Bringing Authentic Indian Cuisine to the Islands
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While diners might not necessarily associate Waikiki with quality Indian food, that’s exactly what Monsoon India, located in the Discovery Bay building, serves up.
“Not too many people on this island know about Indian food,” says owner and chef Imran Khan.
“Indian food is something very new here,” he says. “But the trend is changing and the word is getting out.”
Monsoon India specializes in authentic Indian cuisine from the Northern part of the country.
To begin your foray into Indian cuisine, a popular appetizer is Vegetable Samosa ($6.95), which is a deep-fried vegetable turnover with a potato and green bean filling.
“It is one of the most popular Indian appetizers,” Khan says.
One of Monsoon India’s most popular entrees is Coconut Chicken ($17.95), which features fresh coconut cooked with curry and is served with rice.
“It’s rich, it’s thick and it has a lot of flavor to it,” he says, noting that it is not too spicy. “The chicken has been added to the sauce and it has been cooked to perfection, so all the flavors blend really well.”
Khan also says Palak Paneer ($15.95), which is a combination of spinach and cottage cheese, is not to be missed.
“The spinach is a base, and you can add meat or vegetable of your own choice,” he says.
For those who like it hot, Khan says Lamb Vindaloo ($18.95) is the way to go.
“It’s not even just spicy it’s actually super spicy,” he says. “But for this dish, the spicier it is, the more flavorful it is.
“You also can get it with chicken or shrimp,” Khan adds. “It is a traditional brown, onion-based curry with a touch of tomato.”
To end your meal on a sweet note, the restaurant offers traditional Indian desserts including Gulab Jamun ($5.95), or dried milk dumplings, which are deep-fried in a honey sauce, and Rasmalai ($6.95), which are minced cottage cheese patties.
For a great way to taste a variety of Indian dishes, check out the Father’s Day Buffet ($21.95; $14.95 for children between ages 5 and 10). Selections will include chicken, lamb, shrimp and vegetarian dishes, along with yogurt sauce, salad, naan and more.
Although Indian food might not be the most popular type of cuisine in the Islands — not yet, anyway — it seems that it is only a matter of time, based on the growing popularity of Monsoon India.
“Customers are loving it,” Khan says. “The word is spreading.”
On the Side
Located in Waikiki, Monsoon India enjoys a customer base from all over the world.
“They give us the best compliments,” owner and chef Imran Khan says. “They tell us that it is the most authentic Indian food they have ever had.”
And the food maintains its authenticity for good reason: Khan moved to the Islands from Pakistan in 2006 to attend school. But he soon found that his passions were elsewhere. When he first arrived in the Islands, Khan says that his cooking skills were limited. But he got hired at an Indian restaurant, where he learned the ropes from notable chefs.
“Over time, I grew to love it,” he recalls.
Before long, Khan was creating his own recipes drawing on inspiration from the foods he knew growing up.
“I was raised eating the same type of food,” he says.
With his creativity and experience in working all parts of the kitchen, Khan decided to start his own business. After owning another Indian restaurant previously, Khan opened the first branch of Monsoon India in Kihei, Maui.
“After about two years, we expanded and opened a Monsoon India in Waikiki,” he explains.
The restaurants have been so popular that, soon after, the Waikiki location opened its doors in 2010, another one in Lahaina soon followed.
“We are looking forward to expanding even more,” he says.
Khan says that one of the things that sets Monsoon India apart from other restaurants is its dedication to using fresh ingredients.
“We do not use any frozen items here.”
Monsoon India purchases all of its produce from local vendors to ensure that it’s serving fresh, quality vegetables.
“It’s about healthy cooking, and it adds more flavor to the food,” he explains. “To keep the flavor in the food, you use fresh ingredients.”
1778 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki
Dinner daily, 5-10 p.m.
Lunch available Wednesday-Sunday, noon-2:30 p.m.