Over the past few decades, many ethnic foods have found their way into the mainstream American diet. Sriracha and tabasco have earned spots next to ketchup at college dining halls, and grocery stores in North America have now stock several variants of hummus. South Asian cuisine has yet to find its place at the American dinner table — but Bandar Foods, based in San Francisco, is spearheading the movement to bring Indian flavors to the forefront of American cuisine.
“Indian flavors, American taste,” reads the slogan of Bandar Foods. This is the goal that co-founder Dan Garblik set out to create.
“We are the first Indian-inspired brand that is actively trying to integrate Indian flavors into everyday American dishes — rather than trying to sell specific Indian meals,” Garblik wrote.
Bandar Foods’ slogan suggests that the versatility of its product and potential for incorporation into various dishes.
“‘Bandar’ means ‘monkey’ in Hindi. As a brand, we wanted to associate with the fun, mischievous, energetic monkey — we’re trying unconventional approaches to playing with traditional Indian concepts,” Garblik wrote.
Bandar Foods has delivered on Garblik’s promise.
Opening up the tikka masala flavored Naan chips was like entering an Indian spice bazaar. The fragrant blend of spices immediately added Indian flair to the snack. With sweet and spicy overtones, the tikka masala added a delicious zing to the chips, without overpowering the flavor of the thin, crisp chips. The balance of flavors is a defining feature of Indian cuisine, and Bandar Foods definitely hits the mark.
The garlic flavored naan chips were equally satisfying. Expecting a sweet, roasted garlic flavor, I was pleasantly surprised by their subtly spicy raw garlic taste. Like the seasoning of the Tikka Masala flavored chips, the seasoning on the garlic chips was not too intense — and I did not end up with nasty garlic breath.
Both flavors of naan chips served as excellent vehicles to carry guacamole; the seasoning nicely complemented the creaminess of the dip. And I would not hesitate to use the chips with other popular dips, like hummus or salsa. The subtle yet pronounced Indian flavors are sure to enhance any dip the chips are paired with. However, a touch of salt might help bring out these subtle flavors.
Bandar Foods also carries chili sauces that bring Indian heat to any dish. Both the spicy mango and mint-cilantro chili sauces are puréed forms of traditional Indian chutneys that have been adapted for the American palate. And the spicy mango chili sauce does more than just add pure heat — it offers a citrusy complexity that would amplify the flavor of any dish.
The spicy mango chili sauce immediately hits you with the spiciness of the chili, balanced by the sweetness of the mango. The heat lingers in your mouth and intensifies over time. To test the compatibility of this sauce with other familiar flavors, I spread it on the most prototypical American dish that RPCC’s Nastie’s offers (and a personal favorite of mine): the southwest chicken sub. The results were great. The spiciness paired well with the richness of the chicken and the heartiness of the bread.
The mint cilantro chili sauce offered a cooling sensation and relief from the heat of the chilis. Its refreshing taste is bound to work well with grilled meats and other savory dishes.
An added bonus of Bandar Foods is that all the products are relatively healthy compared to their traditional counterparts (e.g. mayonnaise, ketchup and potato chips). Neither the mango nor the mint cilantro chili sauces contain sugar, and both are fat free — but neither skimp on flavor. The naan chips are low in fat since they are baked, instead of fried.
I recommend Bandar Foods’ newest flavor of naan chips, Himalayan Pink Salt.
In addition to chips and chili sauces, Bandar Foods offers crisped harvest vegetables, lentil crisps poppadums and masala spiced ketchup.
Bandar Foods’ products are available at several large grocery store chains, including Whole Foods, Target, Safeway, Sprouts, Fresh Market and H-E-B. They can also be ordered online from www.bandarfoods.com and Amazon.