take the bombay express

Thumbs Up is like Indian Coca Cola apparently.. with a little spicy kick but not too different

I've been dying to go to Swad lately- it's probably been almost two years since I've last been there!  The little hole-in-the-wall in pretty far north Austin serves up all-vegetarian southern Indian food, like giant dosas (lentil pancakes filled with various things) and puri and roti (unleavened breads) with delicious dippables. 

My friend Omaima and I had been planning on getting some Indian food soon, and when I mentioned Swad, her reaction was: "Swad?!  No way, nobody goes there anymore!"  She was shocked to hear I'd never been to Bombay Express, Swad's much superior South Indian counterpart.  I am so glad Omizzle is around to drop this type of knowledge on me.  :)

Bombay Express specializes in chaat, which are small South Indian snack dishes (almost like tapas) and they use various pieces of crunchy fried dough and toppings like yogurt and coriander.

papdi chaat

The papdi chaat above almost reminded me of Indian nachos.  The strands on top are seasoned crunchies (not shredded cheese, as they appear!) and the yogurt topping (almost crema-like) cools off the spices within and the whole thing is served over crunch round discs, almost like tortilla chips.

masala idli with coconut curry

The idli in the masala idli above are described as "steamed rice cakes" but I believe they were steamed and THEN fried because they are definitely crunchy!  They are mixed with chickpeas, spices, and topped with a coconut curry.

the photo opp was just too good-- even though neither one of us finished this Thumbs Up :)

paneer curry with puri

The puri above can be used to dip into things like the special tomato-based paneer curry they had... or the decadent, sweet shrikhand below (on the left)!  Shrikhand is a dish made from strained, sweetened Indian yogurt which is made by hanging and draining yogurt cultures-- much like lebneh!  Cardamom and saffron are also used to flavor the yogurt. Delishhhh....

clockwise from top: sev batata puri, gajar halwa, and shrikhand

I also discovered a new obsession: gajar halwa!! This sweet pudding is made from carrots, milk, spices, and sometimes nuts.  "Don't be fooled," warned Omizzle, "It's not healthy."  I can't wait to make it at home though...

kvas soda at Shahi Foods

After our snackfest of a feast, we headed to Shahi Foods, a nearby grocery store, for Omaima to show me some of her favorite goods.  It is mostly Indian groceries, though they also had an entire kosher deli section and lots of international surprises, like fresh injera bread!  I also discovered the Danilo kvas soda above! I was immediately intrigued because our friend Jay swears by beet kvass and I've been meaning to make some myself.  I wondered whether the two were related at all..?

But apparently the Danilo kvas is a Ukrainian fermented beverage with herbs and sugar.  The cashier said it tasted like beer but with no alcohol content...

falooda sev noodles and mix, tukmar (basil seeds), a couple of kulfi, chana dal samosas, and biryani mix for a rainy day!

I already like grocery shopping normally, but I get way too excited when faced with new and interesting products.  So I ended up getting some stuff, as you can see. :) It was also cool to have Omaima there to point out products her family swears by.  I also couldn't resist getting pista mix and sev for making falooda drinks!!  And a few kulfi bars to throw in there too-!  We decided that a future DIY falooda bar is a must...