Monday, December 03, 2007

Rasraj in Little India

While I do quite a bit of ethnic dining, I haven't really eaten a lot of Indian food and even though I've lived in the LA area for 25+ years, it's only recently that I've started exploring Little India. The area known as "Little India" consists of Asian Indian-owned businesses and restaurants along Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia and draws customers from the large population of expatriates from the Indian subcontinent living all over Greater Los Angeles.

My very first visit there occurred just by chance. I was having lunch with friends at a Filipino restaurant and one of my friends mentioned having Indian ice cream for dessert down the street in Little India. I'm always up for a new culinary adventure so off we went for some of the best ice cream I've ever experienced and I experienced that at Saffron Spot. Finally, I've arrived.

Since then, I've had meals at three different restaurants, with the last one being my favorite so far and goes by the name of Rasraj. What's interesting about Rasraj is that they also have a small section in their menu of Desi Chinese items. The word “desi” refers almost anything Indian, whether it's person, place or thing; thus, Desi Chinese is Chinese food cooked Indian style. Basically, traditional Chinese dishes are prepared using Indian flavors and spices. For my visit there, I just stayed with their Indian dishes, but next time will be a different story.

The thing about eating at Rasraj, it's better to either have some kind of working knowledge of Indian Cuisine or bring someone who's familiar with it. Either that or you just have to be really adventurous. When you walk in, the walls are lined with pictures of the various dishes they offer. Behind the counter, you'll see the menu items on a board and there's also a take-out menu that you can look at as well. The problem is that in all three instances, there are no descriptions or listing of ingredients next to the food items. So it's like ordering blind.

Luckily, I brought a friend with me, who happens to be Indian, and what she had me do was point to the any of the pictures on the wall and she'd describe the dish to me. Based on her descriptions, we chose three items. From there, we placed our order at the counter, were given a number and waited for our number to be called.

While in line waiting to order, we also picked up deep-fried chili peppers that didn't seem hot at first bite, but wow, a couple of bites later, my mouth was on fire. Thank goodness the food we ordered arrived fairly quickly because it was the yogurt from two of the items that helped cool the fire. As for our orders, the first thing I tried was the Danipuri. The danipuri are small round bread shells called puri filled with yogurt, potato, chili powder and tamarind and green chutneys sprinkled with coriander leaves. To eat it, you pop the whole thing in your mouth. I really enjoyed the light crunch of the shell as well as how cooling and refreshing the rest of the ingredients were to my palate, especially after eating that deep-fried chili earlier.

For more of a kick, the tandoori wrap we ordered offered that and more. The tandoori wrap was naan bread topped with mixed veggies, spicy tomato sauce, cilantro and garnished with pomegranate and cilantro chutney. Yum! Yum! Yum! I don't even think I even have words to describe all the delicious flavors of what actually seemed more like an Indian pizza than a wrap. You get a nice heat hit from the sauce while the fresh cilantro leaves and cilantro chutney adds a nice little pepperiness. I also liked that the veggies still had a nice crunch to them. No sogginess there.

The last dish was Papdi Chat which was a mixture of yogurt, boiled potatoes, garbanzo beans and garnished with tamarind and cilantro chutneys. Just like the panuri, this yogurt-based food was cooling to the palate, but the tamarind and cilantro also added a nice hit of sour and peppery flavors as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Rasraj and trying some things I've never experienced before and I look forward to a return visit.

To see pics, go to:

18511 S. Pioneer Blvd,
Artesia, CA 90701


Rasraj on Urbanspoon


jennifer ( said...

I'll have to try this place out! Great pics and descriptions. I always have a hard time ordering solo at Indian restaurants too. I've eaten at Jay Bharat's down there a few times and really liked it. Great flavors. I also liked Woodlands.

pleasurepalate said...

Hey Jen! I've been to Jay Bharat's also and liked it. Woodlands is still a place I'd like to check out. The other restaurant I ate at was Tirupathi Bhimas. I've recently heard about a Desi Chinese restaurant in neighboring Cerritos that primarily serves Indian-Chinese food, so that's one place I want to check out next.

Marvin said...

I've never had Indian food but always wanted to try it. Yogurt boiled potatoes? That sounds awesome!

pleasurepalate said...

Hey Marvin. Indian food is really interesting and there's such variety in the regions, but then I guess that's true of all ethnic cuisine. Yogurt is definitely a key ingredient in some Indian cooking. They even have yogurt drinks, both sweet, sour, even salty.

If you ever do want to try Indian food, Artesia is really the place to go. :)

Chubbypanda said...

Oooh... That's genuine Indian food, not Balti. *droool*

pleasurepalate said...

Chubbypanda, drool is right. I'm getting hungry again, just looking at the pics. :)