courtesy of ‘MichaelTRuhl’
It’s easy to be intimidated by the prospect of cooking Indian food. Will it turn out right? Will my kitchen smell like curry for days? Am I better off ordering from a restaurant in town that actually knows what they’re doing? But take my word for it: making Indian food, really good Indian food, doesn’t have to be that hard. Save your pennies on having someone else make you chicken tikka masala; you can do this.
After the jump you’ll find Kaz Kazmi’s recipe for pakoras, a traditional Indian fried vegetable fritter. They’re flavorful and spicy and taste so good that before you know it the entire batch you made will be gone.
‘Owner Qaiser Kazmi’
courtesy of ‘MichaelTRuhl’
There’s a phrase that comes to mind after talking to Qaiser (Kaz) Kazmi: “go big or go home.” The father of three and entrepreneur gave up the corporate life working in IT and set his sights on creating an Indian-inspired concept back in 2005. Today, he’s working on perfecting the first Merzi restaurant in Penn Quarter/Chinatown and looking to expand across the city, and eventually across the country.
Merzi, which means “choice” in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, came about after Kaz found himself becoming less and less connected with his career and more and more invested in his passion for food. But for someone who wasn’t classically trained as a chef, there were a few bumps in the road. “In 2002, we were having some people over, and I said to my wife: ‘If these kabobs I make are delicious, then I’m ready for a restaurant,'” said Kaz, laughing a bit. As the story goes and as we’ve all experienced before in the kitchen, Kaz’s attempt to look for a sign from God or the stove ended in what he referred to as “terrible kabobs.”
But a few years of research and taste testing later, Kaz created a concept to bring Indian food to a level that is comfortable and not intimidating for Americans.
I think most twenty-somethings (or really, people with good taste in general) have a special love for Chipotle. The Mexican chain is brilliant when you’re super hungry and need food fast, and aren’t up for a greasefest of hamburgers and fries. But how many burrito bowls can one girl eat before she’s ready for something new? (More than you think, probably, but just go with it.)
Lucky for us, Merzi on 7th street is much like Chipotle, except with an Indian twist. Same fast-food concept, same create-your-own feel, but with fun new flavors like tikka masala and chutneys. Also, bonus, it’s locally run and owned, and you guys know how I feel about supporting small businesses. So read on, my lovelies, for a first look at the new Penn Quarter eat place. Continue reading
Appropriately dubbed the “Indian Chipotle”, newcomer Merzi is giving away free food today from 11 a.m. to noon at the Penn Quarter restaurant. I stopped by last night for a sneak preview, and walked away a big fan. The steps are just like Chipotle, pick a base (in this case, Naan, Chaat, Rice or Salad), add beans, add a meat (I recommend the beef, shrimp or chicken), toppings like lettuce and rice, and then a masala or a chutney to finish. My favorite was the green chili chutney, but don’t expect to cuddle up to your coworkers after lunch, it certainly has a kick.
Good news for our gluten-free friends, the owner’s son has a gluten allergy, so the restaurant is particularly conscientious of careful gluten-free preparation and keeps most items entirely gluten free (aside from the naan and the samosas, obviously). Boylan’s bottled sodas and a mango and probiotic yogurt smoothie keep you refreshed. Merzi is located on 7th street between D and E next to Carmine’s, and is open from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.