Five thoughts on this year’s Las Vegas Indian Food Festival

Jalebi is sort of the Indian version of funnel cake.
Jason Harris

1. Dessert isn’t what I usually think about when I go for Indian food, but after trying the offerings at the 11th annual Vaisakhi Mela at the Clark County Government Center on May 3, I’m going to reconsider. Jalebi is like an Indian funnel cake, but harder and covered in a sugary syrup. The texture holds up nicely to the sweet coating. Rabri maal poora (more commonly spelled rabri malpua) was my favorite, a pancake with an assortment of blended toppings including milk, cardamom, pistachio, sugar and kewda, a syrup made from water, lime, sugar and the essence of the pandanus flower. It’s a complex and delicious dessert, but I’d be just as happy having it for breakfast.

2. Bad Look No. 1: To the white dude dressed as Gandhi, including a bald cap and a sheet, no bueno. I’m not sure what the thought process was or what you were advertising, but if you wanted to make people feel awkward, mission accomplished.

3. One of the better savory offerings was masala dosa, a giant rice crepe filled with potatoes, onions and spices. The long, thin crepe was accompanied by a tangy tomato sauce, a rich coconut sauce and a mouth-watering, spicy vegetable soup. It was both tasty and visually impressive.

4. Bad Look No. 2: To the booth selling Pizza Hut slices of pizza ... really? This was a festival celebrating the amazing cuisine of India. Watering it down with second-rate pizza does nobody any favors and takes something away from the cultural experience. At least go for good pizza if you’re going to do it.

5. The lassi bar was both yummy and a necessary way to beat the heat. The yogurt-based iced drink not only cooled my body temperature, it also acted as a natural coolant against the variety of spicy foods. I bypassed the well-known mango and went for the more obscure. Rose lassi has a delightful floral hit and really good sweetness to it. Thandai is filled with a mix of masala spices, cashew nuts, rose water, black pepper and raisins. Once you mellow it out with the ice, it all comes together, a perfect way to wash down anything but a slice of pizza.

Tags: Dining
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