Home cooking can be hard to find when home is on an entirely different continent. But the owners of Himalayan Restaurant knew how to bring the flavors of their South Asian home to Chicago. They sought out Chef Bishnu Subedi, who relies on his 12 years of experience as well as his training in a Kathmandu culinary school. Befitting the subcontinent’s rich and diverse history, Chef Subedi designs expansive menus, which embrace the Northern Indian, Nepalese, and Asian subcultures that define the region’s cuisines.
This cultural fusion is readily apparent in dishes such as the momos: steamed Nepalese-style dumplings that are typically stuffed with minced chicken or vegetables and served by street-food vendors throughout Nepal. Northern Indian flavors completely shine through on certain dishes, including the tandoori chicken, which marinates overnight in spiced yogurt before the chefs quickly barbecue the meat inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. House-made paneer cheese and fluffy naan also evoke the flavors of South Asia; the restaurant further embraces its cultural roots by serving Indian beers and water from melted Nepalese glaciers.
The aroma of curry mingles with that of traditional Nepali spices inside Mt. Everest Restaurant's dining area, whose walls are shod with oil paintings of scenic mountains brushed by Nepali artists. Inside the kitchen, the head chef prepares Nepali entrees—including khasi ko masu (goat meat cooked on the bone) and aloo tama bodi (a popular dish of russet potatoes, bamboo shoots, and black-eye beans)—alongside Indian favorites such as chicken tikka masala garnished with ginger and cilantro and king-size prawns roasted in a clay oven. Each entree is prepared to order, whether diners prefer mild, spicy, or business-casual seasonings, and served with drinks ranging from imported and domestic beers and wines to mango lassis and Himalayan teas.
The expansive menu at Bombay Kabab House contains dishes to suit naan neophytes and tandoor gurus alike. Slam-dunk two samosas ($3.50) stuffed with the traditional potato and green-pea mash, or land a lamb lay-up with the keema samosas ($4.95), containing spiced minced lamb. Popular pabulums that regularly win prom-queen votes from Bombay Kabab House customers include the chicken malai kabab ($10.95), marinated in cheese cream, red vinegar, and numerous spices; and the chef's special chicken tikka masala ($12.95), roasted in a clay oven and tenderly enveloped in a cream sauce. Herbivoyeurs and veggilantes can espy on eats such as the nawartan korma ($7.95), a creamy dish with potatoes, green peas, cauliflower, green beans, cottage cheese, raisins, nuts, and carrots, also known as "celery's cooler brother."
The Himalayan Mountains cast a long shadow, and in their shade Indian and Nepalese chefs have crafted many styles of curries. Curry Hut Restaurant extends that shadow all the way to Chicago by introducing guests to a diverse sampling of Indian and Nepalese cuisine. Chefs fill their woks with simmering curries, adding touches of cardamom and cumin for spice. Their traditional clay ovens cook smoky flavors into kebabs or bake tiny clay ovens for guests to take home as souvenirs. The restaurant’s Nepalese dishes feature a number of spices found only on the slopes of the Himalayas; chefs rub these into bone-in goat meat or blend them in stewed yellow lentils.
Jagmohan Jayara’s dream of sharing his Indian culture with others through cuisine became a reality when he opened up the first India House in 1993. Since then, the restaurant has grown a following that demanded three more locations. Each one brings Chicago-area locals the spices, herbs, and vegetarian-friendly dishes that characterize Indian cuisine. The menus include lamb kebabs, tandoori chicken, or whole chickpeas cooked in traditional Punjabi masala. The chain offers dining, takeout, and a buffet alongside banquet and catering options for special celebrations including weddings, birthdays, and first cricket victories.
At Swad Of India, cooks seek out halal meats for their entrees, roasting platefuls of marinated lamb and chicken inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. The vegetarian options use the same blends of potent herbs and spices, although the cooks replace the meats with housemade cheese or vegetables exclusively sourced from county-fair ribbon ceremonies.