California's Spin on Indian Food

A new wave of restaurants is turning out delicious dishes that celebrate the cuisine of India.

deconstructed samosas with garbanzo beans, pico de gallo and chutneys, from Mortar & Pestle, San Jose, San Mateo, California, image
Curry Up Now's deconstructed samosas come with heaps of garbanzo beans, pico de gallo, and chutneys, with mini samosas. 
Courtesy Curry Up Now

In India, street stalls have long been a favorite place to eat snacky chaat dishes such as sev poori—crackerlike papadis covered with soft potato, tangy onion, and sweet tamarind and spicy cilantro chutneys, then sprinkled with savory squiggles of fried garbanzo flour. This casual, unpretentious food is fun to eat, so it’s no surprise that it has caught on in restaurants across California and inspired some novel—and tasty—variations.

Of the South Bay’s many shops, Chaat Bhavan in Fremont stands a step above, whipping up perfect standards including pani poori, crispy, bite-size flour puffs that diners crack open with a spoon, then fill with potato, sprouted mung beans, black chickpeas, onion, sweet chutney, and spicy mint water.

At Berkeley’s East Bay Spice Company, bartenders shake cocktails with coconut chai syrup, among other Indian-inspired ingredients, and the kitchen produces spiced tikka masala flatbread as well as tandoori drumsticks with creamy raita. 

Originating in Kolkata, the kati roll is the Indian version of a burrito, and at San Francisco’s Kasa diners order it with various stuffings including tender cauliflower and potatoes or green peppers sautéed with paneer.


Once a food truck, Curry Up Now is now an empire whose outposts stretch across the bay with plans to expand in Southern California and East Coast locals as well. Two locations, San Mateo and San Jose, also serve drinks in the on-site craft cocktail bar, Mortar & Pestle, made with saffron-infused gin as well as housemade potato chips served with pico kachumber and maggi ketchup.

Fresno’s Standard Sweets & Spices serves crowd-pleasers such as samosa chana, two fried dumplings filled with potato and peas in a saucy chickpea stew.

This article was first published in October 2014 and updated in February 2019.