Classic, creative and kosher

Currylina’s delivers authentic Indian flavors.

Currylina's (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Who would have thought that some of the best Indian food in Israel was made by a Finnish immigrant who studied law in London before making aliya? Karolina Kahalani is the proprietor and brains behind Currylina’s, a restaurant in Bnei Brak that is hugely popular for its authentic Indian flavors, warm atmosphere and friendly service.
Before coming to Israel four years ago, Kahalani, who was born in Helsinki, lived for many years in London, where she met her Yemenite husband, Avi, who was born and raised in London.
Parents of five daughters, they decided to make aliya and settled in Ra’anana, where Karolina began experimenting with Indian food for friends and family.
“It was a real challenge to cook kosher Indian food,” she says. “I had to find substitutes for all the dairy products commonly used in tandoori cooking.”
She began selling her creations but was unable to obtain a kashrut certificate, as she was running her business from home. She looked around for premises, found Ra’anana prohibitively expensive and chose a kitchen/restaurant in Bnei Brak that became available.
“I liked the place, on a busy street in the heart of the town,” she says.
A friend suggested the name Currylina’s as a play on her own name, and it seemed eminently suitable.
Starting modestly, she now delivers Indian food to enthusiasts almost all over the country, has regulars who come in for lunch and also does private parties. A Shabbat Box, consisting of two kinds of rice, three kinds of curry, poppadums and Indian laffas, is a great favorite (NIS 379). It certainly makes a change from gefilte fish.
Although not usually open after five in the evening, except on Thursdays, the restaurant will stay open for an event like a birthday party or an anniversary.
“I cook to order. It’s not like a deli, where the food sits around and people come in and buy readymade,” she says. “Everything is cooked fresh every day.”
Before opening the restaurant, Kahalani advertised in London for a tandoori chef.
“I got 37 replies,” she says with a smile, “but many of them were Bangladeshi Muslims and didn’t want to come to Israel.”
One did, however, got the job, and everyone was happy.
“I taught him about kashrut, and he taught me tandoori,” she says.
The cuisine at Currylina’s is what Kahalani calls “Anglo tandoori,” adapted for the palates of her many immigrant customers. Her five daughters help in the business whenever they can and are, she says, an inspiration.
And so to the food. We began our meal with homemade vegetable samosas – large triangles of very crispy filo pastry filled with a piquant mixture of spiced vegetables such as peas, corn and carrots. In case we found them dry, which they weren’t, the samosas were served with a highly flavored thin sauce redolent with many different spices (NIS 39).
For the main course there were three different kinds of rice: plain white basmati, cooked al dente; rice with vegetables and lemon, which was particularly fine; and dainty grain (NIS 60).
The chicken korma consisted of chunks of boneless chicken breast served in a rich, slightly sweet curry sauce (NIS 119). The original korma dish has both yogurt and cream, but somehow Kahalani managed to impart a very creamy flavor, presumably with coconut cream, soya, or both. The chicken pieces were tender but chewy enough to be interesting.
The beef dish – beef masala – was quite different. It consisted of pieces of steak in a savory sauce with hints of cloves and turmeric (NIS 139). The stewed meat was very soft and had absorbed the strong flavors of the sauce. Both main courses were delicious and authentic.
Poppadums accompanied the meal and, in place of naan, which has to be dairy, Yemenite flatbread known as saluf was served. The dal, made from black lentils, was not the usual yellow color but a lovely shade of red.
Apparently this is how the South Africans, who are among Kahalani’s keenest customers, like their dal, which they call makhani. It is made with tomatoes, red chili powder and is strongly flavored with cumin.
Feeling no urge to eat any dessert, we ended our meal with hot mint tea. We left Currylina’s enormously impressed, not just with the food but also with the ingenious and creative way Kahalani has adapted genuine Indian flavors to the strictures of kashrut.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Currylina’s Kosher 42 Hayarkon Street, Bnei Brak Tel: (03) 672-2709 Open weekdays 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fridays until 1:30 p.m.