Gourmands know there is more to Indian food than curry and rice, samoosas and bunny chows, and they’re aware of the difference between north and south Indian food. To the uninformed, however, the ubiquitous Durban curry is often assumed to be the sum of Indian cuisine.
Ghazal, one of Johannesburg’s finest Indian restaurants and winner of the Leisure Options Best of Joburg Readers’ Choice Award for Best Indian Restaurant from 2010 to 2016, specialises in north Indian food. Ghazal opened its doors at Melrose Arch in 2016, complementing the precinct’s cosmopolitan food offerings, and its spectacular north Indian cuisine, superb service, stylish decor and warm ambience quickly attracted a loyal following.
So what is it that sets north Indian food apart from its southern counterpart?
“You’ll find a lot of breads and curries in the north, such as naan bread, roti, chapatti and samoosas, while south Indian cooking is based around rice, lentils and stews,” explains Jimmy Gill, owner of Ghazal, who grew up in north India near the foothills of the Himalayas and immigrated to South Africa 16 years ago. “A lot of the Indian food found in restaurants in the West such as rogan josh, chicken tikka, butter chicken, chicken kadai and paneer masala originates from north India.”
North Indian dishes are creamy, rich and thick, so they can be scooped up easily by breads. Ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes, and sometimes cashew nuts, poppy and watermelon seeds, usually form the base of north Indian dishes. South Indian dishes, on the other hand, are thinner and more watery in order to be more easily soaked up by rice. They’re spicier and tangier than north Indian dishes, with the sauces being based on fresh roasted spices and coconut.
When it comes to desserts, or mithai as they’re known in India, north Indian cuisine wins hands down for its wide variety. North Indian desserts are sumptuous and usually made from milk, khoya (a type of evaporated milk), nuts, saffron, Indian cottage cheese and clarified butter, unlike desserts from south India, which don’t contain much milk but include a lot of clarified butter and nuts. Hot meals in north India are usually finished off with tea or chai, while diners in south India enjoy a cup of coffee made with chicory.
Spices are, of course, the primary ingredients of Indian food, be they dishes from the north or south. Garam masala is the predominant spice used in north India. Made of coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg, garam masala is typically used in powder form in north India, while in the southern part of the country, it is often formed into a paste with coconut milk, vinegar or water. Different variations of garam masala may include turmeric, saffron, fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, mace, star anise, tamarind, fenugreek or bay leaves.
“We pride ourselves on using only the finest ingredients and when it comes to spices, we source the best India has to offer,” says Gill. “At Ghazal, spice is life and great taste and a superior dining experience is everything.”
Popular dishes at Ghazal include samoosas, onion badjia, pakodas and lamb shish kebabs for starters, and tandoori, chicken or lamb vindaloo, curry, korma and palak, and lamb rogan josh for mains, enjoyed with assorted roti or naan breads from the clay oven. There is also a wide variety of vegetable and seafood specialities available, so vegetarians and pescatarians needn’t worry.
Ghazal is perfect for a romantic dinner for two, a family night out or large parties. It can be booked for functions and is ideal for staff parties or even a boardroom meeting with a difference.
For more information, please contact Jimmy Gill on 073 153 8102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
Incidentally, did you know that a ghazal, a love poem in Indian literature and music, was hugely popular all around the Indian subcontinent in the 18th and 19th centuries? It was a lyric poem with a fixed number of verses and a repeated rhyme, typically on the theme of love, and set to music.