first station of the buffet, grab a small plastic cup of homemade kulfi (ice cream with pistachios), and if you’re feeling extra daring, try a gulab jamun (fried milk ball in an Indian sauce) for a real treat. They’re not on a stick, like you would find with everything fried at the state fair, but the little dumpling is among India’s most popular desserts.
Makes about four medium-size pieces
2 cups plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup whole milk, lukewarm
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. butter, melted, for serving
A handful of flaked almonds
¾ cup mixture of ground pistachios
chopped raisins (or dried cherries)
In a small bowl, mix milk, active yeast and oil together. Leave for 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and mix until combined.
Make a well in the center, add the liquid ingredients, and start mixing the dough.
Knead for about 10 minutes, or until you get a soft dough.
Shape into a ball, and place in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
Divide the dough into four balls, cover, and let rise for another 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven broiler to high heat.
Roll the balls out on a floured surface into a circle about the size of your palm, and add 1 Tbsp. of nut mixture in the center of each.
Wet the edges of the dough with a bit of water, and fold the circles in half. Roll again to an oval shape, so all the nut mixture gets spread out in the naan.
Taking two at a time, place the naan on a preheated baking tray, and broil in the oven for about 1–2 minutes on each side, until they become puffy and have a few brown patches.
To serve, brush the naan with melted butter, then sprinkle with almonds and coriander.
Try India Palace’s naan with mint yogurt dip.
4190 Vinewood Lane N.