Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday.
The Festival of Lights is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. This year, Diwali falls on Nov. 4, and there’s no better way for everyone to celebrate — regardless of religion — than enjoying some authentic, traditional Indian cuisine.
The Treasure Coast is home to five Indian restaurants: one in Vero Beach, two in Port St. Lucie and two in Stuart.
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Nepal native Pushpa Poudel opened the Stuart restaurant on Ocean Boulevard in 2016, then moved to the Regency Square Shopping Center in 2018. He co-owns it with Balkrishna Gyawali and Devendra Tiwari. The most popular dishes are butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, but newcomers should try items from the tandoor, a clay oven. Garlic is the most popular flavor of naan, a flatbread used to sop up sauces. There’s also homemade momo, a Nepalese dish originated in Tibet that features a special sauce over fried or steamed minced chicken or vegetables. Some dishes feature goat with bone, popular among Indian and Nepalese diners.
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Manjit Kaur, born in Punjab, India, opened the Martin County restaurant in the Treasure Coast Square food court in Jensen Beach in February 2020, then moved to Salerno Village Square Plaza in the Port Salerno community of Stuart in February 2021. The most popular dishes are samosas, which are crispy fried pastries filled with peas, meat and potatoes; and chicken tikka masala, which has boneless chunks of chicken in a creamy curry sauce. It also has Indo-Chinese cuisine with different kinds of fried rice. Friday and Saturday nights are busiest.
Taj Indian Restaurant & Bar
Nepal native Surya Baniya opened the Port St. Lucie restaurant and bar, which has indoor and outdoor seating, in Prima Vista Shoppes in September 2018. The most popular items on the extensive menu are butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. Try the Saturday-Sunday lunch buffet or cultural fusions such as chicken tikka masala pizza. There’s a full cocktail menu and Indian beer: Flying Horse Taj Mahal, Power 10000, Old Monk 10000, Bira IPA, Woodpecker and Lion. There’s also Nepalese beer: Khukuri and Mustang. For dessert, try the chocolate samosas with dark chocolate and cashews.
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Chandram Samikutty and Ivette Fernandez opened the St. Lucirestaurant in the Sunoco gas station on Okeechobee Road in Fort Pierce in August 2019, then moved to Parkway Plaza in Port St. Lucie in May 2021. He’s from Kerala, India, and she’s from Puerto Rico. The couple fuses their cultures in some dishes, such as beef samosas and chicken tikka tacos. The most popular vegan dishes are chana masala, which are chickpeas in a ginger and garlic paste, onion sauce and Indian spices; and dal fry, which are yellow lentils with onion, cumin seed, tomato sauce and other spices. The most popular vegetarian dishes are curried vegetables and paneer makhani, which is fried Indian cheese in a tomato sauce, creamy milk, ginger and garlic paste, cashews and spices. All these dishes are served with basmati rice. Homemade mango lassi is created with mango, milk, sugar and yogurt.
Taj Mahal Masala
Bangladesh native Enamul Huq opened the downtown Vero Beach restaurant in Parkway Plaza in December 2019. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant became takeout-only and dinner-only, and Huq said he hasn’t been able to hire enough staff to return to lunch and dine-in service. His menu features dishes from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, including biryani, a dish cooked with rice, almonds and raisins. For a cold dessert, try kheer, an Indian rice pudding with ground rice, milk, raisins, cardamom and pistachios. For a warm dessert, try gulab jamun, fried ricotta cheese balls soaked in rose water and honey syrup.
Laurie K. Blandford is TCPalm’s entertainment reporter and columnist dedicated to finding the best things to do on the Treasure Coast. Follow her on Twitter @TCPalmLaurie and Facebook @TCPalmLaurie. Email her at [email protected]. Sign up for her What To Do in 772 weekly newsletter at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage.