The Chef’s Take: Inday

At Inday, New York City's new fast-casual Indian restaurant, vegetables like spinach paired with red quinoa and orange lentils are the main focus.

With its potato-stuffed samosas, mounds of rice and must-have spheres of naan, Indian cooking doesn’t exactly conjure images of invigorating, low-calorie lunches. But Basu Ratnam, a young finance-dude-turned-restaurateur, would like it to. Enter Inday, his new, fast-casual eatery in New York’s NoMad District.

The airy, green-filled space, which has the backing of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s longtime partner Phil Suarez, fittingly showcases “vibrantly spiced, light” creations, says Ratnam. “Indian food is commonly perceived by Americans as caloric, rich and too spicy. This is largely due to the type of dishes seen on Indian menus in the U.S., like chicken tikka masala and butter chicken, which are not representative of authentic cuisine and certainly too heavy to eat every day.”

While dreaming up the petite-sized menu, Ratnam turned to his Calcutta-bred mother, a “health-conscious woman” and experimental cook who eagerly assimilated vegetables into the family’s meals, for inspiration. This California-meets-India approach led to Inday’s “Not Rice” bowls, an adaptation of one of her recipes, which unite shredded cauliflower and Brussels sprouts as a nourishing alternative to the conventional grain base. For those patrons who simply can’t do without forkfuls of rice, a mix of wild and brown jasmine rices infused with tamarind will come their way.

Vegetables, like spinach paired with red quinoa and orange lentils, are the main focus of dishes at Inday. “Meat is an option, rather than a necessity,” Ratnam points out. But those who desire it can choose from nutritious options including farm-raised chicken and salmon grilled in a melange of spices commonly embraced on western India’s Konkan Coast.

With yoga and meditation classes already providing much-needed doses of serenity to a plethora of fatigued New Yorkers, Ratnam is eager to illuminate yet another ancient Ayurvedic tradition. “We’re part of the same family, all working together to promote a healthy, mindful lifestyle,” he says. “Ayurveda is about eating food to maintain or restore balance.” A quick lunch is a simple first step.

Inday Salmon with Coastal Indian Spices
Serves 4
2 pounds (or four 6-ounce) salmon fillet
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
5 teaspoons white lentils (urad dal)
5 teaspoons mustard seeds
5 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon red chili kashmiri
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Toast all spices and lentils in a skillet over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Grind the toasted spices and lentils to a fine powder and mix salt.

3. Rub the powder onto the salmon evenly.

4. Put rubbed salmon in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

5. Preheat a skillet to medium heat with olive oil.

6. Delicately cook for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, until fillet is flaky.

Inday “Not Rice”
Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds or 1 large head cauliflower (shredded)
1/4 pound Brussels sprouts (thinly sliced)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 handful of curry leaves (chopped)
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons garlic (grated)
3 tablespoons ginger (minced)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium-size serrano chili (finely chopped)

1. Take off the green base of the cauliflower and cut into equal-sized florets.

2. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor.

3. Heat olive oil in a pan and cook mustard seeds, garlic, ginger and curry leaves, until the garlic starts toasting and the mustard seeds start to pop.

4. Then add serrano chili, salt and turmeric.

5. Add the hot mixture onto the cauliflower and thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

7. Put mixture onto a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5 minutes.

Alia Akkam is a New York-based writer who covers the intersection of food, drink, travel and design. She launched her career by opening boxes of Jamie Oliver books as a Food Network intern.

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