In Northern India, families of sweets makers known as halwais pass down their skills through the generations. Luckily, one such family opened EverGreen Sweets in Chantilly less than a year ago. Located inside the Lotte Plaza grocery, the small shop sells some of the area's best Indian milk-based desserts.
Owned and operated by New Delhi natives Raj and Shivani Chopra, the effort represents the couple's first formal restaurant venture. "We have always served our food at food stalls . . . during Indian food fairs and festivals and had a great response," Raj Chopra says. "My parents had sweet shops in Delhi for 20 years. I learned to make these dishes from my mother, Pratibha." The couple recently opened a second branch in Ashburn.
About a month ago, they began making savories, which could be some of the most authentic tastes of New Delhi available in the Washington area. Chole kulche (promotional price, $6; otherwise, $7) reminded me of what my family gets when we visit the Indian capital's best street food places. The chickpeas in this generously portioned dish are seasoned with red chili peppers and turmeric, then tempered with ginger and special spices. In typical New Delhi style, they are topped with a cube of paneer, sliced red onions, a green chili pepper and a dollop of carrot pickle. Yogurt with crisp chickpea-flour balls and cumin is served alongside, as well as two kulche, or griddle-fried flatbreads, which are stuffed with onions and dusted with a spice mixture that includes dried spinach. (This dish is not listed on the sparse menu, so ask for it by name.)
I also liked the papri chaat ($6): crisp white-flour chips doused in yogurt sauce and topped with onions, chickpeas, boiled potatoes and cilantro. House-made tamarind sauce provides a tangy garnish with red chili powder and ground cumin.
You'll want to order something sweet, of course. Be sure to check out the milk cake ($7.49 per pound). This textured dessert is prepared by cooking milk for a long time, with sugar: "Just like my dad used to make it," Chopra says. In the upcoming months, Chopra plans to introduce drinks such as lassi and masala tea.
Because the shop is located inside a grocery store, there is no private seating. However, you can eat a quick bite from EverGreen Sweets in the grocery's food court.
-- Monica Bhide (Good to Go, April 21, 2010)