Garlic Kabob at Ekta, you’re quite the dish! What’s your secret?
You’re too kind! I can share two secrets to my success. First, owner/chef of Ekta, Raju Bhattarai, grinds all his own spices. He doesn’t trust store-bought spices: How old are they? Where did they come from? What was the condition of the spice before it was ground? So many unanswered questions! Freshly ground spices are then carefully and precisely measured to give each dish its unique kick.
OK, that’s one secret. Can you dish on the other?
Well, in order to ensure those oh-so-fresh spices permeate each bite, Raju brushes sour cream on me to help the spices absorb properly. He cuts my chicken into small pieces and bakes it in a traditional clay oven, a tandoor, fired by charcoal with lots of chopped garlic; letting freshly ground ginger, cumin, coriander, white pepper and green chili cozy up to me. After about 30 minutes, I get a nice smoky flavor but I’m still very tender and, of course, spiced to perfection.
So where are you from?
Raju is from Nepal but I’m not—it’s his own take on Indian with his favorite spices in mind. Drawn from tradition in technique but not necessarily taste. He cooks what he likes.
And what do customers have to say—is it what they like?
Of course! I’m the most popular appetizer and entree—customers have even skipped dessert for more me.
Impressive. If I’m to order you as an app, what main courses do you get along with?
I highly suggest ordering me as your main but if you must, order the Lamb Tikka Masala—lamb in a creamy onion and tomato sauce. Or go veggie with the popular Bhindi Masala—okra with onion, tomato sauce, ginger and pomegranate seed.
Ekta is a BYO. Do you have any pairing suggestions?
In the warmer summer months, with spices like this, stick to something fresh and light like a Pinot Grigio. And don’t be shy about sharing the naan—it’s gonna get hot in there.
Visit ektaindianrestaurant.com for area locations.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014