With a sizable Asian population according to the most recent census, Fremont’s thriving Indian community outnumbers all others in the city. Venture over to this diverse area and you’ll discover numerous restaurants and shops to explore. From creamy Northern Indian curries to South Indian dosas, there’s a marvelous variety of regional cuisines to sample. Let us know your local favorites in the comments.
It’s worth taking a trip to Newark for dosas, vadas, uthappam and other traditional South Indian specialties at Ganesh Bhavan — and be sure to bring your appetite. Kick off a hearty meal with a popular accompaniment to their mouthwatering dishes: sambar, a spicy, piping hot vegetable stew with lentils, eggplant and potatoes and a complementary plate of thin, cracker-like papadum. Be sure to indulge in some idli, spongy, steamed lentil and rice flour cakes served with fresh coconut-chilies and spicy tomato chutneys. A savory relative of doughnuts are medhu vada, fried lentil treats with a dash of chilies and spices. The arrival of the visually stunning dosa is always a show-stopper. The oversized crepe will dwarf your plate and stuff your belly — especially if you order a masala dosa that’s chock-full of potatoes, peas, onions and spices. Another fine shareable snack, tomato and peas uthappam, is a large, spicy pancake made with the same fermented rice and black lentils batter as dosas. And if you still have room for anything else, dig into a bowl of pongal, a rich, risotto-like rice dish with dal, cashews and swirls of ghee. While these dishes are commonly eaten at breakfast, Ganesh Bhavan is open for the lunch and dinner crowd except on Mondays.
If you’re in the mood for some finger-licking good Indian snacks — chaat means “to lick” in Hindi — head to Chatpatta Corner for an excellent array of delights that equal the goodies of Mumbai street vendors. Peruse one of their helpful info cards that gives you an explanation of the menu in case you’re unsure of what to order. You can nosh right at the counter as soon as you’re served, or take your dishes back to your table. If you want to take a DIY approach, you’ll get the ingredients for pani puri in separate bowls; crack open the crispy puri shells and fill them with chickpeas, potatoes, chutneys and tamarind water (the pani.) Tikki and kachori with masala choley is a warm, sweet-and-sour melange of potato patties, fried lentil-filled pastries, chickpea curry and other typical chaat toppings. Wash it all down with a sweet lassi yogurt drink. The Ajwain paratha flatbread is peppered with a fragrant spice similar in flavor to thyme and perfect for eating with a dollop of fresh yogurt and a bite of piquant pickles. Dip your corn flour flatbread, maka roti, into a big helping of saag, or spinach curry, which comes with a complimentary glass of refreshing chaas, a tangy, buttermilk drink seasoned with cumin and salt. Or top it with spoonfuls of aloo gobi cauliflower curry . Sadly, they were out of pav bhaji when I stopped by, but that’ll give me an excuse to go back again soon. There’s also a second location inside the New Indian Bazar grocery store on Mowry Avenue.
Located just off of the I-880, Chaat Bhavan is convenient vegetarian eatery to stop for a quick and cheap meal if you’re on your way to the India Cash and Carry or other nearby shops for Indian groceries. Despite the fact the dining room is undergoing a renovation, their deliciously prepared dishes emerge from the kitchen at a brisk pace. All items are priced under $10 and include Punjabi, Gujarati, Desi Chinese and South Indian snacks, curries, freshly baked breads from their tandoor and even wraps. The chaat samosa comes with two fried potato-filled pastries smothered with a sweet chickpea curry, spicy chutney and onions. It pairs well with the heaping platter of cool, crunchy bhel puri that’s the main highlight of the bhel thali special. Generally made with puffed rice, bits of papdis or baked crackers, housemade sev (fried chickpea flour noodles), onions, lentils, cilantro and chutney, it’s a popular Indian street food treat. This thali comes with two small servings of the vegetable curries of the day, your choice of roti or paratha flatbread, kadhi (a simmered yogurt and chickpea flour gravy), jasmine rice, raita (yogurt accompaniment with raw vegetables and spices to cool your palate), papadum, and rice pudding, or kheer, for dessert. You also get your choice of soda, tea, or chaas. Scoop up their version of saag paneer, a rich, savory spinach curry made with housemade cheese, with pieces of their fresh masala roti. You can also get a 10-pack bag of their whole wheat rotis to go. And one of my personal favorites, the richly flavored dal makhani is prepared with a mix of black lentils, kidney and mung beans. Vegan, gluten-free and Jain options are also denoted on the menu. And there’s a second location in Sunnyvale, another popular Indian enclave, on the other side of the bay.
The southern state of Kerala in India is known for its delectable seafood curries, and Red Chillies draws its inspiration from its northernmost coastal region of Malabar. Walk into their doors during the busy lunchtime rush, and you’ll have to wait a bit to get seated for their extensive buffet. On the afternoon I dropped by, I visited the buffet twice in order to sample all of their offerings: vegetable pakoras, or fritters; seasoned jasmine rice; thoran, a Keralite cabbage-based dish; dal; potato moily, a South Indian coconut and turmeric curry; a vegetable and paneer kuruma, or curry, that’s often eaten with porotta, a Kerala-style wheat flatbread; Chicken 65, a spicy fried chicken dish that hails from Tamil Nadu; a classic Malabar fish curry; fiery chicken pepper masala; juicy goat curry; papadum. I managed to make room for a small cup of complimentary chai and the milky vermicelli payasam for dessert. Go there on Sundays afternoons for an even more deluxe Keralite buffet.
167 S. Main St. [Map]
Milpitas, CA 95035
Ph: (408) 418-4778
Hours: Lunch Buffet Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 11:30am-2pm
Saturday Lunch (a la carte only) 12-3pm
Special Kerala Sunday Lunch Buffet 12-3pm
Dinner: Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu (a la carte only) 6-9pm
Fri-Sat (a la carte only) 6-9:30pm
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)
Neighboring the Spice House and Monish Music in Union City, Kabila Cuisine of India specializes in Northern Indian cooking. I arrived too late one afternoon for their all-you-can eat lunch buffet, but ordering a la carte was no disappointment. The sizzling platter of lamb sausage, chicken and shrimp in the tandoori mixed grill is a generous helping of succulent meat. All too often, chicken tikka masala is drowning in a pool of excessive heavy cream, but their version held back on the dairy and was teeming with flavorful tomatoes and spices. Sop up the sauce with buttery garlic naan or puffy poori. And there’s plenty of goat dishes available, including a goat biryani rice dish replete with tender pieces of short ribs. If you don’t have time to peruse their lavish sweets counter for dessert, a sugary lassi will finish up your meal nicely.