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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Eating Around the World – In Dorchester: Indian Cuisine

Shanti+-+Taste+of+India
Shanti – Taste of India

The restaurants along the streets of Dorchester, Mass. are a constant reminder of the neighborhood’s multiculturalism. For the prospective eater, they provide a variety of options to choose from. Curious to try food that you have little experience with? Craving that specific something to hit the spot? This article series is devoted to finding great ethnic food in Dorchester, cross-referencing sources and exploring the menu so you don’t have to. More than that, it is about sharing the personal anecdotes and culture of the people behind the meal.
Shanti – Taste of India is for diners seeking a delicious and affordable lunch, an intimate and relaxing night out, or a range of flavors in a single meal. Located on 1111 Dorchester Ave., the restaurant’s front has dark-blue paint and white drapes in the windows. Written in gold over the entrance is “Shanti,” a word that in Indian means “peace.” The inside walls are red, set against them are carved wooden sculptures, and from the ceiling hangs yellow mosaic lamps.
Every day, between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., the restaurant offers a lunch buffet priced at $8.50. The selection of dishes rotates, but patrons can always expect a rainbow of colors, aromas, and bold flavors.
The Tandoori Chicken breasts, bright orange and crispy, “are marinated, then cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven,” says Solmon Chowdhury, who co-owns Shanti – Taste of India with his wife, Rokeya.
The amber Chicken Do-Piaza, translating to “two onions”, tastes of roasted onions, and has bell peppers and tender chunks of chicken in a heavy sauce. The Vegetable Pakoras are mixed vegetables deep-fried in a chick-pea batter, which tastes like both dumpling and felafel. Pakoras are available on the dinner menu as appetizers, six for $4.95.
Shaag is a spinach-based dish, blended smooth and with a little cream and ginger. This dish is a great vegetarian option. Paneer Kadai is too, with cubes of house-made cheese cooked in a spicy sauce of tomatoes. Vegans will like the Aloo Lima Beans, an off-white blend of mashed potato, lima beans, and fresh spices.
The myriad of sauces in Indian cuisine can augment the meal and hit the full range of taste buds, and Shanti’s lunch buffet is no exception. In the cooling Raita Yogurt, there are shredded strips of cucumber and mint, and the acidity made for a palate cleanser. A dark-green purée of mint, cilantro, and pepper complimented meats. A hot-pink chutney was complex with onion, chile, and what tasted like mango.
Everything is well served over a scoop of the saffron-flavored Basmati Rice, which absorbs the stewish food and sauces. Whatever is left can be sopped up with the fresh-baked Naan bread, which was crispy on one side and fluffy on the other, and the buttery biscuit taste pared well with the slightly sweetened Coconut Soup ($3.99). The dinner menu is available during lunch hours.
Shanti’s use of fresh spices is an example of the Bangledeshi influence on the restaurant. “Indian food typically uses dried spices,” says Chowdhury, who lived in Bangledesh until he was 14 and has since been in the Boston Metro. He became tired of driving to Cambridge to get good Indian food, recognized Dorchester needed a source for it, and soon after, Shanti was born. Thirteen years and three restaurants later, he and his wife still personally serve the guests, some, they’ve watched grow up.
After 3 p.m. the restaurant closes temporarily, and when the doors reopen at 5 p.m., the lights have dimmed. There are tablecloths with mandala-like embroidery. At night, many of the patrons were couples on dates. Indian food, says Chowdhury, “is great for sharing and family gatherings. The dishes are for the table [not the individual]. Everyone can try what everything tastes like.”
For those who are 21+, Shanti has a beer and wine list. The beer selection has Sam Adams, Carona, Stella Artois, and other standard domestics and imports, in addition to three Indian brews, Kingfisher, Taj Mahal, and Flying Horse.
The Chicken Tikka appetizer ($5.95) was served on a sizzling metal platter. The chicken, cooked perfectly, was savory and moist. Swirled around it were strips of onion, green pepper, and carrot, sitting in a tartness of vinaigrette that was accentuated by a lemon wedge.
Shanti offers dishes like curry, bhuna, korma, and vindaloo, and more, where the customer chooses a protein, either chicken, lamb, beef, goat, shrimp, and can then choose their preferred level of spiciness, “because the Chef makes new sauces for each order, instead of in big batches.”
I got the Goat Korma ($12.95), which also came with Basmati Rice. The sauce was rich and cream based and had a cinnamon-like taste. I spooned it onto pieces of Garlic Naan, ($2). For those who haven’t eaten goat, it tastes like lamb, only can have a stronger flavor. Seventy percent of the world eats goat. But the meat has only been recently growing in popularity in the US now, Chowdhury says, possibly because of its low fat content and the increased attention to health and nutrition.
Chowdhury says that some of his vegetarian dishes, such as the potato and cauliflower Alo Gobi ($12.95), or smoked eggplant Begun Bharta are popular, and that beyond Indian food being “so unique, with so many spice, and having so many flavors,” how healthy it can be is part of its allure.
Shanti – Taste of India is a five minute walk the Fields Corner T-Station. The restaurant also delivers to UMass Boston, Harbor Point, and most places within the city.