two popsicles and some spices on a wooden cutting board
Jackfruit Chai Banato Bars. Credit: Jasmine Sheth

Update as of Mon 8/15/22 at 11:30 AM: Unfortunately Monday Night Foodball has been canceled tonight due to illness. Next Foodball is still on for Mon 8/22, and future dates are listed at the end of this article.

Jasmine Sheth has had a hell of a year. Last March the impresario of the always fascinating Tasting India meal delivery pop-up took a break from her regular hyper-regional menu drops to go spice hunting in India.

First, she dropped in on her parents in Mumbai—first time home in years. Then she turned south to the Cardamom Hills in the Idukki district of Kerala to tour spice co-ops and press the flesh with farmers. Then it was wayyyyy northeast to visit tea estates in Assam, and back in time for her dad’s birthday party.

That was just before the Jean Banchet Awards, where she was up for the new “Best Alternative Dining” category, and with barely time to catch her breath, it was the start of farmers’ market season, where she’s been a circuit fixture, selling her proprietary spice and tea blends, and her serotonin-flooding Bombay Chili Crunch. This was all in advance of the impending rebrand of her masala hustle under the rubric Spice Without Borders, which will launch . . . well, more on that soon.

Jasmine Sheth

It’s been exhausting, stressful, and not great for her health; therefore, it hasn’t been easy to jump back into the pop-up game. But among Sheth’s many powers is her ability to harness the restorative powers of food, or, as she puts it: “things that make you feel warm and fuzzy and well cared for.”

Before long Sheth felt ready to share her spin on traditional Indian comfort food. And that’s what’s on the menu this Monday, August 15, when Tasting India returns to Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s ongoing weekly guest chef pop-up at the Kedzie Inn in Irving Park.

Sheth played Foodball in its third week nearly a year ago when Kedzie owner Jon Pokorny and I started this thing, and she’s helped out other MNF chefs many times, either on the line or dropping in with surprise snack deliveries. She knows how to bring it.

This Monday it starts with a nod to the popular street food bhel puri, with tamarind beet tartare and masala spice chips. Next a chicken-chickpea curry puff, creamy with coconut and smoky with her Cobra Saffron and Black Stone Flower-spiked Goda Masala. Next there’s a vadouvan mushroom curry with truffle oil, Malabar parotta, and seasonal veggie slaw with curry leaf dressing. Her favorite blanket in a bowl is a riff on the lentil-rice porridge dal khichdi, subbing in  buckwheat groats for the grains, with a spiced crispy rice cracker, that Bombay Chili Crunch, and an optional masala shrimp fry addition. For dessert she’s teaming up with banana sorbet popsicle purveyor Banato for a special ice bar swirled with jackfruit-chai jam.

Naturally, you’ll need to stock up on the spice blends featured in these dishes, which Sheth will be selling on-site—and you know she and Pokorny are scheming on a cocktail. Preorders are on sale now, though there will be limited walk-in availability starting at 5 PM at 4100 N. Kedzie Ave.

Until then, take it easy on yourself, and dream of the remaining Monday Night Foodball schedule:

8/22: Vargo Brother Ferments

8/29: The triumphant return of Funeral Potatoes

9/5: Labor Day break

9/12: The Melanin Martha returns

9/19: Global Asian barbecue with Umamicue and friends