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Little India features large, gluten-free menu

By Judy Hamilton
Chris Dorst
Harish Anada and Meena Anada, owners of Little India restaurant, 1604 Washington St. East, showcase two of the gluten free menu items available. Meena Anada is holding dosa, a large crispy crepe-shaped bread that can be stuffed with potatoes and onions. Harish Anada is holding uttapam, a type of Indian-style pancake. Both are made with rice and lentil flour. They are served with four dipping sauces: Sambhar (a lightly spiced vegetable and lentil sauce), mint cilantro chutney, tomato onion chutney, and coconut chutney.
Chris Dorst Uttapam is a type of Indian-style pancake. It is served with four dipping sauces: Sambhar (a lightly spiced vegetable and lentil sauce), mint cilantro chutney, tomato onion chutney, and coconut chutney.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The flavors of India are diverse and beautifully complex in taste.

North Indian foods have strong Central Asian influences. West Indian food has Portuguese influence. All types of Indian cooking are known for generous use of spices - each of which has unique nutritional and medicinal properties. South Indian foods frequently make use of the spice cumin, which can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Greece.

Charleston's Little India restaurant, owned by husband-and-wife team Harish and Meena Anada, offers foods from all the regions of India. The spicy aromas emanating from the eatery may cause visitors who weren't hungry when they arrived to suddenly become ravenous.

"Southern style cooking has a lot of uses of spices for the flavor and often features fresh produce and coconuts. The northern style focus is on creams and butters, ginger, garlic and fenugreek with a lighter flavor in spices. I'm from Bombay, so I favor the southern style Indian cooking. Harish is from the western region, Ahmedabad, so we offer a variety of the Indian cooking styles," Meena said.

Charleston area diners already know that Little India restaurant offers an extensive menu of authentic Indian foods and a popular daily buffet. What they may not know is the eatery offers a menu that is 90% gluten-free, with many new items added to their menu in February.

"We have the largest gluten-free menu in Charleston. We even have a gluten-free bread that is made with rice and lentils," said Meena.

Most Indian food is naturally gluten free because the dishes are made with fresh ingredients such as vegetables, beans, lentils, meat and rice, rather than processed ones. Vindaloo dishes are typically the spiciest and contain several kinds of vegetables. Tandoori is usually made with lemon, yogurt, garlic and ginger.

The couple first opened their International Groceries and Spices shop, at 5304 MacCorkle Ave.

They realized they loved cooking and eating great Indian food with friends and family and decided, "Why stop there ... Let's open a restaurant and share our love of Indian food with our whole community," Meena said.

The restaurant opened three years ago in a former fire station. The brick walls and the fire pole clearly show the building's historic past but the Anada's have carefully remodeled the interior with colorful traditional Indian décor and framed photographs of India to reflect their heritage.

"We make everything from scratch, from our yogurt to our hummus. We stress fresh ingredients. We serve fresh, flavorful Indian cuisine prepared from the finest ingredients from around the world," said Meena.

Little India offers ten appetizers, soups, and salads ranging from vegetable pakora (lightly spiced vegetable fritters) to kabob platters.

Vegetarians and vegans will delight in the large segment of the menu dedicated to foods they can safely eat. The 15 vegetable entrees are a wonderful variety of curries, paneers, masalas and more. A special gluten-free menu has ten menu items.

Meat eaters will find over forty chicken, lamb and goat delicacies from which to choose. They use Kosher/Halal chicken, lamb and goat. Tandoori entrees have been prepared in an Indian clay oven.

All entrees are served with basmati rice and the spiciness is at your request - mild, medium, or hot. Nine types of breads and seven types of traditional Indian desserts are offered.

The Anada's said that they are still using bottled water to serve their customers and to cook their food. They will continue to do so until their confidence and the public's is restored in the safety of the area's tap water.

"We appreciate our customers. We are very happy here in Charleston. We love this place," Harish Anada said. He and his wife will frequently be found walking around the restaurant to greet their customers and to ensure that they are satisfied.

Little India restaurant, 1604 Washington St., East, offers the lunch buffet 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, and 12 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Dinner is Monday through Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m., and Sunday 8 to 10 p.m. Parking is available in a lot across the street. The restaurant offers a full catering menu. The Upstairs Lounge is open from 6 p.m. every evening. A variety of activities are offered from cabaret to belly dancing. For additional information, go to www.littleindiawv.com, call 304-720-3616 or email littleindiawv@gmail.com.

Little India's previously top secret chicken curry

Meena Anada, co-owner of Little India restaurant, said it is typical of Indian cooking to not follow a recipe and that exact measurements are not usually given because each cook has his or her own style. This recipe gives an approximate amount of spice, based on an analysis of several recipes, but may be altered to satisfy the individual cook.

4 tablespoons corn oil or soybean oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

8 whole cloves

4 black cardamom pods

4 green cardamom pods

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

4 pieces star anise

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

8 whole black pepper corns

2 tablespoons fresh ginger

2 tablespoons garlic paste

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon tumeric powder

3 tablespoons curry powder

3 tablespoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tomato, chopped

2 pounds chicken pieces

hot water, add just enough to barely cover the chicken

HEAT the oil in a deep wide frying pan on medium heat.

SAUTE cumin seeds, cloves, black cardamom, green cardamom, bay leaf; cinnamon stick, star anise, fennel seeds and whole black pepper in the oil until the spices are roasted.

ADD fresh ginger and garlic paste.

ADD chopped onions, salt, and tumeric powder. Stir continuously. When the onions turn golden brown and translucent, add curry powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and garam masala.

ADD chopped tomato, chicken pieces, and hot water.

STIR and cook on medium high heat until boiling. Lower the heat to medium/low, cover the pan, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is tender.

SERVE with basmati rice and fresh naan, a leavened, oven-baked flatbread.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com">judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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