EyeSwoon

For all that NYC offers, I am still stumped come lunchtime when I crave a healthy meal that also satisfies my full-flavor-craving taste buds. Lunch usually falls into two categories in this city, on-the-go-and not so swoony on one hand, or decadent and sit-down on the other, which often takes more time than work allows. Unlike this typical NYC lunch duality, I can distinctly recall visiting Venice and experiencing my first Californian bowl. Like many die-hard fans of SoCal cuisine, I was simply blown away by the concept. You choose a grain and a protein and pack it with vibrant seasonal vegetables, plus a sauce that ties the entire dish together. I remember wondering – why-oh-why has NYC not jumped on this craze?!? And that was well over six years ago.

Fast-forward to two months back when I was invited to Inday for lunch. Indian food has always been a cuisine that I absolutely love – so bold and distinct in its flavors, and spices hitting all the right notes on my palate. But Indian cuisine can also be wintery and heavy at times. Upon researching the newly-opened restaurant I was struck by their overarching concept: Indian food, but much lighter and brighter than what’s typically offered, with vitality as its core value. It’s food made to nourish and fuel you for your day and not drag you down. I was intrigued and set out to Inday on a lunch date with the hubby.

Enter the health-driven Indian bowl. Upon entering the vibrant, tropical Inday space, a much-appreciated escape from the NYC hustle, Victor and I were lead up to the counter to create our meals. First we chose a base, either hot or cold. I opted for the “not rice” which consisted of shredded cauliflower, edamame and carrot, made to look like rice. I topped that with chickpea curry, kale, beets and grilled chicken and finished it with coconut, pickled raisins, pumpkin seeds and two sauces, a cooling cucumber yogurt and a killer hot sauce. I sat down at a table with the owner and creator of Inday, Basu Ratnam, who is both gentle and passionate about his endeavor. As we got to chatting about our individual stories, I took my first bite and quite literally squealed with joy. I was simply blown away – swooned, to say the least. Each bite was bursting with flavor but was also light and vibrant – sweet and spicy, warming and comforting and most of all, wholesome.

To say I was intrigued by Basu and his mission in creating Inday would be an understatement. As we delved into his influences, our conversation turned to Basu’s mom and the food he ate growing up. His mother is from Calcutta and not only did she specialize in her regional cuisine, she also welcomed creativity into her family meals. Inspired by the health-driven Californian fare focusing primarily around fresh ingredients, she incorporated an unexpected use of vegetables into her family’s nutritionally-balanced meals. Clearly this had a lasting effect on Basu and ultimately caused him to ponder, like I and many other New Yorkers – why can I not find a healthy and delicious lunch? Inspired by his mama, and with a commitment to carry forward his own experience of Indian cuisine, Basu shifted gears from finance to restaurant creator and is helping to fill that culinary void with Inday. The restaurant’s motto is “Good Karma, Served Daily” – the things you do today will come back to you in the future. It supports the belief that your body is your temple, so treat it and fuel it respectively.

I was inspired talking to Basu. Grounded and assertive at once, he delivers his story with grace. It is clear he has an open mind and an open heart. We got to discussing each of our journeys. Being led by a passion and moving into the unknown. Taking risks. And most of all, finding a community of like-minded people to help push us along on our  path – people who raise us up and inspire us. Though we have very different missions, we are united in a passion for food, and we were speaking the same language as we shared a truly invigorating lunch.  Culture, community, health, flavor, ingredients, setting – these are all important components to a meal that leaves you feeling energized, and this is precisely what Basu intended and executed with Inday.

I leave you with this from Basu, “Eating clean, healthful food can be exotic and interesting. Indian spices are key at Inday, not only because they build vibrancy in a dish, but also because of their immense health benefits. For us, a meal that is good for you and a meal that is full of bold flavors are one and the same.”

Good karma is indeed served daily at Inday. It’s nourishing, infused with positive energy and downright delicious! Well done, Basu. Namaste.

Not Rice

Basu Ratnam

  • Ingredients

    • Serves 4

      • 1½ lbs. or 1 large head cauliflower (shredded)
      • ¼ lb. brussels sprouts (thinly sliced)
      • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1 handful of curry leaves (chopped)
      • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
      • 2 tablespoons garlic (grated)
      • 3 tablespoons ginger (minced)
      • ½ teaspoon turmeric
      • 1 medium-size serrano chili (finely chopped)
  • The Prep

      1. Take off the green base of the cauliflower and cut into equal sized florets.
      2. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor.
      3. Heat olive oil in a pan and cook mustard seeds, garlic, ginger and curry leaves, until the garlic starts toasting and the mustard seeds start to pop.
      4. Then add serrano chili, salt and tumeric.
      5. Add the hot mixture onto the cauliflower and thinly sliced brussel sprouts.
      6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
      7. Put mixture onto a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5 minutes.

Chickpea Curry

Basu Ratnam

  • Ingredients

    • Serves 4

      • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (cooked)
      • 2 cups tomatoes (chopped)
      • 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
      • 1 teaspoons red chili powder
      • 2 ½ teaspoons coriander
      • 1 tablespoons salt
      • 1 cup coconut milk
  • The Prep

      1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
      2. Put chopped tomatoes and garlic in a pan. Sprinkle on fenugreek leaves.
      3. Cook in the preheated oven for one hour then remove and let the mixture cool.
      4. Put cooled mixture into a blender with red chili powder, salt and coriander. Puree until smooth.
      5. Strain chickpeas and put in a large bowl. Set aside.
      6. Combine pureed mixture with coconut milk in a large pot.
      7. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes so it doesn’t burn.
      8. Pour hot mixture over chickpeas. Serve warm.

Inday

Owner and Creator Basu Ratnam

Q&A

  • How would you describe the food you create at Inday?  What is the core value represented in the food?

