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Indian Cuisine : Take-Out
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Interviews in the Times Argus, The Bridge & Seven Days




Ethnic eateries survive, and thrive, sans seating                                                                                                            

By Alice Levitt and Corin Hirsch [01.12.11]

Published on Seven Days (

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The Best of the Rest

Two very different chefs work to fill Vermont’s culinary gaps

Curry & Spice

122 Forest Drive, Montpelier, 229-0587


Bhavna Rauniyar knew within a few weeks of her arrival that the Green Mountain State was suffering from a dearth of authentic Indian eateries. Born in central India, she grew up in a sprawling family in Nepal, one cosseted by delicious food — her mother often cooked for upward of 35 family members “with many herbs,” she says. Rauniyar watched but never took up a degchi, or cooking vessel, herself until years later. Eventually she returned to India to earn a degree in hotel management and catering.


When she moved to Montpelier with her husband, an Indian engineer, seven years ago, Rauniyar was taken aback at the homogeneity of dishes on the menus at local Indian restaurants. “The food you get here is not exactly Indian; they sell the same gravy for every dish,” she says. She found onions in her chicken tikka masala (she says they don’t belong there), and korma and vindaloo had the same color and taste. Rauniyar’s discontent ultimately motivated her to launch Curry & Spice[12], her

catering business in Montpelier.

Last year, she and her husband moved to a hilltop house on the city’s Forest Drive, where the roomy kitchen provided a capacious venue to develop Rauniyar’s concept: home-cooked Indian food for takeout and special events. One initial client grew to a handful, then a dozen. Seven months later, she cooks four or five orders almost every day. “It’s been really busy,” she says.


Rauniyar draws on both Indian and Nepali traditions in her cooking, offering classic Indian dishes such as biryani, dals and curries, and Nepalese dishes such as momos — steamed chicken dumplings in a tangy tomato broth.


Curry seekers must trek deep into one of Montpelier’s suburban neighborhoods to pick them up from her home kitchen; carting them home provides an exercise in resistance, as intoxicating smells fill the car.


Spice-wise, Rauniyar says her cooking hand is “mild” — she loves using butter, a tendency she says suits the American palate. Her approach is evident in the vindaloo: Though it’s traditionally a fiery-colored and spicy dish, Rauniyar’s version is brown, flavored with mustard and faintly sweet. By contrast, her dal makhani — black and green lentils and kidney beans flavored with peppers, butter and fenugreek — is a bold, sharp, speckled slurry. A quartet of corn cutlets — a mash of corn and spices deep fried so they resemble small crab cakes — possess an appealing crunch but lose their distinct flavor in the fryer. Rauniyar’s vegetable yogurt salad, a medley of cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans in a bright yellow, turmeric-spiked yogurt sauce, hits the palate with a warm, robust creaminess, with the veggies holding their form and crunch.


Curry & Spice’s menu has 30 main courses, five breads, 16 appetizers and salads, and an assortment of biryanis and pilaus, but Rauniyar thinks it’s not enough. “I still feel that it is too small. There are so many things that I want to do,” she says, referring to more dishes with cauliflower or minced chicken. Though beef, fish and shrimp don’t appear on the menu, Rauniyar says she’ll cook a shrimp dish by request. She’d also love to offer mutton and goat meat, if she can find them locally.


Rauniyar doesn’t plan to open a restaurant anytime soon. “The amount of work involved cuts down on your family time,” she says, preferring instead to have her 4-year-old daughter, Jiya, watch her in the kitchen.