Archive for the 'Handi' Category

11
Aug
08

Handi

Living in New York I don’t take for granted the fact that superb Indian food is only a couple of blocks away at any given point. Anywhere in the greater New York area (including parts of New Jersey, like Iselin, for example) Indian food of the highest quality is available. I am an incredibly huge Indian fan. I love the thick curry stews from the North, the tandoori baked naan with a little butter, onion fritters, fried vegetable samosas, nutty biryani with all the trimmings and a mango lassi to boot; I love the spicy combinations from the south, the hot sambar that goes with just about anything, the pickled fruits and vegetables that are tremendous on their own and perfect as a palate cleanser, the crispy edges and soft potato center of spicy dhosa, the perfectly portioned thali for the times when I can’t decide and just one option, and the creamy rice pudding to end the meal. To me, Indian food is the ultimate comfort food. It satisfied the mouth, the heart, the soul. It’s warming, homemade, and you feel so full that you get slightly worried for your digestive system after you eat.

However ambiguously, “They” say that the best Indian food outside of India can be found in London. Certainly the Indian scene of London is to be respected and taken advantage of after a flight across the pond. However, I certainly think that New York and Jersey offer quite a down-home traditional Indian fare that can compete with even those expensive, up-scale British joints.

If New York can compete, then Nairobi can definitely compete. A large Indian population from both the north and south have immigrated to Kenya over the years and there is a thriving Indian community within Nairobi. This makes for interesting cultural diversity (and some, although relatively few, complications with locals) and it makes for spectacular culinary offerings. There are quite a few good options when it comes to Indian in Nairobi: from the expensive side (like Handi) to inexpensive food-court options (see next post), you can’t go wrong.

Handi is located in a smaller mall adjacent to the Westlands area and just off of the highway leading out of Nairobi to the West. “The Mall” contains several good restaurants, Handi being the shining star. It has been described as being “the best Indian food in Africa” (popularly told, though I don’t know who said it). From my experience, I wouldn’t argue. The atmosphere is quite upscale and whether you enter from the mall or from the parking garage, you are surrounded by a beautiful, serene setting that makes for a welcome respite from the busy streets of Nairobi, not to mention the weak-in-the-kness curry aromas that hint at the meal to come.

Definitely try some starters before your main dish. I like to keep it simple at Handi and order the poppadoms. Served with a spicy salsa fresca over the top, I find that poppadoms don’t ruin the appetite but definitely prepare the palate for the main course. For the main course several dishes come highly recommended.  Perhaps my favorite Indian dish is Malai Kofta: delicate vegetable dumplings that have been lightly fried and are served in a rich, thick gravy.  The dumplings often have cashews in them that serve as a light crunch to the dish and whether you order it with naan or simple basmati rice, sopping up the gravy is the best part.  Handi offers a wonderful rendition of this dish and in a substantial portion.  All dishes are served in traditional Indian vessels including copper and clay pots and each comes over its own individual flame warmer.   Handi also offers several paneer classics that are difficult to beat.  The paneer korma (mixed vegetables, gravy and paneer) and the saag paneer (creamy spinach with paneer cubes) absolutely to die for.  The saag paneer smells richly of cloves and other subtle spices that add to the creaminess of the dish.  

Accompany your meal with a drink from Handi’s full bar.  The local beer (the “pride of Kenya”) is Tusker and guarantee you won’t leave Kenya without trying it.  It’s not a bad beer, but it isn’t impressive either.  It’s light and has enough flavor to satisfy going down…try it and you’ll decide!  If you want to drink Kenyan but Tusker isn’t for you, try the Tusker malt.  Though it’s a bit more expensive and comes in a smaller bottle, the taste more than makes up for it and it is a good alternative to the regular, 500 ml bottle of Tusker.  Other beers include White Cap (another light lager) and Pilsner.  As far as liquor goes, Kenya has one liqueur that is definitely worth trying and makes a great gift/souvenir when going home.  The drink is called Amarula and comes from a fruit that elephants traditionally eat.  It’s a creamy liqueur and difficult to describe: think Bailey’s but mildly fruity.  It’s nice by itself or in coffee.
Make a stop by Handi during your next trip to Nairobi, you won’t be disappointed and the ambiance will be a respite from the bustle of your trip.
Handi
The Mall
Second Floor
Nairobi, Kenya 
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