Spice of life: the best Indian food in Adelaide


Venture beyond dishes invented for Westerners, to discover some spicy surprises of Indian cuisine.

Gone are the days when Australian cooks made curry with just one all-purpose.

powder (the only spice in the supermarket aisle) and added sweetness with apple and raisins.

But, in a country that prides itself on exploring the intricacies of different ethnic cuisines, most of us still have a lot to learn about Indian cuisine. For starters, did you realize that the ever popular butter chicken isn’t an Indian invention? The chicken tikka masala either.

Both recipes were developed in England to satisfy local palates by immigrants mainly from northern regions such as the Punjab.

Australia has experienced a similar migration pattern and has since limited itself for many years to a fairly one-dimensional view of India’s vast repertoire of cuisines. Not that there is anything wrong with the rich ghee sauces and potent spiciness of dishes like rogan josh lamb or chicken korma. It’s just that there is so much more to discover.

Head, for example, to the other end of the country and the scorching tropical climate and proximity to the coast mean the cuisine is lighter and fresher with a coconut base and flavoring fireworks to from ingredients such as chili, mustard seeds, curry leaves and herbs.

There’s a lot of seafood, of course, and this is also where the thin, lentil-based pancake known as dosa is found which is rolled or wrapped around a range of toppings.

Further east, closer to the Himalayas, noodles and dumplings have crept across the border between Nepal and China. A long history of trade and conquest across the subcontinent is also part of the mix. When the Portuguese took control of Goa, for example, they introduced vinegar which is a key part of the region’s vindaloo. The best Indian cuisine reflects this vast repository of styles. In Adelaide, the two Cinnamon Club restaurants (Norwood and Henley Beach) are a good place to start, with an extensive menu that includes a variety of dosa and biryani, as well as more familiar curries.

Lucnowi goat curry comes highly recommended. The daughter-in-law also casts a wide net in her kitchen with a special emphasis on snacks and street foods that perfectly match her party atmosphere.

The legendary Jasmine has been offering superior North Indian cuisine for over 40 years and dishes such as tandoor lamb chops and Malabari beef curry are as good as ever.


“Authentic” is a word many restaurants use to describe their food.

Stepdaughter Jessi Singh, however, is going in the completely opposite direction.

Singh happily describes the food at his Indian restaurant in Rundle St as “inauthentic,” reflecting what he says is the limitless variations in cuisine between regions, cities and even families.

“There is no such thing as authentic Indian cuisine,” he says.

“If my mother makes a dal (lentil or chickpea curry), it will be completely different from my

grandmother or aunts. Country food is exactly what you grew up on.

Singh says the daughter-in-law name honors the daring women in his family. Like them, the restaurant is ready to push the boundaries and break a few rules.

He gives the example of trevally sashimi, which combines slices of raw fillet with traditional South Indian flavors like coconut, lime and mustard seeds.

Other popular dishes include the popular Balls of Happiness street snack, Colonel Tso’s Indochinese-style cauliflower, lamb chops with mint chutney and cumin yogurt, and the four-day tandoori chicken.

Eye-catching pink and teal furnishings, a beverage serving fridge, and a 1970s and 1980s playlist all help to create a relaxed party atmosphere and make the stepdaughter stand out from the crowd.


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