Take out your calendar and find a night that you’re free in the next week. If you don’t see a slot for dinner out, cancel on somebody. Point to your busy schedule and explain that you need this, that you don’t take enough time for yourself. Then invite someone to come along with you, if you’re into that sort of thing. If necessary, tell your partner that you need them to watch the kids for a couple hours. Or strap the tykes into the car and get moving.
Really I don’t care how you get there, and I’ll leave the details up to you. You’re an adult — or at least a teenager, I’m assuming — or maybe an emotional teenager trapped in a 30-year-old’s body. None of that matters to me.
What I care about is that you go to Nawab Indian Cuisine and order the chana papri chaat and the chicken biryani. And that you do it promptly, and with enough time to sit there and genuinely savor each bite, not just scarfing it down, not using it as an excuse to delay answering your Tinder date’s awful getting-to-know-you questions and not ordering takeout to save time and then eating it at home once the food’s started to cool.
Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s a real thing. If you’ve spent the whole day making decisions at work, decisions about your personal or family life and then you’re faced with more choices, it’s easy to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. What’s more, you’re increasingly likely to make bad decisions. Like heating up a frozen burrito and eating it over the sink in your dirty kitchen. Or saying, “Screw it,” and hitting the drive-thru. Again.
That’s why I’m trying to make this really easy for you. And don’t worry — I’m going to make it absurdly easy to follow along.
When you get to Nawab — a mid-sized Indian restaurant with dim lighting at the back of a drab shopping center off of Stratford Road in west Winston-Salem — order the chana papri chaat. It’s a relatively light appetizer, consisting primarily of spiced chickpeas and tiny stuffed potato patties that are smaller than Chex cereal.
Chana chaat has quickly become my go-to Indian app — whether here or anywhere else that serves it, most notably Indu Convenient Store in Greensboro — because it’s a light and refreshing vegetarian starter. The sweet and sour sauce at Nawab makes this version slightly tangier and spicier than Indu’s bright, lime-zested offering, but I would expect Nawab’s take to have a little more universal appeal.
Do not eat all of your chana papri chaat — or aloo tikki chaat, if you’d prefer larger potato patties for a slightly different snack — before your entrée arrives. You’re going to want it, and maybe a yogurt-based lassi drink too, in order to help balance out the spice of your biryani.
Like many Americans, I’ve never been to India but have taken my turns at numerous Indian buffets. During my eight years as a vegetarian, Indian food quickly became my favorite cuisine for dining out, and I’ve since explored deeper into menus at both in the Triad and outside, including a recent stop at one of Manhattan’s most highly reviewed Indian restaurants that stands in the middle of a small south Asian neighborhood.
These insights, albeit somewhat limited, lead me to two conclusions: First, most Americans — even the ones who might be able to tell you what a dosa is — are sleeping on biryani. And second, the food I ate at Nawab is as good as any I’ve had elsewhere, topping my meal in New York and rivaling local favorites including Taaza, Agni, Saffron and Golden India.
Yes, I’m totally serious.
Biryani is a south Asian rice dish with pretty extensive varieties and traditions. If you’re unfamiliar and looking for more detail, I recommend the episode of The Sporkful food podcast with “Daily Show” comedian Hasan Minhaj, but here’s a slice: “I really think every south Asian mom has a distinct spin on biryani,” Minhaj tells hose Dan Pashman. “It’s our gumbo — it’s a food that allows you to remix and put a lot of unique elements in it.”
If you didn’t grow up eating biryani or marry into a south Asian family, chances are good that — like me — you haven’t tried too many different varieties of the dish, which can be ordered vegetarian or otherwise at Nawab. I’ll save you the trouble of experimenting with mediocre versions (yes, I’ve had a couple at other restaurants) and encourage — no, exhort — you to order the chicken biryani at Nawab.
The chicken is marinated with saffron and various spices (the menu doesn’t specify) and steam cooked with basmati rice, which I’ve read is an increasingly common rice choice but more rare historically. The biryani is topped with raisins and cashews, adding a welcome complexity to the dish without straying too far from the core ingredients.
I went to Nawab with a friend, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that neither of us could believe how delicious the chicken biryani was. It’s not that the dish was foreign to us — it wasn’t, and it’s not dissimilar from Indian food you’re likely more used to eating. It’s just that the entrée there is honestly that good.
In a region that often suffers from what Triad City Beat likes to call “good-enough disease,” both culinarily and otherwise, Nawab deserves particular distinction and credit for how flavorful and well prepared its biryani arrives. It will warm your very being, and I’d put it up against the best in the business, locally or otherwise.
Nawab is one of those places where ordering a dish medium spicy is equivalent to hot or very hot elsewhere. That’s where the lassi and chaat come in. Order it mild if you’d prefer, but I don’t regret my “medium” decision, preferring the chance for interplay between my plates. Regardless, the two tastes elevate each other.
It may be true that Winston-Salem is virtually devoid of Indian cuisine. Nawab and Golden India are the lone restaurants I’ve found, despite an assortment of choices in Greensboro, many of them first-rate. But how many choices do you really need if the ones in front of you are such high caliber? Aren’t you tired of making decisions anyway?
Visit Nawab Indian Cuisine at 129 S. Stratford Road (W-S) or at nawabindiancuisine.com.
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