The genial Mr. Syed, owner of late Bhabi’s Kitchen*, once told food writer Colleen Taylor Sen that most of his non-Indian customers limited their ordering to just the same three dishes—tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and sag paneer. “He suggested I write a little ‘cheat sheet’ for his customers explaining dishes and suggesting combinations so that they could expand their horizons,” says Taylor Sen, author of Curry, a Global History and Food Culture in India.
The project gradually expanded into a 40-page booklet with sections on the different types of Indian restaurants in North America, the components of a menu, guidelines for ordering, sample meals, an FAQ, and a 150-some term glossary to help navigate those endless menus
She hired a designer and added illustrations, and the self-published Pakoras, Paneer, Pappadums: A Guide to Indian Restaurant Menus was born. It just came out on Amazon but you can also find it right now at Patel Brothers Handicrafts, 2600A W. Devon, 773-764-2222.
On Saturday, September 18, Taylor Sen will give a talk, “How to Order in an Indian Restaurant—and Self Publish!” at the Culinary Historians of Chicago’s Chicago Foodways Roundtable from 10 AM to noon at Kendall College, 900 N. Branch. It’s $3 per person, free to Kendall students and faculty with ID. Call 847-432-8255 or e-mail chicago.foodways.roundtable@gm
*Mr. Syed’s wife, the Bhabi over the door, is currently catering. You can reach her at 773-260-2815.