Exploring the panorama of food of India is more complicated than you think it is. Consider: the country, with 5,000 years of history, is home to over a billion people and over 2,000 ethnic groups, along with 37 states and territories, five geographical regions and dozens of types of regional cuisines.

Here in the Chicago area, though, our Indian food experience is usually simplified by the fact that our South Asian culinary experiences tend toward the warm and fragrant spices, creamy curries and hearty sauces of Northern Indian cuisine, sometimes mixed with Nepalese cuisine or southern Indian specialties such as seafood and vegetable dishes and served with rice. At Gaylord of India, in Schaumburg, you can experience the Indian dishes you know and love, and also explore foods from other regions inside this remarkable, diverse country.

The influences on Indian cuisine come from many sources – culture, climate, religion, and thousands of years of history not the least among them. North Indian cuisine (think naan) has been inspired by Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, and by the extreme climates that can be found here – hot summers yielding seasonal fruits and vegetables, and freezing winters, requiring dishes with warmth and substance. It has also been influenced by the Moghuls dynasty, which ruled India for 300 years before the British came along. India’s proximity to China has also resulted in some delicious East Asian influences on its cuisine as well.

As it happens, the rich comforting dishes from the north, often featuring dairy products like yogurt and cheese, are perfect for the American palate. In years past, when it was more difficult to get authentic ingredients, the Northern Indian style of cooking was easier to reproduce in the U.S. as well. Clay oven-cooked chicken, flavorful lentils and marinated prawns are wonderful, heat-evoking dishes from a region that includes chilly highlands and Himalayan mountains.

gaylorddessertGaylord serves much of the Northern cuisine we’re used to, but offers a variety of dishes to expand your Indian experience. For example, the menu includes dishes like spring rolls and Pakora Manchurian, nods to the Chinese influence on South Asian cuisine. And while the restaurant also features the dals, tandoori-cooked items , and curries you may be used to, it also includes some you may be less familiar with from Indian restaurants. These include Bhindi Amchur (fried okra), kababs, and bhuna, a northeastern Indian/western Pakistani dish consisting of meat fried with a thick spice mixture. Shorbas, traditional Indian soups, are also on the menu.

The sociability and strong family connections that make up Indian culture means that these foods are often shared and experienced together. Gaylord specializes in presentation dinners and parties, with a banquet room on its top floor designed to hold from 30-60 people. The entire restaurant can be rented out, with room for 175. It also offers a full bar with fine wines, malts and premium vodkas. At lunchtime, a $13 buffet is offered. On weekends, the buffet is expanded to include two additional vegetables and one other additional item, such as soup.

Gaylord also strives to maintain a fine dining atmosphere as much as possible. It is one of the few free-standing Indian restaurants you’ll see, and a meal here takes place in a dining room complete with white tablecloths and an upscale, comfortable air. The Schaumburg location, slightly newer than the Chicago one, has been around for 17 years. Visit the restaurant at 100 E. Walton in Chicago or 555 Mall Dr. in Schaumburg. Or go online for more information at www.gaylordil.com.

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