>namaste indian

>225 King Street Melbourne

A “last supper” with friends before their trip to London required traditional English food. A curry was in order. I’d eaten at Namaste Indian on King Street about a year ago, and remembered the food as being predictable but tasty. I booked to visit again.

On a chilly Friday evening the restaurant was almost empty, although quite a few tables filled up whilst we were there. Sadly with so many empty tables to choose from the second group to arrive were sat right beside us. They turned out to be an exuberant and loud (but good-natured) bunch of blokes out for a curry after a few beers. It meant we could hardly hear ourselves speak for the duration of the meal, as we looked longingly at quieter tables on the other side of the restaurant.

We had an inauspicious start when the first bottle of wine I ordered was not available. With such little choice to start with, I ended up with a distinctly average bottle of Hunter Valley cabernet sauvignon, whilst Orlando made do with nothing as they had no sparkling wines whatsoever available. The menu also appeared much more limited than I imagined: the menu listed on the website is from their Bundoora restaurant and that is more like what I remembered. The menu we had to choose from was severely limited.

Our starters arrived piecemeal, with Chris waiting an age for some mashed potato patties stuffed with spiced mince. Orlando’s tandoori mixed grill looked appetising and generous, whilst my fish tikka was a miserly three tiny pieces seasoned badly. Robyn’s tandoori mushrooms looked miserable: they were undercooked with a dark-coloured seasoning on them which did not look at all tandoori-like. Hmm.

The main courses fared a little better. The naan bread was fine and the beef and lamb vindaloos were perfectly edible but not amazing. Robyn and Chris’ twin Namaste chicken curries were tasty enough, but again left me a little cold. I could have prepared better myself at home.

Afterwards, at least two of us felt a little ill and continued to do so for at least a day. Not sure if we ate something that didn’t agree with us, but I won’t be recommending Namaste in a hurry.

chicken chilli fry

>It is over ten years since I travelled to India. My very first meal in Goa was in a little outdoor restaurant called Tropicana, and it was chicken chilli fry, a local speciality. Nothing fancy, just well-seasoned chicken cooked with chillies in a strong flavoursome gravy.

For ten years now I have been trying to replicate that taste. Everybody’s recipe is different and yet the same. They may use their own family masala; some are drier than others; some are bulked up with vegetables and some give the meat pride of place. But all have that particular base flavour which always eluded me.

The best variation of it was Bobby’s calamari chilli fry. I used to joke that it had drugs in it – the stuff was addictive. Bobby used to always send me home with a big bag of his own special masala, freshly roasted and ground that morning. Still I could not deliver the goods like a true Goan.

So this week I had a deep craving for chicken chilli fry. I was determined not to go to our local Indian restaurant: their version has that elusive flavour but it is a bit too oily for me. I googled and searched and googled again. I downloaded a dozen recipes to see if I could find a common element. Then something caught my eye and I thought: I’ll try that.

I fried the chilli. The hint is in the name I guess. I took four large green chillis, deseeded them (the seeds can be a little bitter), cut them into strips and fried them alone in a little oil. No garlic, no sweating, just fried like onions. Within moments the aroma from the pan confirmed that I had found that elusive element.

I had always used the chillies as seasoning rather than a vegetable ingredient, and this was clearly the mistake. Frying the chillies released an amazing aroma and taste which was the complexity I had been missing all this time.

In another pot I cooked my chicken, marinated beforehand in finely chopped onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, a drop of fish sauce, garam masala and my own local meat masala. It simmered away for twenty minutes or so until the chicken was cooked. I then added the chicken bit by bit into the pan with the fried chillies, browning all the chicken as I went. Once that was done, I added the rest of the broth from the chicken pot and reduced it down to a thicker gravy. A teaspoonful of brown sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar added to the sharpness.

I ate slowly and with relish. For all the chillies I used, it could have been a bit hotter for my taste, so in future I would use 6 large chillies to a half-kilo of meat. My toughest customer, Orlando, ate the left-overs for dinner the following night and declared that it was sensational.

Finally, a ten-year culinary conundrum is put to rest.

>Maya Masala

>Corner of Lake & Francis Streets, Northbridge, Perth, WA

Wandering the streets of Northbridge on a quiet Monday night, I was looking for somewhere with at least a few more diners in it: being the sole person in a restaurant never appeals. Maya Masala was bustling. Most of its front-room tables were already full, with a small family gathering in one of the back rooms too. A good sign.

