Enjoy south Indian cuisine in Nashua
Meena’s Kitchen is vegetarian and homey
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Nashua has a new Indian restaurant on Pearl Street. However, at Meena’s Kitchen customers will not find the standard kormas, tikkas and vindaloos. This one specializes in southern Indian cuisine that is 100 percent vegetarian.
“Some of the menu items are standard for a southern Indian restaurant,” owner Sravan Kumar said. “You can’t have a southern Indian restaurant without them. It is authentic food we would cook at home and you can’t find at other restaurants.”
Meena is Sravan’s wife, and co-owner and chef. The pair came to the U.S. from Hyderabad, India, 12 years ago and couldn’t find the familiar food of home. Meena, who learned to cook from watching her mom, started to prepare dishes not only for her family but for others as well.
“Meena would cook to bring people around her. She would help friends and family for parties and cook for charities. She has a passion for cooking. She wanted to do it and we wanted to giver her a bigger audience,” Sarvan said.
Sravan noted the couple have been vegetarians their entire lives. He said that even non-vegetarians in India don’t normally eat meat every day, but primarily on Sundays. And in most of the restaurants they tried, they could only eat half of the menu offerings. So they decided to do a restaurant their way — 100 percent vegetarian and about 90 percent vegan.
Meena cooks only with canola oil — no butter or cream. Some dishes are made with cheese as a protein source, but no meats or eggs are used.
The centerpiece on the menus is the dosa — a crepe made with sour dough that is standard to southern Indian cuisine. One popular choice is the Mysore Masala Dosa, made with house-made red garlic chutney and served with spicy potato curry and sambhar vegetable stew. Another is the Rava Masala Dosa, which is a cream of wheat crepe served with spicy potato curry, chutney and sambhar. A variation on a standard dosa is the Uthappam, a pancake made with sour dough and topped with choice of onions, tomatoes, cilantro and carrots. (Chiles are optional.)
Another popular menu item is the Bajji, a deep-fried dumpling made with a chickpea batter and a choice of potato, onion, spinach, plantain, zucchini or eggplant. Pakodi is a crisper version of bajji, made with a choice of onion, spinach or cabbage. And desserts such as bobbattu and poornam boorelu are ones typically prepared in Indian homes, not restaurants.
For customers new to southern Indian cuisine, the restaurant offers a six-course, all-you-can eat option for $12.99. The menu includes a soup, starter, dosa, curry dishes and dessert. There is also a five-course option for lunch that doesn’t include a starter or dosa, which typically take longer to prepare.
Meena is happy that customers are so encouraging and enjoy what she prepares: “Everybody is asking for my recipes. My waitress says, ‘No, those are Meena’s recipes.’”
“People come from 50, 60 miles away to eat authentic southern Indian food,” Savan said. “Indians come here because they miss their mom’s cooking. We do the authentic foods moms and grandmothers cook at home.”