I love street food. There is something special about something that’s quick, cheap, and tasty as hell. It’s an especially important part of life in India, expressing the country’s diversity with vibrant smells and flavors from a variety of regions. So what better place to stop after a long hiatus than Bindaas – an Indian street food spot in Foggy Bottom.
They just reopened after a break during COVID-19 and it was a refreshing break from takeout. Bindaas, which is Indian slang meaning independent, cool and carefree, offers an assortment of savory snacks, kebabs, vegetarian options, pork, fish, chicken, and beef street food dishes. It’s best to go with a big group so you can try as many things as possible. They have small plates, so you’ll need 2 – 3 dishes to fill up.
We got whole mix of dishes (which is par for the course).
The Avocado Golgappa was a one-bite flavor-packed ball of fun. It came in a hollow puri (a deep-fried crisp flatbread) filled with avocado yogurt. And the tamarind sauce underneath added a light sweetness. Just pop one in your mouth and enjoy.
I think we were in a fried food mood because the other starters we ordered just happened to be fried too… Cauliflower Pakora and Shrimp Bezule.
Ordering cauliflower usually isn’t my first instinct, but I was curious to try the onion chutney it was paired with. The Pakora was tasty, and the batter had a similar consistency to fish and chips, but I was right to assume the onion chutney is what makes the dish here. Don’t get too hung up on the onion though – that just gives it a little bite – for the most part the chutney was like a light vinegarette that brightened the dish and took away from the heaviness of the batter.
As for the Shrimp Bezule… I could order that all the time. It’s the perfect snack. It’s light, crispy, and a little spicy. I could see myself grabbing all of these starters on the street and hopping to my next stop. Today, our next step just happened to be more food.
I guess you could call the next round of dishes the main course: Chicken Kathi Roll, Spinach Kofta Curry, and Parsi Fried Chicken Sandwich.
The Chicken Kathi Roll was a flavorful, moist chicken kebab wrapped in a loving paratha bread. It was cooked really well, and the chutney added a nice complimentary flavor. I think the diced fresh veggies on the side were meant to brighten the plate, but I wish they had just put them in the roll (like it would be on the street).
The Spinach Kofta Curry was one of the most unique dishes we had. It wasn’t a flashy dish – balls of spinach on a bed of rice – but it had a nice layer of flavors that hit your tongue at different moments in the bite. It was fun to explore what was coming next, and this is perfect if you are looking for something familiar and new at the same time.
The Parsi Fried Chicken is a favorite on India’s Western Coast, and it makes perfect sense as a sandwich. It’s crispy, as it should be, embraced in a sweet Hawaiian roll (I love you fried chicken). On the side, the gunpowder fries had a little spice to them, and the ketchup was freshly made.
Despite full bellies of delicious food, we still got dessert. And I’m glad we did because this might have been my favorite dish: Mango Ras Malai. I love a light and refreshing dessert to end the meal, and this was exactly that. It may not look like much, but a lot goes into this dish.
Traditionally, Ras Malai consists of flattened balls of chhana (cheese curds) soaked in malai (clotted cream). Milk is boiled, and a bit of vinegar or lime juice is added to split it. The whey is discarded, and the milk solids are drained, cooled, and kneaded into a dough. The dough is divided into small balls, and the balls are cooked in hot water with a bit of rose water added. The balls are then cooked in milk with saffron, pistachios, and kheer as stuffing.
This version was engulfed in scrumptious mango with just the right amount of sweetness and a nice little crunch from the pistachios. My translation of this dish would be, “little pillows of flavor.”
And with a final bite of the Ras Malai (aka little pillows of flavor), our meal was done. The dishes were colorful and creative, and it seemed like the menu was having fun playing with some traditional street food dishes. I just wish we could have tried more things. I guess we’ll just have to come back another time soon.