Spice Is Nice
story: Jim Dyar photos: Kara Stewart
AUTHENTIC INDIAN FOOD SERVED AT PRIYA INDIAN CUISINE
Priya is a Hindi word for beloved one. And that’s just how a lot of North State diners feel about Priya Indian Cuisine in Redding.
The restaurant has been open just over two years, yet many can’t imagine life without it. It’s the only Indian restaurant in town.
“Since we opened, we’ve had many regular customers. They tell us, ‘Don’t go anywhere,’” says Rama Loikireddy, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Krishna. “We think we’re very lucky here in Redding.”
One such fan is Brandi King, who eats at Priya about once every two weeks. She was the first one to comment on an online review about the restaurant that appeared on the community website ANewsCafe.com.
“They know us so well, they don’t even ask what we want,” King wrote. “To me, they are my extended family. These are the kindest people you could meet and the food is always fantastic.”
King’s favorite dishes include chicken pasanda (cooked in a mild butter sauce), chicken tikka masala, mushroom mutter (mushrooms and green peas with onion sauce), and the vegetable pakoras (appetizers dipped in mildly spiced batter and deep fried).
The chicken pasanda is probably Priya’s most popular dish, says Rama Loikireddy. Chicken curry is a close second. Other popular items include aloo saag (potatoes and creamy spinach), eggplant curry, okra masala and palak paneer (homemade cheese cooked with green peas, onions and spices).
For diners who like to try a little bit of everything (and that ends up being a lot of people), the restaurant offers a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $7.95 ($9.95 on Saturday and Sunday), and dinner buffet on Saturday and Sunday for $13.95.
“It’s very authentic Indian food and it’s different from a lot of other foods,” says Loikireddy. “We have both north and south Indian food. It’s a reasonable price and people like the variety.”
American diners tend to be more familiar with northern Indian food. However, the Loikireddys are natives of Andhra Pradesh, a large state in southern India. They enjoy offering a variety of southern Indian foods such as Dosas, crepes made with lentil flour stuffed with vegetable curry and served with Sambar (a thick lentil vegetable soup).
The Loikireddys have been in the United States for 20 years. They worked in restaurants in the Dallas area before moving to Berkeley, where they lived for seven years before discovering Redding.
They drove through Northern California and Oregon looking for a city in which to open an Indian establishment. Redding became an easy choice because there wasn’t an Indian restaurant doing business at the time (an Indian restaurant on Hartnell Avenue had recently closed).
“We like to serve people who haven’t had Indian food,” says Loikireddy. “There’s not a big Indian community here, so our business depends on non-Indian customers. We’re still getting new customers. They’ve been very encouraging.”
Rama Loikireddy’s parents help in the restaurant. The Loikireddys have two children who attend elementary school in Andhra Pradesh, where they’re learning about Indian culture while living with family members.
Some of that culture is reflected at Priya. The walls are adorned with art pieces depicting village life in India. Indian music plays in the background.
In addition to chicken, lamb, fish and shrimp (a variety of curry, vindaloo, tandoori and karai dishes), the menu offers a wide array of vegetarian options.
“Most doctors will recommend Indian food,” Rama Loikireddy says. “We don’t use oily or fried food much. Our bread is cooked in a clay oven. It’s healthy food.” •
Priya Indian Cuisine 2937 Churn Creek Road, Redding (north of the intersection with Hartnell Avenue) www.priyaindiancuisine.us