Reema Malhotra hopes "Slumdog Millionaire” will do for tandoori chicken what "Urban Cowboy” did for 10-gallon hats. If Oscar smiles on the Bollywood grunge fairy tale set in India, she might get her wish. Malhotra manages Kha Zhana Indian Grill, 4900 N May Ave. The family owned and operated restaurant has been open since 2005. Malhotra and her sister saw "Slumdog Millionaire” at a special screening in Norman in December, preceding their first trip to India in nine years. She said the film’s depiction of Indian life serves as a good primer. "We were thinking it probably wouldn’t be that chaotic, but once we got there, it really was pretty chaotic,” Malhotra said. While the food at Kha Zana might not be the same food you might expect at a restaurant in downtown Mumbai, Malhotra promises a meal steeped in Indian culture. "What we have is like a fusion,” she said. "For instance, we serve cabbage stir-fried with peas, which you’d never find in India, but we use Indian spices with the Asian technique to make a really good dish.” Besides, if Kha Zana or any other local Indian restaurant served purely authentic Indian food, it would struggle to satisfy the notoriously carnivorous Oklahoma palate. "The food you get in India has a lot of potatoes and vegetables,” Malhotra said. "Meat is not as prominent.” Curry is the backbone of Indian cuisine, running through practically every dish in some capacity. Curry itself is simply gravy. Curry powder is a blend of spices, relying heavily on turmeric along with cumin, coriander seeds and dried chiles. Indian cuisine has a reputation for being spicy, which it is. However, there’s a difference between hot and spicy. "We try to keep our food pretty mild,” Malhotra said. "There are a lot of spices in our dishes, so they are spicy but not too hot.” But they can turn up the heat as much as you want. One ingredient they make themselves to cut the spice is yogurt. Their homemade yogurt can be added to a gravy or used to create an authentic Indian beverage. The Malhotra family has been involved in the service and hospitality industry for 30 years. Originally from Delhi, they moved to Oklahoma after spending time in Canada. Kha Zana has both lunch and dinner buffets featuring three tables. One has primarily fruit and salad, another is primarily vegetarian entrees, and the third includes tandoori chicken, tikka masala, naan and other various meats in savory sauces. Malhotra says the eatery has authentic Indian food on the menu and the ingredients to make others to order, which they will gladly do upon request.
Here are some other notable Indian restaurants: →Gopuram Taste of India, 4559 NW 23. →Ajanta, 12215 N Pennsylvania. →Misal Bistro, 580 Ed Noble Parkway, Norman. →Taj Indian Cuisine, 5801 Northwest Expressway.