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Immerse yourself in Indian food and culture

Master sitar player Peter Davidian

By S Haslam

We are very lucky in the north of the Byron Shire to have an Indian restaurant in Billinudgel where you can get the authentic tastes of India, made with fresh local produce, and you can also occasionally enjoy a special cultural experience on sitar nights. 

The hypnotic world of Indian classical music, and the sounds of the sitar, starring master sitar player Peter Davidian, are coming to Billinudgel twice this month: on Friday 14 and Thursday 27 February – book now to share in this fun and possibly romantic experience as these events sell out fast!

Peter Davidian has been a sitarist for more than 30 years. His unfolding of the musical raga is a result of traditional study, and years of practice and performance across Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, India, and Europe.

The intricate presentation of this music can be traced back in time thousands of years and is presented to the listener on an instrument that dates back to the 12th century. Peter’s Armenian heritage, and his family’s long history in Bengal, and Rajasthan India, ensure authenticity in his approach to the music.

He has a vast knowledge of the Indian raga system of music. He is the 17th generation of the Rajastani School of Jaipur and has studied extensively with the late Professor Ghulam Qadir Khan.

Of course Billi’s Indian serves authentic Indian food to accompany this musical experience. 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 per cent 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 per cent, according to a recent survey) eating beef, and only around 20 per cent being strict vegetarians. Class, wealth, sex and religion-based politics all affect whether an Indian will eat some meat. Hence, you’ll still find plenty of meat on an Indian restaurant menu.

There is, for example, a tendency to stereotype a region – many believe that Punjab is a ‘chicken-loving’ region, whereas up to 75 per cent of people in this northern state are vegetarian. Chennai, is perhaps considered the hub of India’s south Indian vegetarian meal, but a recent survey suggests that less than 10 per cent of that city’s residents are vegetarian. However in Delhi, well known for its butter chicken, a third of residents are vegetarian.

At Billi’s Indian the revamped surroundings are comfortable, modern and fresh, and the menu is ever-changing. How about Dhal Makhani, a Punjabi dish made with black lentils and red kidney beans, butter and cream. Or chicken dhansak, a chicken curry with lentils (although you can also choose lamb or beef). How about a chicken and cheese naan, or a lamb and cheese naan? The vegan tandoori mushroom, or tandoori tofu?

Billi’s Indian is a favourite with locals, and for added convenience and value it’s BYO, and only a few metres walk to the pub bottle shop. 

Billi’s Indian. 8 Wilfred St, Billinudgel.
Ph 02 6680 3352  |  www.billisindian.com.au


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