Indian food

Indian spices

WHAT: If there’s one thing West Philly has plenty of, it’s Indian restaurants. Three border campus, from 38th Street (Sitar), to the 40th Street corridor (Tandoor and New Delhi). And now the neighborhood boasts two more: Desi Village, located at 4527 Baltimore Ave., and Desi Chaat House at 502 S. 42nd St.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Desi Village on Baltimore is the second location for this restaurant. The original is located in King of Prussia. The West Philly branch doesn’t offer much in the way of décor and is too small for a buffet spread, but does boast a full menu of spicy Indian staples and a warm and friendly staff.

CHEW ON THIS: Desi Village offers several kinds of Tandoori, or items cooked in a traditional clay oven, including chicken, shrimp, a mixed grill, and even paneer, or homemade cheese. They boast an extensive variety of breads, including garlic naan, lamb-stuffed naan, and onion kulcha, which is naan packed with onions and fresh herbs. They also offer plenty for the non-meat eaters, including the staple palak paneer, cheese cubes in creamy chopped spinach sauce; aloo cholley, chickpeas and potato cooked in a traditional Punjabi style; and sarson ka saag, fresh mustard greens cooked with spices and butter.

DOWN THE STREET: Desi Chaat House offers a slightly different take on Indian food. Chaat is well-known to anyone familiar with South Asian food, and is best described as a bowl of savory snacks, including crunchy lentil or potato-based flat or puffed crackers, chickpeas, potatoes and a combination of yogurt, tamarind, onion chutney and mint sauce. Chaats range from fruit-based, with apple, mango and chickpeas in a spicy dressing, to the papri chaat, which is heavy on the fried crackers.

FOR BEGINNERS: For first-time chaat eaters, the friendly owner will likely steer you to the samosa chaat, which can be either vegetarian or meat. The dish features a base of the crispy crackers, both warm and cold chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and several chutneys. Each bite is different—the tamarind lends sweetness, the yogurt cools the palate and the chutneys offer plenty of spicy kick.

OTHER GOODIES: Most of the dishes at Desi Chaat House are vegetarian, but they do have two entrées with chicken and lamb. They also have chicken biryani (as well as vegetable), which is basmati rice cooked with savory herbs and spices. To satisfy the sweet tooth, they offer many of the traditional desserts familiar to frequent Indian food eaters: Kheer, or rice pudding; gulab jamun, cheese balls steeped in warm honey syrup; and mango lassis, thick yogurt-based fruit shakes.

MORE INFO: Desi Village is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Dinner hours run from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Desi Chaat House is open from noon to 10 p.m. every day. For more information, go to www.desi-village.com.

Originally published on January 21, 2010