Spicy and flavorful Indian food for an otherwise bland diet
by Alexander Quebec
When you mention Indian food, you get to see people’s true colors.
On one side, you get to see people eager to explore this world of flavor and sensation, of heat and intensity. These people are my kind of people, not 100% sure what they are getting themselves into, but happy to go on the ride.
Then there’s the other camp who finds anything higher than onions on the Scoville scale too spicy. These people aren’t down for the count, but whether it may be sensitive stomachs (understandable) or just a fear of trying anything that isn’t familiar to them, that’s up to them to decide.
One of my favorite places in my hometown was introduced to me by my dad. My dad has been an Indian food connoisseur since his days in school back in the 90s, and he introduced me to curries and naan and everything else in between. He actually did not introduce me to today’s featured place until much later, after I had moved in with him.
Naan and Masala is what was once a strip mall that featured the Milpitas Library at one point, according to my dad, but today hosts a variety of smaller ethnic shops and was the former spot of one of my favorite thrift stores of all time, Savers. Tucked away in a corner, it managed to pull a decent sized midday crowd from the tech campuses nearby Pre-COVID, I would usually have to time my lunchtime visits to where the crowds would either being flooding the place as I was leaving or start to peter out when I arrived at this hole in the wall establishment.
When I say hole in the wall, I mean it with all the endearing charm that can come from such an expression. This place is still one of the best places I’ve been to, even though dine-in service isn’t a thing as of this publication. I will gleefully wait in my car to make sure I get my order as piping hot and fresh the moment it makes it out to me in the lobby.
When they did offer dine-in service, one of my favorite parts was that there was no pretension whatsoever. Before you ask, I am aware that different regions have different cuisines. I am not sure which region this place would be considered, but for the purposes of this article, I’m using the word Indian in the broadest sense. This place made it known that this is a proud Indian owned establishment, with Indian music videos playing on a TV in the wall and some random artwork on the walls, all of the topic of life in India. This place makes you get your own place settings and dishes, which is a novel concept, but for some reason, I appreciate it immensely. They’re there to take your order at the counter, drop your food off at the table and bus after your meal, that’s it. Hell, the drinks were even self-serve; you helped yourself to whatever is in the fridge case (provided you paid for it upfront). For someone who is an experienced solo diner, this is heaven.
But what do you order you’re probably asking? While they have a full menu with amazing options, there are a few things that I would consider my go-tos. (forgive my plating skills, I’m a writer, not a food artist)
Samosas are the gateway drug that leads everyone who indulges in one trip down a long, turmeric flavored path into blissful oblivion. You have to get these guys fresh from the fryer, with perfectly seasoned potato mash interiors (meat options are available, but c’mon, fried potatoes are always a good choice).
If you’re a newb, one of the best things to order is the Tikka Masala. It’s tender chicken dripping in a tangy yogurt sauce that’s *sigh* not too spicy for you aromaphobics out there (fear of spices, its a real thing).
The Butter Chicken is also a good intro into Indian food, a very savory, flavorful dish made with chicken and ghee, also known as clarified butter (I’m not sure if they use ghee, but it’s still good either way). Again, not very spicy and a good way to get into this gig (in this case, Indian cuisine).
You’ll notice that each of the pictures has rice and some flatbread slices in them. Order both of those to go with your meal, you will not regret it. Don’t give me any crap about following keto or yada yada, just pick one or the other (or both if you’re a normal, human being like me). The rice is just simple, jasmine rice; and the bread is called naan. They make both a regular and garlic flavored naan, but treat yourself and spend a few extra coins on the garlic naan. With all of the saucy goodness of the Tikka Masala and Butter chicken, both will be necessary to enjoy the full epicurean experience of the sauces from each of these dishes.
Whatever side of the Indian food battle you are on, please give this place a try next time. It’s my hope that the suggestions I made start you on your own culinary journey of discovery, with a bit of bravery, you can add some spice to your otherwise processed, bland, American food experience.
(Oh, and a few stops down is a convenience store owned by another friend’s parents, check them out too for lotto tickets, candy, and all that good jazz.)
Wanna check them out? Below is the map to get to them today. You can also order them through your favorite food delivery app too.