By S Haslam. Photo by Tree Faerie
One of the increasingly popular ways of eating is to eat more vegan and vegetarian food, and Indian restaurants often have exactly the right mix of menu items. On the one hand, people are increasingly eating more plant-based food to do their bit for the planet, but for many others this has a spiritual basis to it. Vegetarianism is an ancient practice in India; where 80% of Indians are Hindu, whose ancient texts recommend ahimsa – non-violence against all life forms including animals, and hence many Hindus prefer a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian lifestyle.
Of course, India is a very diverse society, and diet is partly a cultural phenomenon, with many Hindus (around 15%, according to a recent survey) eating beef, and only around 20% being strictly vegetarian. Class, wealth, sex and religion-based politics all affect whether an Indian will eat some meat. Hence, you’ll find plenty of meat on an Indian restaurant’s menu.
There is, for example, a tendency to stereotype a region – many believe that Punjab is a ‘chicken-loving’ region whereas up to 75% of people in this northern state are vegetarian. Chennai, is perhaps considered the hub of the southern Indian vegetarian meal, but a recent survey suggests less than 10% of that city’s residents are vegetarian. However in Delhi, well known for its butter chicken, a third of residents are vegetarian.
We are very lucky in the north of Byron Shire to have an Indian restaurant in Billinudgel where you can not only get the authentic tastes of India, made with fresh local produce, but you can also enjoy the cultural experience. Their next sitar night, starring master sitar player Peter Davidian, will be on 10 October – book now to share in this fun experience!
At Billi’s Indian, the menu is ever changing; new entrées have been added – how about a chicken cheese naan, or a lamb cheese naan? And some new vegan entrées like tandoori mushroom, or the tandoori vegan tofu (pictured above). There are also some new curries, such as Dhal Makhani; a Punjabi dish made with black lentils and red kidney beans, butter and cream, and Chicken Dhansak; a chicken curry with lentil (although there are also lamb and beef options.) There is also a new pricing regime, where price is based closely on the cost of labour and other expenses required to actually make the dish, ensuring that you get the best value.
And those locals who love the place (there is always a steady stream of diners coming in to pick up their take-away orders) will be pleased to know that the specials board will be changing on a weekly basis, and will contain at least a few dishes that aren’t on the regular menu.
Of course if you do choose to dine in, you can eat inside or outside, which is fantastic in this climate-crazy world, but unlike the global temperature you can dial down the chilli whenever you need to – making the experience family friendly.
It’s BYO, and very conveniently only a few metres walk to the pub bottle-shop. If you are going, friends have recommended the butter chicken and the spinach paneer, but I suspect it’s not going to be difficult to find something on the menu here that you’ll love.
Billi’s Indian. 8 Wilfred St, Billinudgel.
Ph 6680 3352. www.billisindian.com.au