There are a few different cuisines that I appreciate at a restaurant more than others, simply because they’re dishes I never attempt to cook at home. Indian food, with so many specialty herbs and spices, is something I’ve always left to the experts.

Friday night I went to Cumin, an Indian and Nepalese restaurant in Wicker Park. Unlike the traditional Indian restaurants I’ve been to, Cumin has a fun and modern vibe.  While some may feel Indian food is an acquired taste, I believe there is something enjoyable for everyone here.

As you are seated at Cumin, papadum and three dipping sauces are delivered to the table. The papadum (chickpea crackers) and the spicy, tangy and sweet sauces are the Indian version of chips and salsa. The green sauce is by far my favorite and tastes even more amazing when eaten with the Vegetable Samosas, which we ordered for an appetizer. Samosas are crispy cones filled with spice-seasoned potatoes and peas. To draw another parallel between Indian and another ethnic food, a samosa is the Indian version of a Spanish empanada; I love empanadas so naturally, I love samosas!

Dipping Sauces

Vegetable Samosas

If you’re new to this cuisine (or even if you’re not) a great place to start is the Chicken Tikka Masala, spice-marinated diced chicken cooked in tandoor and simmered in creamy tomato sauce. The tender chicken and flavor-rich sauce tastes amazing when eaten with the basmati rice. Cumin’s chicken tikka masala is the best I’ve had anywhere.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Palak Paneer, spinach and homemade cottage cheese cooked in spices and tomato-curry sauce with a touch of cream, is the other dish I had. This vegetarian dish is nice and mild and a great accompaniment to any meat dish. The cottage cheese squares almost resemble tofu and the spinach is creamy but not too rich.

Don’t forget to order naan, an Indian flatbread. The soft naan is delicious and best when dipped in the sauce from the chicken tikka masala!

Naan, rice, chicken tikka masala and palak paneer

I highly encourage you to try Cumin, or any Indian food, especially if that means going out of your food comfort zone. 

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