Indian buttered chicken rates high with foodies
by Andrew Sprague
Twenty years ago you’d be hard pressed to find curry of any kind on a PEI restaurant menu, let alone a restaurant with a variety of curries to choose from. For a very long time PEI’s cultural cuisine consisted of a few Chinese and Lebanese restaurants and little else. Cultural selections on local menus were present but few and far between. That’s changed dramatically over the last decade. Now there are dozens of restaurants from a variety of ethnicities, and menus of all kinds have adopted flavours from all over the world. In the last five years at least three Indian restaurants have opened in Charlottetown, two in the last three months. The first was Himalayan Indian Cuisine.
The restaurant had just opened when I first wrote about Himalayan and owner Anuj Thapa. Like a lot of restaurants the first week was a bit of a write off. There are often a good many wrinkles to iron out before a restaurant hits its groove, and the article reflected that to a degree, but his food was always good. Since those difficult, early days Himalayan has established itself as a local favourite for hundreds of people. Himalayan received at least a dozen votes in our recent poll to determine the Island’s favourite restaurant meals. The most popular among those was the butter chicken.
We hadn’t eaten at Himalayan for several months. We go through cycles when it comes to where we choose to eat. Himalayan dropped out of our cycle for a time, but we ordered from there a few weeks ago and it was so good we ordered it again within a week. All but one of the main dishes we ordered was butter chicken.
There are a number of reasons so many people enjoy Himalayan’s butter chicken. For one the chicken itself is cooked Tandoori style before it ever meets the curry. Tandoori is traditionally seasoned with garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, coriander, tumeric and other spices. It’s cooked in a Tandoori oven, which looks like a covered basin with a 20 to 30 centimetre clay tube straight up and down the middle. Naan bread is cooked in the same style oven, directly on the clay surface. It lends a smoky, grilled flavour to the chicken that’s difficult if not impossible to recreate with other cooking devices. The butter chicken also has a certain sweetness to it. It’s hard to say where it comes from. For all I know it could be white sugar. Whatever it is, it works. The naan bread is fantastic as well. I’d go on about it but I don’t have the space.
My four year old is a picky eater. It’s been challenging to get him to expand beyond cereal, oatmeal, French toast and chicken, but he’s been getting better. He’s also been mostly terrified of spicy food. When we ordered from Himalayan the second time, he asked for some butter chicken and rice. It must have been the smell. We were both hesitant. We didn’t want to waste any and it seemed likely we would. He ate every bite of the first batch and asked for more. He did say it was spicy but a glass of milk did the trick. I’m pretty sure he had three helpings. That’s a vote of confidence I can’t ignore.
—What is your favourite Island restaurant meal? Each month, Andrew Sprague heads out to eat based on your recommendation. Post it using #TryThisAndrew on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.