Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eating at Indian Thali and a Mashed Eggplant Recipe

Last night some friends and I celebrated the holiday season at Thali Indian & Thai Cuisine, a restaurant on South Beach. Thali is the Hindi word for “plate” but means a meal with small bowls placed on a stainless steel tray filled with vegetables, dal, yogurt, chutney, pickle, and a sweet that comes with rice, bread and  a thin lentil crisp (pappad). Non-veg thalis include meat and seafood. The dinner menu adds Thai dishes influenced by both India and China.  
Owner Denis Nazareth was born in Mumbai and when he was 19 he went to Muscat, the capital of Oman on the southwest coast of the Arabian Peninsula to work at a hotel. He met many American professors who were teaching at the nearby Sultan Qaboos University. In 1984 one arranged for him to attend Western Carolina University where he studied resort management and lived with a host family. After graduation he moved to Miami and managed several chain restaurants he now owns. He opened his latest eatery on Miami Beach.
Indian starters include samosas, pakoras (battered veggie fritters) chicken tikka and bhel puri, a jumble of puffed rice, chips and chickpea flour noodle bits tossed in fresh chutneys. South Indian dosas (rice and lentil pancakes with various fillings), chicken gassi (in coconut coriander gravy with mustard seeds) and Malabar grouper in tamarind-coconut curry are on the menu with Northern-style kormas, biryani and tandoori and a few Indo Chinese snacks from Calcutta like cauliflower in soy tomato masala with ginger and garlic. I tried the diamond thali and chose sambar (stewed red lentils), sag paneer (spinach with cheese cubes), roasted mashed eggplant, tandoori shrimp, chicken makhani (with cream) and gulab jamun (fritters in syrup).
 One friend tried the Thai Buddha’s thali with hot and sour soup (tom yum), mixed salad, green curry with baby corn, bamboo shoots, sweet potato and basil, mild Massaman vegetable curry enriched with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, sweet-sour vegetables with pineapple, and a Thai doughnut. The spice is twice as nice at this new spot.
Thali Indian & Thai Cuisine is at  754 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-216-1234

Mashed Roasted Eggplant (Baigan ka Chokla)

Serve this spicy dish with bread as part of a meal or mix with sour cream for dip.

1 medium globe eggplant, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1-3 fresh green chile, such as Serrano, minced (scrape out seeds for less heat)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the eggplant several times wrap in foil and roast for about 35 to 45 minutes, until soft. Cool slightly and peel off the skin. Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the oil, onions, chiles, garlic, ginger and salt to taste. Mix well. Makes 4-6 servings.

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