I will always give Chicago credit for broadening my culinary horizons. Before becoming a Windy City resident I kept my food scope pretty limited to classic american comfort foods. Eating Indian, Japanese or even Greek cuisine would never have crossed my mind. Moving to a major city presented me with a smörgasbord of global cuisines and at eighteen, I was eager to-quite literally-gobble it up.
I had my first taste of Indian cooking my freshman year of college when my glamorous and clutured friend, Ana, brought me to Standard India (which is now closed?!?) on Belmont Avenue. A small, no-frills Indian buffet where I was introduced to a whole new spectrum of flavors and dishes (and probably ate my weight in samosas on that first outing). Over the past twelve years here in Chicago I have eaten my fair share of Indian food, but have never spent time exploring Devon Avenue where you can find the best Indian dining in the city.
When I arrived on Devon Avenue a few weeks ago, I was totally unprepared and had no idea where I would go or what I would find. Turns out, there weren’t any street carts serving up food that day, so I took a spin on the idea by visiting three different spots and ordered items which are deemed traditional street cart cuisines in India. Fleixibility within structure…that’s my motto for life.
At Tahoora Sweets and Bakery I started out my trip with a few desserts (“life is short, order dessert first” as they say): Carrot Barfi, Pista Katli and Cream Black Jamun. All of these patries were combinations of milk and sugar and vegetable shortening with various other mix-ins. For my taste they were a bit on the cloying side, but I particularly liked the Carrot Barfi which had a subtle nuttiness to it and slightly chewy texture.
My next stop brought me to Sukhadia’s where I tried my first ever Puri: an unleaveaned and deep fried indian flatbread. They puff up into crispy balls which you bite into and then fill with curry for a crunchy, spicy snack. I ate these while Indian soap operas played on the TV screens in the restaurant which I found to be oddly fitting.
On my way to my third stop, I strolled through several Indian couture clothing stores which was as much a feast for my eyes, as the food was for my stomach.
My final destination was King’s Sweets where I ordered a samosa doused in Chaat. I tried to avoid ordering a samosa, as it is my usual Indian go-to, but fried dough gets me every time. The combination was perfection.
Chaat is a mixture of potatoes, chickpeas, sour indian chili and Saunth (dried ginger and tamarind sauce). The cool crispness of the sour chili combined with the heat from the potatoes balanced each other perfectly, while the Saunth and other spices brought a surprising depth of flavor. It was straightforward without being pedestrian, and rich without being too heavy. Definitely the highlight of my Devon Avenue excursion.
And for good measure, here are a few more photos I took. Just because I like pretty pictures.