Guest post by Big Apple Curry co-founder Myna who is my sister, lives in Toronto, and works in the non-profit world helping girls and women
While one of my favourite parts about travelling is discovering the local cuisine, I find it’s always fun to mix things up by taking in one meal at a local Indian restaurant if there is one — something I discovered on a trip to Italy when my sister Ina was singing with the Rome Opera Festival; we had a memorable meal at the Indian restaurant Sitar on Via Cavour, down the street from the Colosseum. So when I visited Prague recently, I decided to take a break from the hearty goulash, plump bread dumplings and crisp potato pancakes, and enjoyed dinner at the Indian Jewel.
When I was planning my trip, I saw that the Indian Jewel was one of the most recommended places to eat. Between Rick Steves’ book and many travel websites, it has received rave reviews, and I quickly learned why. It’s located in the Ungelt Courtyard, a pleasant area that makes for great outdoor dining in summertime because it’s quiet, calm and cool (even though it’s not far from the hot, noisy, and tourist-filled Old Town Square). It has a very friendly wait staff, a menu full of authentic Mughal favourites, and serves high quality food in beautiful copper pots. It was one of the most memorable meals I had in Prague.
Usually when I order at an Indian restaurant I get multiple dishes to share “family-style”, but because I was dining alone I decided to order one main course that was packed with flavour: Murgh (Chicken) Biryani. Biryani is a layered rice-based dish made with basmati rice, spices, and chicken, lamb, or vegetables, and is one of the most challenging Indian dishes to get right. So I was blown away when I took my first bite — this Chicken Biryani was not only delicious, but was the best Biryani I have ever had in a restaurant. The saffron-infused rice was fluffy and not over-cooked. The spices were bang on, aromatic and balanced — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. There were big, juicy pieces of tandoori chicken (something you don’t often see), tender and flavourful. The caramelized onions added the requisite sweetness to complement the spices. The fresh cilantro brought it all together with a touch of brightness. Even now, weeks later, my mouth waters when I think about that Biryani. It was one of the best Biryanis I’ve ever had. Ever.
I always enjoy Biryani with a side of raita — a yogurt-based side dish or condiment that is is often paired with other main dishes. Even the raita impressed me! It was full of crisp, finely chopped tomatoes and cucumber, just as I make it at home — often at restaurants, they skimp on the veggies. They used a thicker yogurt which I prefer, as I find it’s easier to eat alongside hot, spicy dishes like Biryani. And they garnished it with both cumin powder and roasted cumin seeds, which added a richness to the flavour of the dish.
And naturally, I enjoyed the whole meal with a glass of wine. While you can always enjoy a good Indian feast with beer (Pilsner Urquell if you’re in Prague), I went for glass of dry Moravian white wine — most wine in the Czech Republic is produced in Moravia. Sweet wines are usually recommended with Indian food, to balance out the spicy flavours, but I prefer my white wine on the dry side.
Every guide book that recommended the Indian Jewel was right — it was one of the best meals I had in Prague. Even though the Biryani was the most expensive entree I ordered in Prague, the meal was still affordable overall and well worth it (eating in Prague is generally quite affordable). If you’re travelling to Prague (which I recommend, it’s stunning!), love Indian food, and want to take a break from Czech cuisine, definitely go to the Indian Jewel — it won’t disappoint.
Disclaimer: Big Apple Curry has neither ties to Indian Jewel nor is in the business of writing restaurant reviews for compensation or other benefits. We simply share our musings on Indian food on this blog.