INDIAN FIRANGI: EVOCATIVELY NAMED DISHES
WITH THAT ENDEARING INDIAN ACCENT
By SUVARNA SHASTRI
To be absolutely honest, I wasn’t sure if wanted to meet my friend Kanta for lunch at Firangi .
Firangi has a slightly less than positive connotation.
It means foreigner and is used today when one wants to diss someone’s cluelessness about desi customs. As in, “You are so firangi, you don’t know the right length for blouse sleeves!”
And also, I am not big on what is popularly referred to as fusion cuisine. Give me one or the other, I say.
But Kanta is known to be persistent and so there we were, one sunny afternoon.
The entryway, lined with hurricane lanterns was promising.
Colourful spice jars, rough hewn tables, brightly-upholstered cane chairs – including one bench in a jhula frame – copper pots hanging from the ceiling, and the finishing touch, black kulhad mugs.
“I am in love!” I tell Kanta.
“What did I tell you?” she crows, not one to let me glide past my initial misgivings.
Our server suggests we try their tiffin lunch when he learns we are there for the first time. “It is very popular,” he assures us.
We ask for two, assuming it is the equivalent of a thali, but now he gently dissuades us. “It’s a lot of food. Maybe do one and one appetiser?”
We settle for the vegetarian tiffin ($13) and an order of alu tikki sliders ($10).
The sliders, I guess are the firangi touch. There are other items in the appetisers that would qualify, too. Butter chicken fries, kale samosa, sun-dried tomato olive naan, and of course, firangi shrooms (which are, I see on the menu, basil marinated mushrooms stuffed with spiced paneer).
But I am more interested in trying some of the evocatively named dishes – Kundunlal Butter Chicken, Anarkali Bazaar Kadhai Chicken, Moradabadi Dal or Choley Chache Wale. I see dishes one doesn’t normally see on restaurant menus, including Rajasthani Lal Mas and Katal (jack-fruit) curry.
The service was a tad slow, seeing as how there was just one couple there at the time, but as we survey the food in front of us, we realize those other dishes will have to wait for our next visit.
The alu tikki sliders are three to a plate and come with chutneys on the side. The tiffin lunch, I discover to my absolute delight, arrives in an actual tiffin. Little dabbas stacked one on top of the other like one took to school or office goers continue to have delivered by the millions in Mumbai even today.
“What did I tell you?” says Kanta, but I forgive her readily.
Our tiffin offers yellow dal, alu gobhi, kadhai paneer and rice. The naans come in a basket.
Neither Kanta nor I are huge fans of paneer and we ask if we can substitute it for something else. That is not possible, says our server. “But try the paneer, you will love it.”
It does turn out to be rather more delicious than anticipated and the dal and alu gobhi are yum. On a subsequent visit, we try the mutton tiffin which comes with melt-in-the-mouth mutton curry, dal and matar-mushroom.
The couple at the table near us ask if they can do fries. “Just plain french fries, that’s all he will eat,” they explain, a little sheepishly, looking at their toddler who is busy exploring the restaurant while his dinner options are being discussed. The menu offers butter chicken fries – a nice twist on poutine – but they agree to do the plain fries for the little one. When he brings them, heaped high on a little truck, much to the delight of the parents, the server smiles and says, “Now please don’t ask me for ketchup, we only have chutneys!”
The little one doesn’t object, the parents dig in and as we leave, I say we have to return to try the other dishes.
And before Kanta can repeat her “What did I tell you?” mantra of the day, I direct her attention to the fun selection of saunf and suparis at the door.
Indian Firangi is run by The Host group and is located at 2880 Queen St. E in Brampton. Their telephone number is 905-791-4678.