Mirch Masala: Fine Indian Cuisine

Last weekend I had th
e pleasure of dining at Mirch Masala Indian Cuisine, where dear friends of our family, Bayu and Kumar are cooks. My mother-in-law Polly met Bayu from Indonesia and Kumar, a chef from India, when she owned a restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware. Fellow restaurant owners, Bayu and Kumar ran a popular Indian restaurant in Wilmington called Panghat for years before they sadly lost their lease. With their common interests, Polly, Bayu and Kumar became good friends.When these two hard-working gentlemen fell on hard times, Polly insisted that they stay in her roomy townhouse until they got back on their feet, a kind offering that most would not even consider. To Polly's delight, she found Bayu and Kumar to be some of the best guests she ever had. They brought their love and talent for Indian and Indonesian cooking to Polly's kitchen, which had her dining on delicious samosas and other Indian dishes on a regular basis. Incredibly kind and helpful with anything that Polly needed, she was sad to see them go when the time came. Polly has stayed close with these two, always inviting them to our family gatherings and really trying to give them a family base here in the United States.

Last year, Bayu and Kum
ar were invited to my sister-in-law Jesse's wedding, in Seattle. They wanted to help, so they offered their culinary services for this "do-it-yourself" free-style kind of wedding. Polly had many wedding favors, wedding items, and cooking equipment to bring out West. Instead of shipping these items, Bayu and Kumar offered to drive them. With a car packed to the rim with wedding favors, baskets, dishes, pots, pans, ingredients and more, it took them 5 days to make the trek. With smiles on their faces they arrived, ready to cook their signature cuisine for the wedding weekend.

After sampling their delicious cooking last summer at the wedding, I definitely was looking forward to going to Mirsh Masala, the Indian restaurant where they currently cook in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Recently, Jesse was back home in Philadelphia, so we all headed to the charming, authentic BYOB, Mirch Masala in Bensalem, twenty minutes from Philadelphia. As we entered, we were greeted with the warmest of greetings from both Bayu and Kumar, who were elated by our surprise visit. Reading the menus, we were so confused and uncertain of what to get because there were just so many delicious items. We ultimately asked Bayu if we could just do a tasting of the menu. He asked if we were brave enough to try spicy dishes, which we were, and we were quite delighted with what was served.

Bayu started us off with a sampler that included potato and chickpea samosas, vegetable fritters and spiced potato patties served with crispy rice crackers and a side of a tamarind chutney and a spicy green chutney. Then came the sizzling "Paneer Tikka-cubes of homemade cheese, marinated in a blend of spices, and baked in a tandoor clay oven". Brought out in a black cast iron dish, these cubes of cheese were bright red in color from the spices served with sizzled white onion and garnished with limes and cilantro. "Paneer Makhani-homemade Indian cheese cubes cooked in a creamy tomato sauce and lightly spiced" followed. The mild and slightly sweet tomato sauce enveloped the delicate bites of home made cheese. For the perfect vegetarian side dishes, we had the "Vegetable Jalfrezi-mixed vegetables cooked in fresh ginger and garlic then cooked with herbs and spices", as well as "Aloo Jeera-diced potatoes tempered with whole cumin, haldi and spices." Haldi or tumeric provides a burst of yellow-orange color with the unmistakable peppery, bitter flavor. So many spices are used in Indian cooking to balance out one another providing intense layers of flavor. Cumin, curry, coriander, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and fenugreek are just some of the spices used and combined in various ways to create this depth of seasoning in every Indian dish.

For our proteins, we sampled
the "Chicken Korma-pieces of chicken cooked in mildly spiced cream sauce with fresh cilantro" and "Lamb Kadai-cubes of lamb tossed with spices, herbs, bell pepper and onions and then cooked in a Kadai (a thick, circular cooking vessel found commonly in Indian cuisine)". Both the chicken and the lamb were undeniably tender enhanced by a slight sweetness mixed with undertones of spicy heat. Our favorite component of the meal had to be the delicious Naan bread, a baked flatbread. We tried both the "Plain Naan-white flour dough mixed with milk butter baked in a Tandoor clay oven" and "Naan Chili Cheese-flour dough stuffed with shredded cheese, green chili, chopped onion and fresh coriander baked in a Tandoor clay oven". These breads were unbelievably soft, buttery with a hint of smokiness. If I had the capabilities to make bread this divine, then I would make it every single day. There were even more varieties of the Naan bread on the menu, which I would love to taste in the future.

Strongly inf
luenced by religion, culture, and interactions from other cultures such as European and West Asian countries, Indian cuisine is diverse and can be found and enjoyed all over the world. If you are not familiar, then I urge you to taste the great flavors and dishes of Indian cuisine. Sample as many items as possible by ordering many dishes for the table sharing family-style, which is the way Indian food is intended to be eaten. When we try different cuisines from our own, we gain an appreciation and understanding of that culture. If you can't travel the world, then you can certainly travel the world with your palate by enjoying different cuisines offered right in your own home town. Enjoy something different. Enrich your life and your palate!

Thank you to B
ayu and Kumar for their sincere kindness, big hearts, and cooking skills!

Mirch Masala
2088 Street Road
Bensalem, Pennsylvania 19020

1 comment:

  1. GREATTT... i have just had my spices from The Big Indian Store (http://spicesonline.info)
    and i cant wait to try this our with the spices ordered.


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