I first fell in love with curry when I was 25 years old, and living in Singapore. It wasn't any place special—really, little more than a dining hall with bins full of chicken masala and potatoes soaked in orange curry that I would sop up with deep-fried naan bread. But that place opened up an exotic world—fiery flavors that were strangely and simultaneously soothing, like watching fireworks from close range. For three days, my buddy and I returned to the same restaurant—breakfast, lunch and dinner. After three days, I also learned what a steady and constant diet of curry can do to your lower intestine. Even so, it is no wonder that people have sailed the world to find this unique, yet basic, spice.
For the past few years, Bend has had limited options for true Indian food—the slightly upscale and consistently quality Taj Palace downtown. But this past January, the aptly named Curry Shack parked next to Gear Peddler, and opened up another, more casual opportunity for experiencing authentic Indian food in Bend.
The Curry Shack is a delight. The menu is limited primarily to basics—like a chicken masala with a tasty tamarind, date and banana sauce—but daily specials, like slow cooked pork in coconut curry, expand this food universe.
Owned and operated by Runi Srikantaiah, who grew up in Bangalore, explained that he had been a computer engineer for 15 years before being laid off and deciding to take the opportunity for a lifestyle change. Srikantaiah is incredibly friendly, and explained that he learned to cook at the "school of mom."
When we approached the cart, he offered a trivia question.
"When did India receive its independence," he asked.
"1947," I yelled out, the year rooted in my brain from a college class decades ago.
The prize was a free samosa, a dough pocket with sweetly spiced potatoes. Commonly deep-fried, the samosas at the Curry Shack instead are baked and were surprisingly delicate, with sweet potatoes giving a nice balance to the spices. We ordered two more immediately.
All told, the dishes seemed to have dialed down their spiciness, perhaps to appeal to a wider American palate. The naan, usually dripping with oils, was a bit more dry, perhaps in an effort to be more healthy, and the roti wrap was more like a pita sandwich than a burrito in its construction, with a fluffy flat bread barely surrounding the biryani-like filling of rice, Lima beans, mixed veggies, and cilantro. It was nearly impossible to eat gracefully, but tasty nonetheless.
The Curry Shack
184 NE Greenwood Ave.
11 am-6 pm most days