“We’re in for a treat tonight!”
It’s a comment from the man beside me that I dare not take out of context. We smile to each other, strangers who’ve met for the first time.
We’re standing waiting for takeaway at the Indian Hut on Christine Corner. His comment reinforces several important concepts about food. A joy in food is safe communal territory. For us, food and its cultural history is a frequent topic of conversation with strangers, sometimes across tables in a restaurant, as we travel, or in other contexts. We are intrigued by other cultures which bring colour and depth to our dining lives.
The exotic spices of India not only play an integral part of Indian civilization, linked to religion, ritual and family life, they have also fascinated other nations for centuries. Since the time of the Romans, spices have been traded to enhance food. The history of spices is one of adventure, conquest and the naval rivalry of nations. A cargo of spices from the East reached exorbitant prices, so much so that Vasco Da Gama’s spice haul was reputedly worth sixty times the cost of his two year voyage!
These spices interest us today not only as food flavourings, but also for their medicinal qualities. Spices such as turmeric, mustard, cumin, coriander, ginger and chilli have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as being good sources of minerals and vitamins.
Yes, we are in for a treat! Indian Hut, the family restaurant of Manmohan (Mani) and Parina Bagga, has been serving up quality Indian cuisine since 2004.
It was long journey from Mani’s homeland of Mussoorie in Northern India, high up in the Himalayas north-west of Tibet to the Gold Coast. The couple journeyed to Australia so that Parina could complete her MBA at Griffith University, Mani working in House of India with Inder Jaiswal (from the same town as Mani) until the couple opened their own restaurant, Indian Hut.
Every day since they opened, Mani has arrived at the restaurant in the morning to cook the sauces for the day. All spices are freshly ground from whole spices, the meat marinated and prepared, ready to be cooked to order. Mani’s insistence on fresh vegetables and his traditional cooking techniques excluding oil mean that the flavours are full, the vegetables crunchy and the meat lean. Chef Sukhraj Singh works beside Mani, managing the clay tandoor oven.
Indian Hut’s menu is extensive – lots of choices, and varieties of dishes, for example, six rice dishes, including biryani and Kashmiri pulao, and a dozen breads including different naan, roti and paratha.
We notice lots of choice for vegetarians, (about half the menu, in fact), ranging from entrées such as Vegetable pakora, Vegetable spring rolls, and Tandoori mushrooms, to breads and over a dozen main course dishes: Dahl and vegetable curries, Paneer and Kofta with different sauces.
We begin with several entrées: Tandoori Prawns and Chicken Tikka. The chicken is succulent and sweet – among the best we’ve tasted. We decide to try the Tandoori Sizzler as a shared entrée next time we visit, as the tandoor meat is a hit.
While most of the dishes are North Indian, there are a few from Southern India, such as Madras Curry. We try a new specialty – Goat Curry, as well as a vegetarian Malai Kofta, its vegetable and nut balls smothered in a rich creamy sauce.
On other occasions we’ve enjoyed Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Nawabi, the meat falling apart at the touch of the fork. Rice (with every grain separate and al dente), naan brimming with mozzarella, cottage cheese and garlic (or try the basket of bread with raita and chutney for $3.25) – every single dish we’ve had at the Indian Hut has been exotic, aromatic and deliciously fresh, and we have so many more specialty dishes we wish to try!
For me, this is food to share. With each curry so different, it’s great to savour each taste, to choose complementary flavours and textures, noting their difference.
Indian Hut has a keen price point, with most curries ranging from $12.95 – $15.95. (Add a couple of dollars more for seafood.) Lunch takeaway from $9.95 or dine in for $11.95 and there’s a three course ‘All you can eat’ Sunday buffet for $19.95 per person. Even more astounding, Indian Kingfisher beer is $5.95 and wine is $15 per bottle for big label shiraz, or $2.50 per person for BYO. (There’s a bottle shop in the same centre.)
However, on a blustery Wednesday night as I stand beside a stranger awaiting our takeaways, it’s not the price he’s talking about. While affordability may be a consideration, it’s the consistent quality of India Hut’s rich aromatic curries, made by an owner chef, that bring back the locals.
In the end, for many people it doesn’t really matter which restaurants win awards, or which have been judged by critics to be outstanding. Lots of diners appreciate quality, and know what they enjoy eating. Better still, Indian Hut’s food is a treat that many families can enjoy, even on a stormy week night.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Indian Hut.
Christine Corner Shopping Centre, 3/221 Christine Ave., Burleigh Waters; Ph: 07 5576 7255
Open: Tues – Sun 12 noon – 2.30pm; 5.30 – 9pm