In Fort Thomas, Kentucky, there are exactly four takeout options: Pizza, Mexican, Chinese, Indian. Of those, only two deliver to my house: Pizza and Indian. In short, I eat a lot of curry in Kentucky. For anybody who hasn’t gotten to experience it yet, curry is a phenomenal Indian dish of meat and/or vegetables simmered in a blend of usually but not necessarily hot spices (including turmeric). All that delicious sauce-y goodness is then poured over rice and eaten with a side of “naan”, a simple flatbread. There are hundreds of curry varieties. I strongly recommend trying at least five before you die.
Living abroad in England, satisfying my curry craving wasn’t exactly a struggle. Living abroad in Peru… that’s another story. Thanks in part to Facebook’s terrifying omniscience, I found myself getting advertisements for Mantra: Indian Cuisine. Just about a day of shameless begging later, I convinced Ivo take us to what he says is literally one of the TWO curry places in all of Lima, Peru.
Lima’s population is pushing 9 million people. I don’t know how the vast majority of them are surviving without curry, but their ability to do so made me seriously concerned going into Mantra. Would I have my heart broken again? Like that time we went for “Mexican” only to find it was sort of just Peruvian food in burritos? We walked into a place packed with as many stereotypically Indian things as possible: incense was burning on the hostess’ table, Bollywood videos were playing on a big screen in the back, colorful scarves were draped along the walls. I braced myself as Ivo ordered us a chicken kebob appetizer, a plain naan and mild lamb curry for himself and a garlic naan and Aloo Matar (a vegetarian curry with potatoes and peas) for me. Ivo had a brief debate with the waitress about what level of spice I could handle, and they managed to talk me down a heat level.
In short, I’m thrilled to report that this may have been the best curry I’ve ever had in my life. Maybe it was actually worth it getting curry this time that didn’t melt my taste buds, because it was complex: a total spice experience, sweet and hot then hotter! Yes, yes, yes. The naan was toasty and thin, the rice was fluffy. Even the coleslaw that came with the juicy chicken kebobs was knockout.
Spanish is sort of a constant struggle for me. Living abroad in Peru has definitely brought out my introvert side. For the most part, barring any other intervening factors (like my husband), my fear of screwing up my Spanish can easily outweigh my desire to do a lot of things I wouldn’t otherwise think twice about. One of those semi-daily activities is totally ordering food for delivery. Lima is pretty westernized at this point, but definitely still a “cash-is-king” city. Overall, people are skittish about online ordering. In other words, if you want to order delivery, you have to be prepared to talk in Spanish… over the phone. That means no visual cues from the speaker, no miming out what you want, no eye contact to elicit mercy. All that said though, I got the number for Mantra’s curry delivery, and I think a box of curry might be just heavy enough to tip my scales in favor of Spanish courage.