Indian food: Heat-and-eat is no substitute for the real thing

I know better than to shop when hungry. That's when I end up with stuff I don't really want, like canned soup or a frozen dinner, or stuff my kids want that I normally say no to, like Cocoa Krispies. On this particular night, I managed to resist their call for chocolaty snap, crackle and pop, but I did agree to something I would've vetoed had our tummies not been so empty: packets of heat-and-eat Indian food. See also: - Azitra, a new Indian restaurant, now serving in Broomfield - Best Indian Buffet 2012: India's Restaurant - Best Indian Restaurant 2012: Jai Ho Indian Restaurant

How could I say no? For days I'd been talking about puffy naan, rich chicken tikka masala, raita and mounds of basmati rice, which they love even more than those Krispies. So when my oldest handed me a yellow pouch of ready-made channa masala, I agreed, and soon other packets were tossed in the cart, too: dark pureed Punjab eggplant, with a fancy garnish of carrot shavings and snap peas pictured on the front; and spinach channa, a dish of chickpeas simmered in chiles and spinach.

I knew the sodium was high, but the food was otherwise kosher and vegan, not to mention free of preservatives and MSG. "Tear up your take-out menus!" one pouch proclaimed. The kids couldn't wait, and frankly, neither could I.

But the food ended up predictably bland and salty, with no allure of ginger, no fragrant pods of cardamom. And no amount of quickly made basmati rice could erase what we are were all thinking: We wished we were at an Indian restaurant.

Find out if Azitra is the place to go when your craving hits when my review is posted here tomorrow.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz

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