My first vivid encounter with the South Asian cuisine was in Toronto, courtesy of Pakistani friends I made during a training. They were kind enough to invite us to a restaurant serving excellent South Asian food, and I've always hoped to recreate that experience ever since. A string of disappointing meals at mall-based restaurants and a well-regarded hole-in-the-wall led me to the point where I would pay more just to get my South Asian/Middle Eastern fix. I remember seeing a branch of Kashmir Restaurant near where I work but delayed going there, fearing that the restaurant would be old and musty. Although the familiar scent of incense and the sound of Indian music greeted me at the entrance, I was happy to see that the restaurant's interiors were livened up by splashes of bright orange, apple green, and purple.
I ordered the rhaan (also spelled raan) roast masala (roast leg of lamb). Masala is a spice mix. It may refer to a garam (hot) masala, a blend of ground spices common in South Asian cuisine, and this may contain black and white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, black and white cumin seeds, black, brown, and green cardamon pods. I love the hefty serving and the tender meat. I paired the dish with pillowy, creamy naan--grilled leavened soft bread roasted in tandoor (clay) oven--to soak up the spicy sauce. I love that they did not stint on the heat. In no time at all, my tongue was burning and I was sweating like a pig. Life is good.
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