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June 16, 2015

Fast Casual Foods of India: Who Will Wrap It Up in America?

Fast_Casual_IndianThe cuisine of India has always been somewhat of a tough sell to American consumers, who seem to either love it or hate it without much in-between. For those who love it, especially vegetarians, the combination of spices, often with a little heat from chilies, presents a bonanza of choices. For those on the other end of the spectrum, the extensive menus, unfamiliar spices and flavors, and yes, murky food colors, are too daunting to try. Yet slowly but surely, Indian foods are making mainstream inroads. Naan, for example, has become as ubiquitous as pita bread even at the big box groceries. And then there’s curry. Sure, everyone knows what it is. It’s something and something, with some sort of spices and sometimes sauce.  Or, it’s that powder on the spice shelf with a label that says—wait for it—curry.   

Enter the fast casual Indian restaurants where folks are jockeying to conquer the middle ground between love and hate… and curry. Their approach is to offer a limited menu with choices that are approachable, familiar, consistent and flavorful. To say that Chipotle is the role model for Indian fast casual would be an understatement. At Tava Indian Kitchen, based in Palo Alto, Ca., diners line up to choose a base, which might be rice, lettuce, the restaurant’s special burroti (fresh-made Indian roti bread dough pressed in front of the diner), with a choice of protein, sauces and chutneys.  At Merzi, based in Washington, D.C., the concept is similar. Diners select a rice or naan bowl or roti wrap base among other options, a choice of potatoes or vegetables, a protein, and sauces and/or chutneys.

The good news is that all these fast casual Indian restaurants are introducing consumers to a somewhat unfamiliar cuisine without overwhelming them. Indian food has longed been predicted to be the next explosive food force on the market. As consumers become accustomed to certain flavors, they may even become adventurous enough to pursue more options at an Indian restaurant with a more extensive menu—and that makes it a win-win for everyone.

India is such a large country that its regional and geographical differences, as with China, are difficult to capture in one place, but here are some of the Indian foods that are on the way to the  mainstream lexicon.  

  • Indian breads (There are many variations on the two listed below):  
    • Naan: Leavened flatbread made of white flour classically cooked in a clay oven.
    • Roti: Unleavened wheat flour rolled thin and cooked on a griddle. 
  • Lassi: The smoothie of India made with yogurt-and-fruit, usually mango, although there are numerous lassi combinations.
  • Garam masala: The Indian spice mixture which can include any number and combination of spices, including cardamom, cumin, nutmeg and black peppercorns.
  • Tikka masala: Tikka or small pieces of chicken or other meats or vegetables are marinated and cooked in a sauce with spices, yogurt or cream and often tomatoes. There’s a fierce debate over whether the dish is more Indian than British, where it is beloved, or more British than Indian.
  • Tandoori: Meat or vegetables cooked in an outdoor clay oven; chicken tandoori home recipes often call for food coloring to get the brick red color in a home oven.
  • Saag Paneer: Spinach with the Indian cheese, paneer.
  • Curry: Look for our blog on it in the near future. 


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il definately try this.
well written, easy to follow steps.

I really like Indian foods.
It's really awesome.
Thanks for write about Indian foods :)

indian food s are too spicy though appetizing

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