At the Bombay Café, Neela Paniz's Santa Monica, California, restaurant, Paniz takes the classical Indian cooking she learned while growing up in India and gives it new twists. Her dishes have the brightness and warmth of a California day rather than the smothering intensity of her native sun. She also lightens them by using less ghee and vegetable oil than is traditional. The 160-plus dishes in The Bombay Cafe
cookbook call for the full range of Indian seasonings, from kari leaves to sambar powder, and specific dals, which means that a visit to an Indian food store may be in order.
Knowing that Westerners like soups (which are not part of the classic Indian table), Paniz creates Golden Lentil Soup with Lemon and Chiles, among others. She remedies a similar lack of appetizers by suggesting you start the meal with chile-sparked Potato Pancakes and other savories that Indians normally enjoy at tea time.
A prime feature of Paniz's eclecticism is her salads. The most popular is California Tandoori Salad, a combination of grilled chicken, paneer cheese, mushrooms, and raw vegetables, all tossed in a cilantro-cumin dressing and topped with crisp fried noodles. Dipping into the distinctive cooking of Southern India, Paniz offers recipes for fluffy Uttampams and helps you through the complexities of making a paper-thin, pizza-size dosa with a potato and onion stuffing, via careful text and a series of illustrations.
For Indian food that is fresh and pleasantly different, The Bombay Cafe is a book that can guide you into new adventures. --Dana Jacobi