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REVIEW w/ pics: Rasraj in Little India

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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 Papdi Chat, which is also known as "Beggar's Purse." The Papdi Chat are small round pastry shells filled with yogurt, boiled potatoes, garbanzo beans and garnished with tamarind and cilantro chutneys. 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.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the last dish. It was very similar to the Papdi Chat in that the ingredients included potatoes and yogurt. Also similar was how cool and refreshing this dish was, perfect eating for a hot day.

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:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

Rasrak
18511 S. Pioneer Blvd,
Artesia, CA 90701
Tel.562-809-3141
www.rasraj.com

Thanks,
Abby
http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/

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