I settle in at a table near the counter and was served by a hesitant but friendly guy assisted by another more experienced girl: maybe it was his first night. The girl assured me that the Amritsari fish was not too big an order for one person, so I ordered it with a non-veg thali to follow. I love Amritsari fish and this is the first time I have seen it on a menu in Australia.

It was delicious but enormous. Five or six pretty large lumps of red fish arrive on a bed of lettuce leaves, with a small dish of raita. I devoured it. The thali looked a bit small when it came out, although I know that was more my enormous appetite talking than the reality of the situation. It had the usual two non-veg curries, two veg curries, yoghurt, rice, roti and rice pudding for dessert. The only thing I can criticise is that it was not piping hot, and as a result everything was stone cold by the time I finished eating the last morsel. I can tell you that thali was not small. I was stuffed.

At another table I saw a dad and his daughter having supper together – his masala dosa was the biggest I have seen outside India and looked divine. Despite my food-laden table I was struck with a bit of order envy. Perhaps next time.

The flavours were great, the portions more than generous, the wait staff friendly and helpful if a bit unsure of themselves, and the vibe for a woman eating alone was perfect.


>A lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the TV had me craving a good curry. When I suggested take-out from our local, Orlando recommended a little local place near his work called Bedi’s. He’d been there with workmates and had spoken about going back there with me.

Bedi’s is a well-known place, one of the first Indian restaurants in Melbourne, and the owner was a bit of a TV personality back in the day. We arrived at eight o’clock and the small restaurant was less than half-full – but seemed to be doing a really good take-out trade too.

The menu was fairly limited, particularly in terms of main courses, but they had a handful of dishes I was happy to order. My chicken lasan starter consisted of two large chicken drumsticks, the ends wrapped in tin foil, which seemed to have been baked or roasted with plenty of garlic and no other seasoning that I could discern. They were not cooked well enough, and the texture of overly-chewy meat was not appealing. I made a half-hearted effort to eat them and Orlando scolded me for not cleaning the bones.

The main courses were better: Orlando’s tandoori platter looked good, and even his chicken lasan seemed better cooked than my starter. My beef vindaloo was large and delicious. I tried valiantly to finish it off but had to stop, stuffed to the gills.

I would say it was an entirely acceptable meal, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. Our local West Footscray places, Aangan and Krishna, are superior in my opinion. Not sure if I would make the trip across town again: Bedi’s has had its day.


>A hand-written notice in the window of our local Indian restaurant (I won’t embarrass them by naming it) proudly advertised a new takeaway offer:


I wasn’t sure if I was reading it incorrectly, in that they would come to your house and serve it to you on a tray, or whether they were in fact offering entrees free (which is what starters are called here).

I also surmised whether they were doing what my friend Denis in Goa did: when choosing a name for his new beach shack, he came up with Stringfellos, spelt incorrectly with no “w” at the end. His rationale was that arrogant British tourists would delight in coming up to him and pointing out his mistake, at which point he would thank them and invite them to sit down for a drink/lunch/whatever. His gift of the gab would take over at this point, and they would be persuaded to stay at his shack for the rest of their holiday and spend all their beach money there.

You would be amazed at the number of people this worked on…

Anyhoo, the day I stopped my car to take a photo of the aforementioned offending notice, they had discreetly changed the word to “entree”.

Now you will never believe me.

mairead’s vegetable curry

>POINTS® Value: 2
Servings: 4

A tasty filling dinner – serve with boiled rice (rown is best).

Use whatever vegetables you like, but the chickpea/spinach combination is particularly good. The instant coffee is used to cancel out some of the sweetness of the vegetables, especially the tinned tomatoes. Add cooked potato and/or chicken if you wish, but don’t forget to count the extra points.

1 medium onion
400 g canned chickpeas
200 g mushroom
400 g canned tomatoes
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 medium head of cauliflower
3 cloves garlic
1 whole fresh red chilli
1 tsp chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
150 g frozen spinach
2 tsp instant coffee

Fry onion and garlic and chilli
Add rest of vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes
Add rest of ingredients
Simmer for an hour

(tastes better made the day before!)