Many Norwalkers with adventurous palates tend to gravitate towards local Indian eateries such as Coromandel Indian Bistro, the managed by Gopinath Nair in South Norwalk.
Regulars can feast on a lunch buffet, which may include chicken madras curry (chicken stewed in a coconut curry, red chili, and mustard sauce), beef pasanda curry (beef stewed in a mild and creamy cashew curry sauce), bombay alu (made with baby potatoes, onion and spices), mushroom sag (mushroom with spinach and spices), and top off their meals with the vermicelli pudding known as samia payasam. While diners who indulge in the mouthwatering and reasonably-priced lunch buffet can expect a different menu on any given day, they can always count on freshly baked naan bread and sizzling tandoori chicken (served on hot plates by attentive staff) to accompany their midday meals.
Would-be chefs can head up the street to Connecticut Avenue and enter Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery store in Norwalk. They can recreate some of the dishes sampled at Indian restaurants using the assortment of masalas and other spices found in the aisles of this well-stocked ethnic grocery store. Rose water for flavoring lassis or desserts and cardamom for masala chai tea are some of the ingredients that can become staples in the pantry of an aspiring Indian chef. Non-chefs or ultra-busy Norwalkers need not despair, as the freezers are also brimming with microwaveable biryanis, curries, and other treats.
After sating their appetites, interested readers can pick up free copies of Little India, the largest circulated Indian publication in the USA, at various locations. The March issue of this magazine carries articles ranging from a demographic analysis of Indian-Americans (According to a Little India analysis of the 2010 American Community Survey, Connecticut has the highest proportion of Indian-Americans in the finance sector [16.6%]) to a story about condom lubricants smoothing the movements of wooden shuttles during the making of traditional Varanasi saris in India. Little India also keeps its readers up to date on the latest gossip regarding Bollywood stars and other celebrities.
Readers who wish to learn more about specific aspects of Indian history can Google the Maharaja exhibit, which recently ended its run at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The exhibit covered a period of three centuries and provided one with a glimpse of Indian history before and after its occupation by Great Britain. Traveling maharajas viewed their subjects from lofty perches (called houdas) on top of elephants as they made their way through their respective domains.
The exquisite jewelry, saris, sculptures, and paintings served as additional reminders of opulence and religious practices in a distant past, while a portrait of Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indor showed a Western-attired maharaja during the jazz-age. Sanjay Patel, the thirty-something pop artist and Pixar veteran, provided a playful counterfoil to the stately exhibit with a pop-culture interpretation of South Asian mythology called Deities, Demons, and Dudes with 'Staches.
Perhaps his objectives can also serve as a celebration of India's past and its juxtaposition with modern life: “To show people the connection between the most ancient artifacts and my modern interpretation. To place an exquisite stone sculpture of Vishnu from the twelfth century next to a digital illustration created at this moment. Then to step back and to let people decide what's original and what's not. What's special and what's not, what's art and what's pop culture.”
If readers have worked up an appetite after all this intellectual pontification, it may be time to head into the kitchen for some masala chai tea and kulfi dessert. Bon appetit.