Saturday, July 30, 2005

Lassi Wishes & Bollywood Dreams


I have always wanted to go to India. I am fascinated by its culture, its food, its movies, and even its pop music...and did I mention its food? Indian food was, for me, love at first bite. It just kinda knocked my socks of in terms of flavor. Cumin, cardamom, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, fennel seed...they make me sigh with pleasure and transport me to far-off lands! I like dishes that make their presence felt, that have a taste and aroma that will not be ignored...exotic and strong and full of passion. This is Indian food for me.

There are a number of good Indian restaurants in Manila but one of my favorites is a little place in Legaspi Village called Swagat. I discovered it when I was still working in that area and have returned many times since. They have an extensive menu which includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, a good variety of Indian breads, and some great desserts. You've got Biryanis and Pullows (rice dishes), Paneers (dishes made with Paneer, a homemade Indian cheese, kinda like cottage cheese), Dals (lentil dishes), Raitas (yogurt dip-like sidings), Pakoras, Samosas...the list goes on and on. You will see your old favorites (Roghan josh, goat meat cooked with coriander leaves, tomatoes and flavored spices, is mine) as well as things you haven't yet heard of and are yet to be discovered.

During this visit we had (pictured above, clockwise from top left) Paneer Korma, Roti, Sangam Biryani, and Mutter Palak. Paneer Korma is pretty much a standard when I go. It's paneer cooked with onions, tomatoes and different spices. It has just the right amount of creamy-ness, the acid in the tomato acting as a good counter and adding to the taste, and is very flavorful but not too spicy (so good for people who don't eat spicy, although I am not one of those people). Perfect for dipping our Roti, their whole wheat flat bread. If you aren't into spicy food a Korma (they have Chicken Korma too) would be a good bet as it is one of the mildest spice mixes/sauces. It uses grated coconut, coconut milk, or yogurt which is what brings down the spice factor and gives it its creamy-ness. You can also order a raita to counter the spicier dishes. I usually get the Cucumber Raita...cool and refreshing.

The Sangam Biryani and the Mutter Palak were both firsts for me this time. I usually order a pullow (the Kashimiri Pullow is my favorite -- it has currants and nuts and spices) and order my meat dish separately (usually the Roghan Josh), as the biryanis already have the meat mixed in (unless you order a vegetable biryani). But hey, variety is the spice of life, right? Anyhoo, the Sangam Biryani was a very pleasant surprise, rich and tasty and moist, as I find a lot of biryanis I've had before to be a little dry. It has both chicken and lamb in it, and both I found very tender and well blended with the spicy flavors of the rice. The Mutter Palak was the first dish among the vegetarian specialties that I tried (as I don't often wander into the vegatarian portion of menus). It turned out to be a real winner! Peas and spinach cooked with a blend of herbs and spices with gave the dish a good strong character that enhanced rather than overpowered the flavor of the vegetables. I vow to try more of the vegetarian stuff soon.



To complement the spicy nature of the food we had some Sweet Lassi, which is a sweet yogurt and milk drink. I have always liked lassi and try to have it every time I'm at an Indian restaurant. It also acts as an excellent "fire extinguisher" to cool your toungue after an extra spicy spoonful of food.

I never leave Swagat without having some Gulab Jamun for dessert, going as far as to pre-order it before ordering any of our mains. It's described in the menu as a "cheese ball", but it's more like a sponge-y ball of dense cake, with a hint of cheese, soaked in syrup. It is heavenly. And has been a favorite Indian sweet of mine since childhood, when a nice lady in my neighborhood use to make and sell it. To top everything off, a cup of hot Masala Chai, tea brewed with milk and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and ginger. It's my favorite tea...hot and spicy, milky but strong.

Sated, we lean back in our chairs as our waitress brings us our hand written bill. No service charge and a good deal for all we had consumed.

Their food is what I feel is good, authentic, and absolutely delicious Indian cooking. It's run by Mrs. Komal Khanchandani, who moved here from India with her family eight years ago. She cooks all the meals herself. It's a simple place, with none of the trappings of higher-end Indian restaurants, but what it lacks in gold tureens and belly dancers it makes up for in great home cooked Indian food and a TV that plays Bollywood movies all day long (this is a definite bonus in my book!).

Swagat Indian Cuisine
119 FCC Building, Rada St.
Legaspi Village, Makati City
Tel: 7525669
www.swagatindiancuisineph.com

14 comments:

schatzli said...

cheap isnt it... naku pag uwi ko sa pinas talaga....

i have few friends from India and have eaten good indian food..

I will keep this on my file...

Zita said...

Joey: Yes, the yoghurt ferments the dough. You can use yeast but you have to leave the dough to rise for at least 3 hrs in a warm area, and I mean warm. Tsaka nga pala I added your blog to my list. Enjoy eating! I'll give the resto a go when I come home.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Schatzli, I envy you! I have no friends from india, so have never had the chance to eat indian home-cooking in a real home...someday I hope to actually visit India and experience firsthand everything it has to offer...

Hi Zita, thanks for adding me to your list! I'll try the nan recipe soon and I think I'll try it with the yogurt...sounds interesting. As for the warm area, my whole house is a "warm area", haha :-)

Midge said...

Hi, Joey!

Sorry for the college-girl speak: katakam-takam naman your post!

Suddenly, I have this urge for the mutton roghan josh, mushroom paneer and pappadams at the New Bombay Canteen along dela Costa. **sigh**

ChichaJo said...

Hi Midge, haha! I like New Bombay too...I heard they have another branch somewhere in Greenhills. Where I really want to go is Assads, the indian grocery along UN Avenue. I've heard a lot of good things about it but haven't had the chance to venture to that part of town lately...

Lori said...

I prefer New Bombay to Swagat -- I find the latter's pink table cloths to be a little off-putting. :P

Assads along UN Ave is fantastic, though out of the way. Terrific samosas and biryanis.

ChichaJo said...

Hahaha! Did you see their website? It's pink too! Hmmm, strange coincidence.

Another coincidence. I finally made it to Assads today! I only had a few minutes as my friends were waiting in the car so I was running around, crazily grabbing spices. I also got a bunch of gulab jamun...YUM! Will try the samosas and biryanis next time!

Santos said...

thanks for the info! i love indian food, and it's not common here, so i seek it out whenever i can (unfortunately, my family feels differently about it :( ). nice to see, though, this is walking distance from me--maybe i can sneak out sometime to indulge in a little paneer and pakoras!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Santos! So you are still here? I love Indian food too...fortunately lots of my friends and family do too so we all troop here together. Hope you enjoy it! :-)

Randi said...

was that only 775 for all that food? Thats so cheap, its about 14 US dollars. Wow, I should come to the phillipines on vacation.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Randy! Yes, 775 pesos :-) If you think in US dollars you can come here and eat like a king every day...

Sharon said...

hi...i, too, love indian food! i just came back from a 3 week vacation/food fest in india and im starting to crave for the food again. yesterday, i went to swagat for the first time.was impressed by the variety of food that they have. i have also tried the indian restaurant in UN ave. and the one near Sacred Heart in Makati. but im still in search for more indian restaurants. where is the exact location of New Bombay in Dela Costa? Please help me...Thanks

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sharon! A 3-week vacation/food fest in India! Lucky you!!! :) the New Bombay on Dela Costa is on ground floor of Sagittarius Building...From Paseo de Roxas right at Villar Street, then right again on Valero Street. Then at the end of Valero, turn left on Dela Costa, Sagittarius Building will come up on your right :) On my sidebar, under "My Travelbug" I have a link for a Makati Map...you can use this. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

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