Food News

Celebrate Indian Independence Day with Excellent Food at These Metro Phoenix Restaurants

Chicken tikka masala is the most popular dish at New India Gate.
Chicken tikka masala is the most popular dish at New India Gate. Mike Madriaga
New India Gate, a 7-year-old Punjabi restaurant in Chandler, is owned by brothers Pardip and Gopi Singh.

"Our dad used to own Royal Taj in Tempe and Indian Gate off Chandler and Kyrene, then he retired from the business," Pardip says. "Our mom still helps in our kitchen."

Like their parents before them, the siblings serve North Indian cuisine from Punjab, the state where their parents lived before relocating to the U.S. The second-generation chefs cook a variety of lamb, chicken, beef, goat, and vegetarian dishes from a menu their father created.

August 15 marks the 75th anniversary of Independence Day in India, a national holiday that pays homage to the country's leaders who fought against British rule.

Many metro Phoenix residents of Indian descent celebrate this day in unison with their families and friends 8,000 miles away.

In India, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, will raise the flag at the Red Fort in Old Delhi on Monday and provide a speech to the nation of nearly 1.4 billion citizens. It's the second most populous country in the world where on Svatantrata Divas, independence day in Hindi, there will be military and police parades, children participating in kite flying excursions, and feasts around the country.

For those in Phoenix, we can participate vicariously by watching the festivities online and eating and drinking delicious Indian treats throughout the Valley.

A good place to start is at New India Gate with a pair of samosas, savory, deep-fried triangular pastries.

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Samosas, deep-fried triangular pastries, make a great start to a meal.
Mike Madriaga

"You can try our vegetarian and beef or chicken versions," Pardip suggested. "And try our Taj Mahal beer."

The $13 pint-sized beer has a yellow graphic label of the Taj Mahal, the renowned mausoleum in Agra, India. The brothers also offer Flying Horse Royal Lager. Both light and crisp lagers are popular in India.

The cold beer compliments the samosas, which are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The meat variation contains slightly spicy ground beef and peas and the vegetarian treat is stuffed with spicy potatoes and peas. The pastries are served with a sweet tamarind sauce and a blended cilantro, red onion, and mint dip.

"We usually mix them to get a spicy sweet taste. And then we crush down the samosas and kind of pour the dipping sauce all over it and let the bread soak the sauce in," Pardip says. "That mixed sauce goes with all of the appetizers here."

The 3,500-square-foot Chandler restaurant serves other Indian appetizers, including paneer pakora cheese fritters, tandoori wings, garlic shrimp, and onion bhajis.

Chicken tikka masala is the most popular dish served at New India Gate, the brothers say. Chicken breast is marinated for hours, then grilled. Then, they put the chopped chicken in a tomato, butter, and curry sauce while cooking, ensuring the chicken comes out moist.

The dish is best enjoyed with basmati rice and naan, a leavened bread cooked in a clay oven. Pardip explained how his family would eat back home in India.

"Serve the rice on the plate first. And then, pour the entree over the rice; that way, the rice can soak in all of the sauce. Then you take the naan as a spoon, scoop up the food and eat it all together, the rice, the chicken masala, and the naan. You eat it with your hands. And eventually, when you are done with your bread, then you can use the spoon to eat whatever is left over," he says.

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Golab Jaman are dumplings made of milk with a smidge of saffron.
Mike Madriaga
For dessert, try an order of Golab Jaman, a duo of three-inch ball-shaped dumplings made of milk with a smidge of saffron, dipped in cardamom and saffron-based sugar syrup, or cool off with some homemade ice cream.

"My mom comes in and makes the mango and pistachio kulfi ice cream for us," Gopi says. "We make everything from the ground up and in-house. So if you ate at our house, it'd be no different from here."

New India Gate

4939 West Ray Road #1, Chandler
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Little India is an Indian grocery store with a kitchen in the back.
Mike Madriaga
Metro Phoenix is full of wonderful spots to grab an Indian meal. Here are two more options to celebrate.

Little India

1813 East Baseline Road, Suite #108, Tempe
Little India is an Indian grocery store with a kitchen in the back. The kitchen makes five different curries daily. The ever-growing list of options includes bhindi masala, rajma, dal Rajasthani, dal makhani, palak paneer, allo gobi, dum aloo, shahi paneer, and Panjabi pakora kadi.

But the grocery store is known for its various chaat. Chaat is a group of snacks sold at food carts and makeshift booths on the streets of India. One version made at Little India is called papri chaat, and includes flat puri, a type of bread, topped with yellow peas, yogurt, tamarind, cilantro, chutney, and onion with additional spices. Samosas are another option.

In the grocery section, Little India sells Sosyo, a fruity carbonated drink, and Thums Up, both popular sodas in India.

They also sell Gopi Lassi, a yogurt drink made with mango and live active yogurt cultures.

In a refrigerator by the register, look for a refreshing cold dessert like the rasgullah, paneer cheese balls in sweet syrup and rose water.

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Guru Palace in Gilbert has an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $13.
Mike Madriaga

Guru Palace

2048 East Baseline Road, Gilbert
Guru Palace serves complete dinner combinations, including vegetarian, meat, and tandoori combos featuring platters from northern and southern India.

At lunchtime, the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for $13, providing a great option for newcomers to the cuisine.

The menu is vegetarian-friendly, with 16 items available, including palak paneer, a dish of chopped spinach cooked with cheese and aromatic herbs. The kitchen also makes bengan Bharatha, roasted eggplant seasoned with herbs and spices.
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