Unlikely Food Finds: Kumar’s Kitchen
Lately there’s been a lot of global variety that’s been coming to on to the Philippine shores. There’s been a boom, especially at BGC and the Makati area: of 3rd wave coffee, native foods cooked in new and different ways, Japanese food chains, an actual African food stall in BF Paranaque, and not to mention SM’s endless stream of new joints for foodies to try out.
We’ve got our fair share of new restaurants lately in Barangay Dona Imelda, Quezon City as well, easy take out food for the students at UERM and other neighboring schools at student friendly and not-so-friendly prices. So it’s actually not surprising a new food stall pops up. The only unusual thing is that what they serve is Indian food, rare for the Philippines and definitely rarer as a food stall. A friend pointed the small spot out to me during lunch break, so we decided to give it a try.
To my delight, Kumar’s Kitchen serves authentic Indian food. I haven’t had the opportunity to interview the owners, but the guy manning the stall has informed me the cook is Indian and all the food is freshly made daily, including the sauces.
I have to be honest here. I’ve been to this place twice already since the writing of this blog. My friend said they served real tea, glorious brewed tea, instead of instant powedered ones that taste strange after having sampled the real deal. I brought my tumbler with me and went about ordering my drink.
They can serve it hot or cold, strong or mild, and sweet and no sugar. It’s P35 for an approximately 8oz order, so I paid the twice amount for my 16oz tumbler to be filled with hot, mild spice, and no sugar. They told me it was Chai tea, which, by the way, I absolutely hate. I can’t stand the spices. I gave it a go anyway, as all the Chai I have encountered has been the one served in Starbucks. Maybe the this would be better.
It was actually great. Not to say I wasn’t averse to the spices, but after ordering for it to be milder than their usual brew it was pretty decent. I finished the whole tumbler in about two hours while sitting in a lecture. It was sweet though, because the server seems to tend to add sugar anyway despite me saying to add none of it. For fans of sweet tea, I’d advise you guys give it a go. The drink is earthy, the flavour is full bodied, and you can tell they actually brewed the Chai correctly instead of steeping the stuff in hot water like with tea bags.
My group of friends and I came back the next day, ordering the Samosas (P25/piece), the Chicken Biryani (P150), the Masala Dosa (P60), Beef Shawarma (P65), and the Lassi (P40).
According to Wikipedia, a samosa or ” samoosa is a fried or baked pastry with savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils and also with ground meat. They may or may not also contain pine nuts.” I queried the guy at the counter, to which he said it was fried pastry filled with vegetables (close enough). Each samosa is actually pretty big, two of these could actually fill you up for lunch. You can dip it in their home made garlic sauce, chili sauce, and even hotter chili sauce. Take a bite of these babies and you will realize that the spices are distinct, the potatoes generously filled, and the pastry crisp.
This next one is something everyone is familiar with. Got a food fest to plan? Call in the ever familiar Bubba Shawarma or the numerous other businesses that sell these, showcased as a giant piece of meat skewered and roasted over a heater. Kumar’s Kitchen does things a bit differently. They cook the beef over a griddle, already pre-marinated and spiced. The wrap is home made, thick and filling, balancing out the several flavours of the beef, cheese, lettuce, and the sauce of your choice (garlic, mild spicy, spicy). I’ll try out the chicken option (P50) next time I visit.
The following is a picture our feast, courtesy of my good friend introducing the rest of us to the establishment. Plus, it was her birthday. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN.
The Chicken Biryani is the one in those rice boxes. And the rice? Legit basmati rice.
Wikipedia sheds more light on what’s in the meal:
Historically, the most common varieties of rice used for preparation of biryani were the long-grain brown rice (in North India) and Zeera Samba rice (in South India). Today, the basmati rice is the most common variety. In Bangladesh, puffed rice is also used.
The spices and condiments used in biryani may include, but are not limited to, ghee (clarified butter), nutmeg, mace, pepper,cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron. For a non-vegetarian biryani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat, chicken and mutton are the most commonly used meat for cooking a biryani, special versions may include pork, beef, fish, or prawn. The dish may be served with dahi chutney or Raita, korma, curry, a sour dish of aubergine (brinjal), boiled egg, and salad.
The price seems a little steep for a student meal, but what you pay is worth it. You have the option of ordering this as not spicy, and obviously, spicy. The latter option was appealing, so we went with that. Like the Chai, Kumar’s Kitchen doesn’t skimp on the spices nor does it taste like it’s from an instant mix used for the convenience and cheaper price. The basmati rice is well cooked, not too soggy or too gritty like most canteens serve. The spices once again take center stage, but it isn’t too overwhelming. For those with a more sensitive palate, perhaps, but you can order it mild. The heat is there but I didn’t reach for the nearest drink after having a bite. The chicken here is filleted, just a small enough serving to go with the already filling and savoury rice. Honestly, I’d just order the rice if you didn’t need a daily protein requirement. It’s that good.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of the Masala Dosa (P60), but it basically looks like your run of the mill shawarma except it’s filled it spiced vegetables, mostly potatoes, onions, and a smattering of other edible vegetation I couldn’t recognize. Similar to the samosa, the spices in the potatoes are well blended but distinct and well prepared. I found that this paired well especially with their garlic sauce. The serving in itself was humongous. I could only finish 2/3 of the entire wrap, and had to give up. I was lucky to have big eater friends who could polish it off. Masala means potatoes, while the wrap, as Wikipedia explains, is:
Dosa is a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils.
Further, it’s actually not as carbohydrate rich as most people expect from something that looks like a tortilla:
Its constituent ingredients are rice and Urad Dal (Vigna mungo), it is gluten-free and becomes a complete protein.The fermentation process increases the vitamin B and vitamin C content. There are also instant mix products for making dosa, with somewhat lower nutritional benefits.
It’s a pretty cool reversal, with the wrap as the protein and the filling as the carbohydrate.
Finally, the lassi is what I ordered for my beverage choice on this particular day. Wikipedia is our friend, especially for such unfamiliar venture for me:
Lassi is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes, fruit. Traditional lassi (a.k.a., “salted lassi”, or simply, “lassi”) is a savoury drink, sometimes flavoured with ground and roasted cumin. Sweet lassi, however, contains sugar or fruits, instead of spices.
Theirs is of the sweet variety. I can tell you that this doesn’t taste like Yakult at all. As a big fan of yoghurt, and as someone who regards yoghurt as an actual meal, this tastes like actual, homemade, fresh yoghurt . The consistency is thick, but not too thick you can’t drink it up a straw. I was asked by the server if sweet or no sugar. I said none, but as with the Chai, I end up getting one sweetened to my maximum limit. I got a headache, but it tastes really good. There was no fruity notes, however, so I guess I’ll bring my own fruit spices next time. I’d come back for this as long as I don’t get served with something that’ll spike my blood sugar and send me into a coma.
I’m already planning on buying again for my lunch next week. I’ve yet to try the baked potatoes, the kebabs, chicken shawarma, and will try and snag a non-sweetened lassi.
This place is great. They serve vegetarian, I am so happy!
If you know where UERM and Mezza Residences are, just look for the tiny street behind the school where the students park. For its location and what they serve, it’s an amazing find squirreled away in the most unlikely of places.
By the way, the also accept orders!