I have a cat. She's a gray tabby named Curry. Curry loves curry. So do I.
Why, you might ask, would I name a cat Curry? Well, funny story: When the still-to-be-named kitty was only about the size of my fist—and newly rescued from the Humane Society of Utah where, presumably, the only cuisine she'd known was kitten food—she expressed her newfound freedom one evening by leaping from the sofa onto my coffee table. It was there that she first encountered the joys of curry. There were the remains of chicken curry I'd eaten for dinner, and my curious little kitty began lapping up the leftovers. Henceforth, she would be known as Curry the Cat.
My cat has good taste. Her introduction to curry was via a plate I'd brought home from Curry in a Hurry. If you've followed this column through the years, you probably know my lust for Indian/Pakistani curries—specifically the curries made at Curry in a Hurry.
Curry in a Hurry is smaller than some restaurant pantries or walk-in freezers, but don't let the size fool you. This diminutive eatery packs a wallop in the flavor department.
The Nisar family—including matriarch Mona and her sons Yaser, Usman and Saifar—opened Curry in a Hurry in 1998. It was, and still is, a family affair. "It's very satisfying for me to feed my own family, but it's not enough," Mona says. "I want to feed the whole community the same way." It was also important that her family be able to work together, "because working together creates a strong family bond," she says.
Mona's usually in the tiny kitchen, while one of her sons dishes up delicious plates of curry. Eating at Curry in a Hurry, one feels like they've been invited to a family dinner, albeit one served on Styrofoam. It's part of the reason Curry in a Hurry has developed such a loyal local following over the years.
During most of those years, I've been trying to get Mona to share her recipe for the coconut-kissed chicken curry served at her restaurant. No dice. "You have to come to one of my cooking classes!" she said the other day. And I will. She teaches occasional Indian cooking classes at Gygi.
My favorite combo meal at Curry in a Hurry is a plate of the aforementioned chicken curry: tender, boneless morsels of chicken breast, bathed in a just-spicy-enough bright-orange coconut curry and served with basmati rice, warm flatbread and a choice of a veggie side dish ($8.99). I usually opt for chickpeas with fragrant hints of clove, cinnamon and other spices. However, I've been known to deviate from time to time and order the lamb korma curry plate ($8.99): tender chunks of lamb shoulder served in a rich, tomato-based korma curry. It's a tad sharper and less sweet than the chicken curry, and suits the lamb perfectly. And if you haven't visited Curry in a Hurry lately, you might have missed a new addition to the small menu: muttar keema ($8.49). It's delicately seasoned ground chicken with peas on rice with flatbread.
For drinks, Curry in a Hurry offers up hot Indian chai, lussi (aka lassi), rose-flavored rooh-afza, sodas, mango juice and more.
Good news on the Nisar front and for curry lovers like myself: There's even more curry to love thanks to Curry Fried Chicken. Like Curry in a Hurry, Curry Fried Chicken is a halal restaurant. And, like Curry in a Hurry, it's a small, semi-fast-food eatery, but has a bit more in the way of ambiance and décor, along with convivial counter seating and tables. When I was there last, a sort of Indian-style hip-hop was playing throughout the restaurant.
Curry Fried Chicken is the brainchild of Mona Nisar's son Sunny Nisar. I asked him if curry fried chicken is "a thing" in India or Pakistan, and he said he'd never seen it there. So, it's not exactly traditional—but it's brilliant. Curry fried chicken is exactly what it sounds like: chicken pieces seasoned with curry spices and coated in a curry-infused batter, deep-fried to a golden brown. The flavor is sensational. Imagine a spicy, curried version of Popeyes chicken, and you're pretty close.
Curry Fried Chicken's most popular dish—the curry-fried chicken plate ($9.99)—includes two pieces (usually a leg and a thigh) of curried & fried chicken with a heaping portion of basmati rice, topped with an equally generous serving of brown lentils, potatoes, peas and a spicy Sriracha-type red sauce. The menu also offers shawarma and doner wraps ($6.49) with a choice of boneless tandoori chicken, curried fish kebabs, keema kebab (ground chicken) or vegetable curry.
I also really enjoyed the zippy boneless tandoori chicken ($9.99/combo plate). It's boneless breast meat pounded to about a quarter-inch thickness, marinated in spicy tandoori seasonings and grilled to perfection. I'd half-expected a thin piece of boneless chicken like that to be dry and overcooked, but that was far from the case: It was juicy, tender and delicious. And don't overlook the sides at Curry Fried Chicken: the hummus with warm pita bread ($1.99), popadoms (75 cents), samosas (99 cents) and the french fries spiked with Indian chili powder ($1.99) are all terrific.
Thanks to the Nisar family, the state of curry is alive and well on State Street. Who needs KFC when you've got CFC?