    The name INDAY is a play on the words “India Every Day,” which really embodies the type of food we serve. It’s a more approachable, healthful style of Indian – highlighting the diverse spices in light, seasonally-focused dishes. 

    I think the core value is vitality. Our food is made to fuel you for your day and not drag you down.

    Can you share a bit about your journey in creating Inday? What inspired you and what was the genesis to where you are today?

    I constantly found myself feeling like there was something missing from my lunch. The rise of the quick, affordable meal had given way to restaurants that lack an inherent energy… something deeper than the food. These places often build their stores around the food, instead of around a holistic experience that’s thoughtful about each aspect. Culture, community, health, flavor, ingredients, setting – these are all important components to a meal that leaves you feeling invigorated.  My mom’s cooking and Indian food has always given that to me. That’s what I wanted to bring New Yorkers.

    I know the food is representative food you grew up eating – how have you taken the influence of your mothers cooking and parlayed it into todays healthy bowl concept?

    My mom was born in Calcutta and moved to the States in her 20s. My introduction to India and the culture was through her food. She’s an expert when it comes to her regional cuisine, but she also loved to experiment with different styles of cooking. She was particularly inspired by Californian cuisine and the celebration of the freshest and best ingredients. No matter what creative liberties she took with her dishes, her meals were always nutritious and balanced – there was a protein, a carbohydrate and lots of interesting, unexpected uses of vegetables. We never just had a salad or sandwich for dinner. The meals we serve our guests are very similar to how I grew up thinking any meal should be.

    What does your mother think of Inday?  Are any of the recipes her own?

    Like any mom, I think she was nervous about me opening up a restaurant with no previous experience. Ultimately though, she’s thrilled and proud that we’re so committed to carrying forward the Indian culture that she introduced to me and trying to spread them in a way that’s accessible to New Yorkers.

    She inspired a lot of the dishes on our menu. The cauliflower rice, salad mixes and proteins are all spins on recipes she made for my family growing up.

    Most important flavor building ingredient in Indian cuisine?

    All the spices. I can’t pick just one.

    Your favorite dish here at Inday? Most popular?

    My favorite is basmati rice and chicken.

    Our “Not Rice” (shredded cauliflower, edamame and carrot) with either grilled chicken or salmon. That dish was my Mom’s idea – she wanted to create the sensation of eating rice without the carbs or calories.

    For someone who has never eaten at Inday – describe the experience as someone walks down the line.

    Since the food we’re serving is quite unique, we wanted to maintain a sense of familiarity with our ordering format. Our menu is relatively short and straightforward so guests aren’t bombarded with questions.

    The first step in the process is choosing one of our “warm” or “cool” bases made of grains or vegetables. Each base comes with a selection of vegetable sides like chickpea curry or kale and lentils. Then you can choose to add a protein like salmon, chicken or tofu. At the end you add garnishes, like coconut chutney or pickled beets. Then top off the bowl with our house-made cucumber yogurt and hot sauce.

    I know that a nourishing and balanced meal is an integral part of the food and experience you have created – you have succeeded in offering full flavor and a healthy meal – can you speak to this….
    I think there’s a stigma about healthy food being boring, monotonous and lacking flavor. Our aim is to show people that eating clean, healthful food can be exotic and interesting. Indian spices are key, not only because they build vibrancy in a dish, but also because of their immense health benefits. For us, a meal that is good for you and a meal that is full of bold flavors are one in the same.

    You have developed some incredible staples that I know I crave  – like the cardamom yogurt and the Arnold Karma beverage and your incredible hot sauces –  Do you plan to expand this product line?

    Definitely! We want to keep our product line fresh and then means continuing to add and iterate.

    Good Karma Served Daily – I love this motto, can you tell me what this means to you?

    In Indian culture, Karma represents the belief that the things you do today, will come back to you in the future. It’s an empowering philosophy – you control your own fate. Good karma represents the nourishing nature of our food and also embodies the positive energy we want to infuse in the INDAY experience.

    Can you speak to the design of the restaurant and how you approached it?

    I think the best way to describe it is contemporary tropical. We wanted the space to be warm and inviting like a living room in Southern India by the sea. When you enter you see a glowing circle to the left, which adds a bright energy to the space. Below that is a bookshelf filled with vintage National Geographic magazines, Indian cookbooks passed down from family members, and other curiosities. We have lots of plants that we’ve collected from our neighbors and the nearby flower district. When you sit under a palm tree in the middle of winter in Manhattan, it’s quite invigorating and transportive.

    Last life-changing, swoon-worthy food experience? (at a restaurant, someone’s kitchen, etc)

    The chef’s counter at Blanca by Carlo Mirarchi. I had my first meal there with my Mom actually, I took her for mother’s day. We had an incredible meal, probably the best meal of my life and I was so inspired that it was at that meal I decided to quit my job and open INDAY.

    Classic NYC Restaurant that makes you swoon?

    The bar at Nougatine is one of my favorite places in New York. It’s a gorgeous room with an amazing view of the park that’s beautiful at all seasons and times of day.

    The 5 local go-to restaurants or cafes you frequent in NYC?

    The Knickerbocker, Uncle Boons, Babbo, SenYa, Roberta’s.

    Favorite city for food outside of NYC?

    Istanbul, no question. Unbelievable food city with incredible history and culture. It’s the only city in the world that was capital to three different civilizations. The amalgamation of enthinicites and mix of street food, high end restaurants and local homestyle cooking is as exciting as any place I’ve ever been. There’s also an amazing sense of hospitality and you get the sense that proprietors are proud to host you in their restaurant and country. It’s charming, romantic and exotic.

    Your ideal meal is…  With…

    Home-cooked, served outside with friends and family.